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  • karenlowe4447

Artistry and Getting By

I am not a perfectionist.

Not by a long shot.

There are things I would have loved to devote more time to, but I never found a way to carve out a space that was big enough for me to fill with artistic ambition. In some daydreams, I’m a famous writer. Others, a painter, a musician, or a photographer.

NOLA eternal musicians

But I’m not any of those things.

Being a generalist rather than a specialist, I do a lot of different things passably well, and a whole bunch not-so-well. That has led me to grow the attitude of ‘good enough.’ I write a lot of words, some of them work, others need to be weeded out. I take lots of pictures, some of them I like enough to print off and hang on my wall. But often I look back at my pictures and think ‘Why did I took that shot?’ [Good thing digital pictures cost nothing to take and then delete!] And I play music that I think sounds great, but I know that really it’s on a scale of crap to maybe passably good. I often get the urge to paint or draw, but the results hardly ever match what I have in my mind.

old stone staircase with flower pots
My Favourite Photo from Greece

When I’m tired or particularly frustrated, I ponder on how things would have been different had I made different choices. What if I had focused on one thing, like the visual arts? Or photography? Would I have had the dedication to spend hours and energy on just one passion? Would I have been able to let all other things drop to the sidelines? Could I be that obsessively dedicated? And if I was, would I have attained success and – here’s the reality factor – would I make enough money to eat?

I would starve.

Demands, like working (actual money-earning work), maintaining my habitat (inside and outside the building), feeding myself and my self-induced family (shopping for, preparing, consuming food), all those activities left little time (and energy!) to pursue artistic endeavours. Yet those demands can also rewarding and invigorating-like artistic pursuits.

And Me? I like my creature comforts – a habitat and fun with my loved ones. Those things require payment. To earn money, we have to balance our dreams with the real world. It's a balancing act. But even though paying jobs eat up time and energy, they can be creative. I’ve had stimulating and energizing work-days, and I head home satisfied from by being productive and helpful.

And, occasionally, I find the time to exercise my artistic side. I know a lot of people who balance these things much more effectively than I do, and I truly admire their perseverance. And ponder my lack thereof.

There's another reality factor around my inability to focus on the arts: My natural defeatism.

It would have stifled me, it would lift up the blinders that I would need to have to focus on art while keeping at bay everything else life has to offer. That fear-of-missing-out would nag me from the edges of my mind. I listen too closely to that annoying voice in my head that says pessimistic things – listen to what so-and-so says because they sound like they know what they’re talking about; or, be like that person since they’re successful at (fill in the creative endeavour).

Regrets lurk like alligators under the water's surface.

I try to deal with them by looking on the bright side. But some days… those days when the ‘what-ifs’ find me, days where I’m especially bored or tired. Or straight out depressed. That’s when I see, or imagine I see, someone brave enough to take the deep plunge into the artistic waters and ended up successful and happy. Jealousy/regrets/envy become the three horses dragging me through my apocalypse. Yet I know that for each person who made their life’s passion their focus, there are probably a gazillion who had the talent and the drive, but not the success. I’m sure I would be in that very large yet unlucky group.

So I'll settle with dabbling in the arts. I try. I carry on dreaming and imagining…

I hope your regrets are few and your triumphs are many. If you turn to some form of creative fun, be drawing, writing, reading, gardening, sky-diving, glass-blowing…let me know. And if you have a way of overcoming self-doubts, please share. I could really use coping ideas. And thanks for following all the way to the end of my pity-party. :)

Downward View from Eiffel Tower

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Brenda Baker
Brenda Baker
May 17, 2023

While I very much applaud your desire to be a successful creative, author may not be the best choice if you want to be a happy one. The Karolinska Institutet in Sweden did a 40-year study of artists and mental illness. Apparently, authors are almost 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Might it have something to do with the rejections?

May 17, 2023
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Ah, you are brutally honest! Yes, those nasty rejections. They are sent directly to you and, having had first hand experience with receiving rejections, they feel like personal rejection. As a writer looking to obtain an agent, I craft a query, read it, and change it a hundred times before taking a deep breath, and hit the SEND button. I picture it floating toward the agent, buoyant on my hopes and dreams. Then I forget about it. Anywhere from a day to six months later, a rejection comes in. The dream hits reality's cement. The trick (so I've read) is to keep in mind that the agent has a business mind-set when accepting or rejecting work, not a vendetta against…

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