‘Long-term, we must begin to build our internal strengths. It isn’t just skills like computer technology. It’s the old-fashioned basics of self-reliance, self-motivation, self-reinforcement, self-discipline, self-command’ – Steven Pressfield
If you wanted to become an artist, you will come across courses, workshops, seminars, books, video and more.
The vast majority would be teaching you techniques like how to paint sfumato or sgraffito. What makes a good composition, perspective and more.
In becoming a writer it’s the same. When I study how to be a blogger I read about how-tos on writing great headlines, introductory paragraphs, grammar etc.
What you might notice is that almost all such advice is about the practical side of creativity. Making the painting, the book, the blog post, and the website.
It’s about how to write well, to make marks on a canvas. How to spread your work and sell it. How-to advice guides are popular.
Whilst such advice is important what fascinates me more is the internal struggle. It’s something that not many people talk about, and yet is just as important.
The hidden battle within
The internal struggle is the doubt and fears you have about being creative.
The technical skills anyone can learn with enough dedication and practice. But the emotions you have to deal with that’s a lot harder.
Notice those thoughts…
Where am I going with this?
Can I be any good?
Am I wasting my time?
How do I make a choice?
What am I trying to achieve?
Do I even want to be an artist?
I don’t know what I want from this?
Should I carry on?
Why do I want to do this?
What’s my artistic voice, style?
With so much doubt and fear art and creativity should come with a health warning attached.
Learning how to face these demons and become successful and happy is what drove me to read up on psychology, philosophy, spirituality, neuroscience and other disciplines.
It’s here in our heads that we find the hardest struggle and the reason why so many of us fail. Not just in art, but life in general. Finding a partner, getting a job you like, relationships etc.
Being self employed is its own struggle because it’s all your responsibility. It’s a lot harder due to the uncertainties of being on your own. Fluctuating income, lack of motional support, isolation.
My own struggle is an example. Years after I started blogging and art and I still have periods of massive doubt, and uncertainty.
The question we should focus more on is how to face this doubt, this uncertainty. This blog as a whole is dedicated to looking at that question. It’s far too big a topic to be covered in one small post.
But the important point is we must not forget this internal struggle. It’s not a topic that gets talked about enough.
Most of us focus on creating good art. The techniques and methods of writing, or rendering an image to a high level of skill.
But creation of art is but one skill amongst a constellation that’s necessary to be an artist. We don’t just need to paint, draw or write well. That’s not what it’s all about.
What we should be striving for is to be a better artist.
That’s involves others skills to. Marketing and spreading your ideas. Selling products for money so you can make a living out of it.
Balancing your professional and personal life so your family, friends or partner don’t get left out.
Balancing work with relaxation to avoid overwork, stress, ill-health. So that means taking care of yourself. Taking time to recover, rejuvenate away from work concerns.
Coping with the stress, the many hard choices, the dark emotions involves how well manage our own minds.
Such habits or behaviours are skills in of themselves. Something that needs to be learned. Failure to do so can result in physical and mental illness, no energy to work relationships breaking up, a spiralling circle . Even to the extreme of Van Gogh and suicide.
Good skills here can help us keep going when our motivation is lacking, hard choices are ahead or doubt and fear grip our hearts and minds.
They help us make better decisions with the limited resources we have. Deal with other people in the course of our day to day lives.
Mental behavioural skills also help us keep focused on what’s most important. They help us cope with the uncertainty we inevitably have to face and suffer.
The internal struggle is often overlooked yet it forms the basis for everything else in creativity and life. Our success and happiness is dependant upon it.
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