“Average”, a song by Sushi Soucy was first introduced on their TikTok page and on Spotify this year.
Give the song a listen: https://open.spotify.com/album/4E5gVSTGjPECltGl2rCVX2?si=W-1_R-RnS7yMj8Dsi4EdRw
The lyrics here capture the doubt an artist deals with. I’m sure every artist can relate to the idea of feeling not good enough and placing harsh judgments on their own work. This phenomenon is so tricky because as artists, we love art. We love taking it in, creating it, and belonging to a community of other artists.
The Tiktok Trend
“Average” became a trend and resonated specifically with TikTokers who decided to share their “ex-artist” stories. They compiled clips of themselves performing set to this section of Sushi’s song:
“Me, the kid waking up from a dream
Realizing his music is the worst he’s ever seen
And who cares if it was from when he was 15?
It deserves the same judgment
It deserves the same judgment
God, it’s so hard to be good for your age
When you know that your work’s not good enough for the stage
You got the skills of an idiot who got too much praise
And your whole damn career just turns into a phase
And the fire in your heart is beginning to fade”
Most of these videos are created by young adults. They grew up performing and creating art and now declare that they no longer do it. The clips they stitch together for these videos create a kind of memory reel: A lost dancer compiles a dozen clips of herself dancing at various ages. A lost actor shares scenes from musicals and plays. A lost musician shares concerts and marching band. The throughline of these videos is that these creators allowed something to stop them from practicing art. The other throughline is that they miss it deeply. And my heart hurts every time I see these videos.
Responses to the Trend
I gathered some comments from the videos under this trend:
“This is exactly why I quit it got so painful”
“The exact reason I had to quit, it’s so draining and was literally killing me”
“I wish I still played”
“This is the one of the most relatable things I have heard, I quit violin”
“Your whole career turns into a phase’ i wish i could tell you how deep that cut”
“Why am I crying”
What we’re looking at is a phenomenon of people who decide that they have “aged out” of being an artist. They latch on to the idea that after a certain age, only people who are “good enough” have permission to continue practicing art.
Self-Worth as an Artist
Artists create out of passion and love for what we do. We want to tell stories in a meaningful way that people will enjoy and appreciate. This is complicated by the idea of good vs. bad art, and the idea that art is subjective. We want to do well and be respected by others for what we do, and fear the dreaded title of Sushi’s song: “Average”.
The truth is that being an artist is scary and vulnerable and weird. Feeling worn out and dejected is normal. So many people have resonated with Sushi’s song because they’re no stranger to being their own harshest critic in an environment where criticism is part of the game already.
What do we need to let go of in order to create art? The answer is often perfectionism.
“Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead.” -Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
As artists, we want to do our best. However, perfectionism gets in the way of progress. But isn’t the belief that there’s always room for improvement helpful? Yes, in a way. But you also have to be able to create the first draft without holding yourself to the standards of the final. And your final is never going to be “perfect” but you have to be able to find a stopping point you’re okay with. Letting yourself fail is just as important as success.
The Good News
The wonderful thing about art is that it is everywhere and it is for everyone. There is no rule for who gets to be an artist and who does not. Of course, not every space is for everyone. You will not work at every theatre, music venue, be shown at every art gallery, etc. However, there will be a space for you. The kicker is that you will not find that space unless you continue to create and put yourself out there.
To all those “ex-artists” under the Tiktok trend, you have permission to be an artist!
As Sushi says, “If you never show off, your only critic is yourself”. My challenge from one artist to another is to keep creating. Keep telling stories and keep connecting with others through your art as well. Whether you practice art now or have a lost love for it, there is space for you and there will be people who resonate. In the end, self-worth is difficult as an artist. But you are worth trying.