Is Your Art-Making More a Chore Than a Joy?

by Erik Peterson

There are two different paths artists often take and become when they carry the unnecessary burdens of joyless art-making (whether consciously or unconsciously.)

Two Kinds of Artists

The first kind of artist, the Preserver, scopes out the long arduous road ahead, and seeing only difficulty and downside, gives up rather quickly and instinctively. In a word, he quits. I mean, what’s the point when the journey ahead offers so much toil, and so little reward? A fool’s errand!

The second kind of artist, the Martyr, has no problem putting in the work and creating art (often lots of it), but forges ahead with the self-inflicted pains of self-criticism, rigid perfectionism, and quiet resentment. There’s a comfortable stubbornness to doing the same thing over and over, because, hey, at least art is being produced, right? This artist wears their scars as badges of honor.

Both kinds of artists are operating in unconscious fear which distorts reality and robs them of a better more joyful path of art-making.

  • The Protector is afraid that the path ahead is too burdensome, so they turn back before even starting.
  • The Martyr is afraid if they were to try something new and relinquish their ‘tried and true’ process, they won’t get the results that have gotten them this far. Even worse, they might do the new thing “wrong” and fail.
    In both cases, their art suffers and their soul suffers.

Which artist do you relate to more? (Handraise: I fall into the Preserver category!)


Here are a few signs that your art is starting to feel more like a chore than a joy. (whether you relate as a Preserver or Martyr)

  • You regularly think about getting back into your art, but silently fear that it will be soul-sucking drudgery. (Preserver)
  • You berate yourself for making small mistakes, your lack of progress, and any outcome that is less than ideal. (Both Preserver and Martyr)
  • You secretly resent others who are ‘further along’ than you. (Martyr)
  • You secretly long and wish for things to be different, but stubbornly defend the way you currently create. (Martyr)
  • You question and doubt why you create art in the first place. (Preserver)
  • You are worn out and stressed out, and you unknowingly drag that into your art without first refreshing yourself. (Both Preseverver and Martyr)

If any of these feel true, then it might be time to for a change and to fuel your artistic spirit with some good old fashioned joy.


The Fruit of the Spirit

One of my favorite scriptures is the description of the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” - Galatians 5:22-23

I often think about this verse as it relates to not only the way we treat others, but how we treat ourselves. It can be enlightening to imagine this verse as if the opposite were true… Imagine this kind of description:

But the fruit of the Spirit is self-critical intolerance of mistakes, discouragement, harsh language towards yourself, enduring sadness with no hope in sight, quick-tempered impatience, and frenzied lack of self-control.”

Ouch! It sounds ridiculous, but this is precisely the way we often operate as artists.

Thankfully, God has a better way in store for us. The other reason I love the fruit of the Spirit scripture is that it not only shows the character qualities the Spirit is producing in our lives, but first and foremost it shows us what God is really like at His core.

God is a being of radiant joy. Can you picture Him completely full of joy? Seeing Him like that instantly puts a smile on my face!

The truth is that you can experience the fruits of the Spirit in your art-making.

The Holy Spirit desires to transform your creative experience into one of joy, peace, patience, self-control, and more.

But how does this actually happen?


Shift into Joy

Here is one creative way to way to shift into more joyful Spirit-filled art-making:

  • First, take a moment to picture God as an artist in your chosen medium. He’s there at the canvas, he’s there strumming his guitar, he’s prepping his camera. See him completely full of joy. See him incredibly patient with Himself as he creates, quick to forgive and move on from any mistakes in his work. See him joyfully experiencing the fruit of his work the entire way. I imagine this is what Jesus must have looked like as he was building a piece of furniture for another. Smiling, focussed, patient, peaceful, joyful, steadfast.
  • Now, see yourself sitting with Him, learning his ways as you both create together. Like a master teacher, he is modeling a new beautiful way of being. You feel focussed, alert and bright. When you make a mistake, He steps in with gentle and encouraging course correction. You feel a renewed confidence. It’s an entirely enjoyable experience that you don’t want to end. 

Whether you relate with the Preserver or Martyr, the good news is that neither of these labels I made up truly identify you! (thank goodness.) Your true identity is a Spirit-filled student of your master Teacher.

The Spirit is inviting you to ‘taste and see’ God’s goodness through one of his freely-given fruits, right here and now.

Which fruit is the exact antidote you are needing for one of your Preserver or Martyr ways?

Does your self-critical intolerance need a heavy dose of patient grace? Does your quick-tempered impatience long for the healing balm of slow, settled peace?

Here are a few more practical ways you can start shifting into Spirit-filled joy, today.

  • When you feel like your art sucks, make a new vow, “my worth is in Jesus, not how good or bad my art is.” Also, remind yourself that creating bad art is part of the process of creating good art. Celebrate both kinds. Or, just drop the labels altogether and get on with it.
  • When you catch yourself avoiding making art, ask yourself, “what would be fun?” Celebrate every small step of the process. It's all worth celebrating, especially the microscopic victories that only you (and God) can see. Throw an awesome fist pump in here and there and see what happens.
  • When you notice you are berating yourself over a mistake, take a deep breath and boldly declare, “I am human!! It’s ok to make mistakes, they are fashionably normal and I am learning to flow with them." How does it feel to be a master improviser and completely normal human-being in the making?
  • When you are discouraged over your progress, remind yourself, “I will give myself all the time my heart and soul needs.”
    Invite God in and give these a try.

Do you resonate more with the Preserver or the Martyr? Which soul-satisfying fruit is the Spirit inviting you to taste and enjoy, today?