This might be a year or so late for some, but one thing about good art is that it is timeless. It is possible to pick up a well-crafted song or poem written a hundred years ago and still be in the “now of its influence.” So much so that you wonder if the creator did it specifically with you in mind.
It was exactly how I felt listening again to the Now Here Cool track by M.anifest. Off his fantastic 2016 #NowhereCool album, the track speaks about the artiste’s early doubts when he started out. It might sound very cliched to talk about the obstacles you faced. Most importantly, the fears of stepping on the wrong toes. The fears of not being good enough. The fears of being found out as a fraud; these are real obstacles that inhibit a creative’s quest for growth and fulfilment. They are tropes that exist in the minds of every creative starting out in whatever field. The interesting thing about this fear of not being good enough is that it can continue well into the person’s adult life, blossoming into the now-popular, Imposter Syndrome.
Neil Gaiman talked about it some time back. At an event that gathered amazing, successful persons in different fields inside one room, Neil Gaiman thought he didn’t belong because he thought he wasn’t good enough.
In a tumblr post, Neil Gaiman says:
“Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. and I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.”
This is a big deal coming from one of the ‘shifters’ of his generation. Neil Gaiman makes simple words sing on a page. He makes magic real…
I had the same feeling when listening to the song by M.anifest. This time, it was a theme song on one of Ben Kwashie’s artwork. In the YouTube video, the artist is doing a fan painting of Chadwick Boseman, aka Black Panther, using his trademark ball point BIC pen. Starting off with banter between T’challa and his sister where the latter says, “Don’t freeze,” to which the Panther replies, “I never freeze,” the artwork and the song follow a very close path that seems to have been made especially for them.
As Mani says,
Reminisce about when I was starting out
Scared of the words coming out my mouth
Dangerous, it was strenuous
Flirting with confidence, kissing doubt,
you imagine yourself at the very first beginnings of your own creative journey. The battles you have had to fight through; most of them internal, which threaten to leave indelible scars on yourself if you make the wrong choice. You could become a nearly man. You could fall flat on your face. Someone would do better than you, which means you are not good enough to start off. What will you do? Where will you go? Will you give up?
It takes tremendous heart to have to pursue an unpopular trend, as M.anifest’s own career is panning out. But, like the same path his music has taken him, the Now Here Cool track promises more than an antidote to that internal strife.
Sometimes my guy you just for lose to gain
The sun is so loud in Accra
It’s ok if you throw shade I might need it
Shade on the insta and I might read it
Give advice and I might heed it
(or maybe not)
The rest of the first verse gives solid advice on pushing on; Ignoring chatter that adds nothing to your work. Working so hard (like a workhorse) and so smart that they struggle to put a label on you.
Truth is, wherever you are in your chosen field, these doubts will creep up on you like a thief in the silent night. And when it happens, it is important to not let it weight you down. In the post about Niel Gaiman’s Imposter Syndrome, it turns out Neil Amstrong, the first man on the moon, suffered from similar doubts. He thought he wasn’t good enough. Not good enough to be in the midst of ‘creators of things’ and all. But he was good enough. Gaiman was good enough. You are good enough cos M.anifest was good enough. The fact that others have looked you up. The fact that you are pursuing a dream you love is enough reason that you are cool. Because, hey, the name of the game is life, and nobody knows the rules!
I dey celebrate life no reason
Never miss a chance to smile (Never miss a chance to smile)
My happiness on speed dial (My happiness on speed dial)
I’m not immune to pain no way (I,m not immune to pain no way)
Life is art lemme paint my way (Life is art lemme paint my way)