While it feels great to gain competency though mastering a skill, the sensation of enthusiasm can feel even better. Instead of focusing on getting better, focus on how you feel when you’re really engaging with a project. When you loose track of time or eagerly anticipate the next opportunity to repeat the experience. Be consumed by your enthusiastic because the quality of what you make doesn’t matter. It’s about the joy you feel during the process.
The good thing about enthusiasm is it makes us want to make art more regularly, which leads to more practice, which ultimately creates improvement over time. Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project explains “Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability… because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.”
Enthusiasm is something Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth discusses: “Sustained enthusiasm brings into existence a wave of creative energy, and all you have to do is ‘ride the wave.’ While riding the wave of enthusiasm feels good, Tolle warns that “enthusiasm cannot be in a continuous state.” It’s okay if you’re not feeling so inspired on certain days, it’s all part of cycle.
You can’t sustain a peak level of enthusiasm consistently for prolonged periods (our minds need to recharge in order to come back refreshed), but when you feel the wave approaching, get ready to ride it until it’s over.
It’s easy to be distracted by negative thoughts around the quality and skill when making art. A voice in your head may tell you there’s no point trying if you can’t get it right. Or you’re wasting time so go do something productive instead. If you pay attention to these thoughts, they may convince you to give up making art altogether. So how can we get from being disappointed with our art-making to experiencing the joy of making, which is the main reason to make art?
Ekhart Tolle in The Power of Now suggests “do not be concerned with the fruit of your action — just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord.” When making art, focus on the movement of your hand, the way it feels in your body as you make marks. Improvement and growth will come but it’s not where your attention should be. “This is a powerful spiritual practice. In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the oldest and most beautiful spiritual teachings in existence, nonattachment to the fruit of your action is called a Karma Yoga. It is described as the path of “consecrated action.”
Being nonattached to the outcome of making art allows you to get in touch with the joyful aspects of making art. The joy in the journey of making art, the sensation of pen on paper, the feeling of being absorbed in a task where time stops, the feeling of satisfaction due to slowing down and giving yourself a break from everyday tasks and duties and of reconnecting with yourself.
If you stop judging your art on face value and instead give attention to the action of making art, you can experience the power of your hidden creativity.
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.