Don’t Let Your Art Be Too Precious

Breathe life into your art and then release it.

I was talking to a fellow creator today about the risks of getting too close to your work. All creators form a bond with their creations. You have to feel something for your work in order to pull creativity from an authentic place, but there comes a time when you need to detach from your art. You need to cut ties and let it fly free. When the work is done, kick that art out the door and make room for a new creative cycle.

When you find yourself obsessing over every detail, reworking a single piece of art, or seeking countless outside opinions–your work is becoming too precious and it will be the creative death of you. That art is too needy and it will drive you insane if you fixate on what you could change.

You might be thinking, “But Kelly, shouldn’t I dedicate my love and energy to my work?!”

Yes–you should–but not all of it. A little love is good. Giving all your love and energy to a single creative project is irresponsible. Everything you create will allow space for improvement, evolution, and growth, but each individual project has finite growth potential.

If you spend your lifetime writing a single novel that you rewrote 50 times until you got it just right, then you will have wasted years of energy that could have brought 50 other novels to life.

You have to settle for “complete” and not “perfect”.

What are the risks of your work being to precious?

It’s harder to start new projects.

If you never finish the piece you’ve dedicated all of your energy to, you will never start anything new. If this doesn’t bother you, then by all means, keep that precious mentality. Though, if you want to carve out a path to a professional creative career, you need to produce. You need to grow and evolve. Each new project is an opportunity to improve upon the last work of art.

It’s harder to hear criticism.

If you create one piece of art, it’s easy to feel emotionally bonded to it. When you hear negative feedback, it’s like an attack on your sense of self. Someone is critiquing an extension of you. They aren’t actually, but when you’re work is too precious, it definitely feels like that.

All of you creative eggs are in that single art basket. Don’t let your art have that much power over you. It isn’t a part of you anymore. Yes, you created it, but you have to detach from it. Once you send it out into the world, it’s on its own. The more art you push out the door, the more you’ll detach.

It’s harder to abandon something that isn’t working.

Look, I get it. You’ve put all of your energy into a huge project, and you can’t even fathom the idea of it failing–but it might fail–and you have to be okay with that. You have to be willing to move on for the sake of your sanity. When your art is too precious, abandoning it seems like betrayal.

That’s how you know it’s time to walk away. Betray the art. Move on to something new.

Time’s a wastin’.

What should you do if you’re work has become too precious?

I’ve been here. There’s no shame in the overly precious art game. But now that you’re aware of it, you have an opportunity to change.

Walk away. Get distance.

Once I lose the flow in a work of art or writing, and suddenly my momentum screeches to a painfully critical halt, I toss that creation in my dud pile. I leave it for another day. A day where I might have a different perspective.

Some of those works get attention in the future, and some get scrapped entirely if time didn’t help. The important thing is that you have the ability to walk away.

Start something new.

Once you walk away from something that became too precious, immediately pour your energy into a new project. I split my time between writing and art. Writing requires more labor and I have a tendency of getting too close to that work, so I write a little and then walk away and start a batch of new paintings.

When I get stuck on one, I move to another. When writer’s block hits, I paint. When my hands get tired or paint needs to dry, I write.

Keep the momentum going and spread your creative energy around to multiple projects.

Focus on quantity over perfect quality.

Your work will never be perfect. It will be good enough. It will be complete. It will be ready for the world to see. But it will never be perfect. Ever.

Don’t get obsessed with a single piece of art. View your creative life as a whole. Fill the years with as many imperfect works of art that you can, because you will become a better artist as a result. You will create more opportunities, discover more about yourself, and increase your odds of success by being a prolific creator.

Now, abandon that precious, energy sucking, needy work of art that is torturing you. You can’t give it the perfection it demands. That will take all the heart out of it.

***

(Need more convincing? I highly suggest this helpful piece by The Oatmeal. Kill your darlings.)

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

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Further Reading:

Can You Make Art if You Are Not an Artist?

Are you socially isolated and bored?

