Love and Joy ≠ Easy and Fun
Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship, whether it be romantic or otherwise, knows that it takes work. Of course, there are lots of good laughs and fun. But to really connect with someone over the long haul requires facing some difficult moments, some challenges and limitations, some absolute frustrations, grievances and moments of despair. Real love doesn’t conclude with the rom-com ending. In fact, those wizened to relationships know it’s after the credits roll that the rubber hits the road–that’s when the real work of a relationship begins.
This is true for the artistic process. It has its highs and lows. Just because we find joy in something and love doing it doesn’t mean that it’s always fun or easy. In fact, it’s quite often the opposite. But that’s also the point: the process of the hard work is satisfying.
Recently, a friend told me how she had begun to re-engage with dance, but was doing so tentatively, cautiously. In the past, she’d gotten hung up on needing to feel it came easy every time she did it, and took those times when she felt miserable–had had a terrible rehearsal or performance, had struggled with some choreography–as a sign from the universe that she shouldn’t be dancing at all. She’d heard other dancers say how much they loved it, how much joy it brought them. Something was clearly wrong with her because it oftentimes made her feel worse.
Do you think Martha Graham felt joy every time she danced? I asked. At every single rehearsal? Does LeBron James think of quitting the NBA every time the Cavs lose?
We’re always looking for reasons not to pursue art. After all, there are so many more productive ways (so society tells us) we could be spending our time. It’s funny how many would-be artists I’ve met are more than willing to train for a marathon but can’t see the point in writing that book they always tell me (ad nauseam) about. And these aren’t people running four-minute miles; they’d be lucky to get in under five hours. In my mind, a marathon and a book are the very same thing.
Art, like life, takes stamina.