It’s official. I’m in a serious artistic rut. Battling some painfully persistent photo/writer’s block here. My perfectionism has gotten the better of me. I’ve made procrastination my new art form. The voice in my head is a relentless, critical taskmaster. I am frustrated. I am irritated. I am at my wit’s end.
I know I need to do certain tasks, but the thought of tackling them just makes me wanna take a nap. I hurt my back recently, and even though I was in constant pain and could barely walk, I had trouble giving myself permission to rest and heal. I kept feeling like I should work and “at least be doing something” if I was going to “lay around on my ass all day”. Not really a great mindset to encourage creativity. In my heart, I know I need to just sloooow doooown, but I can’t bring myself to do it without reproach. I am my own worse enemy, critic, and naysayer. I utter things to myself that I’d never allow anyone else get away with. Why?
It’s a challenge, being a freelance creative, a one-woman show. You’re not only an artist who’s supposed to deliver the goods in a fresh, innovative, and timely manner, but you’re also the CEO, responsible for running the operations of your entire business. Unless you can afford to hire a support team, you’re your own personal assistant and bookkeeper, responding ASAP to near constant inquiries, calls, and emails. Research; budget; hunt down payment for months old invoices. Schedule your life in between your work commitments; search for upcoming gigs, a full-time job in itself. Much time and energy is spent in pursuit, often with little or no pay off.
Not to mention these days, you’re also marketing manager and tech support. Shoot, convert, organize, edit, process, retouch, design, backup. Maintain a website and a blog; update them consistently with the new content. Install the latest software; make sure it all functions seamlessly. Plug into social media: FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Foursquare, Instagram, so you are “liked” and “shared”. Attract “friends” and followers. Build a list and write a newsletter. Get the word out about what you’re doing, so you can maintain constant interest in your “brand”. Post, tweet, pin, check-in, hangout; repeat, ad nauseam. Don’t forget to be creative! Wake up and do it all over again tomorrow, weekends too, so you can pay the bills and eat this month. Exhausting!
I keep having the same conversation with my creative friends as many of us wonder, “Why I am spending hours upon hours doing this? Is it really doing any good?” Most of us do these things because we’re so passionate about what we’re making and saying that we’d do it anyway, regardless of whether anyone is actually paying attention, whether we’re getting paid for it, or any of this translates into future business for us. And people know this, which is why we’re frequently asked to do it for free.
Truthfully, if this is where my head is at, I just need to STOP for a while. Time out! Take stock. Assess. WHAT am I doing? Is this really what I WANT to be doing? Is there something I’d RATHER be doing? Where?
I suppose I could easily fill my blog with event announcements, videos, photos, whatever; something, anything, to keep my page current, my SEO optimized. I want to. I really do. I drive myself crazy thinking about it. Berating myself. I lose sleep over it:
“How hard is it to just post something short and simple? It doesn’t really take that much time. I seem to post links to articles, videos and photos, thoughts du jour on my timeline and vision boards, right? I easily waste hours doing relatively nothing on those time suck sites. I have an extraordinary archive of photography, already in my collection; years of work, just ripe for the uploading. I have ideas coming out of my ears (and piles of notepads and paper scraps to prove it). Just do it already!”
Ugh. Shut up, ego. What does the voice of sanity say? Let it go. Fuck it! Even if my last post sits there, staring me in my face daily, unchanged in my Safari Top Sites, as a reminder of my “laziness”, and everyone loses interest.
I know I don’t want to just pack my feed with fluff. I don’t want to fill it with things that other people have written or created. After all, is it about quality or quantity? I DO want my site to be about my own original content, not someone else’s. My stats indicate that’s what my followers respond to the most anyway, and how people find Eye For Style most often, even from posts I wrote years ago.
I mean, really, what I need to do is get to the root of this mental block. I need to quit trying to make everything so damn perfect. All it does is create artistic paralysis – “if I can’t do it just so, I won’t do it at all.” This whole rigmarole makes me feel really lame as an artist. Hell, it makes me feel really lame as a person. I’m smart and talented. I’m not just making this work for myself. Just try, lady, even if it sucks. Show up, stick with it, don’t give up!
