Learning versus Performing

One of the most valuable ideas in the creative process is its emphasis on learning.

Our culture focuses on performance. We look at results…the bottom line, test scores, demonstrable achievements. That often works in our favor.

The problem is that we tend to be impatient with doing what it takes to attain those results. And results often require long hours, patience, and a lot of persistence.  For example, the picture of the performing dog looks really cool but how many hours did the dog and trainer spend together to make the performance possible?

Up until recently I was usually impatient and frustrated with myself and my circumstances. It seemed like everything in my life was conspiring against my achieving what I wanted. But the real problem was I didn’t appreciate how much I was learning and growing in the process.

For example, I love graphic design and I regularly clip layouts and illustrations I especially like. I get very inspired by these examples. The problem is my skills just aren’t up to recreating or adapting these ideas. I can get so upset when my work doesn’t measure up to what I want to create.

What I keep going back to is that mastery requires consistent practice. Mastery which is the expression of unconscious competence requires spending a lot of time in the phases of conscious incompetence and conscious competence. Both phases are uncomfortable and often frustrating.

Currently, I create designs for my own pleasure. I don’t have the goal of earning money through my artwork. I think becoming a professional designer could be a great career but I’m not yet sure it’s for me. As long as my enjoyment is greater than the attendant frustration of learning new skills I’ll keep creating artwork. At some point, my skills will be strong enough so I can make the decision about whether I want to sell my work.

Pursuing mastery feels like a better goal to pursue than pursuing a living because mastery is about learning. If I make this about the money I’m concerned it will somehow lessen what it is that I’m creating. And I want to allow myself to enjoy the process of learning and gaining mastery. It feels luxurious and nourishing to do so.

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