Why Artists Are Never Happy

Why Artists Are Never Happy

We’ve all heard of the writer, whose ideas are flowing so quickly their hands can’t keep up, the story is basically writing itself; or the film director who has a conversation with an actor between takes and something just clicks, and it brings out the most incredible performance that electrifies the whole set. Now, I haven’t experienced many of those magical moments, and I used to think that’s cause I’m not creative enough, and that I need to find inspiration, whatever that actually means, but then I thought about it a bit more and realized that all of these moments of creative magic seemed to have one thing in common. The director for example, it’s only natural to wonder what they said to the actor that sparked such a brilliant performance. While ignoring that in order for the conversation to happen at all, the director first had to decide that the last take wasn’t good enough, and the writer, we might wonder what gave them such a free flow of inspiration to be able to write so fluently. But we don’t talk about how after they’d passionately dumped all their ideas on the page, they then decided to re-write the story many times, laboring over every phrase. So, here’s the theory, before and after every great idea someone’s got to say, “that’s still not good enough.” And maybe I’m a pessimist, but I think that that discontentment, is what drives creativity, not these magical moments of gleeful inspiration. What we’re essentially dealing with is modified perfectionism, i.e., the refusal to accept almost anything short of near perfection; and that’s not an easy way to live – it makes it painful to look at our own work and more likely to be emotionally affected when it does go wrong. We can get stuck, rejecting all our ideas before giving them a real chance. We can easily obsess over almost perfecting one small detail when we should be looking at the overall project. Because we see those flaws so clearly it makes it hard to put our work out there, hard to stick to deadlines, hard to keep a work/life balance. We may never truly accept compliments about our work because we’re too busy agreeing with our critics. And so actually wouldn’t it actually be nicer to avoid all that and just be content with our current work and abilities? We could chose the jobs that we know we can handle never going for one which we feel under prepared or under qualified for. We could do the bear minimum of work rather than spending our own time and money going the extra mile for the project and we could tailor our work to what has been succesful in the past rather than putting ourselves out there with something risky. Now I have done all of that and sure it easier. But the path is smooth and flat it leaves you kind of numb. Whereas the alternative is to say that’s still not good enough and take the path full of risks and fear doubt and exhaustion instability and stress and yes, it brings you plenty of those low points but with it the thrill of the highs. Its like we know that the stories we’re writing need conflict so why are we so scared of it in our actual lives? Now I’m not sure what to call this maybe I hate my work syndrome or constructive pessimism. Yeah, that’s better. Where we are quick to find the flaws but then we make use of them. Here’s are real world example, this room is a mess it has been for a while and it will continue to be. Now I could tell my self, that’s because I’m not good a cleaning or that I don’t have time. But that’s not really true the reason I won’t clear up is because I am content with the mess and contentment is the enemy of progress. But that doesn’t meant that discontentment solves everything. The other day I went rock climbing and was not content with my abilities at all. I could easily tell that I was not doing well I had that feeling of “this isn’t good enough.” But instead of using that as fuel to keep me going, I just gave up and thought, you know what, climbing isn’t for me. And that’s the trap so many of us fall into. Now I don’t mind if that happens with climbing to be honest but when I’m writing a script or giving feedback to a collaborator or searching for a filming location. I want to see the flaws rather than quickly going yeah, that’ll do But most importantly, I need to remember that all of this discontentment, all of this self doubt, doesn’t mean that we should quit it mean that we are actually onto something. Because the people who feel the sting of their own inadequacies and then keep working at it, they are the one who finally find the magic.

local_offerevent_note October 11, 2019

account_box Matthew Anderson


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