Artists come in all shapes and sizes. Some paint, some create music, others bring out the statues held captive by blocks of stone and still others start with blank pages to create new worlds and memorable characters. But regardless of the art involved, all artists need to face an unfortunate and ugly truth.
Not everything an artist creates is going to be good. In fact, a lot of it will struggle to merely be mediocre.
It isn’t an easy thing to admit to oneself. I know of some people who perform and create without any real talent or passion, and the lack of commitment shows. Not only are such charlatans unwilling to practice or improve, they’re all but immune to criticism. To even intimate that they are performing at a less than exceptional level is tantamount to blasphemy in their minds. They’ll never, ever look at their work from a point of view outside of their own and realize the flaws in it, be they minute or monstrous. To be honest, I feel sorrier for them than I do the other extreme.
We are our own worst critics, and there are those who focus on their flaws and shortcomings entirely too much. All they see in their art is the mistakes they make. They don’t see the forest, or even necessarily the trees, just a tiny bit of bird crap on a single leaf; next thing you know they’re burning the forest down because “it’s all shit.” They may have talent and passion, and they might be aware of how practice would improve their art, but they lack the motivation because of how they see everything they create. It’s a difficult obstacle to overcome.
To be successful, I feel an artist should be somewhere in the middle. Hold on to what you do that’s good, and work your way past the rest. Know in your heart and your mind that you do good work, but don’t boast about it even when people tell you how good it is. Find the right balance between ego and humility.
And know that stuff you do may very well suck.
I’ve heard it said that every artist has 10,000 bad drawings in them; you just have to get past those. I’d venture to say most writers have at least ten times that many bad words they need to write before things start getting good. And even then, it might not get you anywhere. Remember that metaphor for getting a novel finished, the one where you put a bucket on your head and slam it against a brick wall until either you or the wall fall over? Some writers go through multiple buckets because they’re just that stubborn. I think I’m on my third.
The important thing is not to give up. Know some stuff you write will suck. Accept that, and write through it. Pull out the old Lucas-flavored line of “I’ll fix it in post.” Write the stuff that sucks, then peel away the sucky stuff until all that’s left is good stuff.
And if you can’t kick your ass into gear to do it, find someone else to do it for you.
I’ll kick your ass, friends, if you kick mine.
December 27, 2011 at 7:46 am
Absolutely right. I look at those Stories that Suck as training for writing Stories that Don’t Suck Quite as Much in the future.
And, I might add that it’s fun to take a Story that Sucked and make it better once you’ve got your skills up to par. That’s a nice feeling indeed.