The following post is part of a series, ‘The Artist’, I intend to write.
We’ve seen it in even the brightest minds, incompletion. It is often a disaster, a misfortune, a loss for an entire world of art-admirers.
Leonardo Da Vinci, the renowned polymath that he was, himself very rarely completed the work he’d have started. In fact, what is by many seen as one of the most beautiful masterpieces of Renaissance art, his painting, ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, lies to this day, unfinished.
As a man who views himself as an artist at heart, I myself have rarely ever completed my grand, ambitious, and often exaggerated projects.
Last year, I’d started work on what was to become my most magnificent achievement yet. It was a philosophical socio-political play by the name of ‘Pandora’.
The play, based on the Ancient Greek myth, was to portray my elaborated views on the erroneous use of knowledge, brain waste, and the war on intellectualism.
The play’s first act would show Pandora, the heroine, opening the pithos that would unleash unto the uncivilized man the two-edged sword which would lead him to self-destruction, the desire for knowledge.
The play would end in Pandora’s hanging in a public square under charge of corrupting society and leading it into war and corruption (due to man’s misuse of knowledge).
I wrote the first two scenes from the first act which were highly poetic in style, grand in nature, and complex in emotion and thought. But to even my own misfortune, all of a sudden, I lost interest.
Think that was a good idea?
Two years before, I wanted to write a novel and lost interest after the third chapter.
At the start of this summer, I wanted to write a collection of poems on love, but after losing hope in the collection’s dedication, I saw it pointless to proceed in any of my poetic work on the subject of love, perhaps for a break before going back into the subject.
The artist, often of passionate nature, is too regularly swayed into dismissing his work due to frequent changes in emotion towards his muse.
Too many times, I have set out on huge musical projects: caprices, film scores, dedications to loved ones, and had all sorts of great ideas and melodies in mind.
But every time I started work. my enthusiasm would fail in comparison to great masters before me: Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Beethoven, they were all somehow my competition.
And after listening with awe to every single work, I felt discouraged to ever pursue my projects, though I knew very well how illogical it was for a budding self-taught composer of only 16 years of age to compare himself to the great men of musical history who had obviously studied music long and hard before attaining their final level of mastery.
Also, one of the most significant reasons for my often sudden loss of motivation is the discrepancy between vision and reality, for I have yet, in music for example, to master orchestration and composition to be able to manifest the music as it plays in my mind exactly onto the music score.
My musical works thus only include short pieces for piano, numerous improvisations, and just about above 10 or 12 brief orchestral pieces, with hundreds of recorded melodies and musical notations waiting to see daylight.
Perfectionism has driven me insane.
I have recently started practicing my portrait-sketching. I am self-taught. And being the perfectionist that I am, I must stay about an hour on every sketch, neatly revising every single detail, never to obtain the envisioned result.
My success lies in simple projects, those who can keep time with my always-altering bursts of inspiration and enthusiasm. Such are my poems, orchestral pieces, and essays among others.
Many have perceived me as a hard-worker. I am not a hard-worker in any way. Most people’s definition of a teenage ‘hard-worker’ is an academic over-achiever, someone who works long nights, who can force himself into work.
I am in no way that person. My character is that of a capricious mind.
I cannot force myself into work, but, controversially, what I believe in I will work for endlessly and to the very end. When it comes to working for my values and interests, I will work long nights, spend days on my projects, and risk even my health in depriving myself of sleep and food.
The problem is that I can never force myself into work that I have no motivation for.
Perhaps it is because as a child, I was spoiled, not materially, but motivationally.
Allow me to explain; as a kid, I was at the top of my preschool and lower elementary classes, not due to hard work, but rather purely effortlessly.
I was congratulated by my parents and teachers, based on ability, and never based on determination and work. Even when they did not know it, they would very often congratulate my ability and not my work.
I was among my teachers’ favorites, if not quite a few teachers’ favorite, not because I worked hard, but because I simply was a good student, again, effortlessly.
I grew up with the idea that no matter what, success was inevitable, it was out of my control, success was almost part of who I was.
I blame the academic system for never challenging me in preschool and elementary school.
When I grew up, things suddenly needed to be studied, I had to suddenly start memorizing material. My grades started falling lower and lower, partly also due to psycho-social complications (which I might discuss later in this series in ‘The Artist & Ostracism’), though I still maintain to this day a good GPA even under minimum effort.
I believe many other artists-at-heart have had similar childhoods, thus leading to our often whimsical minds.
The moment a duty or project turns into an obligation, or rather homework, I inevitably detach myself completely from any effort to achieve it.
Another thing is that, being the socially independent person that I am, I never give importance to social praise of my work; I am never encouraged by praise or any other outside force like money. I am what some describe as “intrinsically motivated”, which means that I cannot derive any motivation from anywhere other than myself, and also that I cannot derive motivation from what does not somehow relate to my integrity in my case.
I am heavy with the burden of my incompletions, due to several motivational and moral complications.
When I think of my work, I think of how many ideas I have betrayed, how many artistic projects that never came to be, I think of how high my GPA could be if I could somehow force myself to study, but I know deep down that even like those before me, I may really never be able to escape this terrible reality, incompletion.
I am guilty, before God and man, for never fully utilizing my potential, seldom completing my work, and never forcing myself to work against my motivation.
Perhaps, though, these final lines may justify my indolence before the godly court:
It is a pity when the artist does not complete his art, but even more a pity when the art does not complete the artist.