It was my third year of university and I was holed up in my room, covering an entire sketchbook page with wax crayon, etching out the word FEAR. I was crying. I hated school, I didn’t know what I wanted in life and I wanted to become more “creative”, as ludicrous and fluffy as that sounded, even to myself. Flash forward a couple of years later and I had secured a steady 9-5 job in the public service, complete with benefits. NOW it was all supposed to fall into place, right? But the feelings didn’t go away.
It took many years of trial and error to finally feel like myself and figure out what I wanted to do with my life, especially in an artistic capacity. Does this sound familiar to you? Are you a creative person stuck in this cycle? You are not alone and it is not your fault. I keep hearing from other non-practicing artists, about how they feel completely drained of energy and time because their day jobs (or however they spend most of their time) is soul-sucking. When they get home, all they want to do is throw on some Netflix and enjoy a glass of wine. The next morning, the cycle starts up all over again and they ask themselves, what is the point of it all?.
How can you break free from that crushing, depressive cycle? I’ll tell you what’s worked for me over the years. It’s a list cobbled from what I’ve gleaned over the years reading career books, coaching sessions, therapy and The Artist’s Way:
- Meditate, journal or something like it. Anything that allows the chatter in your head to pass through, without you analyzing or judging it and allowing it to control your actions.
- Create space in your life for trying new activities or doing what makes you feel good, no matter how silly, time-consuming or frivolous the voice in your head deems it to be. I once bought myself a Superman colouring book and a pack of crayons because I damn well felt like it.
- Nurture your creativity at your day job, if/when it is feasible and you have free time. Use your lunch hour or any lulls in the day. And don’t feel guilty about it if you have done all the tasks and more that have been requested of you. Also try to find ways to do more creative things at work, like volunteering to do photography for internal events.
- If you take up a creative hobby and find, even after a lot of practicing, that you are not skilled at it and furthermore that you don’t completely enjoy it, it’s ok to move on. Move towards what you are attracted to and enjoy doing and trust that it will all make sense later. I like photography, but it’s not my strongest skill. However, the skills I learned were useful when I realized I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker.
- Go to local meet-ups specific to your creative areas of interests or join classes to meet other potentially like-minded people. You may not find your community immediately, but it’s important to know that you belong somewhere, even if you don’t always feel like you fit in with most people around you.
Since I started incorporating the above into my life, here’s what happened for me:
- I have more physical and mental energy
- I am happier – me, the perpetually Negative Nellie!
- The ideas for new projects flow easily and are more integrated in my day-to-day
- I have more confidence
- I’m moving closer to my dreams and aspirations every day
Those are my initial thoughts. What do you struggle with? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments below or write to me directly.