An Open Letter To Artists: On Vampires (The Non-Sparkly Kind)

Dear Artists (and creators, and entrepreneurs, and anyone with a dream -- but mostly Artists),

Success is hard.

It's difficult to attain, as we all well know. Part of the reason is that it requires hard work, and hard work is... Well, hard. And because success is difficult due to requiring hard work, there's a rather large number of people who can't attain it. And they're the other part of the reason success is so hard. These people are the main reason I spend so much time writing about succeeding on your own terms and drawing your strength from within.

Because these people are a danger to you. They are vampires. They live off draining you.

When you succeed at anything, two things you never thought would happen, will happen:

First, people you thought loved you and cared about you will begin pulling you down and holding you back. 

You won't understand it. In fact, you may not recognize it at first. The reason they do this is because people you've grown up with or have known for a long time won't be able to process the fact that you're moving forward. They will be jealous because they cannot. They will be hurt because they feel left behind. They will be angry that you don't listen to them. They will accuse you of being self important and selfish, and will tell you how you've changed.

This is because you've become selfish, self important and have changed. Because you're working toward your own happiness.

These things are not bad things. You need to know this. Caring about yourself and putting yourself first is not evil. It's not even wrong. It's what every single person on this Earth does all the time. We get jobs to afford nice things. We feed ourselves every day. We work out ways to take time off work to do things we want to do. We put ourselves first all the time.

But when you do it to elevate yourself, you will hear those terms lobbed at you as an insult. Because the people saying those things are weak and jealous and hurt that you would dare leave their little misery club. Selfishness is okay, so long as it doesn't make anyone else feel bad for not having it. When it does, you're going to hear an earful.

These are energy vampires. They will sap you of the thing that drives you. They have to keep you like them, at any cost, because bettering yourself reminds them of why they can't (or simply won't) better themselves.

How you know your real friends: they'll give you the space you need to shine. The praise they give you will be genuine and not laden with backhanded compliments or reminders of how you don't care about them or that you've become too good for them. They know that you need to fly. They won't shoot you down.

Second, people you thought didn't like you and complete strangers will come out of the woodwork to graft themselves onto you. 

Note I didn't say leech off you. No. Its worse than simply sucking your blood. They want to find treasure without all the trouble of following the map. They will attempt to integrate themselves into your life and be part of your process. Leeches you can identify and pick off. Grafts become part of your skin and can only be removed with cutting and lots of bleeding during the process.

They will ask from you products or services you create and provide with promises of future payment or success or opportunity. They will never pay this back. They cannot succeed without your work or your involvement. If you analyze the structure they've built, determine if the whole thing falls down if you walk away. If it does, you're likely being used. 

They will constantly praise you for qualities you wish you had. Not who you are, but who you wish you would be. The things they say appeal to the ego and not the spirit or heart. Always remember: those who praise you for what you are not wish to take from you what you have. 

They will be angry when you don't give it to them. Like, seriously angry. They will accuse you of using them, despite the fact they asked you first. They will insult you by accusing you of being everything they actually are, and make you feel terrible and guilty -- for if they can't get what they want through praise, they'll work on your guilt and sense of friendship to get it. 

These are physical vampires. They want to live off the thing that you make. They want to use you to survive. And they will do whatever it takes to make you their thrall.
How you know the people you can trust: they want to know you, not use you. They want to collaborate, not assign tasks. You can hang around and the topic of your work or success never has to come up. If they do want you to do something for them, they will pay you. FAIRLY. Either with money or in kind. But no one who cares about you for who you are will ask from you what you do without compensation.

Now, it's very important to note that not everyone falls into these two categories. I'm not saying everyone's out to get you. I'm simply warning you that these two types of people are either in your life right now, or will seek to enter your life as you succeed -- and the more you succeed, the more that show up (or walk away due to the jealousy and anger). And there is definitely a fine line between people accusing you of behaving badly to hurt you, and you actually behaving badly and them calling you on it. And you know the difference. Deep in your heart, you know when you're being a diva or namedropping or bragging. 

But for the sweet ones, the kind people who are talented and amazing and who see their star begin to rise, only to have it hurdle back to Earth in a fiery blaze because someone shot it down, either out of jealousy or to wound them when they can't live off them like a lamprey... This is stuff you need to know and be ready for. 

I liken it to getting your first tattoo: no matter how much you prepare and get ready and stare at the inevitable, the pain is still going to come. And you have no idea what it's going to feel like until it happens. And when you get through it (and trust me, you WILL get through it), the scar that's left will be beautiful and remind you always of the beautiful pain of realizing a hard truth. It will be with you always, and as the tenderness subsides, you'll be thankful. 


Joe Peacock