Enjoy Your Art Or Don’t Do It At All

artists who struggle

To be successful at art, you have to be obsessive. You have to work long hours, fail miserably, make huge sacrifices and risk it all.

You can also have fun.

One problem with taking on creative projects is the common belief in an all-or-nothing strategy. We hear so much about the “true” artists locking themselves away until they have created a masterpiece that we feel that’s the only way something can get done. If we don’t cancel our weekend plans and throw our phones in the gutter and rip out our hair then we’ll never make something truly worthwhile.

So once we realize that we still want to go out with friends on Friday, catch up on the newest season of House of Cards on Saturday and just sort of zone out on Sunday, we start getting down on our projects and our ability to create. We’re not taking it seriously enough so why bother trying to do it at all?

But working hard doesn’t mean it’s without fulfillment.

Yes, you’ll have those bad days, hours where you feel like you were running around in circles. There will be moments where you think you have wasted all this time working on something that wasn’t worth starting in the first place.

If you look at your creative project like a chore, though, a slog that just has to get done, then you start pushing it off more and more. It becomes the thing you start to actively avoid because whatever inspired you to do it in the first place has been replaced by the misery of actual work.

This is when you have to remember that this isn’t your job and it’s not homework. If your project isn’t fun, then honestly why are you spending time on it? There are a million things in your life that aren’t fun and will actually help you out — you could clean your apartment or wash dishes or floss more.

Sure, some people believe that art needs to be a solemn exorcising of great pain and turmoil.

But others, like Kurt Vonnegut, who dealt with many dark, serious topics through his career, looked at his art as something far more amusing: “Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories.”


Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.