Post from September, 2017

I Can’t Get No. . .

Sunday, 24. September 2017 23:46

As I was mulling over my dissatisfaction with my latest photo shoot, I realized that dissatisfaction is something I experience with every photo shoot—and every play I direct, and everything I design, and every image I make. Then I realized that dissatisfaction is nearly a constant state with me; insofar as it applies to art, I’m never satisfied.

It’s not about perfection. I gave up on that a long time ago. I came to believe, as Seth Godin preaches, that the search for perfection is a fool’s errand that prevents the artist from getting anything out the door. It’s the reason that paintings (and all other artifacts) are never finished.

Those of us who have given up on perfection, however, still have standards, and often those standards are expressed as satisfaction. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about being as good as it can be. I realize that that is a very fine distinction, but still the distinctions exists. Satisfaction means being happy—or at least content—with all aspects of the final project; it denotes a relationship between artist and artifact. Perfection, on the other, indicates that there is absolutely no way to improve the final project; this is a quality of the artifact only. And this, of course is virtually impossible; any artist who attempts perfection is not likely to have a significant output.

Even though satisfaction seems to represent a lesser standard—as compared to perfection—it’s still difficult. Most artists set the bar very high. And therein lies the problem. When the bar is high, the artist sometimes fails to reach it. There is always something that could have been done better, something that could be clearer, or cleaner, or more imbued with meaning.

There are three ways to deal with this situation: (1) set the bar lower; (2) improve the quality of your work; (3) learn to accept dissatisfaction.

Some artists opt for setting the bar lower or redefining the bar. The result is that their work, which was never “good enough,” now is. Dissatisfaction dissolves. If the bar was sufficiently high to begin with, this is just a matter of labeling. The artist’s output will remain the same, both in terms of quality and quantity, and the artist will feel better. This should be the choice particularly of those artists whose standard is unrealistically high, like those who are really looking for perfection.

Improvement would be the choice, I think, of most artists. The problem becomes one of deciding what to improve. General improvement might not get to the source of the dissatisfaction. So a bit of analysis is required. The artist must answer questions like: does the dissatisfaction arise from the same issue in each project? What aspect of the project causes the dissatisfaction? Is the level of dissatisfaction consistent with each project or does it vary project to project? Of course with the answers to these questions there will be follow-up questions. Once answered, the artist can see where and what s/he needs to improve.

Dealing with dissatisfaction can mean just getting used to it, or it could mean undergoing psychoanalysis, or it could mean anything in between. This approach acknowledges the persistent existence of dissatisfaction and attempts to find ways for the artist to come to terms with it without modifying the work.

Most artists I know experience dissatisfaction with their work to some extent, and most of those artists have chosen some combination of these three methods to deal with it, with greater and lesser success. How do you deal with your artistic dissatisfaction?

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

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