You know that post I wrote the other day about how to paint a portrait? How I think it's a good idea to work over the whole surface as you go and how at times your painting will look great and sometimes it will look crappy and then it'll look great again and be done? Well the process of painting a portrait is an example of the creative process in microcosm.
A painting, a drawing, a story, a film, an artistic concept, the development of your body of work as you make more and more pieces, your artistic career, the events that make up your whole life, all follow the same mysterious ATV ride of a path.
Like I said in the earlier post, you don't start with nothing then get progressively better when you're making a piece. You start with a goal to shoot for. Sometimes you progress smoothly, sometimes you screw up. Sometimes you make a mistake but you step back and notice that your mistake had a pretty cool effect: it suggests a better direction to take your piece in or it adds another layer of meaning to your initial idea. Sometimes part of the piece looks great but it doesn't work at all with the rest of the piece and so you have to get rid of the part you like.
Sometimes you're convinced that everything you're doing is a complete disaster and you'll never get this piece to where you want it to go. You're a crappy excuse for an artist and you'll never do anything right. You put something in and it sucks so you take it out. You do it again, twice. You work on a different area then go back to the tough one and it still won't work.
An hour later or the next day or six months later (after you've gone and done something else for a while) you find that it wasn't all a disaster after all and you can work with some of it and now you know exactly what to do. Or you decide to take the whole canvas (or construction or story etc.) apart and piece it back together in a different order, or make the thing into a different object entirely.
In short, you set off to find your goal, you skip along, you wander blindly for a bit, you skip some more, you fall off a cliff, you get discouraged, you find a different route to take, you see a neighborhood you didn't know existed, get lost again, leap over a fence and find an awesome party, wake up with a hangover and can't do anything right, you wander wander wander wander, find the on-ramp to the freeway and all of a sudden you're there and your piece is done. Usually your goal looks different than you'd expected it to when you get there.
If you took the crazy path where you tried new things, took risks, made mistakes, pulled off amazing feats, failed miserably, worked hard and had fun, your end product encompasses your goal but also includes more content. It's richer with elements you hadn't imagined it would have. Or else you ended up someplace entirely different but better suited to your true needs. That is the artistic process.
It's exciting, it's fun, it's educational, it hurts like hell, you want to beat your head in with a rock, you feel like you're flying, it's amazing and you NEED TO DO IT AGAIN.
So on a bad day I might complain about what a loser I think I am. In the long run, big picture- wise, I know I'm really fine. Life and art are wild rides with some doldrums thrown in. Disasters are good, successes can be deceiving. As long as you're learning you're winning. As long as you keep going you're winning. You only lose if you stop and let the bastards get you down.