Once upon a time a friend and I had a discussion about talent and mastery. She brought up that old 10,000 hours saying. You know the one: It takes 10,000 hours to master something. Then she pointed out that 10,000 hours = 40 hours per week for 5 years. 365 days in a year, 50 work weeks (actually about 52 weeks but let's take 2 weeks off for holidays/vacation/sick time), 5 days a week, 8 hours a day multiplied by 5 years.
Five years of consistent, focused practice.
Duh. I hadn't ever thought to do the math. I just assumed it was a figure of speech to drive home the point of "yes you need to work at something A LOT if you want to master it".
I think this explains the answers I received from so many professional artists when I asked about what they did after school. They all seem to have felt like around year 5 they came into their own. They all phrased it differently but basically they finally felt like they were painting confidently and consistently (well, more often than not) in their own voice.
I don't look at this as an obstacle. I actually find it kind of comforting that many (maybe all??) artists go through a similar experience. Yeah there might be some wobbly steps and stumbling, or feeling like I'm flailing about till I get traction by gaining understanding. I think that's all par for the course. The flailing and stumbling isn't fun but hey, that means I'm learning something. And learning something makes it a good day.