How to Improve Your Art (According to Plants)

You know, I think I’d be a pretty good plant.

Plants typically seek out what works for them, and go all in on that. If a flower discovers (over iterations of evolution) that it grows best when facing the sun, it embraces that and aims to be better at that.

Instead of noticing what it’s bad at, and thinking to itself, ‘I should be better at growing in the shade’, it crafts new techniques to get more sun. It works hard, and learns to actually move throughout the day so it gets maximum sun exposure. A plant literally learned to move. It’s mind blowing!

My point is, plants are really good at noticing what they are good at and maximizing the good.

Whereas, we humans… well, we stink at that.

We typically seek out what DOESN’T work for us, and beat ourselves up about it. If we discover that we suck at drawing hands, we obsess about it. Instead of considering whether we like to draw hands or care at all about drawing hands, we think to ourselves, ‘I should be better at drawing hands’. We focus not on what IS, but on what we think SHOULD BE.

And that process leads to a lot of assuming. And a lot of dissatisfaction. And a lot of ignoring everything we’e good at.

So while the plants are over there in the dirt, maximizing their innate skills, achieving their natural desires, and quite literally growing… we’re over here obsessively drawing hands over and over, again and again, making minimal progress at something we probably don’t even really care about, and hating it the whole time.

And for what?

So we can draw more anatomically correct palms, wrists, and digits? Is that really what’s important to you? Or is it just what you THINK should be important to you?

Try, for one moment, to take your focus off everything you’re bad at, and ask yourself: What am I good at? What do I enjoy drawing? What are my innate skills that I could focus on growing even more?

Plants don’t have 80 years to waste trying to improve every little thing. So they find what they’re good at and they DO THAT. Take it from the plants: why waste your time here on Earth trying to get better at every single thing you’re bad at? Is focusing on what we’re bad at really the best way for us to become who we want to be?

Because heck, I don’t know about you, but I suck at a lot of things. Like really, I’m awful at most things. I stink at going on my toes on a snowboard. I’m terrible at keeping plants alive. Math is not my forte. I can be a little messy. I am very bad at wrapping presents. And, yes, I am not good at drawing anatomically correct hands.

But, through lots of exploration, introspection, and trial and error, I’ve discovered what I’m good at and what I enjoy doing. I’ve found my own way of turning left while snowboarding that’s fun and gets me where I want to go. I turned what was previously the unused garden area in our yard into a play area for our daughter. And I developed my own way of drawing hands that I enjoy drawing and fits with my unique artistic style.

Instead of trying to force what I should do, I searched for what I could do. I try to find what works for me, and do those things, and improve those things as often as possible.

This concept is not about settling or stagnating. It’s about starting with what’s currently working, rather than what isn’t. It’s consciously choosing where you want to improve and prioritizing the areas that are most important to you and most aligned with where you want to go.

So how do we decide what to focus on and where to try to grow?

The questions are clear to me: What do you enjoy? And what do you truly desire?

While the questions are obvious, however, the answers are not always clear. It’s tough to separate our true desires and goals from those others have thrust onto us. It’s hard to focus on the “could” rather than the “should”.

But I believe thinking more like a plant would be helpful for a lot of us.

So let’s take a growth lesson from the plants: Find what nourishes you, focus on what you’re good at, plant your roots there, and grow.

art-email-writing

Want to read more?

Join over 10,000 artists who receive my weekly [Might Could Essay] and get instant access to the entire library of past essays on topics like creative block, artistic style, and inspiration!

[convertkit form=5276193]