photo of Vali Myers (1930-2003): Australian visionary artist, dancer, and bohemian.
Full confession - the first couple of months of 2017 were a mega challenge for me, creatively speaking. No matter how many times I put my pencil to paper during the month of January and most of February I couldn't come up with any new ideas. The change in political climate took a toll on me this winter and I couldn't get myself out of the creative funk... and I know I wasn't alone. Everyone around me was feeling stuck, drained, angry... the air seemed to feel stagnant and I felt completely unmotivated to create.
So what do you do when you own a creative business that relies solely on your design innovation? I suspect that it's different for everyone. For me it was all about stepping back and allowing myself time to do literally anything else besides draw or force out new designs. I hung out with my friends, visited my family, watched live music and went to art shows. I participated in the Women's March in Atlanta, signed petitions, and donated money to organizations that support my beliefs. In heavy times it can be easy for me to dismiss my own work as frivolous, distracting, and even superficial. Who cares about new greeting cards when there's so much more important stuff to focus on like defending our civil liberties??
I started to regain some perspective when I prepped for and taught the Vibrant Artist workshop in mid January. I had been planning and preparing for this workshop for some weeks, and in doing so I was able to find inspiration in my research on archetypes and the truth that our repeating tendency as artists is to self-sabotage. What IS that annoying little voice, that dark cloud, that dulling of the light that comes up every single time I feel the urge to make something new?
The more I looked into this pattern, the more the "shadow side" of the artist archetype (also known as the Starving Artist) came up in my research. I started to wrap my mind around my own limiting patterns. Every time I come close to getting my hands dirty and finally realizing a creative vision I have this voice that chimes in and tells me "NAH. NICE TRY THO". The "I'm not good enough, interesting enough, experienced enough" conversation reel kicks on and I'm paralyzed. I have never been able to fully get rid of this voice, and I suspect it will never fully evaporate. I know so many other artists, musicians, writers, etc. (anyone who has a natural desire to create) go through this at times debilitating cycle - and it's so, so frustrating.
So, instead of constantly believing in this imaginary voice I've started to look at it like it's an obnoxious uncle who's moved into the spare room, and smokes, and watches soap reruns, and only comes out to tell me what I'm doing wrong and that my cooking is bland: "What is this SLOP? I had better cooking in the trenches of Nam!" and such. Instead of trying to appease this voice I'm learning to just smile and nod and keep it moving. The old uncle voice trying to keep you down isn't actually who you are, and this voice is NEVER going to be satisfied with your "slop".
And so what? If I don't make the art then who will? We all have our unique perspective and if you identify with the Artist or Creator archetype then you already know that it would be almost impossible for you to live a fulfilling life without acknowledging this natural, otherworldly need to make art. It's not our job to get caught up in the details or the logistics of "success". The outcome is none of my business. Whether someone actually likes my work is none of my business, because I really only have one job as an artist: to take my unique, abstract understanding of the universe and put it into some physical form. It's not like I am not an artist once I experience success. I am an artist when I'm sleeping, when I make mistakes, when I push buttons, when I'm rewarded, when I vote, when I take the day off, when I draw a picture: All of life's experiences are the ingredients to my art and I am a constant swirling work in progress.
So we need to start addressing this annoying uncle that lives in our consciousness. Tell that dude it's cool and that you've got this, but thanks for the input (and please stop smoking in the house). When we focus on empowering ourselves we are empowering others, and I can't think of a more healing and powerful shift than that.
What are some ways in which the "starving artist" voice holds you back? Feel free to comment below <3