Category Archives: Obstacles
In New Age and Consciousness circles, there is a strong emphasis on dreaming big, expansion, growth. What does this mean for the artist who feels stuck or tired or uninspired?
That’s a great question. I do believe that the basis of life is expansion, we continue to grow outward and upward in life. And while it’s wonderful that there is this focus on dreaming big (which I fully support), at the same time, if we only focus on growth or achieving the next level, we ignore another very true aspect of our nature: the need for renewal and rest. As a writer, I’m tempted to believe that I should be continually putting forth more work. Finish one project, start the next. Keep moving. How many of us are like this? Sometimes this gets fueled by a fear that if you stop, you won’t start again. Much of it comes from a culture that ties performance to worth.
As artists, we are in this world, not always of it. We naturally move to a different rhythm. This is no different for us in our growth as it is in how we move through our daily work-life. The reality is that we are not meant to be creating and bringing forth new work non-stop. Another reality is that when an artist is not creating, he still remains an artist. So, we’re not going to lose our identity by not painting, writing, performing, etc. We can crush that fear, right here and now.
What if, instead of believing that the pressure to constantly be productive is true, we stop and question it? What if we look at our lives not for quantity, but quality – quality of our daily life, of our emotions, of our presence? And quality of each project, too.
We are meant to live differently and we need to realize that it’s okay to be different. Be in the sense of “being” – how we live. No one is going to give us that permission. We have to claim it. We have to stop wasting time trying to make our lives look more like non-artists, and do what works for us. And that means taking time. So, instead of finishing one project and jumping into the next, what if you were okay with taking three months, six months, a year, even, off? What if you looked at your artistic career in terms of a body of work, whole, complete, and not how much you could generate?
How would that feel?
(If you’re like me, you can already hear those voices judging you, can’t you? Pushing you back toward being like everyone else. Eh, I didn’t say this was easy.)
I know we all have financial reasons to keep working. Yet, aren’t there other jobs you could work if you needed a year off from your art? And if you can’t take a year off, what if you just took a few more days than you had planned before you jump into the next project??
We have been taught that downtime, rest, renewal, doing nothing, not creating, not producing, not having results to show for our time for more than the bare minimum allowed (what, 24 hours off for a funeral, one week a year of vacation, six weeks to deliver and nurture a newborn??), are signs of an inadequate human. It’s a lie we keep believing. We don’t come to this earth to see how much we can make, we come to this earth to see how much we can love. And enjoy.
So much of the deepest growth in consciousness happens in the dark silences, in the quiet times, in the stillness. And we live in a constant state of noise and distraction and energetic stimulation. We need the winters of life. We need life stripped bare, down to the bones, seemingly doing nothing but being present to time and space. We should know by now that what is perceived is not all there is to reality. We see stillness, no results, no tangible return for our time and we do not see that underneath, in that stillness, there is something just as absolutely necessary??
Dreaming big is good. But it is not what defines us. The life of an artist is not linear. The life of an artist is not about productivity, it is about awareness. It is about being present enough (that means more than everybody else is) to perceive what they don’t, and with grace, show it to them. That’s your calling. That’s why you’re here as an artist.
So, if you’re feeling stuck, it may be that you simply need to not be creating right now. It may be that the next project isn’t ready, or that you aren’t ready. It may be that your inner life is more important than how you express it to the world. Like I said, this isn’t easy. It’s actually risky. Because you draw stares and questions and judgment when you follow your own way of being in this world, and god forbid, are happy doing it!! But it is worth it.
We feel stuck most often when others’ expectations go against the grain of our own desires. That’s when we get trapped. We stop and can’t move, because we’re afraid to move in the direction we really want to go out of fear that others won’t like it. But going our own way is the only way to actually go. We need to listen to what our hearts and spirit and body is telling us. We can dream big and still let time for renewal and stillness be part of the whole.
I find it hard sometimes to find words.
Words I believe in. Words I think will matter. Words worth saying. Who will care? Who will hear? What difference will it make? Who am I to say it? (always, ‘who am I to say it?’)
So I sit and stare at the screen. Up against the wall that seems so adept at silencing me. I have nothing to say, I think. Nothing.to.say.
And sometimes that’s true. Sometimes all the best words, the deepest words, the words that lift heavy hearts and fight for a soul’s freedom have been poured out elsewhere. And I am left with nothing more to say.
Or so I think.
The fact is we are each a drop of ocean in the ocean.
The fact is we are each the entire ocean.
We measure our voice in the world against the noise. We should measure our voice in the world by the sound of our own voice.
We should measure our voice in the world by the fact that we have one.
It isn’t the audience that makes our voice valuable. It’s our capacity to express it.
We shouldn’t decide whether we express our voice based on whether or not it will be heard or welcomed or received by another. We should express our voice because it’s our voice.
A drop in the ocean. Each drop makes up the ocean.
Without each drop the ocean doesn’t exist.
So what about those times when the words won’t move up past my heart onto the keyboard?
When something, something tender and protective, holds them close inside, refuses to let them go?
Maybe words aren’t always meant to be found. Or said. Or expressed. Or heard.
Maybe sometimes they just need to be.
Maybe sometimes the only audience words need is me.
And maybe sometimes that’s the way it should be.
Because maybe having a voice is first and foremost about being able to hear your own.
What if it all works out?
What if it turns out better than you imagine?
What if every moment spent in fear and doubt isn’t wasted, but necessary to grow faith and confidence?
What if you make what you want to make?
What if you say what you want to say?
What if no one actually has the power to stop you?
What if you stop worrying about “what if’s”?
What if you being you is all that actually matters?
What if you say “yes” before you get over the fear?
What if there is nothing to overcome, and only everything to become?
