Even Great Artists Struggle With Being Good Enough (It’s Not Just You)

Colton Witt
Colton Witt

If you love to write (or practice any art) and feel inadequate, you are not alone! Way back to 1300-ish in Florence, Italy, Dante stopped publishing love poems because he knew they were not good enough, before going on to write a definitive piece of Italian literature. I’m not saying to stop what you’re doing, and I’m not saying you will produce the Divine Comedy. I’m just saying that everyone, Dante included, experiences what Ira Glass perfectly describes as the “creativity gap.”

This is the phenomenon wherein an artist has the taste to discern high and low art, but lacks the “skills” to produce art up to his/her own standards. I quote the word skills because we perceive this gap as a lack of skill, but I argue otherwise. Often people assume amazing musicians, writers, and artists are simply born with a skill. That every time they put pen to paper, magic happens. We fail to see or imagine the first drafts, the discarded ideas, or the edits upon edits before the final piece reaches us. We admire others and yet berate ourselves for the gap between what we create now and what we want to create. The trick is to see this gap as inspiration instead of failure or a reason to stop.

This is easier said than done, but everyone has a masterpiece in mind that somehow motivates him or her to pick up the pen or paintbrush. Ira gently reminds us that once we give ourselves permission to not write the next great American novel, we can simply write for the sake of doing so. And Dante, while he was trying fervently to write the best love poems for his lover, Beatrice, he failed by his own judgment. It was only when he stopped trying, and stopped rushing himself, that he did end up writing his masterpiece.

We cannot wait for perfection, or we will be waiting forever. We must release this myth that we are not worthy because our first drafts suck. Had Dante stopped after his first set of love poems to Beatrice, we would not know the pilgrim’s journey through Inferno, up the mountain of Purgatory and finally reaching paradise. For many artists, the creative process feels perhaps as arduous as the pilgrim’s passage. But it is the journey of every man, and the only misstep you can make is to stand still. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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