I Can't Get No

Issue #10

I am dissatisfied.

I’m dissatisfied with what I’ve made so far, I’m dissatisfied with how long it has taken me to make it, I’m dissatisfied with my level of stress about the whole thing.

I’m documenting my process of making the first series of Threshold with the intention of giving other makers a glimpse of the unvarnished, behind-the-scenes reality here. And this week, this is it. I can’t get no satisfaction.

Past experience with big projects tells me that this is to be expected, that it’s good and necessary to feel this way, that I can’t get to feeling satisfied without a long slog through this muddy trench. My job, I think, is to be honest about my dissatisfaction but not to freak out about it.

But that’s hard. I want to like what I’m making. I want to be proud of it. I want to listen to a draft and think, “yeah, now I’m getting somewhere!” But I don’t, yet. And that sets off alarm bells in my brain. They all chime in different tones: incompetent! not creative enough! not fast enough! not free enough! working too hard – lighten up! not working hard enough – quit dawdling! etc.

But really, they’re all singing the same tune: what if it never gets good? What if I can never make this into something I like, something I’m proud of, something that I believe is worth your time to listen to? What if it always sucks as much as it does right now?

This is possible.

This is terrifying.

This is not a productive line of thought.

But I’m sharing it with you because it’s part of the deal. It’s been part of the deal every time I’ve cared deeply about something I’m making, and poured my whole self into it. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who becomes a neurotic stress ball full of intense self-criticism in the midst of a big project. But I kind of doubt it.

If we only look at the results of a creative process, it’s easy to imagine the maker was in control the whole time – that she knew where she was going and how she was going to get there. Brothers and sisters, I’m here to testify that this particular maker does not. I’m confused and dissatisfied, and part of me wants to react to that with a whole lot of drama and fear.

Another part of me is saying:

Deep breaths.

Don’t freak out.

Don’t quit.

That’s the part of me I want to feed.

Back to it,