Why I am Terrified to Claim Myself as an Artist
“How do you do it?”
“You are always doing amazing things!”
“How do you keep that persistence?”
In their eyes I’m a rockstar, a person with dignity and vision, a go-getter, someone they look up to. But in my own eyes I’m a fraud, a copycat, an imposter, I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m not doing enough. I don’t see what they see. When I hear people give me those words, I think to myself:
“They are just saying it, if only they knew. They don’t know that I’m broke. They don’t know that I just stared at my laptop, being on social media without doing what I’m supposed to be doing. They don’t know that I just spent my entire day avoiding what I was supposed to be doing. They don’t know that I’m mad at everyone for not coming to the events that I just put my whole entire energy into. They don’t know that every time I receive a text or email about cancellations, that makes me wanna punch something. YOU DON’T KNOW ME, I’M NOBODY.”
That’s what’s going on in my head most of the time. Yup, the fact that I’m very dramatic, that also adds to this great dominant voice that goes on in my head. As I was reading both Jess and Brandon’s post from previous weeks, I can see that I’m not alone. I had my moments of “Dang it! That’s me.” more than once while I was reading their articles. I am not alone.
“What do I not want left unfinished?”
As an artist? There’s something that I want to share before I start answering that question. I have a hard time calling myself as an artist. I had and I still do. Because my idea of being an artist is always creating original pieces. I grew up training as a classical pianist for over 15 years and all the pieces that I performed were written by amazing composers, like Chopin and Beethoven, NOT ME. I sang and performed in many shows and concerts, including The Kennedy Center, DC and Signature Theatre NYC, doing songs and shows that were written by artists. NOT ME. I acted in films created by amazing filmmakers. NOT ME. I took photos for many amazing people & companies such as the Public Theatre, and a client used my photo for their article on Forbes and their Amazon bestseller book, but what’s amazing is THEM, not my picture, NOT ME…You see. I don’t CREATE my thing. I take something that’s already amazing, borrow it, and perform it. So, it’s not my own art. “If you’re just enjoying singing and attention, you can just go to Karaoke and sing. What’s the difference?” Someone told me that and that really made me think that nothing I do is an original work. Even the solo show that I did in August, “HOME: My Heart”, the music was written by other people. NOT ME. So what would it take for me to truly become an artist? Or rather embrace and call myself an artist. What would that take? What would it take for me to truly love myself as an artist? Would that even be possible?
It’s not that I don’t know that I create. I create community, experiences, and events where people can truly step into themselves as artists. I love seeing artists who have real passion and a strong vision of what they want to create, the message that they want to share with others, the love that they have for their creativity, and the world they want to see. I am obsessed with those artists. I believe that they are leaders, catalysts and change makers. I love love love them. They are real artists. I get to create space for them and see them shine, that’s my art. At least, that’s what I started to say. There were moments…what about me? When can I perform? When can I sing? When can I play? I told myself that was my attention-seeking, validation-seeking scream. Calm that ego and be the vessel for those who are doing things.
Then, Artist’s Way came along. Damn Julia Cameron. Barely in Chapter 1, she called me out. “Shadow Artists.” I’m one foot in, one foot out from stepping into becoming an artist. I remember how easy it was to write the script, (not that it was easy, but it was flowing), how easy it was to just lean in when I was just being an artist, how easy it was to just share my story rather than seeking attention or validation. How beautiful it was to just be present and be with people on stage. AND, how easy it was to make an amount of money that I haven’t been able to make in that one show…DAMN IT, I am an artist. And that doesn’t mean that I can’t do other things, but I don’t have to stop being an artist to do other things. If anything, I get to do more. It appears that everybody else but me knew that I’m an artist, and a VERY ambitious one at that.
What do I not want left unfinished? Truly embracing myself as an artist. Sharing my story. Creating inspiring moment for others. At 18, I said it, and I’ll say it again. “If someone sees me doing anything, ANYTHING, and says, “if that little woman from a tiny town in Japan can do what she’s doing, I can do it too.” I’m 4’10”, Asian, Immigrant and woman for that reason. I don’t have the “success ingredients” for making it in the art/entertainment industry. But, I was born with the success ingredients for inspiration and tenacity. So that’s what I don’t want left unfinished. I started writing a book. My loud ass voice said, who’s gonna wanna read it, you self-absorbed selfish girl. That might be right. But I get to write this story. I get to write what makes me an artist. What makes me a human. What makes me who I AM.
I think of Michaelangelo’s quote about the creation of David. “I’m taking away the part that is not David”. My job is to chip away the part that is not me. And become the artist that God has created me to become. Yes, of course as I write this, the voice in me is shouting, how arrogant. And it’s terrifying.
Yuko Kudo is a founder and an artistic director of "I AM" Series. Catch her as a panel of "Mindful Artist" on 10/16 at Mondo.nyc Igniting Music & Technology. www.yukoislovelivelife.com