Sunday, September 27, 2015

Art vs. Life

First of all, sorry to get personal and not funny again.

The question of the day is one very, very close to me: Why do I go through such great lengths to avoid doing the things I love? This is a question I have been trying to figure out for three years.

I love making art more than anything in the world. While I had a complex relationship with it, as it is the most frustrating thing that has ever existed in my life, it always brought me the most joy and peace, I think more joy and peace than any single thing I have ever done. Most of the greatest moments of my life have occurred in the art studio (makeshift or otherwise), as have many of my best memories. Making art has been the most frustrating undertaking, but it has also been the most rewarding; I enjoyed it and felt fulfilled even while being frustrated. Importantly, I was finally reaching the point of being able to see what I was envisioning in my head begin to match up with what I created.

Then one day it all shut off, like a faucet, and I have done very few creative things since. I have no explanation for this (goodness knows I have searched endlessly for one); it just happened. There were many things going on in my life including sickness and anxiety, and I stopped having creative thoughts and drive. At that moment the joy got sucked out of my life. I occasionally, rarely make art and feel a little of the old happiness and peace I used to feel, but at some point along the way I have figured out a very efficient system for how to avoid doing the things I love.

Doing most of the things I love (especially art, but also spending time with people, reading, cooking for pleasure, etc.) has become an anxiety-inducing chore. Doing things I “have” to do (cleaning, preparing dinner, homework, grocery shopping, etc.) that bring no satisfaction, then being so worn out or numb that I end up spending whatever time is left sitting in front of the TV, which holds my interest but brings little actual gratification, are now the things I do. I recently decided to go back to school. My new college classes (non-art) are interesting, but most often I seem to view them as pointless busy work. I have lost my ability to make art, and with it, my passion for life, spark, and absolutely all my direction.

You would think at this point I would be excited to break out of this and start doing the things I love again, but I seem to have become an expert in avoiding them. There never seems to be enough time or energy or confidence. I think about making art a lot, even read books about it, but always manage to find some reason why I can’t, whether it’s that I’m not good enough to bother or that I just don’t have the time. At some point the things I have to do/sitting in front of the TV route has become preferred. Maybe mediocrity has become normal. I really don’t know.

I had for a long time wanted to be a college art professor. But I have over the past three years actively systematically “reasoned” (a.k.a. argued and/or bullied) myself out of my dreams, both inside my head and when talking to other people. “You aren’t good enough to succeed. What if you didn’t get the job you wanted, then where would you be? What if you couldn’t afford grad school? You couldn’t succeed in grad school, let alone any sort of professional world. It’s time to grow up. Life always turns out differently than you plan. Feeling like this is normal, and you have to learn to be OK with it. The stuff you create couldn’t even let you meet the minimum standards for being called an artist, let alone teach it to other people. You are so sensitive now to every little thing that you couldn’t stand to be critiqued. The first time somebody said something negative you would quit.” 

Now I am in a position in life where I don’t think I could have the chance to pursue my dreams even if I got up the courage. But I can’t stop holding out hope that I might find a way… and at the very, very least I would still like to make art sometimes, because I don’t think I could stand to keep doing this for the next three years too.

Are there any creative people out there who have experienced such a very long, very painful period of inability to create? Is there anyone else out there who has this active anxiety about doing the things they love? What worked for you to get out of it? Maybe somebody can give me some hope! :)