Sunday, July 08, 2012

Your Art Should Be Selfish

No, that's not me, nor is it Costa Rica. It's actually Mavricks. © jdegenhardt 

The previous two times I went surfing were horrible. During one, I was just getting pitched over the falls and drilled left and right. The other ended with lightning and a thunderstorm throwing rain so hard it hurt my face.

But tonight...

Oh tonight...

I had one of the best surf sessions I've ever had. I surfed from 5pm to 6:30pm. By the time I got out of the water it was almost dark, and I was definitely the last guy out there. The sunset was amazing, and the waves were incredible.

I caught some overhead monsters and even though the lineup was full, I was catching waves all over the place. When I close my eyes, I can still see some of the rides I had. One barrel seemed to go on forever. Another huge take off turned into a screaming face with the lip right over my head. As I started paddling back out, one of the locals actually turned to face me and clapped with a smile. Another gave me huge smile and said, "Nice wave."

I was already beyond stoked before these kudos from the cool kids, but something about it struck me.

What was so different today than the previous two times out in the water?

Other than the thunderstorm hindering things a bit, I felt like I could do nothing right just a few days ago. One wipeout had me through the spin cycle. When I pushed off the bottom, my head ran straight into the fins of my board. Ouch.

One of the reasons I had such a bad session in contrast to tonight's had to do with who I was surfing for. After getting tossed by a couple waves, I think I started surfing for the approval of those in the water instead of my own enjoyment. I also started getting desperate. I convinced myself they were all thinking, "Who is this kook wasting our waves?"

I tried to take off on some waves even though I was already too far inside. I didn't want others in the water to think I was letting a good one go by. I had a scarcity mindset.

Now, I'm not what I'd consider an artistic person. I can't draw worth a damn. I blog a little bit. I've tinkered with guitar. I write code. If I were to think about "my art," I might consider including surfing. Granted, I'm not very good at it, but a wave is like an empty canvas either way.

To be better at my art, I needed to be selfish with it. It was for me, not for the locals in the water.

Your art is for you.

I'm not talking about when you turn your art into your business. I'm talking about when it's still just pure, uncommissioned, do-it-because-you-love-it art. It's an intimate expression of your inner self. It introduces you to parts of yourself you didn't know.

If you just want to create art, don't write for someone else. Don't create a song you think others will like. Don't approach a canvas thinking about what will sell.

Do what you love just for you.

And you know what? Your art may not be that good. That's OK. You don't have a scarcity mindset because there will always be another chord progression, another blank page, another empty canvas, another perfect wave. Art is what you have inside. Sometimes it just needs to come out as is.

Let others worry about if it's good. You never know, you might get a hand clap now and again.


Chad Nikazy said...

Great post. I try to treat triathlon this way. I remember hearing Lance Armstrong call Marco Pantani more of an artist than an athlete. I've been obsessed with Marco's approach to cycling since.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks for commenting, Chad. Art (and especially sport) are often driven by competition so it's been interesting for me to think about it purely from the love of the thing itself.

I'm hoping the afternoon glass off today gives me some similar selfish enjoyment. :)

Paul M. Jones said...

Ayn Rand would agree with you.

Luke Stokes said...

I think John Galt would as well.