Recently, while working on a creative project with one of my best friends, Janet, she flung her hands over her head in exasperation and cried, “WHY do I have to care so much?!?” I couldn’t help but laugh in response. I wasn’t being rude; it’s just that I know her SO well that I understood where she was coming from, and taking the easy way out is never an option in anything truly artistic.
It had been a long day already and a long process with what we were working on, and her exclamation came from a position of being physically and emotionally tired, but not willing to throw in the towel and just stop … because the product — although perhaps “sufficient” at that juncture — really wouldn’t have been complete, nor the absolute best that she knows she is capable of producing.
When it comes to any artistic endeavor — whether you’re a musician, actor, painter, dancer, writer or graphic designer — “pain” is an asset. If you don’t feel it, there’s something askew. The best end result often comes from a lot of labor and the proverbial blood, sweat and tears (and sometimes cursing!) along the way. An actor worth his salt can’t just glide into a character. He has to study it. Breathe it. Live it. Embrace the sheer uncomfortable aspect of it. I wish Heath Ledger was still alive, because I’d love to pick his brain about the process he went through in order to portray the dark, demented Joker as brilliantly as he did in the The Dark Knight. Likewise, I’d love to know Daniel Radcliffe’s journey to bring Harry Potter to such amazing life as he did so well in the film franchise based on J.K. Rowling’s infamous book series. It certainly took a lot more from him than just reading the books and memorizing a script to pull of the dynamic character for which he’ll always be known. He had to really get inside the head of Harry Potter, quirks, fears, hopes, ambition, etc., etc.
There is bold truth behind the “no pain, no gain” sentiment which parlays itself into all aspects of life, but most importantly the creative self. Nothing truly worthwhile in any art form occurs by happenstance, just so easily. It’s a process, and no matter how fabulous the final result may be when you put it out to the world, it can still be improved upon. And there’s the rub that exists with every artistic soul. While you may achieve great things and garner appropriate praise and accolades for a given work or performance, if you are genuinely a true artist, you’ll always seek a way to make it even better the next time.
The same goes for artistic kids, regardless of the art form they pursue. It might drive your child to the brink of pulling out his hair when practicing and practicing and practicing his number for the upcoming piano recital. But once he gets it down and masters it, he’ll enjoy the extreme thrill of artistic success.