“If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started ‘being creative,’ well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.” – Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist
This quote is rewiring my brain. (If you skimmed over it, go back and read it again.) It tells me GO, MOVE, DO, not after more preparation/training/confidence/researching/maturing/fill-in-the-blank, but RIGHT. FREAKING. NOW.
But staying in the glow of the possibility is way more comforting. Looking at pictures on blogs of artwork and thinking “I could paint that,” or pinning posts about “10 Tips to Start a Successful Blog!” to my Pinterest board, or watching watercolor tutorials on YoutTube—none of those things are bad (to be inspired, to research, to learn via watching) but they are not an end unto themselves. The charming glow of potential futures and potential successes (I could start a blog, start an Etsy shop, sell my embroidery, etc.) is comforting but, after years of living in this glow, I have found it is not comfortable.
Comforting, not comfortable.
Because it’s unfulfilling! It’s being a consumer—not a producer. What a one-sided relationship! What an unhealthy balance!
If only that alone were holding me back, though!
- I worry as an artist that I will discover I don’t have as much talent as I thought.
- I worry that I won’t have a unique voice.
- I worry that I won’t know how to use social media effectively.
- I worry that starting a business with my knowledge is insurmountable.
- (After all, how can 20 minutes of sketching a robin or a needle going up and down in cotton fabric, attempting to become an embroidered rose, amount to anything bigger?)
The list goes ever on.
But I have found that the root of all the worrying stems from one source (need to achieve perfection) and one fear (I don’t know who I am, and do I have any real talent?). Essentially, I expect molten-perfection to pour from my fingers and to never make a piece I am dissatisfied with. Only then do I have talent. Instead of thinking of talent as something to be refined or my voice as something to be discovered.
This short video speaks to this tension powerfully:
There may be tension (or a gap, as he calls it) between your taste and your actual work in the beginning, and the only way to close the gap is creating as much as you can.
Picking up a paint brush, fixing mis-strokes, pulling ideas together, it’s all been like exercising a muscle for me. And currently the muscle is out of shape, tight, easily cramps, and lacks fine motor skills….but I’m hoping that, just like with a real muscle, exercising will become easier.
Not to say that creating is something to be “figured out and be done with” or conquered.
Rather, I love Sarah Lewis’ philosophy of embracing the near win. Mastery is not a commitment to a goal, but to a constant pursuit. It is about reaching, not arriving.
“It is out of failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique” – Conan O’Brien
What an encouraging axiom by which to journey forth! Or as Kleon puts it: “Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your own work.”
These concepts and axioms apply to more than just those of us who would accept being called an “artist” and more situations than just using a paintbrush.
There are many ways we live in the glow of possibility rather than really living. And sometimes it’s just time to GO, MOVE, DO.
To just start.
Are there any ventures or projects or desires that you are holding back on, and not starting? Why? What do you think is a good balance between consuming and producing? I truly would love to hear your thoughts!
*This post includes affiliate links. My opinions are always my own, unbiased and honest.