The Masterpiece - My Struggle to find Agency

It's more than perfectionism

The Masterpiece - My Struggle to find Agency

Your fingers around the pencil, the pen, the paintbrush. Trespassing, wielding a device not meant for you, but a god.

Wielding so much power, one must be responsible with it. The weight of all the world’s authors and all the world’s artists pressing down on you. Such a small tool, such a small paper, but oh - what a large canvas. There are shoes to fill, expectations to meet. Not an inch of paper be wasted, not a drop of ink or paint unworthy of man be squandered on resources so dear. Guilty you are, sitting with the tools of the great… hoping you may be worthy to break the bonds of consumption and finally produce, to be a force acting on life rather than life acting on you. In a world of beauty and terror and great philosophy, do you have the energy to even scrape the likes of that which you cherish and envy? The world will see your work, your thoughts, ideas, and visions. They will judge you. Your simple, ugly pictures, devoid of meaning, mere noise and mediocre repetitive nonsense not worth a glance. Your broken, impractical designs, left to erode into the background of the life you wish to live. Your art is you. Your empty walls, empty journals, your mountains of tools. Unwritten words. Squandered materials that to touch would be to adulterate. It’s who you want to be, the designer, the artist, the writer, the engineer. You have all the tools, just do it. Isn’t this who you want to be? You are an artist without a single stroke, a writer without a single word, an engineer without a single design. Oh what a task, an expectation. How can you claim to love that which you don’t do? How can you claim to be the person you are not? Imposter. Weakling. Fool. All around you there is greatness. Even in the simplest of people there is a drive to create - and so they do. How joyous they are with their craft, their pleasure, their originality. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something you enjoy, something that makes you human in a sense… above biology through biology. Everyone feels the same. Elements in a world we will never understand but that acts and controls our rhythmic desires, developments, and behaviors through the generations.

You lower your utensil slowly down to the canvas. It is up to you to shape who you are through your work, as it is your identity. These thoughts - they're all insane. You’re a perfectionist - but how could one who has never created crave perfection in their creations? To know that, you must start.

You stare at the utensil. It makes contact with the canvas. So much has lead up to this. You! Assuming your identity! Your desires and future! Soon it will be great - no it will never be as good as I want, it will never be me. All the resources, used by the person that desires them - the person that will contribute. You’ve never been more scared of something. To confront who you want to be and to become them. You understand it is okay to make mistakes. You understand art doesn’t need to reflect you or be anything at all. It can just be fun. Fun. Fun. You want that. You want to enjoy it just like others. You need more joy in your life and this can bring it to you. You just need to start.

You stare off for what feels like hours.


But what!? What is it I need create!? Something! Anything! Do I draw a dragon? I don’t want to. A door? No, stupid. A landscape? I don’t want to. It’s all trivial! The gears start rolling for once and you feel fear. WHAT should I do!? What do I want to make!? Nothing! Nothing! An artist with no love for art is a fake! Panic ensues. You fight the urge to escape. This is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be expressive. You have nothing to say and feel no fun. The entire situation feels stupid and trivial. You’re wasting so much time. You have so much to do yet you sit here. Wanting so badly to create and enjoy, yet frustratingly incapable and incompetent. Even children love art. They create yet you can’t. You’re so behind on all your work. Hopeless and guilty. Angry and hating. The entire world closes in on you. Responsibilities penetrate your thoughts of despair. This is meaningless. Heart breaking. Stupid. But you vowed not to leave your desk until you made one thing.

Your hand trembles and you tighten your grasp until it’s painful. You deserve pain. How can you be a creator without making the simplest move? How come the most important of moves feel impossible? “I don’t want to be a creator.”

You begin crying, still staring at your utensil, angry of your crying, unwilling to blink away the tears. One drops and splashes on the paper.




How precious the paper is and how to have adulterated it with your tears!

Wiping the tears away, you think to yourself, “Just a line. I will draw a line and I will be happy.” Fighting every urge to run, you drag your utensil across the corner of your paper. Not perfectly straight and not longer than a centimeter.

You jump up and fall into your bed. Guilty. But mostly relieved. You begin distracting yourself with a dozen forms of media, trying to drown out the thoughts of work and creating. Forget. Consume.

Left behind on that paper… the smallest, ugliest dash remained, containing more emotion and effort than even the grandest of paintings, soon to be erased and stuffed back with the rest of the empty pages, the effort forgotten.

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Gatlen Culp
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