The occupational hazards of creating (artistically NSFW)

I have been thinking very much about self-doubt, how we motivate ourselves, and what it takes to make the art we want to make.

Last Monday I had a writing date with a friend, and we talked about the big projects we’ve got on our back burners. We talked about how we feel like we’re not valid writers because we aren’t working on something significant, but yet we feel we aren’t worthy enough to work on these larger projects. These anxieties feed into each other.

Two days later, on Wednesday, I met with a different writer friend who theorizes that these debilitating thoughts never go away, no matter how successful one appears on the outside. This friend said, “Self-loathing, depression, self-doubt — I think of these as our occupational hazards. They come with the territory.” The territory of being observant and sensitive and receptive, I said. My friend agreed.

In between these two meetings, I went to a life-drawing session for the first time in months, and spent a lot of it attempting to neutralize that old familiar inner critic, the one that says, “You’ll never be a good artist, and everyone can tell.” It kind of astounds me that this voice always resurfaces as virulent and compelling as ever. It’s sneaky, I guess; it always keeps up with whatever I’ve learned for how to make it go away. I should to admire its ingenuity!

two-minute gestures

Watercolor gesture sketches of a nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

Watercolor gesture sketches of a nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

Watercolor gesture sketches of a nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

Watercolor gesture sketches of a nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

Watercolor gesture sketches of a nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

five-minute poses

Five-minute watercolor sketches of a nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

Five-minute watercolor sketches of a nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

and then I came to the end of my scroll (!), just in time for the ten-minute poses

Marker sketches, by Lisa Hsia

Marker sketch of a seated nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

twenty-minute poses

Marker sketch of a standing nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

Marker sketch of a seated nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

It is reassuring to know that my fellow creators also go through these times of doubt and lack of momentum. I think the writers I know are more vocal about these “occupational hazards” than the visual artists I know — which is probably a big part of why I feel so wretchedly self-conscious during drawing sessions. (Come to think of it, though, I’ve also drawn alongside some much older artists who’ve expressed dissatisfaction with everything that flowed from their pens, even when I was awed by their talent.) Ultimately I think we all need to find our own way through these rougher phases; if there were some magic approach that worked for everyone, we’d have found it by now! But camaraderie helps, as do good words of encouragement, and commiseration from those who know.

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7 responses to “The occupational hazards of creating (artistically NSFW)

  1. I really understand this internal battle. Having a self-critical voice can definitely push us toward greater works — the trick is teaching the inner critic to be constructive in approach, not just an unending stream of negativity.

    • Thanks, Jeff. I think, too, that there’s a definite time and place for the inner critic (or really the inner editor, the one who can give constructive feedback without tearing us down!).

  2. If you were satisfied with all your work, think about how unevolved you’d be. You’d doing great but there’s always more to learn and do. 🙂

    • True. But there’s also a difference between being critically dissatisfied and thinking “everything I do is doooooooomed,” and when I get in these kinds of funks, it’s definitely more the latter. ;b

  3. Pingback: The inner critic’s day off (artistically NSFW) | satsumabug.com·

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