There are plenty of reasons to celebrate the stuff you like that is critically acclaimed or praised as best. What about the things others disparage that you still love?
The answer is still to celebrate them. Ray Bradbury once said (probably more than once, as he gave plenty of talks over the years), “Never apologize for your taste.” Indeed. The things we like are an essential part of who we are. And, as artists, they color and flavor our work.
You can definitely benefit from trying new things and expanding the possibilities of what media you experience. But never be ashamed of what sparks love and excitement in you. We should be trying to become ever more truly ourselves, and that includes everything we enjoy reading, watching, and listening to. The set of things that influence you are unique to you.
Losing it is a big deal for most of us, at least while we’re in the midst of it. Let’s talk a bit about it.
While failure is nothing to be ashamed of—I mean I’m in favor of it—and it’s only human, anyway, losing it is us coming to a compromising emotional state over it. Either we court it directly as an end in itself, because we’re despairing or self-destructive, among other things, or we obsess on it and bring ourselves to despair.
I’m not sure there’s an easy way to cure such a tendency long-term without professional guidance, should you find you’re a habitual self-sabotage, say. But there are two things that can mitigate it. Wait, three things.
Physical exercise: get out, away from your workspace into the outdoors. Walk around. Be brisk, breathe deeply. Stay out for a while.
Keep working. Just do the daily piece of whatever you do, even if it seems futile and terrible. Inevitably, creators who look back at what they’ve done can’t tell when the good days and the bad days are by what the stuff they made is like. Step #1 has an all-purpose steadier: breathe deeply, in. Out.
Be kind to yourself. Remember you have tomorrow and today’s piece is only a small part of the whole. As in #1, breathe.
Marking a significant life event is only natural. It’s uniquely human. Birthdays, anniversaries, achievements. It’s that last one that can seem arbitrary or trivial, sometimes.
But an arbitrary milestone can make you feel inspired or motivated. Picking something small and celebrating it bestows importance. That’s what you want as you make your artistic practice an essential part of your life. It should feel important. Modesty is rarely a bad instinct, in a social sense. If you trivialize your work early on, however, who’s there to counter that disparaging voice? The last thing you need is less impetus to keep working on your stuff.
So here’s a small, arbitrary milestone: this post makes 100 in a row since I missed in late January, just a bit before I was due to hit the first 100 in a row. Yay! Woo! I couldn’t have done it without you, truly.
Most things have an inherent identity. They’re what they need to be and a result of the processes that brought them into being. This is just as true of a tree or a river as a book or music video.
Imagining the thing you’re experiencing as less than some Platonic ideal is missing the point. Whether it’s bad or good is similarly unnecessary. We’re often ignorant of the processes that went into making—or growing, if you like—something, and talk about it as if it should be something more, or better, or bigger.
I’m not saying all judgment or criticism is off-base. Having high standards is helpful, certainly in our own work. But we spend much time bashing and heaping scorn, and sometimes it’s simply irrelevant. Because many times the reason something is not our ideal is that it wasn’t meant to be. The processes of its making required it to be so.
This may seem vague. Trying to make a universal out of a specific is, well, fraught with fuzziness, and it’s hard to be clear. Let things be what they are, as much as you can. This lets you be kind to your own work when you want to throw it in the trash, and to other things when you want to spend your precious time holding it up against an ideal. Because perhaps it was never meant to, nor was trying to be so.
It’ll happen. Despair and work from the depths of your being go hand-in-hand. From time-to-time. What can you do?
The stark option is to quit, stop working. Do something else with your free time. It’s an easier way, at least at first. The itch will be there at the back of your consciousness unless you channel it into another pursuit of making things.
The obvious answer someone with a blog writing about creation and art will say is that you have to keep working. It’s obvious because the idea surrounds us, culturally. I’m a big fan of “JUST DO IT™” as it applies to life in general, don’t get me wrong. But try something else.
Not forever. Just for now. Look at everything you’ve done, and everything you want to do outside your routine. Breathe deeply, steadily. Try to imagine you aren’t attached to any outcome. Remember that you’re just doing the work and the process is your discipline. Discipline has its own benefits, creation has its own benefits, regardless of how bad it is, or how wonderful it is.
Then start working again. Just do it.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.