Tag Archives: motivation failure

The Most Dangerous Thing Any Artist Can Do…

…is lose faith in their ability to make art.

Seems too simple, or even nonsensical. How can someone who makes art of any kind lose faith in that ability? And how can that stop you from creating, if you’re truly an artist?

Oh, it can happen, and all too easily. I’m stuck in it right now, as a matter of fact. And there is more than one path to this stupidly terrible mire I find myself in these days:

  • Suffering from self-censorship, and/or the fear that your art is “not good enough” for others to see
  • Making “art creation time” feel more like work than fun–over-thinking it and over-planning it, especially
  • Allowing someone else to bully you into making the kind of art they like, rather than what you like

Any or all of these things can strike you, as an artist, and they can all make your passion for creating art shrivel up and die. And when you’ve lost your passion for your art, no more ideas will come to you till you get it back. Thus, you lose faith in your own ability to make art, because the ideas aren’t coming. And all too soon, you stop even identifying yourself as an artist entirely.

Remember, Only YOU Can Make Art That Expresses Yourself!

[/shameless parody of Smokey the Bear’s “forest fires” slogan]

It doesn’t matter what kind of art you make, whether it’s poetry, paintings, choreography, sculptures, dramas, or jewelry–you have to have faith and passion for your art, otherwise the creative juices just won’t be there. You have to remember that you have a unique voice, a unique spirit, which is expressed through your chosen art, whatever it may be. You must let that come forth however it will, if it’s going to be truly representative of you.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you push aside help from other people. Others can guide you along, give you advice, and act as sounding boards for your newborn ideas. But only YOU can create art from that advice. God gifted you an amazing ability; only you can bring forth that idea that sprouted in your brain.

How to Get Your Faith and Passion Back

So, what to do if you’ve found yourself suddenly without the fire for your art that you used to have? Here are two things that have helped me:

  1. Re-experience your own artworks. Try to re-create that beautiful painting you did a few years ago; play through that old song you loved writing so much. Do whatever it takes to reconnect with what made you love making art. For instance, I took to my digital keyboard and played through a few of my more involved compositions, playing them in different keys, experimenting with their forms.
  2. Show or talk about a few of your most recent artistic attempts to friends you trust and/or friends who do the same kind of art. They may be able to offer a fresh perspective on the work you’ve lost faith in. In my case, I’ve been talking about my novel with a few more trusted friends, and slowly gaining a little more pride in what I’ve created when they give their reactions.

Remember, art is your personal expression, mirroring your experience of the world. No one else has quite that expression–will you then hide it or push it aside because it’s not “as good as” someone else’s? I hope you choose to keep working at it…your efforts ARE worth it, as are mine, as are every artist’s. Be proud of your identity as an artist!

The Stupidity of Trying to Produce Art Alone

For weeks–maybe months, now–I’ve been trying to bring my novel to fruition by myself, trying to continue the story I was once bursting to tell. Sadly, it’s not working out that great. It almost seems like I’ve lost the fire for it. Some days, I just look at the filename and feel sad; I feel like nobody will like it, or that nobody will want to read it.

During the years I’ve been writing this novel, I’ve been scared to show more people what I’ve written, either for fear it’ll get stolen/ripped off, or afraid that others won’t like it. It’s a ludicrous feeling, like a pregnant woman being afraid to give birth because she fears her baby will be ugly, while at the same time she fears that her baby will be stolen. And yet…it’s a valid feeling, too; this half-finished novel is a product of my hard work, and I don’t want that hard work credited to someone else, or cast aside as unworthy.

Why Artists Can’t Create in Complete Solitude

Pop culture (and even some art about artists) generally paints artists as loners, but that’s at least partially untrue. As much as we might need peace and quiet to finalize our ideas, we actually can’t produce art in a vacuum–other people help and influence us, even if they never realize how much they’ve helped.

So many times I’ve been in public, for instance, and heard an exchange between people that reminds me of something in my novel, or reminds me that I should put something similar in a certain scene. Not to mention my friends’ opinions on the bits of novel I do share with them, the snapshots of scenes I’m not too scared to share with them. Talking about our art with other people is a way to keep us believing in what we’re doing; isolating ourselves, or our art, slowly kills the budding artistic expression.

