Let’s face it; as artists, we sometimes get down. It happens. That’s life. I think one of the prerequisites to being an artist is to be more ‘in touch’ with our feelings. This has an upside and a down side.
First, the upside. Because we artist try to live in the moment more than most people, and because we don’t just look at things, but really SEE them, life becomes a string of mini adventures. Right now, in my backyard, one of our Night Blooming Cyrus has three new blossoms on it. This is very exciting for me for a number of reasons. First, Night Blooming Cyrus only bloom, you guessed it, at night. They start opening around 9:00pm and are dead by 5:00am. Oh, but in the mean time! The flower has to open quickly, so you can almost see it opening. It’s like the old Disney nature films with time-lapsed photography. So when we have several blooming on the same night, we invite friends over, pull up chairs and a glass of wine, and watch the show. And my dad gave me the plant.
As you can see, there is an emotional attachment for me to this event far greater than just a flower blooming. It means friends, sharing, having a ring-side seat to God’s handy work, and being able to revel in the wonder of it. We all should take the time to enjoy life’s little moments and their deeper meanings, but as artists, I think we’re better at this than the general population, because we draw inspiration from it. And I think it helps us connect.
Now the down side. This can be a touchy subject. First off, the blessing of seeing and feeling life more fully that allows us to create art also can cause us to feel things maybe too deeply, which can bring a person down. The tightrope we walk is empathizing without internalizing. There also is a component of personality. Some people just see the glass as half empty.
I’m not talking about clinical depression; that’s a whole different kettle of fish. (I actually have talked about it. I have a 7 week teaching on over-coming depression, but I digress…) I’m talking about the blues. Just that underlying feeling of discontent. It can be very easy to fall into for a number of reasons.
First off, we all want to create our art. But we have other constraints on our time. I’d love to just get up, eat, and then spend the day in the studio creating whatever comes to mind. But I also have to take out the trash, pay the bills, finish up a custom order, do the accounting, etc.
Often times, we have an idea, but not the resources to fulfill or complete it. Very frustrating! Sometime you have to waste (?) an entire day or more running around town or the internet trying to find exactly what you need. And sometimes even then, you don’t find it. Now you have to create it, which can sound like fun, but can be a real pain. And maybe you don’t have the tools or equipment or space or money to make it happen. Frustrating!
Sometimes, we just don’t have any inspiration; no idea(s) to work on. Sometimes, we know what we’d like to make, but we don’t know how. All of these things can be frustrating, which can lead to being down. What to do?
If we understand that what we think causes how we feel which produces our behavior, the answer is quite simple. Notice I said ‘simple’ I didn’t say ‘easy.’ Re-frame the problem or frustration. When I land in that spot, I remind myself that I could be working some 9 to 5 job that I hate, so no matter how bad the art gig gets, it will never be THAT bad! The classic solution is to think of the obstacle as an opportunity instead of a barrier. All of this has to do with changing your frame of mind. Simple.
But as I said, it’s not often easy. The hardest thing for people to do is to change, specifically change the way they think. To paraphrase Tim Ferriss, ‘Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.’ Thinking differently can be uncertain, scary. So our challenge is to boldly go where we have not gone before and re-think our thinking. Is that depressing? It doesn’t have to be. And the rewards can be stunning!
(If you came over from Instagram to read this, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. Thank you sooo much!)
Jeff Fulkerson M.A.