“I’ve been working consistently on my project but I seem to be taking two steps forward and three steps back,”
A client said this to me during the week.
“Me too,” I replied.
“This too is the work.”
Difficulty doesn't equal failure
There’s a temptation to believe that we’re only ‘working’ when we’re making progress. That time spent wrestling with ideas which don’t come to fruition, or walking through the thick mud that is creative disconnection, is somehow ‘failing’.
These days—particularly as visual artists or musicians—we have the additional pressure of ‘having nothing to show’ on social media. (This makes me feel peculiarly guilty!)
But doing creative work is as much about going down blind alleys, about doing it over—and over, and over!—as it is about producing lovely, meaningful or powerful things to share with the world.
The benefit of experience
I know this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t grim while it’s happening. I trudge on. Every fibre screams at me to run away. To do anything but ‘this’.
Sometimes those fibres win, and I take my attention elsewhere—to walk or work on another project of a different kind. Mostly, determination beats the fibres into submission and I inch the work forward.
I’m fortified at times like this by the knowledge of hindsight: That periods of struggle in the past have lead to big breakthroughs. That I feel disconnected precisely because I'm experiencing simultaneously the death of my relationship with the old and the birth pangs of the new within the process of creating one pice of work.
Knowing this doesn’t make it less painful but it fortifies me to continue my struggle up the shadowy hill. I know I that soon I will race downhill towards the green pastures of new possibilities. I just need to keep my eye on the summit and keep moving.
But wait, isn’t that a glimmer of sunlight I see peeping over the ridge…?
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