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You’re an artist when you say you are

‘People working in the arts engage in street combat with The Fraud Police on a daily basis, because much of our work is new and not readily or conventionally categorized. When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.

There’s no ‘correct path’ to becoming a real artist. You might think that you’ll gain legitimacy by going to university, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.’

Amanda Palmer

I love love LOVE these words of Amanda Palmer’s (musician, writer and unapologetic maverick) because they resonate SO deeply with me. When I look back, I realise that I spent a very long time (read: years) not feeling legitimate as a writer just because I wasn’t published. This was largely because lots of people, when they asked me what I was up to, I’d squirm and do a bit of a cough and say Well…erm…I’m writing a novel. Great! they’d exclaim, when’s it getting published? And I would just shrug and look shifty and say I didn’t know and end up feeling kind of stupid. What I’m not doing here is putting this on to other people – this was my issue and it was up to me to be brave and legitimise my writing and my passion. But more often than not, I didn’t.

The point is this: am I a better writer now just because I’m published? No, I’m certainly not. As Amanda Palmer says so succinctly, it’s all just bullshit and yep, it really was all in my head that being published would suddenly turn me, as if by magic, into a writer. No, no, no. I’ve always been a writer, I just haven’t been courageous enough to face those nay-sayers head on and tell them This is what I am.

Seriously. In hindsight? I’d say this to my younger self: Be brave. Be fearless. Believe in your art and just keep doing it regardless. And more importantly than anything else, when people ask what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to look them in the eye and say This is me. I’m a writer.

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