Making things brings joy.
Making things also sucks.
The exact second I started this post, thinking about how “making things brings joy,” I got a text that read “Making stuff sucks sometimes.” I realized I couldn’t extol the merits of artistic expression without acknowledging that truth. While I wholeheartedly believe that creating beautiful or thought-provoking things can be a source of fulfillment and happiness, I also have to acknowledge the flip side: it’s also frustrating and sometimes fruitless, often infuriating and rarely lucrative.
Do it anyway.
Making something awesome might feel like pounding your head against a wall. You might not be able to get the impressions in your head down on paper quite right. Your hands might not cooperate with the clay or paintbrush or computer mouse the way you think they should. You might spend hours on something you love, only for it to be underappreciated and ignored.
In your attempt to make something beautiful, you will encounter writer’s block or paint that dries too quickly. Your sketchbook will be streaked with eraser marks. You’ll have hit the backspace button one hundred times too many. You will show your creation, cradled in your hands like your own fragile child, to people who will not grasp its meaning or your effort. You will trash a draft, then trash another. You will revise and peer-review and agonize and edit until you claim to have given up.
You won’t, at least for long.
Because you know there’s something more there. You’ve felt the itch to form something in your fingers. There are ideas in your head begging to be shared with the world. From the moment you lay out your supplies, the blank space in front of you full of possibility, to the planning stages and the end details, you can lose yourself in making something great. When all that exists is you, your medium, and an inspiration, you’re in a pretty sacred place. Your entire creative process is a liberation.
When you finish, when you sit back surveying your work, you’ll be proud. You will inspect every stitch and line and decide that, finally, you’re done, and for a few hours you’ll keep glancing back, surprised every time at how lovely you think it is. When you show your friends or your mom figure, they’ll squeal or send a row of exclamation marks. They will be proud of you, too, of all the cool things you can make. You know you’re not doing it for the attention, but still, it feels pretty good.
And if you haven’t felt that yet, get on it! You might be terrible at drawing or poetry—don’t worry, my human portraits used to look like goblins, and I still haven’t figured out how to rhyme. Your art might have a high suck-to-joy ratio at the start, but I promise that you will feel the gratification of improvement as you work at it.
I’m still struggling with making things. I get short spurts of pride and long stretches of discouragement. But I’ve decided to challenge myself to practice more frequently, share more widely, and create more passionately. Right now I’m excited. I know that’ll turn to exhaustion eventually, but any aspiring or established artist understands that we have to cling to our moments of joy.
That’s why I started On A Hot Wire: so I can share my joyous things and yours. I’d love to see what you create; I have plans to showcase your art here, and I’d like this to be a place where everyone’s ideas and creations are welcome. Art, whether traditional and unconventional, is something we should celebrate and further while discussing realistically. And it’s something we should keep making. It’s exasperating; it’s exuberant; it’s necessary.