While not exactly a New Year's resolution, I am trying to get back into arting again. I have a love-hate relationship with this particular hobby--I enjoy the creative process generally, but have very low frustration tolerance when it comes to my own abilities (or lack thereof). If I'm honest with myself I think I have some basic talent, but really struggle to translate that into something I'm happy with.

I haven't really figured out why that is. As a martial artist I'm used to seeing how far I have to go--all I have to do is touch hands with an older brother, uncle, or my teacher. But for some reason I find that inspiring rather than frustrating. But with drawing, I get the opposite result. Looking at something masterful doesn't inspire me, it just frustrates me and makes me feel like I'm wasting my time. As I said, I'm really unclear on why these two things are so different in my head, despite a lot of time trying to figure that out. I know I aim too high in my expectations of my artistic ability. And I'm pretty sure this is related to how I self-evaluate. With kung fu it's more a question of degree...that is, a technique may work more or less, but there are ways to refine it. With drawing, if I'm genuinely unhappy with what I've done, then why am I doing it? It's not really about showing off or being embarassed about where I am, but more that some theoretical future improvement is just too abstract. My general approach to this is to keep my expectations more short-term, or even eliminate them altogether. That's how I'm handling Greek: I'm not expecting a certain proficiency at a certain time, I just say "ok, at such and such a time you're going to study."

With Greek I'm still interested, and I enjoy figuring out what a sentence means in small doses. With art, it requires a lot more of a time sink per session, and I feel like I get so much less out of each unit of time. It may be as simple as the little milestones--with Greek, I can see that I've learned these words or whatever. With art, it's more abstract (heh).

This of course ties into a broader issue with my personality, which is a form of learned helplessness. Not in the way that term is usually used, though (that would be way too simple). But I grew up not really appreciating my effect on the world, and not really understanding how to be satisfied with anything. I think it stems from a combination of being underchallenged academically (school was always easy, and it's hard to be satisfied with easy things) and self-protection (if you're not emotionally invested in what you do, it doesn't matter if you fail). I'm slowly allowing myself to mess things up, which helps life in general, but I still struggle in my artistic journey with being unhappy. But it's still something I really want to get good at, so I'm not any happier by not doing it. A vicious cycle. Meanwhile, I keep seeing this really cool stuff in my head, but it gets garbled trying to put it out there. It's like living in a country where you don't speak the language very well, and you end up with this barrier between you and the outside world.

Intellectually, I know the only way to get better is to do it. What I have to figure out, though, is how to reduce my frustration levels to a manageable level, since right now that side tends to win out. I also kind of psyche myself out, where I expect frustration to be the only result, so don't bother trying.

I know some of you on here do various creative pursuits (thenewgreen is the most prominent in my personal feed), so how do y'all cope with this? I'm willing to do the work, I just have to figure out how not to hate every second (usually followed by giving up for a few months).


OftenBen:

    I'm not expecting a certain proficiency at a certain time, I just say "ok, at such and such a time you're going to study."

If the question was 'how do I git gud?' there's your answer. But the question isn't 'how do I git gud?' it's 'How do I not hate the process of gittin' gud?' which is a much harder question. I suspect I'm still too immature to have a good answer to it. I still hate every minute of my exercise bike. It's taken over a year of regular yoga practice to get to a point that I don't actively hate each minute of yoga, and that's mostly because I now NEED yoga to feel 'normal.'

I also suspect that people who were in competitive athletics of some variety as a child have an easier time with this, particularly people who did multiple sports. From where i'm sitting, it's easier to have subjective appreciation for the development of a talent/skill when you are concurrently developing other talents/skills.


posted by johnnyFive: 291 days ago