Art Making can feel hard. Sometimes super hard. I have experienced it and I watch others experience it. I am sure things can sometimes feel hard for you too.
Thankfully, there are three positive aspects of things being hard. All of them are good. I am quite outside my comfort zone right now and so I am writing this more as a reminder for myself, but maybe it can be helpful for you too. Especially if things feel hard right now…
There are three steps and they get easier as you go…
#1 Difficulty precedes a big decision.
Things feel hard and then sometimes they worsen. So much so, that it becomes almost unbearable, till all of a sudden you just know you have to change something. You have no choice. With more time and growing pain, the decision or choice of what to do looms. It finally becomes apparent – often crystal clear – that what must happen in order to relieve the suffering is X. This decision is a bigger than normal. It will most likely create significant change. The decisions born from hardship are not garden variety, every day kind of decisions. These grow slowly over time, and when finally made, they create real change. These are the kind of decisions that bring you alive, change your art and often your life. The more of these kinds of decisions you make, the better.
#2 Uncertainty often accompanies the right choice.
Often, several decisions emerge as possibilities to lessen your difficulty. If, for example, you are super frustrated trying to make large paintings, possible choices might be to spend less time making art, make smaller work like you always have or seek out an artist who is good at this and ask for help.
This third choice is the most challenging. It takes self-confidence. (Usually in short supply when things are hard!) It means spending time searching for that particular someone and this can feel unrelated – especially when the problem is sitting right in front of you. This third decision takes patience and a measure of vulnerability. Asking for help is not easy.
I would, however, wager that this last decision is probably the right choice. What is crazy is that we usually kind of know the right choice comes shrouded in a bit more uncertainty and asks just a little bit more of us than the others. These slightly harder decisions are often the right ones.
#3 Ease always follows Difficulty.
The sea comes in and then it goes out, darkness follows light and ultimately a towering redwood tree that once was giant does, in the end, return back to the flatness of the soil from which it grew. Practically everything in life goes one way for a while and then, comes back the opposite way.
The only predictable aspect of difficulty is that most often, ease and lightness follows…things can thankfully change. I hang on to this now, more than ever.
I also notice that the amount of relief is always in relationship to the measure of challenge preceding it. In other words, the subsequent rest, the break from hard is almost always ample. You can fully recover, although you are often changed, for the better, in the process.
Coming out of difficulty, changing proactively your circumstances by making sometimes hard decisions marks a new beginning.
You can, all of a sudden, find yourself wandering into an oasis. There is birdsong, the water is cool and slowly but surely the harshness of the desert from which you came, begins to fade.
How do you find the easy in the hard?