If you’re being a responsible member of society, you are staying home and are quite possibly bored out of your mind already. Damn this Coronavirus. If you’re like me, you also probably ate all of your quarantine snacks. (Poptarts, why you so tasty?!)

I am no stranger to staying away from people, but to all my fellow introverts, check on your extroverted friends. They probably aren’t okay. You should also convince them to pick up a new hobby–like art!

Now is the perfect time to make art and to flex your creative muscles. Whether you’ve done art in the past, consider yourself a professional, or believe you have zero creativity, you should make art.

And I know some of you might be thinking, “But I’m not an artist.”

Can you still make art?

Maybe this isn’t your career and maybe you are terribly unskilled–but you can make art, and you should make art.

Plenty of pretentious creators and art aficionados will try to convince the world that the creation of art is reserved for elite groups. That you cannot just be an artist or make art without a grand purpose or meaning. I get why. This practice drives the price of art up and inflates the value–but it also discourages a lot of people from trying to create.

I have been discouraged many times through my experiences in the art world, because I didn’t think I could live up to what an artist should be. And there was a long stretch where I did not believe I was an artist at all. During those years, I wasted too much time not creating.

Artist or not, you can and you should make art. To help any creative newbies out there, I put together a little list of Don’ts for getting started on making art.

1.DOn’t live by the rules

The art world has rules, but this is the world where you can and should break them. It’s always funny to me when creative people have rigid mindsets, because I see creativity as a fluid practice. Rearranging the things in your life to make new and surprising combinations is where creativity thrives. The moment you get stuck in your ways, is the moment creativity starts to fade.

Everything in your life can be used to make art, and art can be everything around you. You don’t have to make art a certain way. You don’t even have to use traditional supplies. Just make things.

Make sculptures with bubbles from your bubble bath. Use art stencils and cinnamon on top of your morning latte to make edible art. Fold and stack your bathroom towels in a new way. Organize your fruit bowl by color. Use tea and a watercolor brush to make earthy monochromatic paintings in a sketchbook. Fold your junk mail into origami flowers. Anything! The possibilities are endless.

There are no rules that you have to follow except to make art in anyway you can today.

2.Don’t listen to the naysayers

I’ve heard from so many people over the years that they quit making art because someone said something negative to them. That they weren’t good enough. That they would never be able to make money from art. That they were doing the wrong kind of art. That what they made wasn’t even art at all.

I know a lot of these negative comments can come from a place of good intentions, but it is amazing how quickly you can steal someone’s artistic light with a careless critique or judgment.

So I am here to tell you that those comments mean nothing. Nobody has an objective truth about your potential or what will happen in the future. If you feel the urge to create something–do it. Defy the limitations put on you and make all the art your heart desires.

3.And Don’t be your own Naysayer

Negative comments from others are bad, but negative comments from your own internal dialogue are even worse. Choose to only listen to encouraging thoughts, because they will move you forward. Positive thoughts are creative. Negative thoughts are destructive.

Now is the time to create. You can do this. You should do this. Having or not having the label of “artist” does not matter.

All that matters is that you create.

***

I hope you follow all of your curiosities and make the art that you want to make. If you found this post helpful, feel free to send it to anyone who needs a little encouragement today!

Now go make art and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #messyeverafter 🙂

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How the Coronavirus Can Fuel Your Creativity

Do your part. Stay home. Make art.

This is all I have been thinking about for the last week. Every news source is talking about Coronavirus/COVID-19 constantly. Social guidelines keep changing, and people are hoarding toilet paper and clearing grocery store shelves (why?! please stop!). We are in a very strange time–but I’ve been trying to find a silver lining.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert and tell you why you should care about this virus. (I’ll leave that to the experts at the CDC. #flattenthecurve) This is a serious issue, I want you to stay healthy and do what the experts are advising at the moment. Mainly, don’t leave your house.

I know for a lot of us, this will be a very hard time. People are out of work, losing income, fearing for the health of friends and family, worrying about food shortages, scrambling to find child care, and wondering who is actually telling the truth about the situation.

