The Creative path is never about the masterpiece

My attempts at nutrition therapy, massage therapy and personal development writing all fizzled because I lacked motivation. The same now with art, and I’m wondering why.

I felt I couldn’t write about such subjects; I merely echoed what others had written. I was becoming a curator, not a creator, repeating well talked about ideas. Why would anyone follow me?

In writing, my aim and mistake was to create this all-encompassing philosophy of life. Almost be like the next Buddha, or Seneca, Marcus Aurelius. What I wanted to write about, such as anxiety I learned, were linked to larger ideas in philosophy: Fear, uncertainty, and how we face existential questions.

I was attempting to create this single masterpiece, this singular, definitive work to end all speculation, all doubt. I did my best to create an outline of a book I wanted to write, but the scope was too big, the idea too vague. My mistake was not narrowing it down.

I couldn’t be the one to offer advice on anxiety or philosophy; I didn’t deserve to be such a writer because I had not done the hard work of becoming a better writer. I had neither the knowledge of philosophy nor the writing skills.

It’s not how successful writers work; they write and get better and more prominent over time—a process of artistic and technical development. I need to start smaller, a lot smaller and work my way up.

Why did it happen? Partly, my impatience. It’s okay to have grand ambitions, but I didn’t have the skills or experience to pull it off. I wanted success, and I wanted it fast. It highlights the desperation and the fear I have about living life as an artist.

I was a little too impersonal in my writing. Anxiety can be viewed from a scholarly basis, but also a personal one. I needed to be more down to earth, more intimate in sharing my worries; my failures allow others to connect. I was a little too standoff, too grand in perspective, too abstract in my thinking for others to get what I was saying and why it’s essential.

Perhaps I am an artist because I didn’t know where else to turn after I accepted; I couldn’t pull off this great work of writing.

My impatience has, however, flowed into this new discipline of art. I wanted to become successful fast and still do. But as before, I don’t yet have the skills, nor have I put in the work to finish art pieces and promote them.

With art, I was making the same mistakes as I do in my writing. Still trying to work it all out in my head, still seeking that magic silver bullet, the ultimate work to make me a success. Instead of doing the hard work of creating, sharing, and getting feedback to get better.

In short, I need to be more patient and do the work. Realise it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It shows just how much creative success is about personal development.

Success happens through steps, every step is small, but each one matters.

Sharing the work helps you get better faster, getting constructive feedback, support, and encouragement most of all.

I sabotaged my progress by wanting to have it all worked out, to have the Masterpiece or Magnum Opus.

Oeuvre

I need to stop thinking like this; writing and art are about an oeuvre, a body of work that sends a message; it’s not just one piece, nor can it be just one message, idea or theme.

People won’t follow you because of one great speech, post, presentation, artwork.
It’s the vision, the worldview, that makes you fascinating and why people will follow you. It like Steven Spielberg a great director because of his body of work. But he still made some bad movies.

Don’t fixate on one piece of work, instead ask, How does this piece of work fit into the jigsaw of your body of work?

Keeping it all to myself until I’m confident was my way of avoiding rejection. I had to have good work before I was willing to share and promote or sell.

Such isolation and impatience are making it harder to do the work itself. By not sharing my work, I became less motivated, my skills stalling, my enjoyment floundering. Without connection, the meaning of the work is not there.

It’s the biggest test I have, letting things play out, be a poor artist before a good one.

I am sharing my ideas, my work, even if it’s not my best or complete.

Such connection is what makes better work, work that spreads, work that’s meaningful.


My mistake shows up a dark side to productivity, the fear-based perfectionist mindset.

Writing is messy, and so is art; it doesn’t have to be all worked out. Bodies of work are built brick by brick, following a thread, but the outcome is unclear.

I should start following the advice I have been reading. Walk the walk of an artist, a creator.

I read, talk and write about uncertainty, spontaneity, simplicity, passion, focus, discipline, courage, compassion; these are the qualities I admire. Yet, I’m having a hard time embodying those qualities. It’s why I’ve doubts about sharing my work; I’m not worthy, I feel. Yet it’s also the very thing I need to do.

A Magnum Opus is romantic nonsense. I wanted to be great without putting in the hard work.

You can’t write about everything. Most ideas are gossamer; every idea could be a whole book. So you have to pick one theme and have the discipline not to pressure the other ideas and be happy with that. A book about everything is a book about nothing. 

I’m doing better now with my art because my attitude has shifted by focusing more on getting the foundations right.