Whatever difficulties you might encounter, and whatever failures you might have, remember these famous words from Theodore Roosevelt.
(Do a mental edit on the patriarchal language, as this was written in 1910. :-))
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
You might have trouble doing your writing or art right now. You might be stressed and pressed for time. You might be exhausted from the strain of the last year and a half.
So what makes it possible to do your writing or art during this time?
Here’s the first thing you MUST have in place to do your writing or art: a good state of being.
By “state of being,” I mean your mental, energetic, emotional, physical, and spiritual state.
Now, I really want to emphasize that I’m not saying a good state of being is “nice to have.” It is an absolute essential. It is the nonnegotiable foundation of doing your creative work.
This is always true, but it’s especially true during times of uncertainty, upheaval, or difficulty.
If you’re mired in fear or depression or despair, burned out, stressed and irritable, overwhelmed with things to do, you won’t have the mindset to dive into your art–and you definitely won’t be doing your best creative work.
This doesn’t mean that you’re never upset, angry, sad, or negative. It means you allow yourself to feel those feelings fully when they come up, but you’re able to move through them to the other side. In other words, the negative state of being is not your ongoing, default state.
First, I’m going to talk about the importance of your physical state.
By physical, I mean the material world–your body, health, environment, time, money, etc.
When you aren’t in a good state in the physical realm,
You might not have the energy to do your creative work.
Or you feel like you don’t have the time or money.
You might depend on outside substances (alcohol, drugs, sugar, coffee, food in general) to manage fear or anxiety.
You might use addictive behaviors (bingewatching TV shows, binge reading, shopping) to manage the creative anxiety.
You might have difficulty managing the earthly side of your art (making money from it, taking advantage of career opportunities, finding the time, space, and money to do it)
You might push yourself in unhealthy ways to do your art
On the other hand, when you’re strong in the physical realm,
You have the health, energy, and stamina to do your art (and your art lifts your physical well-being too)
You can connect to your body and use its wisdom in doing your art
You feel grounded and solid in your work
You can advocate for your art in earthly ways (ask for generous payment and receive it) and you are able to receive earthly recognition, publicity and rewards
You feel abundant, nourished, and strong as an artist
I could write volumes on taking care of your physical state, but here are a few tips to begin with.
Prioritize your well-being. Do not be a martyr. Life–and your creative career–are a marathon, not a sprint.
What is going to let you feel good day to day in your life?
Here are some basics I find are important for me:
Enough sleep (a must)
Eating well (vegetables, fruits, good proteins and fats, no sugar or caffeine or alcohol)
Movement in the morning, before my day is under way (kundalini yoga–opens up body and breath)
Boundaries around news consumption (limit the amount and time of day)
These are the fundamentals, even in “non crazy” times. I make an absolute priority of these things–because every time I don’t, I feel the effects immediately: my state of being gets worse and my creative work suffers.
Make a short list of the basic things YOU need to feel good in your life on a day to day basis, and start taking action to get those in place. Don’t pressure yourself to do it all at once. Take baby steps. Every step, however small it feels, is movement toward your big dreams.
At the inauguration, Amanda Gorman reminded me how an artist can gather together the threads of suffering and despair and a deep desire for change, weave together the feelings of the zeitgeist, and create an incantation of hope.
In days of old, priests and priestesses inspired and led with their visions. Today, artists hold that role.
John Lennon’s “Imagine” envisioned a world where people lived as one.
The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago laid out a ceremonial banquet and created a symbolic history of women throughout civilization.
Black Panther created an alternate world where Black Africans have a power far beyond any majority-white nation.
This is a time when our world–facing the crises of the coronavirus, climate change, inequality, political extremism, and so much more–needs us to imagine and create a better future.
If you are an artist, a creator, it’s time to bring your voice FULLY into the world. To let go of the petty resistances and fears that keep your horizon safe and small. Time to let your spark light a torch that inspires the world.
P.S. If you aren’t doing enough of your art and want to start doing it EASILY (and NOW, not in a year or two or ten!), ask me about the Artist in Action program.
Artist in Action helps talented, ambitious writers and artists do their work easily and consistently–even when they have full family lives, “commercial” work or day jobs, or a long history of creative block.
After what happened at the Capitol yesterday, it was hard to write this morning. I woke up at 3:15 am, peeked at my phone, and couldn’t resist checking the news–NOT something I recommend for sleep OR writing!
This morning I had to pull myself back from the news and social media so many times… but ultimately I got my writing done. What saved me were the things (mindsets, practices, creative foundation…) I’ve developed over the years.
These things have kept me writing (and sane!!) through the political upheaval, the rising pandemic numbers, the repeated school shutdowns and days filled with remote schooling.
But, my ability to write during these times didn’t come easy. It took me years to develop these practices. Reflecting on that makes it possible to write during intense and difficult times, I think of three things:
1. Your state of being–Your physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual state of being
If this is messed up, you could have problems with energy, focus, inspiration, motivation, the courage to keep going, and so much more.
2. The strong foundation of a writing (artistic/creative) habit
You brush your teeth in the morning and evening, right? Even during the pandemic, even during big political events?
