I’ve been settling more into the idea that yes, I’m going for a creative career and yes, I’ll be out of school soon (about four more semesters!), so I have been exploring the corner of the web centered around art and drawing and design and animation and being an artist and making it.
Conventional wisdom says that since competition is high you have to work hard, really hard, so hard, harder than anyone else if you want to stand a chance. You have to practice for hours a day even when it’s the last thing you want to do. You have to be your own worst critic if you want to get better. Also, you never end up feeling like “yes, I’ve made it!” because by the time you’re at a professional level you’ve developed such a critical eye that despite all of the improvements you’ve made, you will still only see the flaws in your own work. Forever.
Pretty much every source out there enforces this idea of what it’s like to pursue a creative career. Basically that it’s hard and painful and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.
Is that how it has to be? What’s the point if all the while you’re forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do? Is it worth feeling perpetually dissatisfied and like you’re not enough, and you’ll never be enough? (In fact, this attitude of “not enough” can pervade many other areas of life as well. Didn’t you know you’re not hard working enough, good looking enough and that you don’t own nearly enough stuff?)
So, yeah. Thinking like this has really gotten to me lately. And I have been feeling a bit depressed about it.
Here’s what it took to get me out of it:
I am already perfect. I am perfection incarnate. It doesn’t matter if I never improve anything about myself ever again because I’m already super-special-awesome. I am exactly the way I’m supposed to be, right now, and I’m doing everything right.
Before you tell me to get off the coke, hear me out. Which of the following attitudes do you think actually makes me want to make things?
- “My work sucks and this is pointless, why even bother.”
- “Hell yeah I’m about to make me an awesome picture!!”
Which attitude do you think will result in more work being done and more overall improvement over the course of a year? Yeah, I thought so.
What if reality actually worked like this:
Making things is easy. There is room for everybody. No need to be the best, no need to rush. Slow down and enjoy yourself, because in the end that’s what matters. If you enjoy drawing, you’ll eventually get better without having to end up with carpal tunnel. If you have fun, improvement is inevitable. But you don’t have to worry about improvement because you are already good enough. Even if you never improved a microunit more, you already have what it takes. Someone out there already loves your work. Whatever your work is like right now, there’s a market for it somewhere, there is someone who can enjoy it or be helped by it. It’s okay to be proud of what you’ve made. In fact, the most important person who should like your work is YOU.
And even if it takes a long time for people to buy your work or hire you, or even if it never happens, so what? It’s not like your happiness is dependent on it and it’s not like you’ll die. There are plenty of people out there with fewer skills and advantages than you and maybe their jobs aren’t glamorous but they’re happy because they read and they exercise and they tell the people they love that they love them. Remember that in the end, it all comes back to whether you’re feeling good, and getting there exactly the way you think you’ll get there is not so important.
No pressure. Don’t worry. Just enjoy making stuff.
That feels a lot better to me. It actually doesn’t make me want to curl up in a ball and never leave my room again, which is fantastic.
But is it going to make me go too far in the other direction? Does thinking “I’m already good enough” really mean that I never plan on learning anything or getting any better for the rest of my life?
Of course not. But maybe it’s possible for improvement to happen naturally over the course of doing work. It’s definitely more likely I’ll improve if I actually do something rather than sitting paralyzed in fear. Thinking about things this way has actually helped me relieve a lot of stress and it’s helping me finally do some things I’ve been meaning to do. “I’m already perfect” is my mantra of the moment.
I want to draw and tell stories because it’s fun, because I have something to say, and I want more people to feel like I do when I see a Camilla d’Errico or play Portal or when I read The Arrival or Sky Doll or Scott Pilgrim, or watch Coraline or Castle in the Sky or Kung-Fu Panda or even K-ON. I guess I also want to prove to myself that I can make something like that.
I can’t wait to make many amazing things in 2012!