I just came across this Facebook post by my good friend Patrick Williams.
What is it? What is the secret to breathing life into my creations. Looking at and hearing the things I have made it all feels so...weak and lacking. Like a plastic plant in a doctor's office, it is alright from a distance but upon closer inspection it is missing substance.
Patrick is an artist and a musician, and he seems to be going through a difficulty I have seen many creators, including myself, go through. He is not happy with what he has created.
Patrick has been working more, or at least more publicly, than I have seen in the past on his artwork, specifically digital painting. In the last few months, I have seen him make incredible improvements, while at the same time being unhappy with the results. This is something that all creators must face.
Unfortunately, the best response I could muster in the moment was the following.
I can't speak for art specifically, but I can speak for the creative work I do. I'm never happy with what I make. No matter how much detail and work I put into it, it still doesn't seem to be enough. That seems to be the creator's dilemma. However, that doesn't mean that others don't appreciate and see substance in your work.
How helpful that is, I'm not sure, but I want to expand upon the idea.
In the work I have done, I am constantly pushing myself to do new things, learn new tools, and take on new projects. Compared to just a year ago, I have progressed vastly in terms of skills. This growth is a great thing, but it is also a double edged sword. The growth leads to everything I have done in the past looking somewhat amateurish. I can see every mistake I made. I know how it could have been better in some fundamental way.
Along with knowing how I would do better, I also know all of the shortcuts, rough edges, missing features, and weaknesses of what I have built. As the creator, I can see flaws no one else thinks to look for. When someone else views my work, they see it as it is, not as I know it could be. The creator is left with the unrealized vision of their work.
The difference between the vision and reality will always be vast. Nothing can be perfect. If you believe you have made something perfect, you are deluding yourself.
Due to the disparity between vision and reality, a creator must focus on the positives. You must focus on making sure what you created today is better than what you created yesterday. You must focus on growth, without judging your past. Just because today's creation is better than yesterday's doesn't diminish the value of yesterday's work. Lastly, be aware of how others appreciate your work. Watch how it enriches the lives of your audience.
By focusing on these positives, a creator can accelerate their own growth. They can become better at what they do, and get closer to that ideal. You will only feel satisfaction in meeting a goal that was difficult to achieve.
An easy goal is not worth having.