We live in a world where we are obsessed with doing things ‘the right way’. Probably, no matter where you are, you think you were supposed to get further. I know that there’s a little voice in your head, an echo of your younger self, expecting you to have been “more than this” by now. I know that it seems like you have so far to go, and that’s exactly because you do.
However, no matter what kind of things are you making, it is essential to remember that the only thing that really matters is the making itself. A friend of Vincent van Gogh explained to him the beautiful essence of artistic creation:
What the world thought made little difference. Rembrandt had to paint. Whether he painted well or badly didn’t matter: painting was the stuff that held him together as a man. The chief value of art, Vincent, lies in the expression it gives to the artist. Rembrandt fulfilled what he knew to be his life purpose; that justified him. Even if his work had been worthless, he would have been a thousand times more successful than if he had put down his desire and become the richest man in Amsterdam.
Doesn’t that sound really good to you? The fact that Rembrandt’s work brings joy to the whole world today, is entirely gratuitous. His life was complete and successful when he died, even though he was hounded into his grave. The book of life closed then, and it was a beautifully wrought volume. The quality of his perseverance and loyalty to his idea is what was important, not the quality of his work.
Abraham Maslow also put it clearly: “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”
The people who you admire — or really, the people you should admire — are the ones who have spent decades building a body of work and legacy to outlive them.
They weren’t worried about how good things looked on the surface. They weren’t afraid of side gigs or incurring other people’s judgements. They didn’t expect everything they worked on to be a magnum opus.
They got up each day and they did the work. The key to their success was not rushing to “make it,” but in slowly becoming the people who deserved a lifetime of success.
Don’t feel pressured to rush your own artistic journey. Maybe right now is not the time for the shining highlight reel. Right now is the time for grit. Right now is the time that you stop before you lift the drink and ask what feeling am I trying not to feel right now? Right now is the time that you ask yourself where your interests, skills and current demand intersect, and figure out what you can commit yourself to doing for the rest of your life.
To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.– Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Right now is the time that you figure out what your self-sabotaging habits are and figure out how to change them. Right now is the time that you push yourself, minute by minute and day by day. Now is not the time for glory and completeness. Now is the time for sweat and brutal honesty.
This is the time that you worry more about what you’re learning than what you’re earning. This is the time that you recognize when you’re in a dead-end anything, and this is the time that you turn around before you spend the rest of your life there.
Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date. Take a deep breath and try again. And remember, you are not lost. You are here.