Creation Through Frustration | when the art isn’t coming

If you’re an artist, you know this inevitable feeling. You want to create, but sometimes, the art just isn’t coming. You’ve got nothing. Zilch. Nada. Well, have I got a revelation for you. Maybe I’m the only artist that missed this important piece of info, maybe all of y’all will be like, “yeah Kate, we know”, but let me tell you, my world has been rocked.

This post is inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, a (fantastic!) book I’ve been reading and have mentioned multiple times – check out my review of it here.

Big Magic is all about the beauty of creativity and using your artistic talents fearlessly. If you’re a regular reader of AbundantlyKate, then you know that I’m a singer/songwriter pursuing a career in the music industry. This book has been eye-opening for me in a lot of ways, as I struggled for years with my own creativity and internal aspirations. I could talk endlessly about all of the perspective-changing concepts Gilbert writes about that have encouraged me in my own journey, but I recently stumbled upon one that struck a particularly familiar chord within me (no pun intended.)

Though I’ve been actively writing songs since I was ten, I have a significant amount of anxiety attached to songwriting. When I was younger, the anxiousness came through being unsure about what to do with all of the songs I had written, if I should play them out, and if I should even keep writing at all. Now, I’ve overcome all of those feelings, but the anxiousness still lingers. I now feel anxious because I consider songwriting to be a part of my job, playing a key role in the progression of my career, so I get easily frustrated when I can’t come up with a new song idea or melody off the bat. To be frank, I’m a songwriter that sometimes really dislikes songwriting. 

I hate this feeling, because at my core, I love songwriting, and I’m really proud of everything I’ve composed. It’s the anxiousness that comes when I don’t have a great song waiting to be written that turns to frustration, and my motivation consequently dwindles.

This is where Big Magic comes in. In this particular section, Gilbert talks about how she used to panic over constantly writing, but never getting published. She also talks about writer friends of hers with the same feelings, except that some of them would dig themselves into a mental trench of despair when success didn’t show up. Reflecting on her own creation-through-frustration breakthrough, she writes this:

“I was no stranger to disappointment and frustration. But I remember thinking that learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person.”

Upon reading this, I immediately realized: this is me with songwriting. This is what I need to hear. She then writes this:

“If you want to be an artist, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of your work [ … ] You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living. Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.”   

This honestly blew my mind. And then, I felt immediate relief. To accept that frustration is part of being an artist, and that creating art isn’t always going to be magical rainbows and sunshine, feels so good. Gilbert is right – it’s how you deal with your frustration, in seasons of working your heart out with your head down, that determines how dedicated you are to your craft. Am I going to write a hit song everyday? No. But if I write songs everyday, choosing creation through my frustration, I just might strike gold sooner or later. That’s what all of us need to do – musicians, writers, painters, dancers, entrepreneurs – we need to believe in our capabilities and choose, every day, to pursue them despite our dissatisfaction and discouragement.

This is just one of the many truths Gilbert brings to light in this book, so I highly recommend it to any of y’all who desire to unleash your artistic potential. I feel heartened and inspired after coming to terms with the realities of artistic living, and I am vowing to not let frustration stand in my way.

Much love friends, and happy creating! 

READ MORE: Music Monday: 3 Female Songwriters Who Inspire Me 



The post Creation Through Frustration | when the art isn’t coming first appeared on AbundantlyKate.

4 thoughts on “Creation Through Frustration | when the art isn’t coming

  1. I had a similar perspective-changing experience when I first came across The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He expresses quite a similar idea except that the name he uses for frustration is resistance and ultimately the duty of the artist is to overcome resistance. I’ll definitely check out Big Magic once I’ve got a bit more free time on my hands!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s an easier way to think of this. The cosmic radio, ie the Muse, is always on. We’re the problem. We need to get out of our own way sometimes and tune in, that simple. When we STFU and listen, magic happens. We’re not in charge of our art, as anyone from Baryniskov to DeBussy to Monet will tell you. Magic happens when we let go of technique and ourselves. Corny? Maybe. “Let It Be.” And it will.

    Liked by 1 person

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