Doing the work : a meditation on fear, stagnation, and mediocrity.
I had a very ambitious plan to finish an entire desk full of art this week. Six paintings and two drawings, to be exact. Many of these paintings have sat around in their ‘ugly’ phase for too long. I’m ready to stop obsessing over these paintings. To paint as much as I can until tonight, then call it a day. Done! Clean off my desk and for better or worse never paint on these canvases again.
I make a lot of excuses for not finishing a painting. My favorite is the, “I’m not ready to finish this piece, yet.” I think that means I’m not good enough.
Truth is, I think I might be scared to finish a painting.
I’m not sure if it is an Aries thing, an artist thing, or a Kat thing – but I have the worst time focusing on one painting. (Alternatively: Lizard brain, the critic, resistance thing.) “It’s not perfect,” I tell myself, “this isn’t how I envisioned this painting.” Frustrated, I put it aside and I start a new one.
…get 4/5ths of the way finished (or less) and move on to the next shiny new idea.
I always need to be working on two or more at the same time… to hold my interest and to keep the same feel and connection in a series. And this idea works, until it doesn’t.
When it doesn’t I am left with an entire desk full of paintings that are about 80% finished. Am I avoiding the hard work? The last 20% of a painting can take longer than the entire first 80% of the same painting. I doubt it: if anything working like this is harder and creates more work for me.
I’m afraid to let go. If I share works in progress everyone sees the roughness and mistakes, everyone understands that it is all part of the progress. It is supposed to look imperfect. I’m afraid of not being good enough. I’m more afraid of producing mediocre work. I am aware of the irony, that stagnation and fear create mediocre work. If I am afraid of finishing a painting I am stuck painting the same piece, over and over, because I can’t let myself let it go. I am doomed to fail and repeat the same mediocrity because I am afraid of creating mediocrity. In this loop I obsess over the work / I am unable to finish. I obsess & can’t finish, I obsess because I can’t finish, I can’t finish because I am afraid. The painting stagnates, I fret, and obsess some more; I worry about getting nothing done because I’m afraid of finishing… Lather, rinse, repeat.
Doing the work, for me, means letting go. Accepting failure, and moving on. Success for me would be not looking back.
I’m finishing these paintings and moving on to the next Shiny! New IDEA! Fear and mediocrity be damned.
See you Monday, clean beautiful desk & new ideas.
Talk to me: do you have a thought loop that trips your work? How do you overcome it?