The desire to rush your progress is ever present for beginners, (and even full-time artists). You want to get ‘better’ or look like a pro before any significant time or practice has been invested. “How can I jumpstart my art so I’m great NOW?” In a faster paced world we’ve come to expect things to happen quicker – it’s much more convenient and we do so love convenience. Why wait when you can have it all now? But your creative progression doesn’t happen according to a speedy time line. It unfolds s l o w l y, steadily and naturally if you consistently practice.
Evolution doesn’t happen instantly, which is something that Jeff Goins in Real Artists Don’t Starve explains “More often than not, our creative dreams aren’t launched overnight. They are built gradually.” And if you don’t have much time right now to commit to your practice, that’s okay. As long as you accept that it will be a slower process for you, you can focus on the fun of creating and not worrying about if you’re getting better.
Small adds up as Goins suggests “When you are in a season of life when you can’t dedicate hours a day to your craft, it can feel like you’re standing still. But at those times, when the odds are overwhelming and the busyness is suffocating, you still have something to give. The effort may seem small and insignificant, but the work adds up.” Small is the goal. Instead of asking “Am I improving?” ask “How much art have I made this week.” Quantity beats quality hands down when it comes to growth. Don’t try to rush your evolution because when it comes to art, practicing regularly IS the goal.
“You can’t rush your hatching. It’s dangerous. The results can be disastrous and take a long time to overcome. So savour the simplicity of your pre-dreams-come-true time. Love the egg you’re in.” – Danielle LaPorte
That frustrated feeling when you’re in a hurry, sat in traffic or forever waiting at a red light – being stuck and unable to move – is the same when you get emotionally stuck. Art-making can be a vulnerable process, especially when faced with a blank sheet of paper and believing you don’t have the skills to get started. But making art for yourself doesn’t require any skills and being a beginner means you’re open to more possibilities, essentially making you more creative. The fear of making ‘bad’ art will stop you from taking any action, but paradoxically, action (making art) is the solution to overcoming your fears.
Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now asks “Is fear preventing you from taking action? Acknowledge the fear, watch it, take your attention into it, be fully present with it. Doing so cuts the link between the fear and your thinking. Danielle LaPorte advises us to “Stand outside of the story. Every fearful expectation has a big “story” behind it.”
Are you metaphorically sat in a traffic jam with your art-making. Is fear keeping you from getting started or making more art? Watch and notice what negative thoughts (stories) come up when you’re feeling discomfort but then take action anyway. The little voice of fear cannot thrive when you ignore its advice to stop and you immerse yourself in the process of making and start to enjoy yourself.
Roald Dahl explained in a 1985 interview how his first story got published. “I remember saying to myself, my goodness, it can’t be as easy as all this? … It’s terribly hard work [writing] but it’s easy the way that if you do work hard enough, then it appears that what I write is enjoyed or bought always.” Looking back now given Dahl’s success, it’s may be no surprise that he was able to become a writer without resistance from the outside world. Perhaps it was enviable that he was to become a prolific writer, or luck; being in the right place at the right time.
David Bowie said in Bowie: The Man Who Changed the World, “I don’t have a problem writing. I do write a lot over the course of a year. It’s never really been hard for me to do that.” That’s not to say other elements of Bowie’s career weren’t hard or challenging, but the process of regularly writing was straightforward.
While hard work is often required to achieve your goals, there’s a difference between it being a struggle and getting down to work on something with focus, grit and determination. Satisfaction can come from “working hard” on something you’re interested in. But is there a link to needing to feel like you’ve you really struggled through something or overcome adversity in order for you feel good about reaching a goal? I’m only worthy of the win if I’ve had to fight to get it?
Tara Mohr in Playing Big says “…often our fears about playing bigger find cover under the conviction that we have to build something large and complex.” Perhaps building, making or trying something small and simple is just as rewarding, nourishing and beneficial for growth?
“The cake you baked is delicious!”Oh it’s from an old recipe I’ve been using for years, it’s nothing really.” It feels like nothing because you’ve done it so many times and don’t even have to look at the receipt to know the measurements. It’s easy to make that delicious cake so it’s not worthy of the praise because perhaps you didn’t really EARN it. You didn’t stay up all night working on it, it wasn’t effortless but it wasn’t burdened with effort. Don’t diminish your skills that come easily; they are your silent superpowers.
Danielle LaPorte asks us “Ever feel suspicious when something is all flown and easy and just comes together? Same. We should probably get over that.”
Easy can be as valuable as hard, if you acknowledge it.
We can be in such a hurry to be better, faster, wiser right NOW that we don’t realise the full potential of a slow evolution process. In art-making the gap between where you are and where you want to be is even more obvious because you can compare side-by-side what you just made to an artist/designer/creator’s master work in seconds. Ira Glass explains this taste comparison; “Your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you… A lot of people never get past this phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit.”
In a word of instant gratification, entertainment constantly available at a moments notice, fast food and next day delivery, we are becoming increasingly more impatient. Can my next level of improvement arrive tomorrow please? What the artists’ work you admire so much doesn’t show, is the rich, diverse and challenging journey it took to arrive at that final piece. Their journey wasn’t straightforward or linear. It was full of failure, uncertainty and making bad art. They once stood where you’re standing and didn’t have all the skills they have now. They committed to consistent practice, showing up and making work that wasn’t perfect. It was a slow evolution of development and growth through practice, but you don’t see any evidence of that when you only look at the final work.
“You can’t rush your hatching. It’s dangerous. The results can be disastrous and take a long time to overcome. So savour the simplicity of your pre-dreams-come-true time. Love the egg you’re in. Because not too long from now – and right on time, you’ll be spreading your wings and life will never be the same again.” – Danielle LaPorte
There is no overnight success or hack to get better. It about making a LOT of stuff and then one day far from now, you realising how far you’ve come. Ira Glass encourages us that the phase of not making good enough work is “totally normal.”
“And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.” – Ira Glass
The volume of making work is key. Even a tiny 2 minutes making something every day adds up to 12 hours a year, which becomes more significant in the future (you may currently spend 2 minutes each day unlocking your phone so it’s not a big investment). If you make work every day and compare what you made on January 1st to December 31st, there will be a noticeable difference.
Make work – make a lot of bad work and don’t rush your evolution because the gold lies in your journey.