You Can’t Win If You Don’t Try

This motivational article cropped up a few days ago, and it’s been sticking to my mind.  It echoes my thoughts nicely, the ones that are more feelings than coherent sentences.  Here’s what Jon Acuff has to say, and what I agree with:

You will work harder at something you love than something you like.
You will work harder than you have ever worked when you start chasing a dream.
You will get up earlier and go to bed later.
Joy is an incredible alarm clock.
It will wake you up and keep you up and pick you up and gently pull you through a thousand rejections along the way.

The feeling of late-night-computer/creative-project-hangover is very familiar to me, as I used to make websites before things like WordPress or Dreamweaver or even FrontPage came along.  Remember the Angelfire/Geocities days of the late 90’s?  Right.  If you’ve been following along at all you’ll recall that trip down memory lane.  It’s the one where  was supposed to pop out of a cake and make me famous, or something.  😉

Here’s my library haul from this evening:

giant stack of books
Some funnin’ at the top:  Catcher in the RyePride and Prejudice and ZombiesFort Freak (what!? he wrote a book OUTSIDE the Game of Thrones Series?!?!two days later i notice he did NOT write it, he only EDITED it. even though his name is in giant print everywhere. grrr.)

Some learnin’ in the middle:  Learn Spanish With Batman: Rogues Gallery (yes that is a Spanglish comic book that I couldn’t resist picking up) – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Intermediate SpanishSpanish Made Simple – Learn Spanish The Fast And Fun Way

The rest is art project researchin’:  Succulents: Nature’s Sculptural WondersShellOwls: The Silent FliersWild Birds of CaliforniaJellyfishThe Octopus: Phantom of the SeaDown in the Sea: The OctopusTentaclesButterfly & Moth

I picked up all those books because A) I wanted something fun to read, B) I’m trying to refresh my Spanish and C) I’m starting up a new series (will probably be encapsulated in The Fear Collective or something like that).  There’s definitely a lot stirring in my artsy subconscious, and I’m not one to try and quell it when it finally does peek its head out.  My thoughts were that all my cupcakes, robots, and bunnies have all been more of the cute-but-evil variety, definitely getting darker as they go.  There’s a recent Bunny painting that is hard for me to complete because it actually triggers my dizziness, but it’s almost done.  Now this new kick is going to be me and some of my fears.  Birds, moths, creatures with sharp bits, deep water stuff.  Why not, right?  Is my goal to get over my fears by some sort of immersion?  That wasn’t the plan, but if it works, that’d be nice.  Here’s a secret: when I opened the “Butterfly & Moth” book, just to browse and see if it had what I needed, I started to panic a bit.  My skin was crawling, it was not good. That’s how I knew it will do what it needs to do.

You’ll notice there are no books about spiders, bees, or flying/biting/stinging insects, and that’s because I am effing TERRIFIED of them.  I’m not that brave right now, sorry.

Anyway, here’s hoping the outcome is shaped similarly to what’s in my mind.  I’ll have some base sketches by tomorrow – if I type that, I plan on following through with it, so this is me crossing my fingers.

Digressing a bit – back to Jon’s article up top.  He mentions the alarm clock of joy, which reminds me of how enjoyable my manic stages are (despite the undesirable effects of sleep deprivation).  At working harder, that’s also true – if I only kind of liked shading in circles to give them depth, I wouldn’t do it during long phone calls.  It wouldn’t calm me down or keep me entertained during flights.  I wouldn’t pick up books hoping to see a photo or a phrase that sparks off something in my mind that absolutely MUST BE sketched out or painted.  I wouldn’t try to feed my compulsions.  I wouldn’t care what my final product really looked like; it wouldn’t bother me if the edge wasn’t totally crisp.  At getting up earlier and going to bed later, that’s also true – my alarm is set for less than 7 hours from now.  I don’t function well on less than 8 hours of sleep, but if this blog entry doesn’t get written and I don’t at least flip through some of the books there will be a mental hangnail that bothers me for the rest of the week.

On hope, and rejections… well, let’s just say that even though I’ve heard my fair share of the word No in various forms, I still keep on keepin’ on.  The creative process – creation itself – it’s what I am.  The pieces that don’t turn out perfectly, the emails that don’t get answered, they all just keep driving me.  Even when the only sound is my nails scraping off the bottom of the barrel, after a brief hiatus of lying in a pool of self pity, I take a deep breath and pick up that mechanical pencil just one more time, because this might be it.

Then suddenly, wonderfully, it is.

Something clicks.

That is why I keep going – not for money, not for infamy (though bonus points for anyone else saying ANYTHING I made is awesome) – but for that one tiny feeling of remembering what it’s like to see something on paper that is EXACTLY what needed to get out of my head.

