The Creative Process

Sometimes, I hate making art.

Actually, let’s be honest, a lot of the time I hate making art.  Music, writing, modeling…it doesn’t matter.  At some point in the process, I’ll get frustrated.  Some days it just doesn’t flow.  All of my ideas are bad—or at least, I think they are.  

It’s not that I don’t love my art too.  I do.  I actually enjoy it so much that I feel guilty when I hate it.  It’s just that every project I go through has the same process.  And it usually goes something like this:  

Step 1: Start work early, with plenty of time before the deadline.  Because I am a responsible adult, and I know better than to procrastinate.  Congratulate myself on self-awareness and responsibility.

Step 2: Notice that the project is taking longer than expected, but that’s okay: it’s a great idea!  And I’ve budgeted extra time because I am responsible!

Step 3: Get the sneaking suspicion that my idea isn’t quite as good as I thought.  

Step 4: Confirm step three.

Step 5: Spend all that extra time I so thoughtfully scheduled trying to make idea better.  Fail.

Step 6: Rant at my boyfriends about how my work is terrible, my life is terrible, and I'm terrible.  (Pro tip: don’t date an artist.  We’re high maintenance.)

Step 7: Rant at anyone else who will listen that I hate my work, and maybe myself.  (Pro tip: artists are high maintenance friends, too.)

Step 8: Finish it anyway, because deadline.

Step 9: Come back to it six months later, and decide that it’s actually not that bad.  Notice a few redeeming qualities.  Grudgingly admit that sometimes, the idea actually was pretty good.

I used to think that the above process was a problem, or that getting frustrated with my work was a bad thing.  I felt like the worst sort of person whenever I wasn’t enjoying my art completely.  

So I tried making the process easier.  My friends provide amazing support, and I leaned on them for ideas and quick feedback. I learned to work better, and faster. And I started working even earlier

That wasn’t enough. I was more efficient, but it just felt like I was moving from “starting” to “ranting” that much faster.   

I had just assumed that I should try to make the process easier.  Now, I’m not so sure.

The best thing I can do for myself is not feel guilty.

What if the best thing I can do for myself is not feel guilty if I struggle with making art? So my process isn’t perfect.  So I get discouraged sometimes.  So what?  That happens. Artists, successful or not, keep creating. So getting frustrated at my art doesn’t make me any less of an artist.  What matters is that I keep making it anyway.

But not feeling guilty is hard.  I’m still wrestling it. 

The last time I was deep in Step 7, my best friend told me something that really helped.  She said: “If you hate your writing, the obvious solution is to write more. How else will you get better?" 

She claims she was quoting me, but I’m pretty sure that’s smarter than anything that’s ever come out of my mouth.  Either way, now I’m trying to follow her advice as best I can. 

So yes, sometimes I hate making art.  And I’m okay with that.  Or at least, I’m learning to be.