It seems like wherever we are in our art making, we always want to be someplace better. Often, our art or our ability to make our art feels inadequate.
And it doesn’t feel so good. The real problem, however, is that this discontent sometimes never goes away. If we are not careful it can follow us around. It sits just out of sight with us in the studio when we are making our art and it even can follow us home if we let it.
Never feeling good enough is pervasive. Lots of people have this feeling.
It takes time to change this habitual way of thinking. But it is worth it if it even partially brings back the joy, and the ease of making your art again. If we can, then there exists the real possibility of bringing amazing, personal artwork into the world. This issue, this feeling of not being happy with where we are presently, needs some attention.
Here is how I like to reframe the narrative so that I can feel more content with where I am…
There is a very, very long road. It starts at the bottom of a valley and gradually winds its way up hills and then, eventually, it goes all the way to the very tip top of the mountain.
This pathway or road represents the entire creative journey you may take in your life. When you start exploring the possibility of making art you are in the very beginning. As one climbs this pathway the view becomes greater. The experience is heightened because it is more expansive in beauty and vistas the higher you go. You can see more and more. It can take years, decades, a lifetime even to climb this road.
The most fantastic thing is to be on the road. It doesn’t matter where you are on the road, only that you are on it. Some people are further up the road and others are further down the road. Your place on the road has more to do with time spent walking, not talent. Even though the road slowly gets better the further along the road you go, you don’t want to short change yourself by magically appearing someplace further up the road than where you are right now.
Each and every step forward is to be savored, because you will never get to move through this part of the road again. You get to do each part only once in your lifetime. You never get to go backwards. Only forward.
Here are just a few of the first steps possibly encountered along this path:
The first time you realize you can make art, the first time someone that matters loves what you have made, the first time it feels hard then incredibly easy, the first time you have a show or you give something you made away as a gift, the first time you teach someone something you have learned, the first time you get interviewed, your first solo show, and especially the unforgettable moment when for the first time, you know in your heart of hearts, that you are an artist
There are of course infinite steps you get to take but the most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to miss any of them.
The value of the next step you are about to take or discover is in part determined by the prior step.
So in this scenario, if you can imagine wherever you are on the road right now, then why would you feel you want to be anywhere else? The reason you are not at mile 50 is because you are only at mile 25. It has nothing to do with talent, lucky breaks, tailwinds, money etc.
What has helped me is to take all my dissatisfaction, my impatience and all the limiting negative thoughts about where I think I ought to be and re focus back to what I am making and where I am right now. Not surprisingly, this frees up a lot of energy, which now can be channeled back into your art.
So if you feel that sinking feeling of judgment or dissatisfaction creeping back in, take a breath and re look at what you are making right now. Take a chance, re commit to making it the best thing you have ever made so far. Savor this moment, this opportunity because it actually will never be here again in this certain way.
Do you sometimes feel dissatisfied too? What do you do about it?