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Unsatisfied art

Part of being an artist is never feeling satisfied with your creation. It is why you started creating to start off with. You feel that something needs to be fixed. You sense something is missing.
So you get out your brush and your paper or your clarinet and your tape recorder. You get to making stuff. You know that something needs to fill that hole you can sense, and that you are the one to try. But that same feeling that made you start is the same feeling that will make you feel that you aren’t finished – that your art isn’t good enough. That same feeling will make you think you should throw it all away.
Perhaps there needs to be a “Post Secret” for artists. Perhaps there needs to be a revelation of the mental process of artists, in the same way that magicians (sometimes) reveal how they do their tricks. You think you are doing it all wrong, but you just don’t know that everybody else is having the same problem. Perhaps that is part of what this post is all about.
I hate pictures of myself. My eyes don’t match up. One looks more “open” than the other. If I post a picture of myself, I’m either looking at the camera at an angle or I’m smiling so my eyes are squinting. Then it is harder to see that my eyes don’t match.
Then I started looking at other faces. I work in a library, so I can look at author photos on the back of books. I started slowing down and really noticing them. Almost all of them look “off”. Almost all of them have one eye different from the other. I finally realized that I look “normal” by looking “abnormal”.
Then I thought about something I was told years ago. I was told that when making a Persian rug, the artist will intentionally make a mistake so the rug isn’t perfect. It is to say that only God can make something perfect. In a way this seems arrogant. If you can intentionally make a mistake, you could then presumably make it perfect. But I think that isn’t the idea. The idea is that imperfection is OK, and it is part of being human.
Jesus tells us that. Jesus tells us that we can’t ever get to 100%. The test is rigged by the world. Jesus tells us that we are OK the way we are as long as we are trying to do the right thing.
I know someone who rewrote her book four times before she published it. I think that is such a waste of time and energy. Sure, there is something about putting your best work out there. But there is something about knowing that you are constantly changing and evolving, and your work is too. What you wrote/drew/painted/composed a year ago will be totally different from what you will create today. That is normal. Just keep creating. Just keep trying.
I know people who never start anything because they are afraid they won’t do it right. I’ve been that way. I’m glad I got over it. Well, mostly. I understand the logic of it. If you don’t start, you’ll never fail, right? Except if you don’t start, you’ll never learn and grow. You have to start, but you also have to let go. You have to be OK with it never matching up with what you envisioned in your head. That is part of being a creative person.
You’ll get closer and closer to being able to bring forth what you imagine the more you try. And some of being an artist is being OK with the happy accidents, the discoveries, along the way. While you are trying to get to one idea, something else will happen and take you down another road. That can result in some pretty amazing work. That can also derail you and leave you stranded.
Part of being an artist is knowing how and when to rein yourself in, and when to let yourself go. Sometimes the art will try to take over. Sometimes you should let it. Sometimes that is just an excuse to goof off and not get things done.
Trust the process, right? Sometimes. The best learning comes from making horrible mistakes. But you have to do something. Art doesn’t make itself.
A bad part about being an artist is that you never think you are done. Whatever you have made, it never feels “complete”. It is like me with my eyes. But then I got away from looking at myself and I looked at others. Art is the same. Nobody ever feels like their art is complete. You are normal.
Just keep making stuff. Don’t let the monster win. The monster is the thing that says you can’t do it, that you are no good. You defeat it by making stuff anyway.

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