The past few months have been a roller coaster of creative epiphanies all making me question every reason for doing what I do. From personal decisions, continually comparing your worth and value and talent. Also in craft, wondering how many years it will take to become more skilled or to finally learn what you need to, or to finally meet who you’re supposed to. My mind has been volatile and spinning every second. So here I am instead, writing and working out my frustrations with language, a very oddly straightforward medium for me.While I have completely debunked “writer’s block” within my creative life, no one really recounts of what comes after. Yes, we all know it. Finding time to actually do the work you want to do. It’s difficult. But essentially, just bloody doing it is the answer. The real struggles, the obstacles, are only bigger on the other side. Mountains and crevices of fear, confidence, hopelessness and anticipation. If you thought you had to work to get started, just wait till you have to work to keep going. Now now, I am being dramatic, I know. In reality, this isn’t all bad. It’s far too late to go back, and all of the hard work has been done. Seeking a creative life is a life long battle that no one necessarily signs up for, it just happens to them. So I’ll be working and trying and struggling anyway, might as well do it now. So I’ll list a few of my experiences here in hopes to connect or relate to anybody who feels like they’re becoming a worthless genius of the arts.
There is a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.
The War of Art
Being able to focus takes 15 minutes of active, uninterrupted time. I’m not sure where I got that bit of information, but I’m believing it to be true after studying it myself. It takes time to ‘get into the groove’. One distraction is enough to throw the train off the tracks. So, as hard as you’ve tried to just get started and to begin…that can all be overturned in an instant. Set boundaries, turn off your phone, disconnect the internet. Anything you have to do to create uninterrupted spaces. Even more importantly, the more you work, the easier it is to get into the flow of it, and the less distractions can have a hold on you.
The most beautiful and horrible thing about pursuing anything creative, is that every project feels like it could be ‘it’, your opus magnum. As much as you try to remove yourself from ego or desire, it simply cannot happen. It will always be there. However going into creating thinking “this could be it” within every detail is so much weight. It’s too much. It will break anything you start. You can’t go into anything thinking it will be your success or masterpiece. It simply has to be you, a creation. Put your ego aside.
In the same vein, for artists, every opportunity feels like the only opportunity. It is a constant fear of ‘this is it’. If you fail this you’ve failed it all. You’ve missed your destined chance, the fateful meeting. And now there is no more future for you. In reality, there are hundreds of opportunities and this might not be it for you. It may be wrong for you. It may not be what you even wanted or needed. And remember, that a success doesn’t mean much. Unfortunately success is fleeting and fickle. Just being you see it once doesn’t mean you’ll see it again. And we all know too well, people are quick to drop you like a hot potato. You have to be so solid in yourself, that opportunities don’t sway you, that chance means nothing because you know your core. Opportunities will align to you. This is not the make it or break it moment. Yes, work hard, apply yourself…try. But don’t place your worth in it, and always know that the world is big enough for you to fit into it.
Even if you do happen to see a success, we all know what that means. An artist will never be happy. The eternal struggle between art and worth and creativity and purpose will keep you from enjoying or understanding how far you’ve gotten from where you started. You are already at where you wanted to be. But there will always be another “better” and a bigger opportunity. Work yourself to the bone, but be able to be grateful.
It takes years. Hours. Thousands of painstaking details and choices. So do not place all of your potential on one thing. One song, illustration, opportunity, moment. It’s simply cannot hold that weight. There will always be another thing before you’ve “made it” so you might as well stop waiting. There are no Hollywood moments, and we are all aware the romanticized idea of artistry is for those who have never tried. The moments that get you high are always the small ones, within your work, so stay there, take solace there. Make cool things. Michelangelo burned all of his sketches and went through great lengths to craft his biography and legacy. He didn’t want people to know exactly how hard he worked, how hard he tried, how many times he had to draw one detail over and over again. But the reality is, that is what we must do. So stop overthinking every moment. Lose yourself in it.
Don’t be afraid to be sloppy. Your idea of perfection will haunt you. It may seem impossible to turn off, but you can. I guarantee that the mistakes you make will be the parts you love most about your creations.
I can’t promise you that pursuing creativity will ever lead to anything, but for many of us, it’s not a choice we can live without. Eventually the calling that started as a small voice begins to grow until it is a gut-wrenching urge to create and to be fully dedicated to it. When it gnaws at you this hard, you can only hope somehow you’ll have a place to sleep and some food to eat, and throw caution to the wind, and hope that great things will happen. Keep working! No one really knows what they’re doing. And there are no rules.