Somebody recently made the comment that “if people aren’t having fun, they’ll stop showing up.” They were talking about Toastmasters, but I’ve been thinking about it in other contexts. What should I do when things aren’t fun?
Obviously, there’s a lot of life that isn’t going to be fun. Dishes, laundry, sweeping, mopping, and cleaning toilets aren’t fun jobs. No matter what Mary Poppins says, some days there just isn’t a game to make the job fun, and I still need to get it done anyway.
But what about the the things I do in the time when I’m not doing the have-to jobs? Learning a new skill can often be un-fun. Training my fingers to play scales on the piano was frustrating. Just five minutes of meditation seemed impossible at first (and still does on some days). It took me weeks to mix up a skin tone that looked like it belonged on a human and not a tree frog.
And now, after years of piano lessons and meditation and painting, I still am very much a beginner. I have a lot of bad days where things seem to be more mistakes than anything else. Mistakes aren’t really fun. So, why do I keep showing up?
I think that it’s a matter of expectations and intentions. If I was watching a television show for entertainment, and I was completely bored, I’d turn it off or watch something else. If I was watching a painting workshop to learn more about painting and the presenter was talking about mixing paints and it wasn’t really interesting to me, I’d continue to watch hoping to learn something new anyway.
I’m not painting or playing piano to entertain myself. I’m still learning, and I’m expecting mistakes as part of the learning process. I have hope that as I improve, there will be less mistakes and more times when things go well.
When things go well, or I get lost in the practice and lose track of time, that’s fun. Seeing improvement, that’s fun too. Finishing my practice for the day, knowing I didn’t skip a day, can be fun in its own way too, regardless of how well I did during practice.
In the past, when I had less time and more stress, I wasn’t consistent with what I did when I had time for not-have-to things. Not doing any art at all felt a lot worse than doing art poorly. Entertainment didn’t fill the need to create something.
There are sometimes days when I ask myself, “Why am I even doing this? I’ll never be as good as this or that professional artist. Why even try? I’m not having fun.”
And then I remember how it felt to not do any art. And I remember that I’m not doing art to have fun or to be famous or amazing or better than other artists. I’m doing art because I’m an artist and that’s what I do. I’m improving, I’m creating, and that is good enough.
Is art sometimes not fun for you? Why do you continue when something isn’t fun? Have you ever stopped showing up for your art? How did you feel?