Embrace what works for you, part 1

Cookbooks? What does that have to do with anything? Let’s pretend the stack of cookbooks is a symbol of pressure to cook and cook well. It’s a tenuous connection, but I am going to roll with it.

Have you ever reached a point where you are pretty sure you are doing everything wrong and you have no idea where to go? Or like you are falling really really short of where you should be as an artist? There are a thousand different reasons you are feeling blocked up, but I have one idea worth exploring. Just bear with me…

Despite the fact that today was really busy at work, I still managed to find a few pockets of time here and there to read some short articles I had bookmarked. I would like to think that saved my sanity. Or at least that’s my excuse. The really nice thing was I had never read anything from any of these authors before, so it was interested to get some snippets from their lives without the larger context I’m used to. One story was about how crafting helped one mom get over some trauma related to the birth of her daughter. Not a long read, but one with power. The other article topics ranged from how life events affect personal finance and why not everyone chooses to have kids.

Only the one articles was about art and creativity, but there was still a common thread in all of them. Every single person was writing about a point in their life where they had to put their heads down and get through trials their own way. Everyone loves giving advice, but sometimes that advice doesn’t apply to one situation or person. One of the hallmarks of growing up is being able to differentiate between when you should and should not be listening to the guidance of others (no matter how well-intentioned). You may be married, you may have an amazing group of friends or strong family ties. But no one else can tell you what your gut is feeling and what direction to head when things are difficult. The best thing you can do is try your hardest to listen to yourself and make an educated decision.

I’m not just talking about trusting yourself in the grand dramatic fashion. You don’t need major tragedy to feel stressed and overwhelmed. It’s amazing how often creative types don’t trust themselves on even the simplest things. I have a number of friends with a level of talent I would kill for, and they still think they have mediocre skills. I’ve been there too. I can do something really, really well and know it, but still doubt it. The sad thing is, it’s easy to see how this can happen. When you reach out to those you are close to who have a self-professed “lack of creativity”, they often don’t rise to the occasion of a real critique. They are afraid of saying something wrong or stupid or offending you. But if you reach out to the art community, you often get the opposite reaction. Judgement can be harsh, especially in such subjective areas. And after a while, it can wear you down.

Training yourself to a new way of thinking and acting is never easy. Habits get engrained in us before we even recognize them. If you have been feeling like you aren’t reaching your potential or you’re not doing what you really want, maybe it’s because outside forces are applying greater pressure than you realize. It’s amazing how much things we aren’t consciously aware of can drag us down.

Now I can’t tell you what you need to do to degunk your brain. After all, I just told you too much advice from outside sources can hamper your efforts. You need to take control (no matter how scary or impossible it sounds) and be really honest with yourself. What outside forces are acting on you? What “obligations” really don’t matter? What parts of your life feel out of balance? What do you really want to do? What are you feeling right now? What actions to change things feel right to you?

At this point of writing, I am realizing this is not a cut and dry topic. If I just wrapped this up with some cute joke or something, I really feel like I would be short-changing you. So, in the interest of demonstrating some follow-through, I’m going to answer all the above questions. I will come back tomorrow and share what I come up with. Hopefully that will give some of you a push to reexamine your situations as well.

See you tomorrow!

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