Finding Harmony Between Your Professional and Artist Selves
Practical tips to ignite or reignite your artistic flame. Learn what it takes to maintain a creative practice no matter what else is going on.
If you’re not finding time to make art, or express yourself creatively, and are feeling off purpose with a growing sense of frustration, have you given some sincere thought as to what might be getting in the way?
Could it be any of these?
You have an endless to do list and can’t find the time in your overwhelming schedule.
You’ve started telling yourself that you’re not good enough at it to give art making any real quality time.
You’ve convinced yourself that it’s too late to start practicing art and taking it seriously.
You might have gotten yourself to believe that your art work and creative endeavors won’t make you any money, so the bottom line is: everything and everyone else comes first.
Maybe you’ve got a personal spin on how you’ve hijacked your creative drive.
Like all artists, I fall prey to the many unpleasant voices inside my head that feed on criticizing my work and relish in taking me down into the dark dungeon of self-doubt. Despite it’s best efforts, that little tyrant of a voice has never gotten in the way of my finding regular time, inside a very busy life, to make art.
These are 5 highly effective tactics that will keep you focused on your creativity:
Ignore anyone who tells you, you can’t do it
Understand what’s behind your desire to create
Perfect the Art of Saying No
Acknowledge your fears and do it anyway
Make a practice of seeking balance between your work and your art
Ignore Anyone Who Tells You You Can’t Do it.
The one consistent fact that has kept me making art throughout my life has been stubbornly refusing to accept it when anyone told me I couldn’t do it.
All of those nasty and unsupportive comments rooted in fear and frustration that people have thrown at me over the years, have landed on my deaf ears.
“You’ll never become a ballerina » my mother assured me when I was three, "You’re going to be too tall ». I must have stamped my feet and put up a fight. Whatever I did, worked. The next week I was in ballet class, which I continued religiously for the next 12 years. My dance background has given me a solid foundation in discipline, which has served me my entire life.
« Do you realize the odds of ever becoming a successful actress » was met with my moving to LA and going to UCLA theater school, which I successfully completed before creating my own theater company. My theater training has been the backbone skill for my financial freedom throughout my life.
« Oh, ha, ha, so you want to paint? You’ll see, once you get pulled into your working life, you’ll drop that fantasy, just like the rest of us have » has been met with 20 years of a steady art practice.
You get the picture. People say the most obnoxious things around creative endeavor, sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.
Whatever the case, my take has always been: no one gets to tell you what to do with your life. That decision is up to you. It is, after all, your life.
Other people’s lack of support or even, at worst, their attempts to ridicule our efforts, can be a powerful obstacle to overcome, especially when we’re young and just starting off. We are equally vulnerable, though, at all stages of our creative lives. I often tell my coaching clients to keep their creative aspirations to themselves, or if they want to share, to only do so with truly trustworthy supporters, until they’ve gotten their baby out into the world.
When you stay firm and centered in your creative practice, whatever medium you choose, and most importantly when you keep at it, frustrated individuals will move on to other targets and you’ll be free of them.
Understand What Lies Behind Your Desire to Create
I’d been dancing seriously for years by age 14 and had just started getting involved in theater when my mother died suddenly. I held onto the theater and my art community throughout that chaotic, painful time and ultimately, it’s what got me through.
I learned early on that I had an artists’ temperament, and this was reinforced and anchored into my psyche by my early loss. I created not just for the intense joy and vitality it gave me, but because I felt driven to, like a survival instinct.
Respecting my creativity and making art has been the one unchanging central axis around which the rest of my life has turned since I was 3.
On the few occasions when I’ve grown tired of the sacrifices, the creative blocks, the loneliness and all the difficulties inherent to living a somewhat edgy creative life, I attempted to forgo it all, and live an « art free » existence.
Instead of the serenity and rest I thought I’d find, I’ve wound up spiraling into badly channeled sensitivities and energy gone berserk, until I pulled myself together and went back to my creative work with great relief and renewed appreciation.
The fact of the matter is, that when the drive to create is in you, you have no choice. Either you accept it and express that energy, to your soul’s complete satisfaction, or you stifle it and suffocate.
Perfect The Art of Saying No
Once you have the insight that creativity is a profound need, it’s time to begin looking at how you manage your time and your energy.
I lack a thick skin when it comes to criticism in general, but oddly I’ve been immune to any comments about the space I hold to create. I’ve been called selfish, pretentious, misguided, you name it, I’ve probably heard it. Most recently I’ve been informed repetitively and with great insistence that my numerology profile indicates I should be sculpting and not painting, and only spending five minutes at a time at it!
If you don’t grab hold of your creative time and space and guard it ferociously, you’ll get pulled into other people’s agendas. It’s just the way it is.
Help yourself by compiling a list of the people and circumstances that devour your time. Then ask yourself:
What is compelling me to say yes to these?
Acknowledge Your Fears and Do it Anyway
After a lot of hard work and perseverance, I managed to create enough independence and success in my “day job” to allow me the freedom to take my art beyond a weekend, or vacation time only, practice.
And yet I wouldn’t budge from that schedule. I only allowed myself to paint on weekends, until my frustration forced me to address the problem.
When I realized that ongoing and unproductive fears around my bottom line along with a gnawing sense of guilt were holding me back, I joined a studio in Paris where I was living, and went whenever I could.
I pursued this tactic for 7 years, scheduling the time, leaving my home, turning off my phone and going to the studio where others were engaged in an art practice. I watched as my art evolved. I began to exhibit my work in Paris, and that step into the art world, strengthened my inner resolve and the commitment to my art.
Guilt about what you should be doing and/or what someone might expect from you, along all manner of fear are two mighty creativity squelchers. Look for ways off that merry go round, or it’ll just keep turning.
One way off is to simply jump! Get brave, trust your gut, and look around for an art class you could join, a studio you could work out of, a writing group, anything that is outside your home where you can practice art. And please, turn off your phone.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. "
Make A Practice of Seeking Balance Between Your Work and Your Art
The demands to hold it all together, the job, the financial responsibility the family, can take over and dominate till you feel like all you do is move from one thing to the next in hot pursuit of a constantly evolving “to do” list.
There is no magic wand, as we all would hope, but an understanding that the work/art balance is a work in progress to nurture. It involves self-care, self-awareness and careful energy management.
Ideally, you’ll need a work situation that allows you some time, both mental and real, to spend on your art. If you haven’t found what works for you yet, ask around. Find out what other artists have done and do, to keep the balance.
When I moved to France in my twenties, I started teaching early on, relying on those handy theater skills, knowing the schedule would give me the quality time I needed for my art. The teaching has grown into coaching, public speaking training, and general entrepreneurship over the years with periods of intense bursts of project driven work and time for art.
I’ve learned to plan for recovery time after the intense work bursts, to get myself primed and ready for my art practice.
I coach creatives to find this balance for themselves, which has gone even further to creating greater levels of harmony and balance for me. The more balance I find, the more I can give back.
I’m sure you can find or fine-tune that balance too and I hope these tactics help you on your journey to full creative expression.