And yet, creating in isolation is precisely what I’ve been trying to do for the last few months. I love my little novel baby, but I’m afraid she’s not good enough for others, or that she will be stolen from me, so I’ve isolated her and hidden her from the world. How silly and stupid of me, in retrospect. No wonder I can’t write anymore; no wonder I get sad when I look at even just the filename. The novel is becoming synonymous with failure and sadness instead of joy, because I only have my opinion to go on, and my opinion becomes more negative by the day.

This is, as I have unfortunately discovered, dangerous territory for me, and indeed it’s dangerous for any artist. We who make art simply can’t hoard it to ourselves; art is for sharing with other humans, whether that’s a small group of people to a worldwide audience. I have big dreams of this novel going worldwide and brightening lives everywhere, and I would wager a guess that other artists dream of showing off their works, too. But in order to get our art to completion, it’s almost necessary to let a few, trusted friends see it, to help us shape it and better it. And, much as a mother-to-be needs help from others in the last months of pregnancy, an artist’s friends surround him or her and help keep the process grounded.

Breaking Out of the Isolation Shell

As artists, we have to realize that it’s okay to share the knowledge of our unfinished art “babies,” even if we’re afraid of the feedback. I suppose it’s much like an expectant parent showing off ultrasound pictures–people will still ooh and ahh, even though the little one is not yet fully formed, because we respect and admire the miraculous process.

Likewise, people at least know a little about the artistic process, and sometimes are willing to help, to offer feedback that will bring our baby projects into the world at last. We just have to be brave enough to let someone else see the ultrasound pictures first. Others, and others’ opinions, are not to be feared; that fear is actually the enemy of art itself.

You Can Get Fat With Friends, But You Have to Get Healthy On Your Own

As a “fat girl” for the last 14 years of my life, I have struggled with my weight and my shape, trying all different types of lifestyle changes, eating plans, and even exercise programs. I have alternately hated my body and tried to love it, tried to use exercise equipment and then eschewed it, etc. I’ve tried walking alone on a track; I’ve tried doing various diets (even low-carb, for about 5 minutes); I’ve tried exercising with music on headphones. Nothing worked for a very long time–I got bored, I got out of the habit, and then it was back to living like I was, relatively sedentary because of my lower body’s arthritic injuries, and avoiding anything green and leafy like it’s got mold.

Does “Healthy Living” Always Have to Equal “Lonely Living?”

During these years of struggle, I’ve noticed something: “living healthy” is a lonely process, like I referenced in the title of this article. It’s very difficult to get people to eat healthier with you, or to exercise regularly with you, due to scheduling, different food needs and likes, and just plain being too busy or too disconnected. And since I’m such a social creature, liking to do things with other people than by myself, it makes it doubly hard to stick to any plan. Not only are the plans difficult to follow because they’re SO different from the way I live my life and they often cause me lots of physical pain, but I have to do everything alone. Doing things alone is a great way to unmotivate oneself.

Perhaps I sound like a crybaby. No matter; I’ve been called a crybaby many times during my life, and I’d say that my sensitivity makes me a much more impassioned writer and a better artist than it makes me a well-adjusted human being. It’s just that if I have to go through something as life-altering, painful, and tough as “getting healthy,” then I’d like a little support. After all, there are support groups for everything else in life.

“Anti-Health” Support Groups, Ahoy!

In fact, I’m comfortable making the assertion that we currently have unintended “anti-health support groups” in America and around the world. There are plenty of people to help you eat all the wrong things, but if you’re on a super-healthy diet, you eat alone. There are plenty of people to help you laze around and watch TV all day, but if you’re going to exercise, you have to do it by yourself. We all help each other sink farther and farther into unhealthy activities because those unhealthy activities feel so darned good and the healthy activities feel like punishment.

In light of this, why are fat people like me subjected to teasing, ridicule, and blame, when we ALL are to blame for being rather hedonistic in our choices of lifestyle? Somehow, it’s still completely “our fault” for being fat, even when the culture immediately around us rewards bad choices and punishes good choices.

When Good Health is Associated with Bad Emotions

I’m tired of being lonely during exercise, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Apart from my Zumba experience, which has been amazingly awesome despite not being able to do quite all the moves yet, my exercise repertoire in the past mostly consisted of boring workouts that somehow manage to leave me unbearably sore and bedridden the next day.

Walking, for instance, BORES ME TO TEARS. Just walking and walking around in a circle not doing anything else productive is not relaxing for me–it makes me anxious about the time I’m wasting doing this useless junk when I could be at home working on a project I’ve got coming up. Walking and other “10-reps-of-this, 20-reps-of-this” exercises drive me insane. There’s nothing to THINK about except how much pain I’m in, and how much pain I’m going to be in tomorrow, and how airless my lungs feel. There’s an incredible isolation that descends upon you when you’re in pain–no one else can feel what you’re feeling at this moment, and quite possibly, no one even cares how much it hurts. When exercise is associated with humiliation and pain, it’s no wonder people don’t want to do it.

