Despite what you’ve been taught, Struggle is NOT a natural part of the process.
There are literally hundreds of quotes out there that cater to glorifying the idea of struggling. Most of them deem it a valiant and unavoidable part of the process of progress– like a swift prick in the arm before you get your lollipop from the doctor.
But what if you could get the lollipop without having to endure any pricks? Even if you did have to get your shot it wouldn’t feel like one, it’d just be a mere stepping stone to get your hands on the true prize.
Let’s take a look at how we can make this happen for you artistically and creatively.
First, let’s define struggle– Stewart Wilde gave the best definition I’ve ever personally come across, and he defines it as “Effort laced with emotion.”
So it goes to reason, that when you’re feeling poorly about a given endeavor, it can easily fit into the ‘struggle’ category.
Now what you may not yet be aware of is that you don’t have to give way to those emotions when you’re making an effort. Even if they begin to arise, the fact that you recognize them is enough to combat them back to whence they came.
Second, begin to accept the notion that struggle is not a natural part of the process. Effort is very natural– for it’s how you translate your thoughts and ideas into action, but struggle is the sour byproduct of debilitating beliefs about you and your art.
Let’s say you’re trying to draw for the first time in a day– a “warm-up” if you will…but for whatever reason every mark you make looks like a toddler going wayward with a crayon. It feels as if all of your skills and knowledge have made a quick getaway when you weren’t looking.
So naturally you feel an upset begin to stir, and then the negative thoughts come flooding in. Now you’re officially in “struggle” mode.
“I hate this, why can’t I draw today?”
“What’s wrong with me? I’m done with this.”
“I’m going to suck at art forever.”
Anything along those lines sound familiar? Read on.
The worst part about struggling is that once you shift into that mentality, even decent drawings seem terrible to you. It’s like there’s no winning until you do so on an emotional and mental level.
Sometimes it can get so bad that we don’t draw again for the rest of the day! And we both know that’s not how progress is made– that only ends up with one feeling worse.
So next time you’re feeling stuck, upset, or self-deprecating about your art (or plagued by emotional pain in ANY endeavor) I urge you to give this simple procedure a shot:
1. Recognize when your actions are starting to cause frustration and negative feelings. A deep and calming breath really helps.
2. Say to yourself (mentally or aloud) struggle is NOT a ‘natural’ part of the process. Make a conscious effort to return the fun to your endeavor.
3. Dispel the negative feelings and thoughts, it may take 5–15 minutes depending on the severity of the struggle.
4. Return to the task at hand. Even if you have to draw 25 heads before one comes out right, you’re still making progress! And what’s even better is that it no longer feels painful. Laugh at the ones that come out poorly, assess what you’ve done wrong and attempt to right it with the next iteration.
Once you’ve pulled the negativity out of your struggles, they simply become efforts. There is an great freedom about this. One can work all day, failing left and right, yet making progress all along. It’s not the result of your work that matters, but rather the spirit of diligence you’re cultivating to keep it evolving, and the strength of character you show to overcome the infamous ‘struggle.’
Many artists give way to their emotional responses to struggle– there are some who simply power through the pain, even though it causes them a great deal of distress. distress does not make you better at art, it only serves to bitter your workflow.
This technique may take some time, but I assure you the results are more than worth it. parrying the stress and riposting with a keen blast of positivity will take you farther than you can imagine.
Remember not to lose sight of the path on the way to your goals!
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