1.17.2010

Anger As Motivation

I think all creative types have something they'd consider a motivation. And in my experience, many - if not all - of them can point to some art teacher or writing instructor or parent or other force in their life that was an influence of one sort or another.

It's at that point that you begin seeing a division - those who had positive influences and those who had negative influences. And the ones who had negative influences - people who said "no" or "you can't" or "get real" or "whatever, go get a real job" will probably lie about it when asked, but if you could read their minds and dig deep into their souls, you'd find out that a lot of their motivation to succeed and be creative and produce comes from proving wrong the ghosts of their pasts.

It was for me. Maybe it still is. But something I learned very recently has caused me to begin changing my perspective and draw motivation and energy from the positive repositories in my life:

Spending your life proving everyone wrong is a complete waste of a life, because ultimately they don't actually care.

Insults are easy. They take no work whatsoever. You just hurl one and move on. Insults are heat-seeking - they'll find the target and explode, sure enough.

But what you have to understand when someone takes this easy path is that they weren't negative and derogatory because they actively wanted you to fail - that takes a form of concern, and anyone who is truly concerned with another person doesn't actually do things that take effort. No, these folks just cast off your dreams and insult your passions because they're too weak to understand passion and drive. If they actually did understand it, they'd have an empathy borne only of going through the trials of pass and failure.

People who get it will take time to give you a critique - an honest assessment of what they see and where they think you stand based on it. And that critique may FEEL uncomfortable... Sometimes, it even feels insulting. But it's not the same as being insulted. It's not dismissive and it's not easy, it takes time and effort to offer. And there's the difference - no one spends time doing something they don't care about.

And, while anyone who honestly cares about you won't blow candy-flavored smoke up your ass and fill you with false hope, they will be supportive and proud as you climb each rung of your own ladder of success. And the ones who hurl insults and try to drag you down actually don't care if you fail or make it - they're not invested. They just want to dig and stab and wile away a few hours or minutes entertaining themselves with your misery.

Teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, friends and complete strangers are all OTHER PEOPLE. And to hate them - to let them be the reason you keep pushing forward - is giving them WAY too much of yourself. The problem with being fueled by the fires of anger is that they tend to consume all of the oxygen around whatever you're doing, and you can't actually sustain the life of that project. Not to any meaningful degree, anyway. It'll die.

And don't make the mistake of thinking that, because you put the final stroke of paint on your canvas, the work is done. It's not. Art doesn't exist in forms and materials, it's the spirit of the work that speaks to the world. It's communication, and if what you just built or made is comprised of bitterness, anger, hostility or jealousy, it'll show. The art can still die after you've constructed it, especially if you've built it on such a weak foundation.

The same goes for trying to impress someone with your art. It's not an honest motivation, and that will show. And ultimately... They won't care about it nearly as much as you care about them caring about it (I had to re-read that last sentence 4 times to make sure I got it right, and I'm still not sure, but I think it is, so...). So why waste your time?