The Besting Beast

No one is a worse critic than yourself. The best you can do is never actually good enough. You know you can do better. Create faster. Make less mistakes.

You’re a human being, not an assembly line. 

These self-deprecating thoughts weaken our confidence and soon a cancer of doubt grows in our hearts. We then become servile to the world, wishing to please the great and might IT rather than letting the creativity flow from our true selves.

I have been guilty of this harsh self-judgement. Slaving over a word or phrase until everything becomes alphabet soup. Crumpling up drawing after drawing, or simply resigning myself to the lack of skill needed to complete the project and never getting started in the first place. 

Yet this overly-critical beast lives entirely inside our own minds. It wants us to stumble and then laugh at our failure. Reason often runs secondary to what our beastial fault-finder has to say. 

Are you too harsh on yourself? Do you push yourself to produce more or “better” art? If what we crave is recognition from others, then we need to take a step back. Ask ourselves why we need this validation. Who are we trying to impress?

I recall how I felt in competition with most of the people around me growing up: my father (who is an astounding artist) and even my best friend. What I could dream up paled in comparison to what these others could do with little effort. It felt like running on a treadmill, creating more and more. As if by sheer volume, I could make up for my shortfalls. 

I’ve been on this track for most of my life. Writing had to be completed as fast as possible because if I looked at it too long, then the internal judge would smash it to pieces. I’d all but given up on any sort of visual art.

To escape this self-judgement, I continually circle back to why I create art in the first place. Long ago, writer Vernor Vinge visited my English/Writing class in high school. When asked why he wrote, his response was simple: Because I have to.

Art must come from ourselves. Not the critical beast inside us, but the pure soul that revels in the joy of creation. That same wonder we felt as children scribbling on paper and the world dismissed us because of our age.

It reminds me of a quote by Picasso: It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

Bottom line, if you’re not enjoying the act of creation, then why are you doing it? Create something not for publication or posting on the internet, but simply for you. The sheer fun of making something from nothing. 

The judgemental beast will never vanish entirely, but we needn’t throw it scraps of meat either. 

Create and be you.

Tim Kane

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