Someone who practices diligently, is consistently applying herself, and sticks with things long enough to get good, really good, at it. This is not a description of me. Yet.
It would be exceedingly ridiculous to complain about being the type of person for whom many things came easily. But I’m finding, as I endeavor to learn things that I am not naturally good at, there is a downside to that history. I never learned any stick-with-it-ness. Here I am, 55 years old, and still haven’t learned good study habits. Making good grades in school came easily for me. Excelling in sports came easily for me. I only practiced the various sports I participated in as much as I did because it was fun. It certainly wasn’t because of my stellar discipline.
Creating art, up to a certain level, came easily. Photography, up to a certain level, came easily. Progressing beyond “advanced beginner”, however, apparently does not come easily for me. The problem is, though, that I am now no longer satisfied with being an advanced beginner, or even sorta skilled. I want to be good at it. Really good at it. But [heavy sigh] I am still a novice. The real bummer part is that the only reason I am still a novice is because I have not been willing to put in the time and the effort to do the work of getting good, particularly when I deemed the product I was creating as sorta crappy.
I heard an impactful quote about achieving creative excellence: “You have to be willing to make bad art.”I wish I knew who to credit, but I do not. I have not, thus far, been willing to make bad art. I had great intentions, envisioned something beautiful, gave it a try, and when the thing did not turn out anywhere near my vision – as it so seldom does – I weenied out and walked away. I gave up and moved on to the next thing. I justified it, of course, by telling myself things like, “Well, that must not be my thing. That obviously wasn’t my passion,” or other B.S. things that made it okay for me to give up.
There’s a problem, though. I just really don’t want to give up and move on this time. I really like making art. I’m stuck between not loving my current ability to create and being unwilling to give up.
So – and this is a little scary — I guess I will just have to learn discipline, and develop the willingness to make bad art. I’ve heard it said that it takes 10,000 hours before you get really, really good at something. 100 down, 9,900 to go.
It helps to have a clear understanding of the creative process. I need to understand that Steps 3 and 4 (below) have great potential to derail my process – and commitment. But since I now know this, and know that Steps 5 and 6 will make up for Steps 3 and 4, then I can muster the necessary motivation to stick with it. I just didn’t fully realize that making crappy art was just part of the deal. Really great artists have made their share of such art. They just didn’t necessarily publish it. I have not been able to find the original author to give credit, but here it is:
The Creative Process:
- This is awesome.
- This is tricky.
- This is sh*t.
- I am sh*t.
- This might be ok.
- This is awesome.
Since I now understand this crazy process a wee bit better, and get it that I must make art and lots of it, I am now more motivated and well-equipped to continue the journey of 10,000 hours. I feel as though I have been picked up, brushed off and set back on my creative path. I just hope I can remember this as I create my next crappy piece of art. Hopefully, I will also make some brilliant pieces of art along the way and some mediocre ones, too.
Good thing you can just paint over most of them and keep going…