Every Worthwhile Project


“I hang on to hope. I keep pressing on. I stay faithful to the task at hand.”

Create-Olive-800Every worthwhile art project I’ve ever undertaken, I have hated.

Somewhere in the middle of the creating process, I have inevitably hit a point where I felt frustrated, stuck and miserable about whatever I was working on.

I’m not sure when I first noticed the trend but when I did, it shocked me. Ever since I first picked up a brush in Grade Ten art class, I’ve loved painting; staring at the crisp white canvas and imagining the finished product, breaking out the paints, blending the hues and most of all, the feel of my brushes against the dimpled surface. I thought I luxuriated in every moment of creating a piece. I was stunned when I realized that in reality, every painting that I ended up liking I’ve wanted to chuck in the garbage at some point in the process.

I call it my “I hate this” phase.

I used to be afraid of feeling dissatisfied with my work. It would scare me that I couldn’t seem to get things to come together the way I wanted them to. Painting was one of the few activities that truly gave me life. How could I say I hated it?

Perhaps I’ve become wiser but now I see the “I hate this” phase as an integral part of my creating process. Part of me is actually glad when I start to feel agitated that my painting isn’t looking the way I envisioned it in my head. I know that if I just press through this yucky feeling stage of creating, what comes out of it will be for the better. Eventually, I will love the piece again. It will be beyond my expectations.

What is true of my art may also be true of my life in general. Sometimes as I live out the Grand Narrative that God is writing, I am unhappy about the way events are unfolding in my story. Like my current circumstance of wanting a second child. In my own vision for my life, my daughter would have a sibling by now—or at the very least, I would be pregnant. But instead, my womb is silent and I search despairingly for a smile when my eleventh friend tells me she’s expecting.

On an even larger scale, I look at all the unrest in the world – the violence, despair and suffering in Syria, for example—and I feel the same sense of “I hate this.” This isn’t how the world was meant to be. It looks plain ugly. Something has seemingly gone awry in the grand creative process.

Still, if my art teaches me anything, it’s that this is not the end of the story. This, “I hate this” phase is exactly that, a stage. In fact, it is a mark of a piece that’s going to be amazing when it’s finished.

So I hang on to hope. I keep pressing on. I stay faithful to the task at hand. Because I know that in the end, all will be more meaningful for the struggle endured and lovelier than any of us could have ever dreamed.

Image credit: Olive Chan

Olive Chan
Olive is a friendly introvert and recovering perfectionist. In an ideal day, she would paint, eat chocolate croissants and take lots of naps. But she’s primarily occupied these days with her two lovely little ladies, Alena and Kayla and making sure her husband, Tim, does not have to eat McDonald’s too often. She has co-written two books with Tim and takes breaks from the little people by building websites with their small company, Coracle Marketing. She aspires to be a conduit of grace, rest and beauty in this hurried and chaotic world.
Olive Chan