Earlier in my creative journey, I felt the need to tear down everthing in order to begin again when I came to a problem. I did this over and over. It was psychotic. Or neurotic. Both maybe. The problem with this cycle is that I was perpetually at the beginning. Starting something new is exciting. Inspiring. Infatuating. It is not particularly lucrative or respectable. I'm not looking for fame or anything. I just want to be good at what I create, and I want to feel confident in front of those who know the difference.
I read a book recently called Rising Strong by Brené Brown. It was really hard for me to get into, and the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. I was thrown by the examples used to explain her theories. While I can understand insecurity and how it can taint your perspective, the concepts seemed to be vibrating at a much higher frequency than some of her stories. I understand why. It would be a lot harder and less entertaining to explain the process of coming to an epiphany without an example. I guess the authenticity was simply lost in translation for me, personally. In hindsight, it is possible that it just took a few months for her messages to sink into my heart, and those same examples became more relatable in daily life. This isn't a book review (and if it were, I would absolutely recommend the book). It is a long-winded, overly-critical set up to talk about one concept she introduced to me that helped me level up and break this cycle. "You can't skip the second act."
If you are reading a book, the protagonist generally experiences a tumultuous upheaval that leads to a period of trial, then ultimately to growth and resolution. Typically, this section of growth takes place in act two of the narrative arc. This is the substance of the story. Without the struggle, the ending has no particular importance or sense of accomplishment. Similarly, the creative process depends on act two. It is non-negotiable. "Experience and success don't give you an easy passage through the middle space of struggle. They only grant you a little grace. A grace that whispers this is a part of the process, stay the course."
I take failure hard. Embarrassingly hard. Failure gives me emotional vertigo. I'm especially frustrated when I go wholeheartedly into something, and still can't get it. This is either the moment when I can pile my offensive creation in the corner with my other dark, dirty disappointments, then start something in a completely different direction, extending the cycle of perpetual beginnings. Or, this is the moment when I can take the night off, maybe pout a little, but wake renewed with a mission to conquer self doubt.
"The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens." I'm due for a little magic after the struggle I had yesterday. Eleven hours of painting, and nothing to show for it. I am in the middle of act two. It is officially too late to turn back. While I haven't quite figured out the ending, I have grown enough to recognize that starting something different will not bring me any closer to becoming the artist I want to be. That feels a lot like progress.