While reading through a pastel forum posts on Wet Canvas, I came across a post entitled “Afraid of Failure”. In my last blog post, I discussed the anxiety we often feel when beginning something new. That anxiety often stems from the fear of failure. So when I saw the title “Afraid of Failure”, curiosity made me click on it immediately. Fate has a way of putting certain things in your path at the right time you know. Initially, I expected to see a picture of a half completed art piece for which an artists was likely asking for help or some kind of critique… but instead I saw this:
“Hello, I haven’t been on for ages as I haven’t painted anything for nearly 6 months now. I’ve given myself various reasons… But underlying it all the truth is that every single painting I’ve ever done I struggle with not knowing if it’s going to work and I can’t bear the thought of failure.
Mostly they work ok for the level that I’m at – I very rarely bin anything, but I spend hours and hours trying to get them to work and there are only a couple that I’m actually really happy with once finished.
I’ve just started on a painting that I agreed to do before I gave up and I’m back in that place not knowing if it’s going to work and this time it’s even worse as I wonder now if I’ve even lost what ability I had after not painting for so long … my point in posting is to ask if others feel like this and if so what do you do about it? I wonder if I should just give up for good if it makes me feel like this?”
Upon reading this, my heart really went out to the artist because I know that feeling all too well; to continuously question the quality and value of your work, to think it’s no good, and ultimately wonder why you even gave it a go to begin with. It’s self defeating indeed but a common occurrence amongst many artists which resurfaces now and then. As a matter of fact, let’s see a show of hands for the people who experience this to some degree with every single painting… am I the only person with my hand in the air?
These are the things we often fail to talk about, the realities of our internal battles. I understood what the artist was feeling so I was compelled to reply as follow:
I have felt that way MANY times and still do from time to time but then I remind myself that painters don’t become great at what they do overnight. I remember expressing how frustrated I was with my work to an artist that I admire and she said to me: “I’ve been painting for almost 50 years, what you see before you took 50 years of continuous painting and learning… if it was easy I would have been painting like this from day 1″.
And that is the point blank truth. Like anything else, it takes TIME and WORK. Because as time goes on and we continuously put in that work, we experience growth. And during that process, we have to keep our expectations realistic. Sometimes we have to be reminded not to set ourselves up for disappointment via self defeating commentary before we even try.
A great motivator I find is to have a look at work you did perhaps 1-2 years ago. I’m sure you can see some growth. Hang in there, be kind to yourself, keep painting and more importantly allow yourself time to develop….
I believe it’s important to note that for the most part, the artwork you see published on my website is what I consider to be my successful pieces of work. But what you don’t see are the pieces that I struggled with, the pieces that challenged me beyond my capabilities, the pieces that I could not yet understand, the pieces that I was not yet ready for, the pieces that frustrated me, the pieces that remain unfinished, the pieces that made me feel as though I wasted my time and materials, the pieces that went straight from the easel into the trash because to me they just weren’t good enough… the many… many… many pieces.
But despite it all, and even amidst the frustration, I remind myself frequently that not every piece will be a masterpiece. Because it takes more than talent to produce something great. It takes continuous hard work, experience and a willingness to learn… and most importantly, it takes TIME….BECAUSE there is this GAP… Do you know about this thing called “The Gap”? Well, it sure gets in the way of where we want to go, but there’s no getting around it… Have a read below of “The Gap” written by Ira Glass:
The only way to reach that point where the majority of your work brings you satisfaction… is to keep going and DO A LOT OF WORK. Keep going, keep learning and keep producing (even if some are “file 13”) because each effort teaches us something different and failure is an inherent part of success. Eventually, such experiences will help to CLOSE THE GAP so that one day our work will be AS GOOD AS OUR AMBITIONS.
And whilst I talk about this in the context of art, it applies to all of our ambitions. We have to put in the work to see the results. As we commence a new year, give yourself permission and TIME to LEARN. Try to appreciate the journey and processes ahead of you. We each have our challenges. Great things don’t happen overnight! But great things happen with passion and dedication!
When you have a moment, I’d encourage you to watch the below video which thoroughly explains the concept of “The Gap”.