Avoiding Artistic Discouragement

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Last week I talked about the importance of safeguarding your time. This week, I want to dig a little deeper into some of the things that might, in other ways, thwart your progress, stop or slow your creative momentum, or even cause you to quit entirely.

All right. We’ve all done it. We have. There is someone out there that you have shown your art to that has made you feel less than wonderful. It’s true. Often we put our work in front of someone who we hope will help us to improve or to give us a nudge in the right direction, or even just to amp us up to keep doing more.  But some times it doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes we end off feeling bad about our work, which is exactly what we don’t want!

Now, they don’t always mean to do it. But it happens. It can be the little things, and I mean the very little things. You are really excited about this project that you have just completed, so naturally you want to share it.

It may be as simple as that you did not receive quite the enthusiastic reaction you were hoping for. It might be that it took someone a whole month to read that 10-page story you sent. Maybe they gave you unrealistic suggestions to take your story in a completely different direction.

No matter how tough your skin, no matter how confident you are, sometimes it is not enough. You start to doubt. You start to question. Did they not like it? Why didn’t they laugh at that funny part? It took them a month to read? Really? Was it that arduous and boring?

Likely it is not your work at all that is the problem. Likely it is just them. Maybe they don’t share your sense of humor. Maybe they are extremely busy and have trouble finding time to read your work. Maybe they feel they are being helpful with their millions of suggestions for how you could ‘make it better’.

Whatever the case, be aware of how different people make you feel when you share with them. Any little thing, whether you realize it or not, could plant a little seed of doubt or uncertainty, could deflate your drive to keep working. Pay attention to how you feel throughout these interactions. If you feel less motivated or sure of yourself, something is not right. This exchange is not working out. As an artist starting out, it is important to protect yourself from these types of pitfalls. Starting out, you have enough internal battles to fight without deliberately bearing your chest and allowing others to take pot shots at your heart. Starting out, you should always do better, work harder, be more motivated, or have a greater insight or direction after these encounters.

When sharing your work with someone, make it a point to tell them what you are looking for from them, and what you aren’t looking for. If you simply want them to tell you it was wonderful, let them know. If you need it read by a certain date, check with them if that is possible for them to do. If you don’t know if your art is communicating what you want it to, you can ask that too. If you don’t want any creative suggestions, ensure that they are aware of that.

Some people may not be willing to do for you what you need done. Some may simply not be a fit. Don’t worry about it. Just don’t share with them in the future.

On a final note, there can sometimes be a more chronic case of artistic discouragement that you may come up against. A final cautionary word is in order on the subject here.

If you meet upon someone who simply won’t understand what you are doing as an artist, someone who doesn’t believe in you, doesn’t agree, or is in deliberate or insidious opposition to what you are trying to accomplish, waste ‘em. They don’t care about your art and they don’t care about your goals. And anyone who doesn’t care about that, in honesty, doesn’t care about you. Lose them. If this person is someone who is so close to you or your family that this proves impossible, simply maintain a nice pleasant relationship with as little friction as possible, and certainly never mention your art around him again.

So, in summary, it is crucial for you to be aware of the affect that others have on your creativity. No one is worth you risking your artistic drive or progress. Keep yourself tuned in to your own creative self-trust, momentum and reactions as you interact with people. You are your own gatekeeper. Don’t let the dragons in, no matter how pretty their scales, no matter how harmless they may seem. A baby dragon still breathes fire. And if you haven’t yet learned to wield the shield or sword, well, baby, it just ain’t worth it.

Protect yourself at all cost. Stay hungry, and stay Well-Fed.

– C.R. Cohen

The Well-Fed Artist – featured in the 9 o’clock hour on Radio Soapbox every Monday night.  Listen live or listen to the archives.

Artwork by dorkdesign.com

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C.R. Cohen’s love affair with words and the arts has lead her on a lifelong journey as a poet and writer and an art activist, founding Artists Underground, to bring networking, resources and advice to artists, and joining forces with Soapbox Nation to provide creative career consultations and artist services to help artists get further faster.
About C.R. Cohen
C.R. Cohen’s love affair with words and the arts has lead her on a lifelong journey as a poet and writer and an art activist, founding Artists Underground, to bring networking, resources and advice to artists, and joining forces with Soapbox Nation to provide creative career consultations and artist services to help artists get further faster.

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