When you finally do it right. When all your hard work culminates in that great piece. When you feel you were finally on your game. When it felt almost easy. What happens next?
Well, for me it boosts my confidence — as it should, right? I mean, I’ve been working SO HARD for this. It finally happened. Yay, Me! So this means I can do it again, right? I just did it. So, of course, I’ve reached a new level in my skill set. I broke through the barrier. I can do it again, can’t I?
What has happened to me so many times when I reach that new level in a particular piece is I set myself up for failure. How? Because I’m an optimist — especially after doing something great. I launch into that next project as though I were invincible. And…I tank. Ouch! Don’t let your successes side track you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t launch into your next project with confidence and optimism. You should! But if you fail, as I have so often after a performance windfall, don’t let it get to you.
I’m writing about this because I know how sensitive we artsy types are. We can be downright bi-polar at times. One moment we are going to conquer the world with our art. The next we are contemplating giving it all up to go do something easier. So don’t give up. If we were to graph our progress as artists the upward curve would not be smooth and consistent. It would be as jagged as a crosscut saw. Of course, in the big picture we are getting better. So don’t let those little failures bother you too much. And they are little. Maybe “failure” isn’t the best word to use here. Maybe “setback” or “speedbump” would be better. Just keep going. Progress in art is much like anything else in life: relationships, parenting, learning any highly skilled activity. We succeed, we fail, we succeed…etc. But the persistent and optimistic ones make steady progress. We grow. We mature. Believe it or not I have to talk myself through this quite often.
So keep going, My Friends. Don’t let your successes set you up for failure. Realize you’re GOING TO FAIL at regular intervals…unless you’re super human or something. Learn from it, take it in stride, and enjoy the journey.
PS — When I say “realize you’re going to fail” that doesn’t mean you should expect failure when you start a painting. You should expect success. Start each piece thinking you’re going to nail it, because that’s probably the only way you will nail it. But if you don’t…you know what I mean. When I tank it still seems like a surprise. “What do you mean I screwed up?!” It kind of hits me hard. But I pick myself up and go after it again. Perhaps just a little wiser this time.