3 min read

Why I'm going to start making ugly art | SHW #11

Last week, I decided to practice drawing facial expressions. Capturing expressions in a way that is appealing and not creepy has always been challenging for me. However, this time when I sat down to get started, my very first attempt turned out pretty well!

I was super jazzed to keep going, so I made another attempt. This time the expression was much harder for me to capture and, well, it was a bit of a disastrous attempt. At least, that’s how I chose to view it in the moment.

Looking back on this, it’s actually not that bad. Especially if I take into consideration how much I’ve improved over the years. However, I couldn’t help but fall into the comparison trap. Compared to the drawing I had made literally 30 minutes prior, this one sucked and there was only one conclusion to be made — I suck.

So I stopped drawing for the rest of the week because I was terrified to make any more ugly drawings. The problem with this thinking is pretty obvious. How am I supposed to improve if I’m not creating?

It’s helpful to recognize when my brain comes to irrational conclusions about results that are completely normal and expected. It would be completely unreasonable to think that every time I attempt something, particularly things I don’t have much experience in, that I would ace it every single time.

Recognizing this, I’ve decided to reframe how I think about my goals and the results I’m expecting so that I can continue taking action instead of allowing a negative result stop me in my tracks. Usually I fall into this very unhelpful pattern when working towards improvement:

  1. I attempt the thing and my attempt is a failure.
  2. I think, “Wow I really suck at this thing. WTF is wrong with me?”
  3. I feel bad about myself.
  4. I stop doing the thing.
  5. I never get better at the thing.

Where does this pattern break down? Failing at something isn’t the problem. After all, it’s expected that we suck at things we don’t have much experience in. The problem is my reaction to failure. Thinking that I suck because my drawing didn’t turn out. If I instead have a more helpful thought about failing, the process would look more like this:

  1. I attempt the thing and my attempt is a failure.
  2. I think, “Failure is expected. I’m learning. If I keep trying, I will improve.”
  3. I feel inspired and motivated to keep trying.
  4. I keep trying.
  5. I get better at the thing.

Just changing that one thought leads to a dramatically different result.

Going forward, I’m going to reframe my thoughts about my goals. Instead of measuring myself based on how good the art turns out, I’ll instead measure myself based on how many times I tried and failed. Eventually, I will learn enough from my mistakes to improve.

Failure yields results.

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