Week 9 of The Artist’s Way is about “recovering a sense of compassion”. I was a bit confused about this one at first, but it turns out that the “compassion” we’re supposed to be recovering is compassion for ourselves. See, as the author explains (and as I have, myself, mentioned many times on this blog), artists tend to be a very self-depreciating bunch, and usually it’s for no good reason. We call ourselves untalented, lazy, undisciplined, and a whole host of other terrible things that we don’t deserve, because usually it’s a giant steaming pile of BS.
Let’s take laziness, for example. Lots of artists label themselves with this one when there’s been a lack of work being done. They tell themselves that they’re terrible artists because they haven’t been able to force themselves to get up early, stay up late, and work all day on their project. In reality, that same artist that is labeling himself as lazy is probably just scared; scared that the project is going poorly, scared that it won’t be received well, scared of failure or success, scared of being held accountable to his work.
Here’s where the compassion comes in, you see? A compassionate person would recognize the fear under the mask of “laziness” and be sympathetic. Someone who recognizes that their true problem is fear can work past it. Alternatively, masking your fear by calling yourself every cruel name under the sun just drives you further and further from the task at hand.
I’ll admit that I am rather bad for this, myself. If I go through a 24-hour period without writing a blog post or getting some editing done, I get down on myself. I tell myself that I was too lazy to sit down and work, that I’m too easily distracted by stupid mobile games and social websites, that I never sit down and assert myself because I have concentration problems and that I’m always tired. I do everything except admit the truth…that I wasn’t sure exactly how to move forward and was scared of screwing up, so I just avoided doing the work.
The trick, of course, is to get over yourself, to push past the fears and uncertainties and whatever else is holding you back, and propel yourself forward. The problem is that this isn’t always as easy as it seems. Some people are more self-depreciating than others, some people deal with depression or other illness, and some have lots of responsibilities that make everything twice as difficult to deal with. Therefore the key, I suppose, is simply to try. The next time you find yourself thinking negatively, calling yourself horrible names or putting yourself down, consider for a moment that you might just be masking the real problem. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and show a little compassion for your inner artist. A little compassion can go a long way, even when given to yourself.