Saturday, June 08, 2013

Are You Good Enough?

Rose 1
A rose I drew awhile back, and almost immediately hid from public
 view, because it's...shoddy. But you know? Shoddy is OK.

This post by Stephanie of Rhodia Drive really struck a chord with me:
Art Making is Accessible to Everyone

I am afraid to mess up. More than that: I am afraid of being found inadequate. In many ways, I've always felt like this. While my brothers happily doodled away as kids, I would set the bar impossibly high, and give up in frustration when I couldn't reach it.

To some extent, I've gotten past this in writing and music--especially music. Yes, I do have moments of frustration. I wish I'd started younger. I wish I was more consistent. I wish certain aspects came to me more intuitively. But I enjoy music within my own limitations, with full knowledge that I'm never going to reach stratospheric greatness.

Writing can be a little more challenging. There are times when I wonder why I work at it at all, because I will never be able to write in the ways some of my favorite authors write. I don't have Vernor Vinge's scientific mind, therefore "I can't write." I don't have Ralph McInerny's grasp of theology and knowledge of academia, therefore "I can't write." I've never suffered extreme poverty or pain, I've not traveled to exotic places, I've not done x, therefore "I can't write."

Getting beyond that, to find my own voice, to accept my own style...this is difficult. But, at least on an intellectual level, I know "all God's creatures got a place in the choir." I'm not, for example, Gene Wolfe. But neither is David McCullough. Neither is Elizabeth Berg or Terry Pratchett, or Jasper Fforde, or Elizabeth Moon, or a multitude of other authors (or casual bloggers) I've enjoyed. Some writers create extravagant and scientifically perfect worlds. Some expose, through meticulous research, a particular period in history. Some simply make you laugh. Some help you to see plain old folks just a little more clearly. Somewhere in that spectrum, there may just be room for me. It may not always be the room I'd prefer at given moments, but...there's room.

Art--as in visual art--has been more challenging still. And I think it may well be key to overcoming what is really a false sort of pride: this fear not even of complete failure, but merely inadequacy. Because it's OK to create art for fun. It's OK to create art imperfectly. It's OK to create art with no larger purpose than simply creating art: for the joy and childlike wonder of exploring artistic expression.

I like this quote from the post on Rhodia Drive. "...they learn to be OK with the quality of their expressions and do it anyway. This was my path. I wanted to make art and so I did."


Bill M said...

Go for it -- draw, sketch, paint. Use a pencil, charcoals, pastels or what ever you have.

Your rose is fine. It is much better than anything I could even start to draw.

I will say the same as I do with my daughter, who also happens to a bit shy about her artistic work, have confidence in your self. You do great work!

Rob Bowker said...

I think that the maker is often the least well placed to make a quality judgement. There't the inescapable handicap of being the intimate instrument of its creation - whatever it might be. If you can find a purpose in sharing the things you make, you'll always benefit from the judgement of others whether positive, negative or inifferent. I would never have seen your rose unless you had shared it. It is amazing because you made it and doubly so because you shared it with the world.

notagain said...

Nice drawing, and excellent post - very thought-provoking. I can see in my mind's eye what the hand should do, and when it deviates, I just get frustrated. Ive tried to examine those frustrations with my drawing, and I've kind of come up with a clumsy analogy. I'm troubled by the Three Stooges of Inadequacy when I'm hoping for the Marx Brothers of Enjoyment.
I'd like to combine the effortless competence and freedom of Harbo, the sanguine opportunism of Chico and the wit of Groucho. But instead I get the clumsy ineptitude of Curly, the ignorance of Larry and the frustration of Moe, beating them up instead of being helpful.

Little Flower Petals said...

Heh...I like your analogy.

I think one of the biggest frustrations in the creative process is the ability to see (or at least sense) the result one is aiming for in the mind's eye, and yet be unable to reach that result. That's what I tried to express in this poem I wrote years back (ironically one of the few poems in which I've ever captured almost exactly what I was trying for).

I'm sure there are those who are routinely able to capture the dream in all its glory, but for many of us, shadows are all we'll ever have. The more we work the closer we may come to capturing our creative dreams, but for most of us, there will always be a gap. And the question becomes...knowing this, do we give up the hunt entirely, or do we learn to love those shadows?

Little Flower Petals said...

And, I might add, learn to love the hunt itself, even if shadows are our only gain.

notagain said...

Can't argue with any of that. Often it's a question of medium. I took up photography because I lacked the patience for drawing. Carving stamps is even more laborious, yet it seems to help me to have to think in negative and reverse.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for this post. There is true wisdom in it. I also love notagain's analogy.

Lacking an innate talent to build on for an endeavor (and except for writing and photography my list is huge)the shadows may be as far as we can get. Satisfaction comes from the journey as we apply ourselves and learn. It took me many years to get to this attitude but my frustrations diminished as I learned to appreciate the process.

It's contrary to my nature but I've learned to appreciate baby steps. Did I get the shape of a leaf or the shading of a single petal right? Is the undercutting and subtle sweep of a relief carved daffodil better than the last try? Is the transition from one chord to the next smoother or more effective?

Wish I had found this attitude decades ago instead of (I hope) middle age.

BTW, I like your rose.

Jeff The Bear

Little Flower Petals said...

Amen on appreciating "baby steps." This is something I find spills over into other aspects of life as well. To give an example, learning a new fingerstyle piece on the guitar can be a tedious, painstaking task. At first, you have to play in such a slow and fragmented way--breaking it down into chunks, practicing hard parts over and over and over--that there is no cohesive whole. It's just noise. But slowly over time it--almost magically--transforms There's a wonderful sense of triumph in riding through the whole process.

And I find that when I'm doing a lot that sort of musical work, it helps me to be more patient at my job: to take big, difficult projects and break them down into steps, knowing that sooner or later it will all come together.

So there: there's more to art than just some sort of feel-good escapism. I really do believe it can help us work on faults/work through challenges and grow as a whole person.

Biffybeans said...

Look at you go! <3

Little Flower Petals said...


Wow, thank you for stopping by!