This is intense and I can’t wait until it’s over, but creative people may as well take advantage of the positive side effects of this pandemic. I promise, they exist. While the Coronavirus and its consequences are terrible, we can try to make the best out of this situation in any way we can. As artists and creative people, that means we make things.

When life hands you chaos, make it into art.

When your feelings are too intense and you want to scream, make art.

Just stay home and make art.

Here’s why this is the perfect time to do it:

1. Use uncomfortable emotions to inspire creativity.

Everything we feel can be used as creative fuel. The more intense your emotions, the more fuel you have to make something.

People are experiencing a wide range of emotions as they confront how this virus is impacting life as we know it. Fear, anxiety, discomfort, uncertainty, confusion, anger, sadness, and so on. When these feelings aren’t channeled in constructive ways, it causes people to do things like panic-buy a pallet of canned black beans and 50 pound sacks of rice. And then people who weren’t initially panicking start to panic-buy the resources that are left out of a fear of scarcity. It just snowballs. We don’t need doomsday level prepping here!

Prepare responsibly, and then take a deep breath, and pick up a paint brush.

Emotional discomfort is the precursor to creativity. Just like panic-buying food, creating art can restore a sense of control and order to person’s life. Also, it’s less negatively disruptive to the lives of others.

Use your emotions and channel them into creativity of any kind during this troubling time. Write poetry, fiction, or blog posts to help others. Create visual works of art. Write satire to lift your mood. Even creating memes counts! A lot of great art has been created out of turmoil. Art is both medicine and self-expression when life gets complicated.

Take that uncomfortable energy inside of you and use it constructively. You’ll dampen the anxiety inside of you in the process as well as create something that may comfort others.

2.Use boredom and isolation to strengthen creative discipline.

I’ve written about this before, but I’ll talk about it again. When we allow ourselves to be distracted all the time, our brain never gets a chance to show us its full creative potential. Going out with friends, attending concerts and sporting events, running errands, shopping, and going out for coffee are easy ways to keep the brain busy. Since many gatherings have been cancelled, and a lot of us are listening to the experts and staying home, this gives us time to be bored and alone. (Obviously we still have the internet, but I’ll talk about that next.)

Consider social distancing and quarantine like an artist’s retreat!

Boredom and isolation are unpleasant, but I want to encourage you to embrace them for the sake of your art. Let your brain be silent. Sit at home and be alone without distractions. I know it sucks and I know you’d rather be doing something else (like making money or binge watching Netflix), but if you’ve ever tried to force your brain to be quiet, you know it makes all kinds of noise to fill the silence. This is where wonderful creative things can happen, but you have to embrace that boredom to get there.

Even if you just sit silently with a sketch book for 10 minutes, you can make creative progress. The discomfort only lasts a little while. Once your creativity starts flowing, the boredom fades away.

3.Occasionally unplug from the world.

It’s good to stay informed and be aware of what is happening in the world, but we really should limit how much of our attention is focused outward when chaos take over. In order to maximize the positive effects of boredom and isolation, you can’t scroll through social media and news articles every five minutes. Choose a time during the day to check in with reliable news sources and touch base with family and friends, but put your phone down after that.

Creating is hard work and distractions are an easy out. Plus, those distractions are probably pretty stressful at the moment. Personally, instead of tuning into the news and crazy stuff out there all the time, I try to focus on the external things that are within my control to keep myself from spiraling down into an anxiety cavern. I tune in, then I turn it off and make a plan for myself.

I can make art. I can write. I can share this with you guys. I can stay home to keep myself healthy, and protect others who are more vulnerable in the process.

Focus on what you can control in positive ways!

***

I hope that you are staying safe and are taking this issue seriously, but I also hope that you are giving yourself space to breathe and relax. We are all in this together. Wash your hands, listen to the CDC and medical professionals, help your fellow humans when you can, and be nice to those who are working hard to restock grocery stores!

Now, go get messy!

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly



Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: