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A Few Gentle Reminders For The Struggling Artist

Originally Published on Thought Catalog.

Maybe today you tried to put pen to paper, but all you have before you is still just a blank page. Maybe right now the vivid colors you always see swirling around you have lost their vibrance or your paintbrush only wants to paint in shades of gray. Maybe you can’t even remember the last time you felt compelled to create something. It’s okay. You are no less of an artist on the days you cannot create than you are on the days when the art pours out of you.

On the days when your world feels a little less beautiful and your creativity is at a standstill, take a deep breath, and remember these things.

Art Does Not Have To Be Perfect To Have Value

Someone else’s unrealistic standards of perfection do not get to determine the value of anything you produce. The beauty of art is that no artist and no work of art will ever truly be exactly the same. Pieces might be reproduced and replicated, but what you create is unique to you. There might be days when you are not as happy with what you have created, but that does not mean that what you have made is worthless. We spend so much time fixating on the quality of the content we are producing that we often forget the reason we are creating it in the first place. We create to express the things we cannot simply do or say. Art speaks a complex language of emotion and imagination. How could anything that expresses thoughts so richly and deeply ever lack value?

You should never hold yourself back from creating what you are compelled to create because of a fear of inadequacy. If what you made represents what you are feeling or thinking, how could it ever be wrong? If it means something to you, then it is worth more than any price someone could tack on it. What you create is yours, and you alone get to determine its value. The world will never agree on what is perfect because perfection is a myth. Create what you are craving to make, and always know that your art will be invaluable.

Creativity Doesn’t Follow A Set Timeline

Unfortunately, our world has instilled within us all this sense of urgency when it comes to achieving success. At some point, someone sat down and decided what the major milestones should be that we all hit in our lives, and if you aren’t checking off those accomplishments at their designated times, then we are all made to believe that we are failures. This could not be any further from the truth.

The only time you can truly fail at something is when you never even let yourself try. Art takes time. Creativity is not always free-flowing, and inspiration doesn’t always come knocking on our doors. Often the things in our lives that have the most meaning are not things that come to us easily or quickly. The things we value most take work. They take time.

Your art is no less valuable at 35 than it is when you are 25. Creativity is not sand in an hourglass. It will never truly run out. There might be days or months or years when you just cannot find it in yourself to create art, but that does not mean that you will never create again. Your time does not run out once you leave your twenties.

Maybe you started a book ten years ago, and today is the first day in a very long time that you have felt capable of finishing it. All of those years might have passed, but your creative ability has not. You can always come back to what you started. Your art cannot be finished without you, and it will be just as welcoming to you on day three hundred and sixty-five as it was on day one.

Art Is A Legitimate Career

Whether or not the majority of our population will ever admit it, art is a part of our daily lives. Life as we know it would look almost unrecognizable if it we did not have all of the creations and inventions gifted to us by the artistic world. Maybe that same person who sat down and decided that our dreams die the day we turn thirty is the one who also decided that pursuing art is not a legitimate career path. This is simply not true, and deep down, every artist knows this.

But knowing that your career is legitimate and believing in this legitimacy are two very different things. You may know your value, but how can you believe in the power of a dream that the rest of the world consistently denies the validity of? There is only so much ridicule one person can take before they will leave a dream behind forever. Please do not let the narrow-minded views of the world around you determine the validity and path of your life. That same person who keeps telling you that you should have gotten a real degree most likely spends their evenings watching Netflix or using apps designed by the very artists they firmly believe are not real.

If art was not a legitimate career, then there would be no path to go down to pursue it. There would be no option to study art if there was not a reason to study it. If you find yourself drawn to a career and a life dedicated to the arts, do not pull yourself away from it because someone else doesn’t feel that same pull. You do not have to have anyone else’s validation to prove that your dreams are legitimate. The arts and the artists within this world will be there for you when others around you simply cannot understand the creative, complex being that is you.

Please don’t give up on your dreams because someone else cannot see them.

Always Remember Why You Started

It is human nature to have self-doubt. Life can throw some pretty unexpected challenges at you, and these often become the times you question yourself the most. When everything around you is crumbling at your feet, it is difficult not to look back at your life and try to find the exact moment where you went wrong. You will search your past for times when you made a difficult choice, and you will wonder what your life could have been like if you had just chosen differently.

But you did not choose differently. You made a difficult decision in an important moment in your life, and at the time, what you chose was exactly what you wanted. Life is not linear, and we are not meant to stay exactly the same forever. No choice will ever be the perfect choice because life will never be perfect. I know it can be so easy to fall into the trap of imagining an easier life where you made the choice to pursue a “normal” career and live life like you are “supposed” to. That life only seems easier because you are not currently living it. The grass is always greener on the other side, until you get there, and you realize that it looks exactly the same.

No choice comes without difficulties or consequences. This is why it is so important to choose what you love whenever you are able to because no matter which path you choose, you are going to hurt. You are going to struggle. And you are going to wonder why you chose the life that you did. But the difference between choosing a life that you love and a life that you feel like you should love is that even on your worst days, you will be able to find that small glimmer of hope buried deep within that love. When everything else around you is going wrong, you will always be able to find comfort in the choice that you made.

You may not be able to create today, tomorrow, or for the rest of this year, and that is okay. Art will never leave you, even if you have to step away from it for a little while. Whenever you are ready to begin again, art will be there waiting with open arms, just like it was on the day you first chose it.

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