If doing your art is “just what you do,” it’s so much easier to do your work, even when the world is going crazy.
3. Structures to help you keep going until you finish
Community, accountability, support, and the feeling that what you create matters: many emerging or aspiring artists don’t have these–but they’re crucial when you hit the tough periods in your career, or when big, dramatic outside events rock the world.
Because of all that’s been happening this past year, I’ve been very careful about my commitments and haven’t run a lot of new programs.
But, I’m thinking of opening my Artist in Action program, where we put these three pieces in place, so you can do your art regularly and easily.
Let me know if you’re interested–and I’ll be in touch when I open it up! (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Artist in Action” in the subject line.)
Today is Halloween. We are entering the darkest time of the year, when the days are cold and the nights are long.
Four days before the US election, as coronavirus cases rise and rise, we feel the gathering darkness, the rising uncertainty, the suspense over what waits in the wings. Will darkness wash over the land? Will winter bring death and despair?
What do we do as artists and creative people during this time?
In this moment, I’m guided to share some guidance–of both the practical and visionary kind.
Be religious about taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional state.
Your body, mind, and emotions
With a tumbling economy and falling temperatures, the rising tension of the news headlines, and the rising drumbeat of coronavirus cases, it’s ESSENTIAL to take care of your body, mind, and emotions.
For your body, focus on sleep, food, water, movement.
For me, this means cutting off evening activities to go to bed early. Doing yoga in the morning and taking a walk outside every day. Drinking at least a gallon of water and 48 oz of organic vegetable juice each day. Eating food that’s delicious and incredibly healthy.
You know what your body really needs to feel vibrant and alive. Choose one or two very specific things and DO THEM.
Or, if you’re the type of person who does best by going BIG, choose four big things to do for your body. Eight hours of sleep. Four servings of vegetables, and no sugar. A gallon of water. An hour of exercise.
Choose what’s right for you–and what will WORK for you. Then commit to it and treat it like your new religion. (If structure is helpful for you, a program like #75hard can be useful.)
Treat those things as if they’re as essential as breathing–because they are. (Not literally, of course… but on the energetic level these things are as crucial as oxygen.) To stay in flow during these times–instead of being a hot mess of stress–you must care for your body as the everyday foundation of your life.
Taking care of your body will get you 75% of the way there with your mind and your emotions. For the last 25%, focus on action and vision.
(Yes, there are much deeper processes we can and must take to handle trauma, deep-rooted resistance, and big systemic problems–but this piece is about what you can do to make an immediate difference, right now, especially for the next few days or weeks.)
Beyond taking care of your physical state, the best way to shift your emotions and mind into a positive state is through action.
Action is the antidote to hopelessness, cynicism, and fear.
Commit to a specific amount of creative work, and do it.
Volunteer to get out the vote for the election.
Get involved with a cause or organization you believe in.
Yes, we’re all under extra pressure and stress because of the pandemic and election. And, we are bigger and more powerful than we realize. We can be compassionate and real about what’s happening in our lives and call ourselves to take action for our bigger vision and goals.
For me, taking action means getting up at 5 or 5:30 am to write and do kundalini yoga before it’s time to get the kids ready for school. (This is obviously connected to why I’m going to bed early!) It means serving clients or working on my business during the one day my kids are both in school–or during my kids’ Zoom calls or windows where my husband or our babysitter can cover things.
It means sharing articles that inform people and squeezing in a session of text banking when I can–or donating money to campaigns when I have more money than time.
What will taking action be for you? You know the big creative vision you’re working towards, and you know your life situation and goals.
Look at what will move you forward most effectively–and what you can do–and choose the actions you’ll take.
Choose small actions or big ones.
Many tiny actions lead to a big result. A few sentences (or minutes) a day become a novel over time. Small actions from many people can change the course of a nation.
Big actions can lead to a sudden breakthrough.
Whether your actions are small or big, they both lead to this important result: momentum.
Once you have momentum, everything becomes easier. The power of your own energy and enthusiasm carry you forward.
Last but not least, hold the vision.
Even in these dark and uncertain times, we have come together to make a better world. Doctors, nurses, medical researchers, public health officials, and essential workers have stepped up, saved lives, and kept us fed and alive in the middle of this pandemic.
Thousands of artists and craftspeople have created masks for people to wear. Jazz musicians are holding concerts in the streets, people are shooting short films and videos on their phones, and writers are holding readings over Zoom.
Incredible progressive movements have sprung up–from everyday citizens who made calls and went to protests, to high schoolers who turned trauma and pain into a nationwide movement, to women who spoke up about #metoo moments, to legions of people who massed in the streets despite a pandemic to demand justice, to a new generation of climate activists, to new politicians stepping forward and speaking up. People have come out to vote in historic numbers.
Yes, it is a cold time of year, a dark time of year, a dark time in history.
And, we have the power of heart and hope. In every moment of fear, pain, or uncertainty, people have held the vision of a better world.
We can continue to hold that vision.
Let us move forward–with love and action and heart.
Let us create work that makes a difference–and create the world we desire.
P.S. If you want support so you can do your art regularly and easily–even during these tough and uncertain times–email me and ask about the Artist in Action program.
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