Let’s silence your inner critic and invite it along for the ride of you becoming the best artist you can be!
It's our self-critics that hinder us from creating. Oftentimes, we let it win. What holds us back isn’t what we think will happen. It’s what already has happened. We judge ourselves. We think we’re not good enough. We think that art is a race and we’re the last to finish.
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t really matter if you're better than the next guy. Art is not a sport. There is no winner or loser. Art is just… well art. It’s pointless to some, but can be a lifelong passion to others.
Most people don’t realize that successful artists don’t really put much thought into the reason why their art is appreciated. The art they create is a product of their physical capabilities and idiosyncrasies. As to why the art is considered successful, we can never really know.
A theory that I have in mind is that art, in all of its glory, is overrated to the artist. I’m not saying artists don’t like what they do — I mean the opposite. The art successful artists create is simply a product of their physical capabilities and idiosyncrasies. As to whether or not their creations are any good is not up to them. It’s for the general public to decide. The ability to move on is what separates good and great artists.
Let’s take a look at Leonardo da Vinci — the Renaissance Man. Quite a large portion of his paintings didn’t see the light of day. But those that did are now displayed behind bulletproof glass to be viewed by millions.
We know nothing of how Leonardo felt about his paintings. But one thing’s for sure: He didn’t expect the Mona Lisa to be as famous as it is now.
Da Vinci said “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” We must keep that in mind — especially in doubting times. Many times, we lose the will to create. And no one other than our self-critics are what keeps us in that place.
Practice makes perfect. That’s what they all say. But to what extent?
Experienced leaders and inspirational speakers say that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. However recent studies found that, depending on the field, practice only accounts for 12%-20% of the performance.
So how should we practice?
People think that passion is a key factor to get better. But what they don’t know is that passion can easily be misplaced. Practicing religiously and passionately only gets you to a certain level. But practicing with purpose is a whole different story.
Purpose isn’t as glamorous as passion. Without purpose, your efforts will not be as rewarding. Imagine throwing stones in the air because you want to hit a bird or something. No matter how strong you are, you’ll probably have an inexistent chance if you throw in a random direction. But if you wait, and actually try to aim, your chances will be higher — not a hundred percent, but higher.
“If your purpose is something larger than you- to accomplish something, to prove something to yourself- then suddenly everything becomes both easier and more difficult.” — Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy
The Creative Slump
That one slump wherein we are physically and mentally restricted. It’s in every field and in every craft and in every hobby. Imagine yourself painting but no matter how hard you try, you can’t encapsulate your vision.
That frustrating time where we aren’t at our best and doubt that we ever were any good. What’s the point of learning all the things you did when you can’t even make yourself move the way you want to?
That’s what artists hate the most — being in a rut. Why? Because you’re the only one holding yourself in that rut. It is in that rut that artists get depressed, anxious and discouraged.
If it’s your first time experiencing the slump, it can get really hard. It’ll feel like it’s never going to end. I’m telling you it does. The only thing you have to do is to keep going.
Here’s what you do when you’re in a slump:
1. Be a student
Being in a rut usually is caused by the feeling of not being good enough. You feel that whatever you do, you can’t seem to be better and people get depressed because of that fact.
The only way to get rid of that feeling of inadequacy is to actually be better. And the only way to be better is to learn. Being a student forces you to let go of your ego and submit to the fact that you don’t know everything.
2. Be interested in other people’s work
Creating something you like is actually rare. That cycle of being contented is becoming more and more common in these modern times. Why? Because of social media.
Comparing and being interested is different. Being genuinely interested in other people's work can give you that boost you need to climb the tallest of mountains.
You might think “won’t other people’s work induce derivative ideas?” Yes, but you have to realize… art in and of is self is derivative in the first place. We create things based on history and reality in general. The best thing we can do with other people’s work is to learn from them. To set the bar higher is the only competitive characteristic or art — and that is what it truly means to be inspired.
3. Give yourself a deadline
Most creators, especially those that have the leisure of time, tend to second guess their decisions and nitpick little things until they ruin what they’d made.
The “alla prima” or at first attempt is a great example as to why a deadline is good for creators. Painting “alla prima” is not only beneficial to painters who want to capture the fleeting light and color of the environment but also, it prevents them from overdoing paintings — creating thick, unwanted layers. That’s why it is recommended you finish a painting in one session.
Giving yourself a deadline not only forces you to be more efficient, but encourages you to realize the impermanence of art.
Art is both perpetual and fleeting. Fleeting in a sense that its creation is only a proportion of its existence. When we’re painting, mixing a song, cooking, writing or doing anything creative, we quickly realize that art is only ours when we’re in the process of actually doing it. Once we’ve finished, it is for posterity to scrutinize forever.
The slump is a creation of our own ego — our self critics. What hinders us most is not what we don’t know but rather it’s what we already do. Following the rules can be good to an extent but when we get lost in the process of learning, we tend to forget the number one rule of art: there are no rules.