Last week I met a mental health practitioner who, when I said I was an artist, responded with something along the lines of “Oh! Well you’d be happy and relaxed the whole time!”
I was initially struck dumb and I must admit to waiting for the laughter to erupt that indicated she was joking. It didn’t come. She was serious! I asked if that was really what she thought because it was not my experience of being an artist. She replied that yes, it was the popular view of artists and their lot.
Sheesh. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t had any artists as clients otherwise she would be aware of all the fear, resistance, anxiety, depression and sheer bloody-minded self-obsession us artists go through.
The artist’s default mindset has been documented in history as well as in the countless self-help books available today, from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way to Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and pretty much everything Eric Maisel has written. We artists have it tough. We are sensitive and open to stimuli even when we wish we weren’t. We suffer, and I don’t mean the starving artist image of suffering, we suffer from self-inflicted creative angst in many forms.
Yes, we also experience great joy and the expansive feeling of something that is a combination of success, self-worth and the pleasure of having learned something new. Creating something that has never existed before feeds our desire to create again and again.
Creating is often a journey of discovery that ends in a surprise. It’s like your birthday every day of the year. It’s like drinking wine and eating chocolate at the same time. It’s like reaching the summit of a mountain and surveying the view. It’s amazing.
But still we torture ourselves with questions like “Should I do xyz instead? Or abc?” “What will my husband/friends/the gallery/the world think of it?” “Why did I put that there!?” “What was I thinking?” and then onto statements like “I’ll never be any good” “No one will like/understand it” “No one cares”.
But there is a light at the end of the 21st-century tunnel with neuroscience and psychology research showing us ways to hack our thinking and make mindset shifts that allow us finally to be those people who are happy and relaxed the whole time, or at least most of the time.
These are the kinds of things I address in Creating for Happiness. If you are interested in being a happier artist, ridding yourself of creative frustration or being someone who creates for the sheer pleasure of it, then you might find Creating for Happiness will help you too. The group is closed to new members at present but you can pop your name down to be notified when it opens up again.
And if you find yourself talking to an artist who is struggling, send them there too. It’s time we used our 21st-century thinking to improve the artist’s lot.
Did you miss this week’s Studio Sunday video? So did I! But I did get there today (Tuesday). Here it is!
Tell me about your week! I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.