Don't Just Do It

How to Keep Your Artistic Creativity Alive

Optimal levels of stress heighten intensity and can both broaden perspective and sharpen focus. This kind of good stress propels the artist to and along the creative edge.

But to those who find it to be a way of life, chronic stress can consume confidence, energy and productivity - essential qualities for an artist. Debilitating levels of stress disrupt or drain the creative flow. The 'stressed-out' artist often displays one or more of the following symptoms:

bulletDifficulty getting started, because of either diminished confidence or, conversely, because of expectations of perfection. These induce procrastination or blockage.
bulletInability to sustain concentration and effort because of juggling too many projects or deadlines.
bulletOverly motivated to the point that he or she cannot suspend critical judgment to playfully explore the creative concept. Old, critical voices, whose volume typically increases as stress mounts, can become the taskmaster.
bulletIntolerance of complex or uncertain situations as one is too impatient for a solution.
bulletBecoming risk-averse or having paralyzing doubts about living up to previous performance or production standards.
bulletGood old "stage fright."

Unfortunately, it's often easy for artists to isolate themselves, especially during times of high stress. Consider these strategic suggestions to break through an unproductive stress cycle:

Make supportive connections. When grappling with high stress, you especially need to connect with friends and colleagues for emotional, physical and spiritual support.

Calm critical voices. Use your support system to challenge and calm those unduly anxious, inpatient, restrictive, rigid, grandiose or shameful voices. Cultivate and share your unique voice and/or vision.

Take a "time out." As much as artists need one another, it's still important to find time to be alone. Give yourself permission to take a vacation to rejuvenate the mind-body-spirit connection and develop a new perspective. Structure excess free time. If you are in a fallow period with your art, too much free time may exacerbate any extant anxiety or depression. Consider part-time work or other structured activities to provide some boundaries for your schedule and emotions.