I know how important it is to power through. Getting started is often the hardest part. If I just commit, and start to put one foot in front of another, things do usually start to flow, it’s true. There are also times when the best remedy is just to step back. Stare off into space and daydream, curl up for that nap, bust into a dance break, take a walk, read, breathe, “do nothing”. This is often when the magic happens – when I allow myself to relax.
At this stage of the game, living “the artist’s way” for many years now, I have come to understand this about myself: although I may not feel creative, right now, that experience is temporary. It is only a matter of time before I feel inspired again. I MUST create. I am compelled to, in order to feel good, to feel like myself. It’s what makes me tick. It’s why I get up in the morning. I can NOT turn this off. I don’t know any other way to BE.
Okay, so I’m in the thick of a transition right now. I think we all are actually. It is not a coincidence that so many people are experiencing profound change and upheaval, contemplating what they really want to be doing and being, as 2012 draws to a close. The energy of this year has been straight up funky from the get go! It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the pace of life we’re currently experiencing, what with all the instantaneous data that’s constantly available, right at our fingertips, begging to steal our attention away from the present moment. It’s okay not to know; to exist in a state of uncertainty for a while; to reflect on the path I’ve been on, and the road I want to take moving forward. It’s OKAY, okay?
I realize this “time out” is in fact giving me clarity, uncomfortable as I may be. I’m grateful for the time to just ponder and figure things out. My vision for the new direction I want to take my art/photography in IS in fact crystalizing. I’m actually excited about it! But I want to do it, not just talk about it anymore. That’s a huge factor in my frustration.
So, visualize. I’m ready to design my very own art studio, project lab, playground. YES, I love that vision! I’m ready to fully stock it with every tool and toy; utilize all this cutting-edge technology; explore new techniques; take my art to new heights. I’m ready to roll my multi-passions into one dynamic experiment in personal creativity. I’m ready to mix mediums; print photos on canvas; integrate paint & collage; craft textiles. I’m ready to fashion functional beauty and make some fucking statements!
These are very recent epiphanies. Thankfully, this new train of thought does inspire the hell out of me. I’m just experiencing some growing pains and evolving – as a human, a woman, an artist. I can indeed marinate in this for a little while longer. I know I need to simplify things. I’m aware there’s no such thing as perfection. I do want to share with my community. But, I’m also not going to rush it. I’ve got to let go of my time frame issues. I will not be bamboozled into believing the myth that I must “do it all”, 24/7, if I want to be successful. I will not subscribe to the glorification of busy!
I create my life. I’m already a success. Creativity is not a competition. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Faster is not necessarily better. Comparing myself to others always gets me into trouble. Accumulating acquaintances does not equate to popularity. Money is not the most important goal. My work is a part of what I do, it does not define all that I am. People who support me will be there to enjoy my creations in whatever time frame they evolve.
I hereby make a promise to myself, to post again when I’m truly inspired to, and not a minute sooner. I will craft a game plan so that I can enjoy the process and live life at a speed that suits me. I will take action steps in pursuit of my goals, working in a way that’s in alignment with my constitution. I give myself permission to take stock, to change course, to create, not to create; to be gentle with myself, knowing full well that the ideas will flow, the execution will follow, in an authentic way, in right timing. So be it!
Phew! Glad I got that out of my system. I take a lot of these epiphanies for granted now that I’ve been sitting with them for several months. Reading back on it allows me to witness how much I’ve changed in a short period of time. More on that later….
I’m curious, what are you fed up with? Are there any areas of your life where you feel out of alignment, or could benefit from “loosen the reins” and cutting yourself some slack? What do you give yourself permission to do?
I’d love to hear from you, so please write a comment below. If this resonates with you, share with a friend! Maybe there’s a take away in it for them too. And be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!
Coming up next week: Part 1 of my Hurricane Sandy Diaries – the Frankenstorm that put everything into perspective…