Feeling frustrated as an artist is not uncommon. And while it may be unpleasant when it rears its ugly head, I believe it is a key element to the success of ambitious people. If you didn’t get frustrated every now and then, I’d be worried.
I have come in contact with a lot of artists over the years and I don’t think there is one that I have spoken to who wasn’t, at one time or another, frustrated about something in his or her creative career, whether it be a setback, a missed opportunity, or that progress just wasn’t moving fast enough.
While we may really hate these moments, we need to come to accept that they are sure to come. They don’t stop coming once you’ve ‘made it’. There’s no such thing as ‘making it’. This gives you the false idea that you will one day be ‘done’ with your journey. If you are a serious artist, you will never be done. You will always have a new goal, a new game, a new challenge, and therefore new potential for new frustrations. And while I am sure ‘deal with it’ was not the response you wanted to hear, I’m not going to lie and say the frustration goes away. I can tell you that there are things you can do to alleviate it with it when it comes around. Here are just a few ideas that may help you.
1) Get Moving
Walk, run, ride a bike. Do whatever you can to get yourself moving. Frustration is a static emotion. It is hard to maintain a static when you are being active. Getting yourself moving can push you through.
2) Take Action
Make a list of all the things that you could possibly do to take action to move yourself out of the frustrating situation. Career not moving fast enough? Mail out some headshots. Call up some venues to ask about bookings. Go to an open mic. Write a poem. Make a list of all the things you could do that would make you feel that you are moving forward. Then do some of those things! It is another way to move from static to active and to be causative in your career.
3) Name Something Worse
Name something worse than what you are facing. Name a bunch of somethings. Maybe it feels like it’s taking forever to get the current edit of your book done. Well, what could be worse than that? Maybe working that old job was worse. Maybe having unsupportive friends and family would be worse. Losing your entire manuscript in a computer crash? That would definitely be worse. Suddenly, what you are dealing with doesn’t seem so bad.
4) Accept It
Once you accept the situation and where you are, you can more easily face laying out a plan for moving past it.
Find a friend that you can trust who understands what you are going through and who will be a willing ear and go at it. Sometimes all you need is a to let off a little steam.
6) Journal It
Similar to venting, writing out what irks you can be a great solution. Take a pen to paper and let loose with it. All the feelings you are having and why, the thoughts, the hopes, the fears. Let it out. You’ll feel better once you do.
7) Busy Work
Get your mind off of the problem or frustration by absorbing yourself in physical work, whether it be doing the dishes, baking a cake or pulling weeds, some sort of physical chore could help to take your attention off of what is bothering you. I, personally, like chopping things! When I am in need, getting out my 8” tempered steel Shun chef’s knife and slicing and dicing really does the trick!
8) Be The Hero
This one is my favorite! You may or may not have heard the saying “We are all the hero in our own story”. My favorite way to overcome frustration is to implement this mindset. You are in the second act of your story: Overcoming Conflicts. You are right on track to where you want to be. These frustrations and setbacks will only make that Act 3 victory that much sweeter!
9) Map Your Progress
Keeping in mind where you’ve been will help to alliveate the stress of not being where you want to be. Really taking stock of all your accomplishments can help you through in these moments.
You may think this last one is a joke. I’ll let you know that I am 100% serious. Sometimes all you need is a good, hard scream. Grab a pillow, bury your head in it and let loose!
Whatever tips and tricks work for you to help you get through those periods of angst, use them. Keep a list handy and don’t forget them. If you are truly focused and ambitious you will encounter these feelings more than a few times in your career, having a way to work through them and sometimes even to let them spur you on, can be a great benefit in the long run.
You are frustrated because you are ambitious. It’s all part of the journey.
Oh, and one final thing that has always gotten me through tough times is this saying: “Everything turns out right in the end. If it isn’t right, it isn’t the end.”
Remember to stay hungry, and stay Well-Fed.
The Well-Fed Artist – featured in the 9 o’clock hour on Radio Soapbox every Monday night. Listen live or listen to the archives.
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