Inspiration versus plain old work

It is a beautiful Sunday. The sun is shining with not an overcast cloud in the sky. It is just hot enough to make me want to retire to my studio with a tall glass of lemonade. Sounds like an inspiring day doesn't it. The kind of day that I am so thankful to be an artist... yes, and no.

See, it started out this way. Me stepping into my studio, feeling the promise of what I have laid out to create. As I sat down to drill holes into stones that I wanted to make pendants, every single one broke in half. I switched gears, still remaining optimisitc that I will be able to integrate them into other designs in the future.

$50 in dulled bits $25 in broken stones($52 in dulled bits; $26 in broken stones)

I began to hand saw the shapes I had marked onto sterling and copper sheet. Every few minutes, "Ping!", the saw blades would snap. After 7 broken blades I decided to swith gears yet again. I had some silk to sew onto the edging of my latest purse after all.

Beading always goes well for me, so that seemed a good choice. Needle, thread, silk, wool and a freshly beaded panel. Pure bliss. At least it would have been had my thread not thrown so many knots in my path despite the nice new piece of wax I was using liberally! 

It is days like this that I am reminded that being an artist is work. It is true that I have those fun days where the beads lay down like butter, the drill pierces stone like a knife into clay, and the thread seems to know it's path before me or the needle even do... but then there are the days that I go to work because it is what I have to do. Plain old, uninspired... work. No ideas, no inspiration and many, many failures. 

During days like this, it is easy to get discouraged. Easy to throw my hands in the air or to give credibility to the negative self talk that we artists so often speak in our own minds. Perhaps sales have been slow, or someone had recently written a negative comment about your work on social media somewhere. It is so difficult to remember that even the best, most successful artists have days just like this one! Materials get broken, warped beyond use and wasted. It happens to even the best of us. 

Those days where we can turn the music up, fully immerse in our art, the moment and get into 'the zone' are pure bliss. But we must be careful to not expect it or even try to demand it all of the time. I am discovering that most of the time I do not get this. I fought it, missed, and craved it. Now I realize, in order to succeed I must be thankful for those moments but not expect them as common place.

I am learning. Learning that artists work. Artists work hard. I must work longer hours than any "job" I have ever had (even when I was in the Active Duty Army). Artists make less than many hourly jobs much of the time. To survive and succeed as an artist, we must work, and work hard, inpiration or no. Those who quickly browse our internet stores, blogs and Facebook pages, sometimes have the romanticised view of artists that even I started out with. Not realizing how much fear and insecurity we may have. That we must work longer hours that even we realized we would have to. That we must be willing to cheer ourselves on and encourage ourselves even when we go months with no sales and our families silently wishing that we would just get a j-o-b. 

This life is not optional. To artists, we must make art that speaks to us. We must succeed. We must not quit. So don't let the tough days slow you down. Just breath and know that when you come back tomorrow the 'zone' may be there waiting for you. 

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

― Pablo Picasso

Comments

Martha Berry

This blog entry is so honest that it takes me back a bit. You are absolutely, positively correct when you say this happens to all of us artists. Some won't admit it, but we all struggle with no-zone days. Either that, or those artists have never really experienced the zone in the first place. I've always thought it odd that people with so much self doubt become artists, considering the job requires you to hang you whole heart and soul on a booth wall, then have to sit there for hours while often thoughtless, usually uninformed, people come waltzing down the aisle saying mean things about your work. Anyway, your post inspired me today. Thanks. mkb

Valerie Leann Kagan

I am beyond pleased that you stopped in to read. I have never considered myself a very good writer, so honesty is going to have to be what carries me! Ha! I am so glad that I could return the favor and inspire you as you do so for me almost every single day. It is true that we expose our very depths to everyone for them to do with or say what they please, often times with little to no understanding. Thank you for your thoughts, you are appreciated.

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