Today is one of those days when I feel generally content with the art I produce. Believe me, these days do not come often. Usually I feel terribly insecure about my work, and most of my insecurities are because of age. I am twenty-seven, and that's still fairly young, but there are moments when I feel like I am too old to be making cute-sy stuff, too old to be clueless about long-term plans for my art, too old to still be struggling with basic techniques. I know that I am putting undue stress on myself by thinking about all these things, but I cannot help it; I am a serial overthinker.
I know there are a lot of people out there like me. We make stuff and we end up hating what we make. Maybe "hate" is too strong a word, but it's the description that's most accurate. For the longest time I've tried to put a name on it, like the way you name a plant or a pet to take ownership of it, but to no avail. "Impostor syndrome" may have been the closest match, but it still doesn't quite capture it. Basically, I think my work is crap.
I've wanted to correct this way of thinking really badly. I know it's unproductive and destructive, but looking at other people's work never fails to make me feel inadequate. And that's where the problem lies, I think. I look at other people's work way too much, and the comparison is what's killing me. Questions like "why don't I get opportunities like that?" or "why do people like their work more that they like mine?" plague me constantly. And because I can be very small-minded at times, I only have two default reactions. First, that the world is unfair, or second, that I am the one to blame for all the misfortune I have in my life.
Thank goodness for Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. (Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post. Stay with me here!)
Marie Kondo says her book is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but nooooooooo, Big Magic is what's life-changing. I've re-read it recently and I feel just as strongly about it now as when I first encountered it six months ago. Reading it is a very liberating experience, like you are consulting an older cousin or an aunt (er, tita) about your creativity troubles and having her say something like "it's okay to feel all those feelings as long as you keep doing your thing." Of course, she expresses this more gracefully, but her point is if you like making, just make. And that is so simple, so simple that I should have picked up on it earlier, but here I am worrying about the audience or the market or my colleagues that I have forgotten that keeping at it is what's most important. You think you've created a gem? Good for you, now make something else. You think you've come up with something horrible? That's too bad, now make something else. IT. IS. THAT. SIMPLE.
Re-reading Big Magic is actually what fueled me to pursue my second 100-day project of the year, #100days100desks. So far so good. I do not feel overly critical of my work and I am genuinely satisfied with it. I feel kind of invincible, like I take on any project. And I guess this growing confidence is attracting cosmic energy or whatever you want to call it; opportunities are coming to me instead of me chasing after them.
I used to think that something's wrong with me because I do not have a definite plan for my art career, or because I am not good at networking and marketing myself, or because I do whatever the hell I like without thinking about my brand's core values blah blah blah. I am one of those people who, maybe naively, believe that good work will always speak for itself. I used to get really frustrated about this because I don't like marketing fluff, but now I realize that somewhere out there, there are still people who appreciate earnest work, and at the end of the day none of these people even matter because the act of producing earnest work is what's essential. Moments of insight like this make me feel grateful, hopeful, and happy.