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Relearning to Make Mistakes

As an artist, I’ve always had polarized feelings about putting myself or my creations out into the world. Because I’ve always worn most (or all) of the hats regarding my media production work (music, video, voiceover, photography, writing), over the years, it’s proven to be a constant challenge to build and maintain confidence, momentum, and flow in what I choose to do.

Since the early beginnings, decades ago, I got into the terrible habit of expecting a lot to happen, but erred significantly by getting attached to the results. Further to that, I wasn’t willing, nor wise enough, to approach the business side of the arts in ways outside my understanding and comfort zone. It’s one thing to incorporate a company, setup bank accounts and such, but another entirely to find an audience, build a fan base, or acquire and retain paying clients.

Curiously, being acutely aware of the sheer amount of work involved in the entire creative process, I couldn’t ever ask others for help; not without being able to pay them, or feeling outright as if I was abusing the relationship. Oddly, I did exactly that for others because some part of me was more willing, open and believing in their success than of my own. Worse, I would experience endless anxiety and frustration working on the dreams and aspirations of others, while repeatedly shelving and deferring my own. It’s a brutal, cumulative cycle that isn’t terribly good for the mind, body or soul.

It’s also a touch narcissistic. Rather, it can foster those detrimental elements in our psychology; when we aren’t genuinely expressing and pursuing our own healthy creative outlets — or, we’re usually shading our service to others with negativity — the “what about my needs?” monster seeps into otherwise peaceful, productive places. It builds resentment, dissonance, vanity, arrogance, and apprehension. And it destroys confidence and self-respect — regardless of the success we may help others to achieve.

To complicate things just a little more, if you’re like me, you have a tendency toward perfectionism. It’s a pervasive quirk common to creatives. I see it as both inherently useful, and a side effect of fragmented attempts at mastery. As you’re probably aware, there’s a vast difference between perfect and professional, in practical terms. The former is largely unattainable, subjective, and an ever-moving target. The latter comes from experience; from failures and successes both. It comes from hard-won humility and engaging in the journey of the long game. It is borne of a complexity of varying skills one can’t get simply by reading books or studying at YouTube University.

Life is about failing and falling forward, just as it was way back when; it began in earnest during those uncertain, unsteady, exciting days when we, as little humans, were merely learning how to walk.

That same process is with us until the ends of this Earthly adventure. Embracing it may just afford us a respite from the incessant pressures we adopt along the way.

Solvitur ambulando