Yes. What if.
When was the last time you thought about what it is that you believe in? I’m not talking about religion (though relevant), but that essential belief that, at the end of the day, gets you through the doubt and fear inherent in creative life? That one thing that gives you the strength to pick yourself up after rejection, doubt and uncertainty have thrashed you to pieces and left you in a bloody heap. What do you believe in? Luck? Fate? Karma? God? Success? Hard work?
We don’t often think about it, but it matters; because the creative life isn’t for the faint of heart. And no matter how much others encourage, praise, award, buy, and respond to our work, at the end of the day, every artist is alone with the work, with his or herself, and with the decision to get up or stay down.
Tenacity is what is required; but tenacity built on sheer will power won’t last. It’s the thought that you refuse to stop believing in that will either keep you in or out of your power.
What is that thought?
If you’ve never thought about this, I encourage you to take some time for yourself and ponder it. It doesn’t matter if you are starting off on your creative journey or if you’ve been on it for a long time. Now is the time to pause and consider:
1. What you believe in will determine where you go. It’s so easy to externalize the beliefs for whether or not we achieve what we set out to do. The market, competition, circumstances, budgets, rejection, misalignment with representation — they may make the journey tougher, they may cause us to change course, but they can never prevent us from creating the work itself. If you believe in these external factors, you give others the power to determine your identity. You may easily see your dreams and your voice die at the hands of others.
2. Success isn’t strong enough to save your artistic life. Success tempts us to believe in it as our source of strength. If we succeeded once, we should again, right? This sounds comforting and logical, but it’s not necessarily accurate. Past performance cannot predict future performance. Why? Because the challenges change, the stakes grow, the qualities that helped us succeed before may not be the ones we need to succeed in the future. Relying on a belief in past success sets us up for giving up too easily when the future presents challenges that we need to grow into.
3. What you believe in will determine the quality of your experience. This comes down to our power to choose our perspective. If you believe in something greater than pleasing others or hinging your value on others’ opinions, then joy will be yours even in the midst of pain. You will find satisfaction in the process of creation no matter what the commercial result may be.
4. Your beliefs are the ONLY thing that can crush you. What we believe in is the only thing that has true power over us. While we may feel as if others’ beliefs determine our journey, that in itself is just another belief we continue to believe. We always live what we truly believe. That’s why some people can achieve high levels of success and appreciation by others and never be able to embrace it and feel it – their own beliefs about their success prevent them from enjoying it. It’s also why some people are incredibly happy continuing to create art even when they find little commercial success.
5. You can choose your beliefs. That’s the good news. When you examine what your beliefs are, you can choose to change them. You can let go of beliefs that no longer serve you and try on new ones. Left unexamined, you’ll go on believing whatever it is that you default to and it may or may not support you as an artist.
If we put so much effort into learning our craft, and become highly skilled, shouldn’t we put as much effort into making sure our own beliefs are the ones that will truly support us?
Ultimately, you need something to believe in. And that something is you. It may be you supported by a higher power, but it is you. Because at the end of the day, your faith in yourself is the only thing strong enough to pick you off that floor, wipe the blood away and start again.
Do you ever stop and wonder why bringing forth a work of art involves so much struggle?
We lament that being an artist is hard. It demands a lot from us. More than we think we can give. More than we believe we are capable of. Where does this push/pull/call/drive to produce art come from? There’s something more, something bigger than us, isn’t there? It seems to be working its way through us. We think we are the artist, when in fact we seem to be (or least I do most of the time) a mere instrument. Like the right paintbrush selected for a particular type of brushstroke.
This Something gives us the ideas, gives us an inclination toward our particular form of art, gives us a sense of satisfaction and achievement when we do it.
That same Something also uses this calling to scare the hell out of us. Frustrate us. Challenge us. Open us.
It would seem there is a delicate balance between this Something and us. After all, we can so easily say no to it. It can’t force us to do anything. Many of us are very good at denying it. We squash those early creative instincts or minimize them, subjugating them to “real work.”
In the end, we choose to respond to this Something or not.
Now, bear with me, because I’m going to dive a bit deeper here. I’m going to propose that while I’ve referred to this “Something” as external to us, the reality is that this Something IS us. We are the Universe or Life Force or God or whatever name you want to call it. We choose to extend ourselves into human form to experience lifetimes on this planet we’ve created. We choose the lives we will live before we take on this form. If we are fighting this calling to “be an artist” or the “work” – we are fighting a part of ourselves. The part of ourselves that has no qualms creating stars out of dust. The part of ourselves that never doubts its abundant, ever-welling flow of expansion, always pushing into new forms, seeking full expression.
We call it art. What it really is is creation. Bringing forth something out of another realm. Here on earth, if it’s useful to our everyday existence we deem it consumer goods. If it’s not useful for practical purposes, we call it art. We’ve made this distinction ourselves. A distinction we never would have made from the Spirit World. Back there, we didn’t separate beauty from purpose. We made this world breathtakingly beautiful and every part of it flows in perfect synergy. With precise purpose.
So dividing art from what has purpose only serves to devalue the place art is meant to have in our lives. All of our lives, in every facet of life. A natural expression of ourselves.
We wrestle with art because it is a part of ourselves that we aren’t fully connected to when we’re in “earth form.” It’s something we intuitively know, but can’t always pinpoint. From a spiritual standpoint, our creative calling interacts and challenges us to remember – not discover – who we are.
Your art has a purpose. That calling that won’t let you go – a reminder from the rest of your Being of who you are – of your power, of your voice, of your delight in being pure Energy that cannot help but expand into every void.
Wrestling? We need it. We need to be reminded of our purest essence. Of that spark of Energy that won’t let us settle for less than being who we truly are.