When I feel good: When I’m making art.
When I feel bad: When I’m not marking art.
It really is that simple. So why is it so easy to procrastinate and hide and generally not do the things that make me feel good about myself?
When I’m not working, when I allow too much of the detritus of daily life to get in the way, I feel guilty and anxious. I can’t settle, I can’t enjoy free time, I’m restless.
When I’m not doing creative work, I feel like a failure.
As I get older, I sense the clock ticking. I feel the pressure to make a success of this work I believe I should be doing and it’s overwhelming.
Maybe that stops me from producing at times. Wanting and needing so badly to succeed puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the quality of the work that I produce. There is no time for evolution, it all has to be world-class.
Cognitive dissonance again: No first drafts or musical doodles are world-class. It’s just not how the work is done. Logically I understand this. I would tell anybody else it’s insane to expect instant perfection and they should just concentrate on getting stuff out.
It is in the editing, not the writing or composing, where work becomes world-class.
I know this, but secretly think it shouldn’t apply to me. I have to knock it out of the park every time. If I’m any good, I shouldn’t need to evolve, I should get it right first time.
I am delusional. I am aware of this too. I am unreasonably hard on myself. I am convinced I am a genius. I am convinced that I am a talentless dilettante. I am full of shit.
Part of me secretly believes the moment I do manage to release work, it will be acclaimed and I will become successful. So I don’t release any work. Because what if it isn’t and I don’t? What if it turns out that I have been kidding myself all these years and I don’t have what it takes?
I mourn the lost years of my life where I only worked sporadically and inconsistently. What could I have achieved if I had been producing work and sending it out into the world? Even if the early stuff was bad, I would surely have improved. I would be so much farther along than I am now. I have no idea how much time I have spent writing and making music in my lifetime, but I know if I’d forced myself to do more of it, I’d be in a better position than I am now.
But I didn’t. I tell myself it’s time to redouble my efforts and throw caution to the wind. So I do the opposite. I sit around and feel sorry for myself. I nurse regrets, cynicism and scepticism. I keep my dreams to myself, I keep my ambition hidden. I pretend everything’s alright. But it’s not. And it’s not going to be until I do that work.
I say I want to be successful, and that has a very specific meaning for me. It means living the life of an artist. It means putting creativity and original work at the heart of my world and trying consistently to reach whatever potential I have.
I do not define success in monetary terms, I do not need fame and fortune to consider myself successful. I need only to have produced a body of work that represents the best I am capable of: To be able to point to those books and that music and say ‘that’ - ‘that is what I did with my life’.
So why don’t I do it?
Barry Dallman is a musician, writer and eternal student of the creative process. He is fascinated by the process of personal change and the challenges creative people face in committing to truly meaningful work. He's documenting his own creative struggles in the hopes of inspiring others to pursue what really matters to them.
Why don't we do what we really want to do? Why do we sacrifice our lives to our art - and then hold back from making it? What does it take to make us do the work we were born to do? Why is it so hard to be yourself?
These are the questions I'm trying to answer.
After years of fear and procrastination, I'm on a mission to show my work, fight the little voice that wants to stop me and share what I learn along the way. I'd love you to join me.