Our Biggest Failure As Artists

504150061_b7823eed43Some of the most asked questions of creative people are ones surrounding the creative process. Where do you get your ideas? Do you know what the finished product looks like before you start?  How do I become a writer, a sculptor, a painter, etc?  Any one that is an artist can attest to the fact that we have just as little clue to the answers of those questions as the ones asking them.  It feels good when someone admires our creative, but it isn’t in the same way a mechanic feels after bringing a car back to life or a salesman after closing a big deal.  Those people know that a big portion of their success had to do with a series of steps they took, and they feel like they could replicate that success again and again.  Artists know they had a little to do with their creations, but they know they had a whole lot of help, and they have no clue in hell how to create beauty again.

We admire our own work almost the same way the rest of the world does and ask ourselves the same questions about the origin or our ideas.  The fact is we don’t know and that’s what makes it magic.  Art is rarely able to be replicated the same way time and time again.  The creative process is not an assembly line, but a wide frontier that stretches from coast to coast with a Voice leading us throughout the wilderness.

The unpredictability of art is what excites us, but I think it’s also our biggest downfall.  A mechanic goes to work and is confident in their ability to fix a car day in and day out.  A pilot never suddenly forgets how to fly a plane.  But the artist may wake up and work diligently everyday, producing sheer pieces of trash for long periods of time.  This “trash” is not debatable.  We know it when every sentence feels forced, nothing makes sense, and everything we create lacks any soul.  There is no job description or training manual to art; it is a process of showing up and listening for the internal cues of the universe to tell you what to do and how to do it.  Many days you’re as deaf to that Voice as every other human being on the planet.

But some days something happens.  You sit down and magic flows through your fingertips and ideas whirl through your head without the process of thought, like you’ve always known them.  You feel possessed, losing all sense of time and space, knowing that bringing this creation kicking inside of you to life is the only thing that matters.  And suddenly, it’s over.  You come back to, as if you were in a trance and want to know where the hell this beautiful piece of art sitting in front of you came from. You know it it couldn’t have come from you because you’ve been sitting in that same chair for the last three fucking weeks and haven’t produced a damn thing.  You know that you were filled with the Divine, and once you feel it, your whole existence becomes characterized by searching through endless blank pages and canvases trying to find it again.  Our best days as artists are the ones where we finish and feel like we’ve done the least work.

At the first moment of art’s conception, it is much like a parent holding their new born baby for the first time, unable to grasp the idea that they brought this beautiful thing into being and knowing it isn’t so.  When we first behold our art, it is as if we are onlookers, glimpsing it for the first time.  There is no “me” in it; it is all the Muse, the Divine, God.  But just as a parent  will start taking more and more ownership over their child as the years go by, we start believing we were more responsible for its creation than we truly were.  Now there is nothing wrong with having some pride in your work.  Most artists reclaim possession of their work in a negative way.  What once started off as brilliant becomes average after many days and weeks of scrutiny.  Your confidence dwindles and that miraculous birth gets forgotten.  It isn’t long before that piece you treasured gets thrown into the filing cabinet or closet, doomed to die in the dark.  Our biggest failure as artists is not producing bad art.  That is inevitable if you are out there creating.  Our biggest failure is listening to the voice of fear inside us that says we have nothing of value to offer.

Art is always going to be like throwing darts and hoping they stick.  I think most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.  That’s what makes it magical.  But I think too many of us (myself included) believe we play a much bigger role the process than we actually do.  We believe that it is our job to create great art, but that is where we are wrong.  Our job is to show up at the desk, piano, or easel everyday and be a voice for the Divine.  Most days we only find our own boring, dull voice rolling through our head, but on rare occasions we feel the Muse take possession and enjoy the ride.

But we’re afraid it’s a sham.  It’s all fine when we’re writing for ourselves, but as soon as it’s time to share it with the rest of the world we’re struck with fear.  We doubt ourselves and fear criticism.  More than anything though, I think we feel like we have nothing of value to give to someone.  We can’t know how our art will affect someone and that is not our job.  Often times the pieces we believe are the best are the worst received and the ones we’re afraid to share with our family are the best received.  By hiding our art from the world, we don’t do ourselves and God justice.

Photo Credit: wetribe via Compfight cc


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