Why Giving Up Won’t Solve Your Problems

Old-Man-in-Sorrow-Van-GoghSure, there are good reasons for quitting.

My friend Akiko Crawford (She’s an environment painter at Disney) said that when we’re just starting out as painters, we often learn more from starts than we do from finishes.

So if you’re half-way through a crappy painting and you’ve learned everything you’re going to learn from it, quitting might be a healthy choice.  …as long as you move onto the next painting with the knowledge you gained from the last.

Stories are the same way. If your script/ manuscript is a train wreck, it might be better to simply start over.

But many artists just abandon their work in a swirl of frustration and self-doubt. Then they spiral into depression for a few weeks until guilt motivates them to try again.

This, my friends, is an unhealthy cycle.

Works of art abandoned for frustration, self-doubt and depression are needless casualties of a needless war.

So if you want to break this unhealthy cycle and finish more art, read on…

Art IS Problems:

Let me say that again: ART IS PROBLEMS.

The process of art-making is basically just a sequence of problems with corresponding solutions that begins with an idea or an inspiration and ends with a finished piece of art.

Tricky camera angles. Boring page layouts. Boring scenes. Stories missing endings (or beginnings or middles). Drawing the human hand.  Drawing the human nose.  Drawing the human anything…

THESE problems are inherent to the creative process.

THESE problems are inevitable.

THESE problems are ordinary.

These problems are not obstacles on the path. These problems ARE the path.

How many great works of art have been abandoned because the artist blamed himself for an ordinary problem?

The Rocky Gap:

If a climber attempts to climb a mountain, he will probably encounter more than one perilous, rocky gap.

The climber doesn’t stop and blame himself for the rocky gap, does he?

“This rocky gap is all my fault.”

Of course not.

When the climber encounters a rocky gap, he doesn’t suddenly consider himself incompetent or unworthy of the journey. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The rocky gap is a landmark of progress.

The rocky gap was there for every climber who went before him and it will remain there for every climber who goes after.

The rocky gap alone is not a good reason to stop climbing.

Giving Up Won’t Solve Your Problems:

Once, sometimes twice or three times a week I get an email from an artist who is about to give up entirely.

These artists blame themselves for the ancient, rocky gaps.

Instead of giving up, you should probably find your way across or around the rocky gap…

If you decide to turn back, don’t do so out of frustration, self-doubt or depression. …and certainly don’t turn back just because you’re bored. Only turn back if there’s a significantly better, creative path up the mountain.

Art problems are external. Don’t internalize them. Don’t blame yourself for their existence.

The rocky gap is not your fault.

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