Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's About The Journey

An artist friend of mine (with whom I was traveling) mentioned over dinner that when she was in college, she spent countless hours working to be a better artist. One day, an art instructor pulled her aside and said to her that she should slow down and enjoy her time in school, because to become a great artist, one must get some life-experience behind them. He told her that she probably wouldn't be saying anything too important with her work until she hit 40ish.

My artist friend took this to heart and did relax a bit, but in the back of her mind, her instructor had seeded a somewhat arbitrary goal — that she should be successful as an artist (whatever that means to her) by the time she reached 40. And now that she's approaching that age, she feels a sense of urgency in "making it" as an artist.

On the one hand, what her instructor said is true — most artists don't hit their stride until they've got some life-experience behind them. However, I can name a number of artists that were doing profound work in their 20s, so take such assertions with a grain of salt. On the other hand, and more importantly, I feel her instructor missed an opportunity to let her know that while goals are an important part of artistic growth, we often put too much emphasis on them and not enough on the real joy of being an artist; the journey to reaching our goals.

The journey of an artist is a life-long one. It should never end as long as one continues to pursue growth in their work. Goals are simply destinations on our journey and should not be viewed as the defining achievements that make us who we are as artists. It's the journey that defines us. As long as we continue to enjoy the process of being an artist, and dedicate ourselves to moving forward, we will reach our goals. And more importantly, we will have done so without being smothered under the self-imposed burden of attaining them.

Enjoy your journey. Lose yourself in the process and don't let your sense of urgency in reaching your goals lessen the fun of realizing them.

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