I’m also tired of being lonely at the dinner table, and I know I ain’t the only one. When everyone else is indulging in wonderful treats of all types and you’re stuck with a “Rabbit’s Delight” salad, you begin to feel like the odd one out. If you’re the only person counting calories, watching carbs or fat, etc., you feel like you’re in “Food Time-Out.” Starving oneself while everyone else eats heartily, eating something that tastes absolutely disgusting just because it’s “healthier” than what you like, is not my idea of culinary fun. As a very picky eater, hating almost all vegetables and fruits because of the nasty pulpy/crunchy textures and brackish dirt/water tastes, it’s hard for me to find healthy things that I can eat, though even I draw the line at Taco Bell’s ground beef these days (it’s more grease than meat, or is it just me?). I try to choose the least of the food evils and eat smaller portions of whatever I get, but I still feel like I’m depriving myself–and I end up hungry 45 minutes later, without fail.

Do We Deserve “Body Punishment?” I Don’t THINK So!

When “getting healthy” is lonely, boring, and horrible, it doesn’t exactly help anybody join the program. And yet, it seems there’s an idea of “body punishment” for those who have to get healthy to live longer lives–somehow, it’s perceived that we “did this to ourselves,” so we “deserve” all the pain and hardship we go through to get healthy. Not everyone who is fat and/or unhealthy got that way by life choices; sometimes, as in my case, our genetics chose for us.

A Side Note about How My Genetics Chose for Me
As a young child, up to about age 10, I was actually fairly slim, and tall for my age. In fact, my grandmother once got mad at my parents after seeing a photo of me at age 8 on a recent beach trip–she saw the dark circles under my eyes (hereditary) and the slenderness of my whole body and thought that they weren’t feeding me enough. But I went from being that tall and almost-too-skinny 3rd grader to being a rounded, textbook endomorph model in 5th grade. I was 90 pounds and 5’3″ at the beginning of 5th grade, and by the end of 5th grade, I was 145 pounds and 5’5″. I had just turned 11 years old, and went from skinny girl to fat girl almost overnight, gaining butt, breasts, and hips, and a wonderful little muffin top belly which has helped me look pregnant ever since. It was like a switch flipped off, and my metabolism crashed, with absolutely no change in exercise level or food intake. My mother, my aunt, both female cousins, and my maternal grandmother all went through this same body change at onset of puberty as well, so I know it’s not just peculiar to me.

I wish all the skinny Minnies who run diet and exercise plans understood this, how my own body betrayed me and made me a target for all the school bullies, both male and female. Because of how I was treated, especially in middle-school gym classes, exercise became strongly associated with feelings of unpreparedness, humiliation, and sub-humanity. It has taken over a decade to even begin to break down those psychological associations of punishment and pain, and I’m fairly confident my experience is all too typical.

How Can We Start Helping One Another?

Yes, I will say if somebody’s just sitting in bed day after day stuffing themselves until they’re almost sick, they’re doing themselves a disservice. But even so, they deserve support too. Otherwise, there will be no motivation to leave their comfort zone, and they will sink further into their painful and insidiously dangerous lifestyle. While I’ve never turned to food as an emotional void-filler, I do know the hopeless feelings associated with diet and exercise, and it’s no place for any human being.

If you truly want to help someone become healthy again, you don’t treat them like dirt–you offer them support in the form of being an “exercise buddy,” a “going-out-to-eat buddy,” whatever kind of buddy you need to be in order to keep them accountable (and keep yourself accountable, too). Knowing that someone else actually gives a rat’s rear end about what you’re doing is a wonderful motivator; I’ve seen it work with me and with other people, too. When other people reach out and care, when others connect with you, want to know week by week how you’re coming along, you start thinking “maybe I’m worth being cared about.” That healthy attitude change is the first real step to becoming healthy in body again.

