If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.
– Emile Zola
This quote is written on the monthly page of my bullet journal (listed on my birthday month).
As most of you know, I am a dancer and a choreographer. I’ve been dancing my whole life. I love to dance and have worn many hats in my dance career. I’m also a mental health therapist and, for the longest time, I’ve kept my two passions separate. It has just been in the last couple of years that I have noticed that both worlds are starting to form a relationship together and are playfully intertwining with one another, slowly starting to shift into one passion. Being an artist, I’ve experienced the different stages of the creative process. Some ideas are easier to come up with, some others… not so much. There are days/nights when I realize that I am experiencing peak creative flow when ideas and movement start to flow and blend really nicely, ideas are easy to come by. And of course, I experience days/nights when I feel stuck and every idea decides to runaway from me.
There was a period sometime last year when I was having a hard time creating. I felt burnt out. I wasn’t happy with what I was producing. I was confused and didn’t know what I wanted. I felt like what I created had almost no connection to me. I felt separate from my work and I was “getting by” and yearned to feel the passion of the creative process once again. I recall attending a dance show and bumping into an old colleague whose words struck me. While talking about our most recent happenings, she chimed in and said “Keep creating.” Until this day, those 2 words (so simple and concise) speak volumes to the artist within me, encouraging me to keep on going and to keep on fighting the good artistic struggle that we experience within ourselves.
The public always sees the final product of the artist, either admiring what the artist had created or finding that it doesn’t suit their artistic palette. I’ve even had conversations with my husband where we find it amusing that some artists don’t even get recognized during their lifetime but their art gets recognized when they’ve passed away. I guess it takes the phrase of “leave your legacy behind” to another level. Back to my thought process, it could be a societal trend (especially with social media) that we feel it is most important to showcase the final product out into the community and disregard the work behind the scenes that contributed to the final product. We [artists] feel the need to constantly place our best foot forward because we want to appear like the artist who is constantly inspired by everything and creates with ease when in reality there have been so many sleepless nights due to lack of inspiration, so many rough drafts/challenges that no one but the artist will see.
So how do we normalize the struggles of the artist?
Here is what we can do…
- Embrace the process
Half the battle is understanding the creative process and knowing that there will be times of inspiration and times for reflection. Allow both of those periods to happen naturally.
- Understand that creation anxiety exists.
I had to do a quick google search to check out the resources on “creative anxiety”. It is real, y’all! There are other artists out there that undergo creation anxiety because their minds are constantly racing or it’s the idea of perfectionism that halts them. Either way, creation anxiety is a thing…
So… what can I do to overcome creation anxiety?
- Label your anxiety
When you start to feel your thoughts spiraling down the rabbit hole, zoom out of your scenario and tell yourself that these are the thoughts of an anxious mind. Recognize your symptoms. For me, my personal symptoms include negative self talk, withdrawing from my creative circle, not wanting to create anything… what are yours?
- Take a break… but not really…
It’s great to take a break from creating but it doesn’t mean to not partake in anything creative. Take a break but continue to surround yourself with some type of art— watch an international film/documentary, walk around a museum, take a hike. The point of doing this is to continue to have time for your mind to explore and be playful… which leads to my next point.
- When in doubt, CREATE.
Remember when you were a child it felt easier to create something? As we get older, we learn to become judgmental. We become judgmental of others and judgmental of ourselves. We need to stop the judgment and start finding pleasure in playing around with our creativity. Who cares if what you’re doing looks like a mess? Who cares if you stumble all over the place? We are learning how to reengage in our creativity and learning how to be open minded. Designate a time for yourself to engage in “playful” creative time. If too much thinking is involved, we’ve got it wrong. Create with no boundaries!
- Exercise self compassion.
Exercise your brain by helping yourself recognize “creative fatigue” and being gentle with yourself. Be gentle in the way that you treat and approach your craft. Celebrate the small accomplishments and be humbled by the fact that your body and brain decided to create a partnership to create something that is unique to you.
- Celebrate your YOU-niqueness.
There is only one YOU. You know yourself better than anyone else. Create from the heart and create because your art is an extension of you. To echo the words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Hopefully, these tips created some room for inspiration. The artist does struggle at times but it does not erase the feeling of pure bliss that we experience when we start to create and see our work come together. Our work is so inspiring to me and I always feel that personal connection when I see someone’s work come to life.
Without art, life would be mundane. I’m thankful that art continuously adds color to our world.