Print Picks: The War of Art
by Taylor Slattery | January 27, 2020
As creatives, regardless of discipline, there are challenges we all share. Often times, we are our own worst critics. While high standards can push us to improve and grow, being overly critical of our work can have the opposite effect. We need to strike a balance between our subjective critiques and acknowledgment of objective growth.
If you work alone, this can be a tough ask. For those working in studios or other group settings, you’re fortunate enough to have peers to offer feedback and advice. For the rest, art and design are solitary pursuits. Left alone with our thoughts it becomes easy to get stuck in a rut. Everybody goes through some sort of “block” at one point or another. We sit down to work and at the end of our session, we aren’t left with anything to be proud of. A bad day every now and then is nothing to worry about but when those days turn into weeks, it can become harder to sit down and get to work. Our confidence takes a blow and our imaginations can begin to run wild.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the term Imposter Syndrome. Rough patches in our creative careers can be hard to overcome. They seem to throw the future into question and invalidate all of our prior work. It’s important to know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Countless great creatives before you have found themselves in the same situation. What’s important is what you do next. But without guidance, how can you be sure you’re making the right moves?
If you don’t have any artist friends or mentors, look to books. Hearing bits of wisdom from those who have traveled a similar path and are further along in their journey can be just what you need to get you back on track. Having someone else articulate your thoughts and feelings can lift the fog of confusion that can sometimes make the creative journey difficult to navigate.
The War of Art is one book I find myself coming back to whenever I need to refocus. It’s written by Steven Pressfield, who spent longer than most struggling to realize his dreams of becoming a professional writer. There are aspects of the book that some may find besides the point (Pressfield touches on spirituality on a few occasions), but it’s a relatively short read that’s jam-packed with helpful bits of advice. He shines a light on the internal critic that causes us to doubt our own work and provides a realistic perspective for dealing with it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be nodding your head in agreement all the way through, and by the end, you’ll be ready to tackle your creative struggles head-on. Approach this book with an open mind and keep a copy on your bookshelf because it’s something you’ll want to revisit the next time things go south.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.