January 20, 2012
I recently read a list on Facebook – “How to be Miserable as an Artist”. I don’t know the original author of the post, and I can’t give credit where it’s due. But I do appreciate that so many people have shared it, because it really hit home. And at the risk of infringing on someone else’s copyright (take THAT, SOPA!), I thought I’d publish it here, as well.
- Constantly compare yourself to other artists.
- Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on.
- Base the success of your entire career on one project.
- Stick with what you know.
- Undervalue your expertise.
- Let money dictate what you do.
- Bow to societal pressures.
- Only do work that your family would love.
- Do whatever the client/customers/gallery owner/patron/investor/*fan* asks. (I added that last one)
- Set unachievable/overwhelming goals, to be accomplished tomorrow.
The two most important lessons in this list – for me – are #1 and #10. I find that when I’m feeling the pressure … when the muse refuses to cooperate and all I produce is absolutely craptastic, I start comparing my work to other writers and identifying all the places where I’ve gone wrong. Why didn’t I come up with that turn of phrase? Why don’t I see the world that way? How did I miss this, that, or the other? There is nothing worse for your self esteem than to compare your work with others’ and berate yourself for being somehow … less … than they are.
I’m pretty lucky. I’m part of a group of fantastic writers who create within the same genre. I’m always learning from them. I’m always inspired by them. I get fantastic support, incredibly helpful editorial advice, and the belief that no matter how long it takes, I will get it done. But there are times when I have to remind myself that these amazing writers go through the same struggles as I: sometimes, inspiration just hits … and sometimes – often – they have to work for it. Instead of comparing myself to them, instead of identifying all the places where I fall short, I can look at the work of these artists and think, “Wow. I want to work harder. I want to do better. I want to feel about my work the way I feel about theirs.” And you know what? Eventually, I do. When I produce something I’m genuinely proud of, I know what it’s like to not be miserable. So … lesson learned. Use other artists as inspiring examples … but never compare yourself to them. Never try to be like them. Your art is yours. You are unique and different, and your voice deserves to be heard.
And that brings me to #10, which I’m pretty sure has plagued me since the day I started this blog (possibly before). Avoid setting goals that are unrealistic, unachievable, overwhelming … and expecting them to be done tomorrow. Life gets in the way. Careers matter, and bills, and kids, and spouses, and pets. Your commitments are important, and if you allow yourself to be derailed every time something else needs your attention, you’ll only beat yourself up when you don’t accomplish what you set out to do.
I’ve been working on the same story for almost four years (egads! FOUR YEARS!) … and so many times, I’ve had to step back because what was going on in the rest of my life took up my time, my fuel, my creative energy. I’m still working on this lesson, and many days it’s a major struggle. But it’s necessary to remember that, ultimately, we’re not creating for other people. When we start to do what others want or expect, when we produce for them instead of for ourselves … we lose sight of why we started in the first place. So what if it takes four months to write a craptastic chapter? And what if it takes another two or three months to turn into something wonderful? Well then, so be it! Don’t set unreasonable deadlines. Let the muse guide you. (I say this with a sheepish hint of irony, given that I set a New Year’s resolution to finish my story by year-end).
When all is said and done, the only pressure we artists really need to listen to is the one that comes from within … from the voice that says, “Make the time. Trudge ahead. Don’t give up. Keep practicing.”
So keep at it, friends. However long it takes. The work will always be there – it’s up to you to decide how you’ll approach it. Just remember to have fun with it! Laugh a little! Give the muse a good beating now and then! But never … NEVER … make yourself miserable doing it. If you’re miserable … then what’s the point?
Happy New Year!
October 19, 2009
After more than two months without writing a single original word (I’m not counting a few all-too-brief editing sessions), I’m starting to go just a little bit mad. What has gotten into me? Or rather, what has left? Self-pitying, I know. I’m not going to bore anyone with a long diatribe about the angst of writer’s block … what good would that do? Instead, I’m going to share a quote that makes me feel like a complete ass.
” You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” The brilliance of Jack London, bless his soul.
I’ve packed my laptop with me today, and no matter how crazy my work becomes, I’m determined to leave the office and get in a writing session during my lunch hour. I don’t know what will come of it. I have no idea if there will be anything worth keeping. But at least I’ll be writing. Going after my inspiration with the proverbial club … stoking the fire, so to speak. Now if I could just find some lighter fluid and a match, I’d be in business.
January 12, 2009
Here’s the lowdown: I’m still penning the bane of my existence … the one and only Chapter 17 (as yet unnamed). Remember that post about a month ago? You know … the one involving a fork … and an eye?
I’m feeling that way right about … now.
The chapter is … sorta … kinda … complete – in my head. On paper, it’s almost 3700 words. So what’s the problem? I’ll tell you! IT’S NOT FINISHED. Not even close. The concept is there, the general idea … but the rest? Out there somewhere in the void. Wherever the words and sentences and poetry reside before they magically fall from my fingertips to the keyboard.
And here I sit, at a computer that misbehaves just to spite me, and I am unfocused, unmotivated, and un … something else. I can’t even think of another word. See what I mean? I’m UN. This is what my writing life has become.
Someone give me a kick in the butt, and fast.
If you don’t, I may just begin torturing myself (and everyone in my building) with the song that never ends. You know it, don’t you? It goes something like …
This is the song that doesn’t end … yes, it goes on and on my friend … some people started singing it not knowing what it was … and they’ll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that doesn’t end … yes, it goes on and on my friend … some people started singing it not knowing what it was … and they’ll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that doesn’t end … yes, it goes on and on my friend … some people started singing it not knowing what it was … and they’ll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that doesn’t end … yes, it goes on and on my friend … some people started singing it not knowing what it was … and they’ll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that doesn’t end …
November 27, 2008
If you don’t get that reference, I can’t help you. Go research a sense of humour.
Sorry peeps. Feeling a bit … grumpy … tonight. It seems this collaboration is really getting to me.
Today, I managed to write … oh, 168 words. Do you have any idea how pathetic that is? I am utterly crushed. And I’ve made no progress tonight. I’m down to three days … Sunday night’s the deadline!
Well, I always was a pressure worker.
On an up note, I’ve had this wonderful idea to simply make the entire chapter 1 a dream. That way, I can start fresh with my own idea, and the other writer be damned.
And yes, I KNOW that’s a copout! You don’t have to tell me! I’m NOT serious (although it would be great if I could get away with it) …