The more we can simplify and lighten our lives, the better. There’s no reason to make things any harder than they already are. In the otherwise oppressive and absurd circus known as human life, we do ourselves a great service when we unclench our fists and actually enjoy the ride. But just as our effort to make everything lighter is a form of enlightenment, our insistence on things being easy is a form of immaturity. Particularly the creative process. We can and should be satisfied with our past success, but not to the point that we consider further effort unnecessary. Making art is going to be difficult and vexing for us, and we will always need a sufficient amount of patience to achieve our creative goals. Without it, we’ll beat ourselves up and out of the game entirely. Ellis’s research on rational emotive behavioral therapy coined a term called low frustration tolerance. It’s not the wish not to be frustrated, he says, but the demand that we should not be frustrated. The feeling that our reality should be as wished, and that any frustration should be resolved quickly and easily. Here are several of the characteristics of low frustration. See if they remind you of any fellow creative folks in your life, including you. Existing conditions must be changed to give you what you like, otherwise, you can’t stand it and you can’t be happy at all. You must have immediate gratification, or else your life is awful. When you see people who are creating frustration for you, feelings of hostility arise. Once you become frustrated, you get frustrated because you’re frustrated. Any of those sound familiar? Of course. We’re all guilty of these tendencies.
ERASING -- Raising our frustration tolerance by remove extreme language from our vocabulary
One helpful starting place for raising our frustration tolerance is to delete extreme, catastrophizing, demanding language from our vocabulary. Noticing anytime that we say words like always, never, should and must, anytime we get less of what we want. These moments will ring like bells of awareness, and over time, help us raise our ability to tolerate life’s frustrating moments. It’s a slow process without quick gratification, but it pays dividends in the long term.
When I was a kid, if the waitress wouldn’t fill up my water glass at a restaurant. My instinct wasn’t to patiently wait until she walked by my table and then politely request service, but to get up from my chair, march over to the busser station and fill up the damn glass myself. That’s how entitled I used to be, and frankly, still can be. But as the aforementioned psychologist reminds us, frustration is a normal part of the human condition. We all get thwarted in pursuit of standard human goals, whether it’s getting a promotion, getting our projects completed on time, or just getting a glass of water. And if we want a real shot at fulfillment, let’s not fall for the illusion that we somehow deserve the creative process to come easily.
Your insistence on the creative process being easy is not serving you. Get good at deleting, and soon creative frustrations will make you stretch, but not snap. You'll confront obstacles with flexibility and patience, not an aggressive and entitled reaction. And as you consciously train yourself to withstand your daily creative vexations, the lighter life will feel. Are you not getting to where you want to go because you don’t know how to do life the hard way?
Beat yourself up less during the art making process
Confront career obstacles with flexibility and patience
Strengthen resilience when your professional goals are thwarted
Raise your ability to tolerate the difficult moments of the creative journey