Exercise: Not My Idea of Fun

I’m currently 5’8″ and nearly 300 pounds. Yep, I said it. And traditional exercise, which has been touted as THE way for me to achieve fitness, is not fun for me, for a variety of reasons:

My Beefs with Traditional Exercise

  • Boring – nothing to think about but how much pain I’m in, how much this stinks, how much I’d rather be doing ANYTHING else (such as getting a root canal)
  • Isolating – none of my friends do any kind of exercise that I can get into, and none of them do what I’m interested in
  • Painful – everything hurts/gets sore very easily, and I hate the breathless, about-to-die feeling I get

A Little History: I USED to be a Thin, Active Little Girl

To understand how and why I’ve ended up this way, you have to know some of my background. I’ve been a fat girl longer than I was a skinny girl, but I do remember the days of being bone-thin. I was tall and fairly lean through most of elementary school–I played basketball during the school year, swam a good bit during the summers, and played both outside and inside. I also didn’t sit down to dinner long enough to really eat much, though I never went hungry, either. (As an extremely selective eater from early childhood, I chose foods based on texture almost more than taste, and ended up eating from a very limited palate which has persisted to this day.)

What Changed: Emotional Associations with Exercise, Onset of Puberty, and Injuries

Starting in fourth grade (age 10), however, my level of activity began to change, albeit slowly. I was cut from my basketball team because I had lost much of my speed to a foot injury and hadn’t really improved my playing skills. But to be honest, I had started losing interest in playing sports–I knew I wasn’t very good at physical activity, and I was beginning to be picked on for it. I just never was fast enough or quick-reacting enough, though I could pull off a surprise basket on occasion. As a result, I started doing more indoor, sedentary activities with my newly freed time.

By fifth grade, I had the basics of my adult hourglass figure in place. But fifth grade was also the year I entered weighing about 90 pounds and left weighing 145 pounds, with little to no change in my diet and regular P.E. exercise just as I had had for the previous 5 years of elementary school. This same body change has happened to all the women in my extended family–rapid weight gain and a radical body shape change around puberty, much more significant than other girls’ body changes. (I have wondered, in the years since, whether some form of endocrine imbalance or some form of hypothyroidism might be to blame, but most doctors seem not to know what we’re talking about, despite having a body of anecdotal evidence covering several lives and at least four decades.)

With womanhood barely a year away from me at age 11, puberty had thus backhanded me with an entirely new body–one I quickly learned to hate, just about as quickly as the other kids learned to tease me about it. My “muffin top” and “rolls” earned me so many jeers and so much physical abuse that I eventually quit trying to do much in P.E. at all. (Wouldn’t you have, if every time you so much a dribbled a ball some idiot would run over to you, grab the ball out of your hands, and smack it against your stomach hollering “FATTY FATTY FATTY! HAHAHA!”) Exercise, as a result, became less associated with fun and freedom, and more associated with pain, humiliation, and anxiety.

I gained about 10 pounds a year after puberty’s horrible 50-pound prank, and by college I battled to stay around 230-240 pounds. Several incidents, however, led to even walking being painful; going to class in the ice and snow led to repeatedly injured ankles and knees, which I could not get treatment for without having to WALK to the campus infirmary. (Explain that one to me!) Having always had weak ankles and flat feet (thanks to heredity), the injuries did not heal properly, which has left me with constant pain while walking. I even have a handicapped sticker, one which I am grateful for but wish fervently that I did not have to use as often as I do.

Would I Like to Exercise? Yes! Does Any Exercise Interest Me? NO!

The thing that annoys me the most about traditional exercise is the heavy emphasis on pointless repetition of mind-numbing activities. I know, I know, we’re supposed to be “training muscles” and whatnot, but it is as maddening to me as doing 30 identical math problems for homework. It’s a huge attack of “same stuff different day”–there’s nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing challenging mentally.

And, if my brain is not kept busy, then its only remaining focus is the condition of my body–you know, the straining muscles, the joints in pain, the sweat in my eyes. If exercise is repetitive (and most of the traditional programs out there are), then I end up tense, anxious, and eventually angry that I’m wasting my time doing this stuff and I’m going to waste even more time trying to recover later. (Keep in mind, I have a lot of injuries, so my body normally takes a longer time to recover from exercise anyway.)

How to Solve This?

An ideal exercise routine for me would be:

  • Fun – keeps my mind as well as my body busy
  • Social – involves friends and family as part of a get-together
  • Less painful – I know exercise is going to hurt, but it doesn’t have to hurt this much!

Let it be known that just walking on a track like a rodent in a wheel doesn’t cut it for me, nor for most like me, I’d imagine. I and other people in my same condition want more out of exercise than just doing 10 reps of this and 10 reps of that for an hour or so. Doesn’t that make sense?