After months of on-and-off bouts of abdominal pain, I found sweet relief Friday morning by getting my gallbladder surgically removed. My wife and I traded nerves leading up to the surgery even though it was obvious that the staff at the outpatient center and my surgeon considered this standard, everyday, no-big-deal sort of stuff. Not only their words, but also their actions put us to ease as they quickly walked through the steps getting me ready to go under the knife.
In the small amount of time I had to myself before the operation, I reflected how amazing it was that they glided through the process with such grace and ease. This surgery that was a big deal to me, a seemingly dangerous and risky procedure, opening up my insides to the outside world to remove a small part of me all while keeping me knocked out but alive was just a normal Friday appointment to these professionals. As promised I came out on the other side just fine, as expected, minus one gallbladder.
This disconnect in perspectives and relative gap in understanding of difficulty/feasibility of the task is really interesting to me as an artist. Years of education and training, hundreds of similar surgeries, the experience of navigating all sorts of what-ifs and SNAFUs is what brought the team to perform seemingly so effortlessly. As artists with varying degrees of experience, I think we often have a hard time gaining perspective on our own abilities and accomplishments. Though I understand the vast differences between surgery and creating art, I can’t help but draw a connection and be inspired by the result of hard work and repetition.
I would go out on a limb and say that some of your abilities and accomplishments as an artist appear as difficult as surgery to some of your admirers. Achieving a finished piece, performing on stage, publishing online, hanging a gallery, etc are incredible accomplishments and in the eyes of so many people are already tasks they would never know how to achieve. Recognizing positive perspective on your own progress is an important step in continuing growth. If you struggle to see growth in your art, visit what you were creating a year or two ago and be prepared to feel both encouraged and potentially embarrassed.
With the encouragement of marked progress, future improvement seems within reach. Imagine finding yourself at a point in the future where the creative steps that you struggle with today become like an every-day achievable task.I have known artists to take on challenges in order to work on bridging the gap between what is a difficult challenge and what is 'old hat' through repetitive practice. I have many friends who take part in Inktober, creating one piece of visual art during each day in October. I've seen similar practices with literature and music. Look forward at what you want to do. Recognize that you'll probably never reach where you want to be because your goals will continue to grow as your talents do. But never deny yourself celebration of growth.