Some people say that real artists are never happy with their work, they never accept compliments.  Someone says, “Wow – your work is amazing!” and they say “Eh, it’s not that good, look at this flaw and that flaw and that blue is less turquoise than I wanted and it’s actually a 44-degree angle not 45 and and and”.  The person trying to pay the compliment just looks and says something like, “Yeah, I can’t draw a straight line, and you drew THAT, it’s incredible, just hush”.

I think once you stop caring about your work’s imperfections, that’s when you stop being an artist.  Your imperfections are what make your work what it is, and they are what drive you to do the next thing.  I have a hard time writing all this because (personally) even claiming to be an artist… who am I, this random nobody, claiming to be in The Ranks of Artists?  That word: ARTIST, it’s reserved for those of Dali ilk; sculptors that make magic out of a block of clay or music from a sheet of dots and lines.  It’s reserved for the old masters and the new technical geniuses.  I will never feel worthy of calling myself an artist, and will always feel like some sort of sham.

It all feels very hypocritical, and much like wearing jeans that have been in the dryer too long. An uncomfortable sort of stiff tightness, and when you put them on the other day the zipper worked just fine, but today it sticks and doesn’t lie flat.

An “ARTIST” is defined as follows…

From Google:

noun /ˈärtist/
artists, plural

  • A person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby
  • A person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker
  • A person skilled at a particular task or occupation
    • – a surgeon who is an artist with the scalpel
  • A performer, such as a singer, actor, or dancer
  • A habitual practitioner of a specified reprehensible activity
    • – a con artist
    • – rip-off artists

Web definitions

  • a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination
    • (artistic) relating to or characteristic of art or artists; “his artistic background”
  • (artistic) satisfying aesthetic standards and sensibilities; “artistic workmanship”


1.a person who produces works in any of the arts  that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.
2.a person who practices one of the fine arts,  especially a painter or sculptor.
3.a person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.: a commercial artist.
4.a person who works in one of the performing arts,  as an actor, musician, or singer; a public performer: a mime artist; an artist of the dance.
5.a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.

From Wiki:
An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art.

From Merriam-Webster:

1 a  obsolete : one skilled or versed in learned arts
archaic : physician
c archaic : artisan
2 a : one who professes and practices an imaginative art
: a person skilled in one of the fine arts
c : a skilled performer; especially : artiste
3 : one who is adept at something <con artist> <strikeout artist>

Examples of ARTIST

  1. the great artists of the Renaissance

So… that’s the classical definition.  I don’t know where I’m going with all of it, but I know I will never give up.  It’s part of me.


6 thoughts on “You Can’t Win If You Don’t Try

  1. Stacie Chadwick says:

    Did you read Catcher in the Rye yet? I read it once a year because I love the Holden Caulfield’s voice so much. And I just love Holden Caulfield. If I had ever run into him in a bar? Fireworks.

    I hate spiders too.

    • clownonfire says:

      You’re into teenage boys.
      It’s time for you to upgrade from Holden Caulfied to The Unbearable Lightness of Being’s Tomáš.
      Le Clown

      • Stacie Chadwick says:

        Le Magnificent Clown,

        I did a little research:

        Definition of a Tomáš – A Czech surgeon and intellectual. Tomáš is a womanizer who lives for his work. He considers sex and love to be distinct entities: he copulates with many women but loves only his wife, Tereza. He sees no contradiction between these two positions. He explains womanizing as an imperative to explore female idiosyncrasies only expressed during sex.



      • Larissa Horvath says:

        Clown DuJour ~ I have heard good things of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and will try to locate it to read. Any leads on where to get the free eBook version? I can add it to my Kindle. 🙂

      • clownonfire says:

        The Unbearable Lightness of Being is one of my favoUrite novels of all time. The evolution of all characters and the humanity conveyed in the book makes this one a must. And then you can get hooked on Kundera and read the magnificent Immortality.
        Le Clown

    • Larissa Horvath says:

      I’ve only had time to get about 20 pages or so in, but plan on finishing ti by the weekend. It seems vaguely familiar so it *may* have been on the ‘assigned reading’ list in high school, but I can’t recall. Not that the list matters really – I was never one to try and limit myself to just a few books, but I sort of maybe partially remember taking a test about it at some point in life.

      I know for sure that I’ve never seen the movie, and am actually not sure if there is a movie. Unless you mean Holden’s voice in your head. 🙂 All my google-fu on Catcher In the Rye is going to be held off until finishing the book though.

      Spiders are lamesauce!

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