“Project yourself 5 years into the future. Now look back and tell me what you want to see”, I tell myself. Was the struggle worth it? If you haven’t made a dime was it still worth it?

Projecting myself into the future makes me think clearer about the current situation and realize that it is indeed temporary—change will come one way or the other and the future will come.

I think about what Samuel Clemens said, that you will be more disappointed by what you didn’t do than by what you did do, when you look back at your life. I find this to be true for me now, at this point in my life. I don’t want to feel this way in 5 years. Life is struggle, why should we expect anything less. Is struggle bad? Struggle makes us better doesn’t it?

“I try to balance the thought that I have to be realistic with the thought that I must be bold”   

Peace Be Still 36x36 acrylic on canvas MTMcClanahanI try to balance the thought that I have to be realistic with the thought that I must be bold, and make sure that my being realistic is not me trying to be “safe”. It is a difficult thing to manage life and the future and in deciding which road to take in life. I’ve worked years struggling to develop my art. I look back at those years now and they are actually warm thoughts though they very hard then. I hope I look back at these years with favor. I indeed had to be disciplined much more than inspired, as I do now, and it’s not easy.

“Without the discipline to struggle I cannot succeed”    

So I will say to myself again, “struggle is a good thing”. Without the discipline to struggle I cannot succeed. I want to embrace the struggles—in my art and in my life. Struggle can derail my efforts or it can make me more determined and this seems to me a personal choice.

Image:  Better Than Before  40×30 acrylic on canvas MTMcClanahan

MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at

2 Responses

  1. Gabrielle says:

    If we didn’t have struggle how would we grow? Sometimes the struggle feels so intense for me that I do often wonder what is it all for. I am currently struggling with one painting and it’s good for me, as it keeps me in check with my ego. I do Projections of myself for 5 years from now very often but use it as a guide now not a stead fast rule in my life just like a painting it never comes out the way it does in my minds eye. I think we all have our ways of pushing our selves forward as artists the trick for me seems to not obsess over it or put too much pressure on it and then I find myself in a stuck place much like this painting that’s giving me trouble right now. I have an agenda on when it should be done etc and it’s not going to happen no matter how hard I try that’s when it can actually get worse for me, but I also see it’s like a living thing with a life of it’s own and needs respect just like you and I.

    My question to you MT is what else would you do if you didn’t paint? Is it this burning thing inside that wont go away no matter how hard you try? It’s like that for me. I feel I really don’t have a choice as I’ve done many other professions but have always come back to painting. I think that’s the way it is for musicians, writers, etc. Your right life is one heck of a road but deep, deep down inside is that road already really laid out in front of you and you just go down that path not even really thinking especially when you are so talented? You are no doubt in my mind supposed to be a painter. What other road would you take?

    I am a perfectionist and that gets me in trouble especially with art and can delay my projects but I’m learning to live with it and work with it rather then fight it.

    • MT says:

      I don’t know if I’m more perfectionist or obsessive-compulsive, probably a bit of both, so nothing is ever really “finished”. You are right Gabrielle, fighting it is useless, going with it somehow, letting go of it even, seems the way. Why can’t it be a positive thing; why can’t all our “demons”, i.e., fear, anxiety, perfectionism, etc., be positives if looked at in the right light? My style–the way I paint–is molded heavily by my personality, positives and “negatives”.

      You have given me much to think about Gabrielle (and is why it has taken so long to respond to your heartfelt comment), I feel as though you are holding my hand as I walk through the valley of shadows (yes I am a bit on the dramatic side but I am also quite feeling and this is how I feel). I have always known that I am an “artist”, whatever that is, and looking back this has always been my goal no matter what else may have come to garner my attention for a while; I mean I always came back to it, if I ever really left at all. If you’re away from it too long you begin to ache for it; there is a need inside to create or to express.

      I remember standing in the studio of an artist and watching her work. She asked me was I an artist also and I said I was trying to be–at the time I was not in any galleries–and I think she could hear the exasperation in my voice. Her reply has always stuck with me–she said “Well it comes to me quite easily”. I didn’t understand this at all, art easy?! It struck me then as a bit braggadocios but I’m not sure it was now, I think it was something I needed to hear. It gives me a new perspective on art-making, that I can look at it with different eyes and that I can feel differently about it and it’s ok. Your comments brought this back to mind.

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