July 14, 2024

Why Artists Are Never Happy

Published May 13, 2023, 7:20 p.m. by Courtney

artists are never happy because they are constantly striving for perfection. They are always looking for new ways to improve their art and themselves. This can be a never-ending cycle that can lead to frustration and unhappiness. However, it is also what makes them great artists. They are always pushing themselves to be better and to create art that is meaningful and beautiful.

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We've all heard of the writer,

whose ideas are flowing so quickly

their hands can't keep up,

the story is basically writing itself;

or the film director who has a conversation

with an actor

between takes

and something just clicks,

and it brings out

the most incredible performance

that electrifies the whole set.


I haven't experienced many of those magical moments,

and I used to think that's cause I'm not creative enough,

and that I need to find inspiration,

whatever that actually means,

but then I thought about it a bit more

and realized

that all of these moments

of creative magic

seemed to have one thing

in common.

The director for example,

it's only natural to wonder

what they

said to the actor

that sparked such a brilliant performance.

While ignoring

that in order for the conversation

to happen

at all,

the director first had to decide

that the last take wasn't good enough,

and the writer,

we might wonder

what gave them

such a free flow of inspiration

to be able to

write so fluently.

But we don't talk about

how after they'd passionately dumped

all their ideas on the page,

they then decided to re-write the story

many times,

laboring over

every phrase.

So, here's the theory,

before and after

every great idea

someone's got to say,

"that's still not good enough."

And maybe I'm a pessimist,

but I think that

that discontentment,

is what drives creativity,

not these magical moments

of gleeful inspiration.

What we're essentially dealing with

is modified perfectionism,

i.e., the refusal to accept

almost anything short of near


and that's not an easy way to live -

it makes it painful to look at our own work

and more likely to be emotionally affected

when it does go wrong.

We can get stuck, rejecting all our ideas

before giving them a real chance.

We can easily obsess over almost perfecting

one small detail when we should be looking at the overall project.

Because we see those flaws so clearly

it makes it hard to put our work out there,

hard to stick to deadlines, hard to keep a work/life balance. We may never truly accept

compliments about our work

because we're too busy agreeing with our critics.

And so actually wouldn't it actually be nicer to avoid all that

and just be content with our current work

and abilities?

We could chose the jobs that we know we can handle

never going for one which we feel under prepared or under qualified for.

We could do the bear minimum of work

rather than spending our own time and money

going the extra mile for the project

and we could tailor our work to what has been succesful in the past

rather than putting ourselves out there with something risky.

Now I have done all of that

and sure it easier.

But the path is smooth and flat

it leaves you kind of numb.

Whereas the alternative is to say

that's still not good enough

and take the path

full of risks and fear

doubt and exhaustion

instability and stress

and yes, it brings you plenty of those low points

but with it the thrill of the highs.

Its like we know that the stories we're writing

need conflict

so why are we so scared of it in our actual lives?

Now I'm not sure what to call this

maybe I hate my work syndrome

or constructive pessimism.

Yeah, that's better.

Where we are quick to find the flaws

but then we make use of them.

Here's are real world example,

this room is a mess

it has been for a while

and it will continue to be.

Now I could tell my self, that's because I'm not good a cleaning

or that I don't have time.

But that's not really true

the reason I won't clear up is because I am content

with the mess

and contentment is the enemy of progress.

But that doesn't meant that discontentment

solves everything.

The other day I went rock climbing

and was not content with my abilities

at all.

I could easily tell that I was not doing well

I had that feeling

of "this isn't good enough."

But instead of using that as fuel to keep me going,

I just gave up

and thought, you know what, climbing isn't for me.

And that's the trap so many of us fall into.

Now I don't mind if that happens

with climbing

to be honest

but when I'm writing a script

or giving feedback to a collaborator

or searching for a filming location.

I want to see the flaws

rather than quickly going

yeah, that'll do

But most importantly, I need to remember

that all of this discontentment,

all of this self doubt,

doesn't mean that we should quit

it mean that we are actually onto something.

Because the people who feel the sting of their own inadequacies

and then keep working at it,

they are the one who finally find the magic.


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