Updated: Jun 19, 2021
Being compassionate with yourself isn't easy when it feels like nothing is going right. Loving your creations unconditionally can be even harder.
We all have those days. You know the ones - nothing you make looks right. You feel that push in your soul to write, to draw, to paint, to create, but something happens between your heart and your work. Are your hands not doing it right? Are your eyes not seeing the beauty your heart promised you? Is your brain giving the wrong instructions?
Or - oh no - it's one of your "off" days. I know those days. I've spent days like that in the studio pulling my hair out. It affects your mood, your self-worth, your art... Suddenly everything is dark and worthless and painful to look at.
No matter how hard you push yourself, nothing is going to feel right and you get more and more frustrated until you give up. But there's another way to approach it.
“No matter how hard you push yourself, nothing is going to feel right and you'll get more and more frustrated until you give up. But there's another way to approach it.”
But here's the thing - everyone has dark days. Everyone has those desires to create building up inside them like a geyser, but turn to muck when they make it out. Everyone has moments where nothing they make looks good to them. But you don't have to surrender to those dark days.
1. Treat yourself like you would anyone else
Those harsh thoughts plaguing your mind? They may say things like "you're worthless", "why bother", "what you do doesn't matter", but I'm here to tell you it does. I truly believe art can change your life, and giving into these voices can change your life too. Imagine you were saying these things to someone else. You wouldn't, would you?
Then don't use them on yourself. Words are powerful, even if they aren't spoken.
2. Write out your demons
All those things that terrify you? -I'll never be successful - No one will ever connect with my work - No one will ever see my work - Write them down. See what happens when you take these powerful ideas and put them to paper. You may find that they're only words now. The act of writing them out can capture your demons and make them small, just lines on a page.
Then write something good at the bottom. Maybe:
Things will get better.
Because they will.
3. Step Away
This is probably the best thing you can do. When you try again and again and things aren't working out, when you feel that frustration pounding in the back of your head, it's time to stop. That's one of the hardest lessons in creating. You not only have to know when to start, when to plan, when to push yourself - you also have to know when to stop.
There is honor in picking your battles. If creating isn't working for you right now, you haven't failed in any way, you are recognizing the truth in you, and you are taking one more step towards creating intuitively.
4. Find the good in your creations
It's easy to develop the habit of always moving forward with your work. I will happily admit to this habit. I have collections of work dappled throughout the house, on shelves, in boxes, in drawers even. I finish a collection, and I start a new one. I finish a book, and I start a new one.
But just like how books and paintings need to breathe, I think they also need to be recognized. It seems odd to spend hours, weeks, months, even years working on something only to put it away once it's complete. Take the time to go back to that last collection. Find the good in it, sit with it, and honor it. Compliment it, strange as it may sound. See the peace it gives you.
5. Love your art - Love yourself
Like you, your art has flaws. Deep, broken flaws, and little tiny visible flaws. Nothing is perfect, but you deserve to be here, just like your art deserves to be here. We need you. We need your work. More than ever, I think.
I didn't say it was easy, but, like anything else, it gets easier with practice. Practice loving yourself. Look at it like you might look at stretching. Do it every day. Push yourself a little every time and pay attention to your progress. Keep moving forward, and you might find it gets easier every day. Don't give up because it's hard. Life is hard.
But loving yourself can make it so much easier.