Dear Artists and Writers Struggling With Creative Vulnerability

Down For Tomorrow‘s vocalist and guitarist Cody Stebbings has penned an open letter in support of fellow creatives. Matching the urgency and hope of the band’s newest single, “Survive” (from the Whatever Happens EP), passionately and thoughtfully, Cody shares the importance of vulnerable expression in your chosen artform. Over to you, Cody!

Dear artists and writers,

Your anxieties and stress levels are completely valid. After all, you do have it pretty tough. Lots of people do, and sometimes that toughness is subjective to one another. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from dealing with my own insecurities, it’s this – hiding from hurt and pain will not only be a disservice to your work, but also to yourself. 

Technically, there are no rules in a life of the arts. Make of that what you will. However, I like to live by one: Be honest, and be vulnerable. For one’s work to establish a connection with its audience, and really resonate, I think it’s very important that the creator needs to be truthful and authentic, to break down barriers and find different ways to express their feelings through their outlet.

Think of it this way: Neil Gaiman said you have to be willing to do the equivalent of walking down the street naked. That might be controversial to some people. It might scare some people off. But in art, showing too much of yourself will often produce much more dopamine than hiding certain things. David Bowie said to try going a little further into the water than you believe you’re capable of, to the point where your feet aren’t quite touching the bottom. That’s the excitement stage. Dangerous, but exciting.

You’re going to hit walls; you’re going to face obstacles. And this is not a bad thing. You might not be ready to completely reveal yourself or want to be judged. If only it was that easy. But if it was that easy, the rewards wouldn’t be anywhere near as satisfying. It’s an experience you learn from, just from trying. It may take months or even years to warm up to this approach, but the development will be evident in your work. And if you really love what you do that much, you would go that extra length to make it all the more memorable by being vulnerable.

“Have something to say and give a damn about it.” ~ Cody Stebbings

Being an artist for the sake of being an artist is stupid. Have something to say and give a damn about it. Baring your true self in your artform is more valuable than you think. Turn your darkest moments into your greatest work. That’s what the outlet is for. And for the love of whatever exists up there, make mistakes. Over and over and over again. Mistakes do not mean failure. It means you’re trying; you’re out there doing something.

You have your mind, your story, and an ability to make art. That is unique. It would seem awfully disappointing not to use that to its full potential. That being said, enjoy what you do. Be in the moment when you’re making that very thing that will help you feel better about the other thing that happened to you. You should never be penalised for bringing people happiness and creating something they will remember and love. The only penalty will be that you’ll be revisiting the darkness in your virtuosity, coming to terms with who you are and who you stand for. But it will make you that much more genuine as a person and an artist.

So, try not to be too scared about displaying who you really are in your work. The things that scare you are often the things hiding the best and most important things in your life. Be brave, be honest, be vulnerable and be truthful. Here’s a quote from Jerzy Gregorek to sign off: “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”


[Down For Tomorrow image: credit Robbie Walcott]
Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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