Being an artist means pursuing excellence as we push ourselves to do our best. But what if I told you that focusing too much on excellence might actually make your art worse in the long run? In a previous post (https://www.unitedadoration.com/measure-once-cut-twice/), I talked about the need to iterate, to create small-scale versions and work the bugs out before committing to a full version. But I’ve come to understand that this iterative process is for more than just your work. You personally need to go through it to develop yourself as an artist. In order to become a success, you need to first go through a lot of failure.
I know this from personal experience. I got a four-year degree in professional writing, read like crazy, listened to podcasts on writing, and did everything I could to learn the craft. But while all of that helped, half a dozen years of writing bad fanfiction caused me to grow more as a writer than all the other stuff combined. I started out writing bits that were a catalog of every mistake a writer can make in a story, and by the end I was writing things that I’m still pleased with today.
I still have that instinct that the next piece I write has to be of the utmost quality, and I struggle to get everything right as I’m creating, rethinking and overthinking and then thinking some more with each stage of the project. And whenever what I’m writing isn’t my best, my perfectionism paralyzes me and makes it hard to go on. But what if I forgot that and just kept writing, regardless of quality? How far could I get in 10, 20, 30 years? Even as I’m writing this, I’m struggling to do it, and I’m tempted to scrap it because it’s not living up to my vision. But I’m going to take my advice. I’m going to write it, fix what I can at the editing stage, put it out there even though it’s not the best thing I could possibly do, and then move on to something else.
As for you, how could you improve as an artist through a little bit of practice most days? What if you stopped waiting for the perfect idea and the best creative mood and just did what you could where you are with the time you have available? I encourage you to try it and find out, because in the long run, you’ll create far more great art by simply going out and doing than you will by only creating when the stars align and conditions are perfect.
Cameron Miller, writer
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash