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Diffused: What’s the Biggest Mistake You’ve Made as an Artist?

Fox Photos, Hulton Archive

For the second installment of our weekly Diffused feature — whereby we ask a diverse bunch of artists to email responses to a single question we (and hopefully you) find interesting — we ask, “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as an artist?” The blurbs below aren’t as heartwarming or hilarious as the ones we got last week, when the topic was “What do your parents think of your music?” but they shed some light on what it’s like to be a working musician. Thankfully, no one replied by saying “agreeing to this feature.”

Robert Fleming of Victory [Website | Facebook]
The biggest mistake I made artistically was not letting anyone know that I was an artist for 27 years! I had always been quite secretive about what was brewing in my many bedroom recording studios over the years. From the first sampler I got at age 14 to the Pro Tools rigs I had at 27, I was too concerned with making things sound perfect to ever share it with anyone. A lot of my friends seemed quite surprised when they first heard my music, since they probably didn’t believe that I would ever release anything. Being so secretive has also made me tough to collaborate with. I now have a hard time letting other people call the shots since I am so used to being in total control. I would say that this has limited me in the sense that I am missing out on good opportunities to work with other people and allow new ideas to influence my work.

Ducky [Website | Facebook]
Ever giving up on my MySpace fame. I think there was a real future for me there.

Pantaleimon, aka Andria Degens [Website | Facebook]
The biggest mistake I’ve made as an artist was being too stoned to play. This happened in Ravenna, Italy. At the beginning of the third song, I just froze, then stormed off the stage and didn’t come back on even though people were asking for me to return. I do regret that experience.

Bret Constantino of Sleepy Sun [Website | Facebook]
I think it’s a mistake to identify with my work during the creative process. In other words, if I make a connection between an idea and myself, as a product of my self-image and all of my abilities as I understand them, I am limiting the true potential of creative energy, and I am allowing the ego into a realm where it is not welcome. It’s one of my greatest challenges. When I do manage to avoid identification during the creative process, I find I am most proud of the final product.

Vikesh Kapoor [Website | Facebook]
An an artist, the biggest mistake I’ve made was letting the cynics get in my way. The naysayers will forever be whining. Let them be miserable and sing your song, high and lonesome.

Jared Drace of Activator [Website | Facebook]
My biggest mistake was not trying as hard as I could have in my late teens and early 20s to get things off the ground with my music. Knowing now how much time and effort it takes for things to develop — not just musically, but building a fan base, making contacts, etc. — I wish I got cracking on it a lot earlier than I did. I’d been playing guitar since grade school, so it had nothing to do with not being able to play, but more to do with being discouraged easily and not putting myself out there as much as I now believe I could have. Thankfully I’m not *too* old to learn from this mistake!

Beach [Website | Facebook]
Not naming myself Oprah!

Ezra Furman [Website | Facebook]
It has to do with holding back the truth about myself, with playing roles I don’t fully endorse. I have a sense of what’s right and true in me, and I ignore it nearly constantly. It’s connected to my suppression of how I really feel in everyday life. We compromise ourselves in order to avoid feeling transgressive. So I sit around and talk s— about people and things I love. I act callous when I feel tender. I act weak when I feel strong. I perform hyper-masculinity when I feel feminine. And make no mistake, all of this has consequences for the music. The less truthful I am in everyday life, the less truthful I am in song. Many of my songs are struggles to get through falsehood to reach the truth, and almost all of them are failures. The struggle sometimes sounds interesting, but the truth would be immeasurably better. But I am getting better at being more truthful, in life and in art. My big mistake has been holding onto my fear of being seen as pretentious or transgressive. Holding this incoherent pose of being a “regular guy,” which is something that no one is, and certainly I am not.

Arien Saleh [Website | Facebook]
Not mentally prepping myself for the long road that it is and will be when I first started out.

Voyeur, aka Robert Seawell [Soundcloud | Facebook]
I don’t feel I’ve made a mistake as an artist, since I understand art as a process and the process of becoming an artist as ongoing and inclusive of all aspects of life, even the mixups. Mistakes are part of the honesty. Everything branching from expressive experience becomes part of the art and of you as an artist. I will say that for me, the most troublesome and convoluted aspect of creating a final product is also one of the most essential, which is being self-critical. It can be tricky because you can lose focus on where the inspiration came from. Balancing critique with inspiration is IMO the yin and yang of being an artist.

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