The Marathon of Artistry
By Anadonis Nephilim
With the usherance of technology breakthroughs, social media rampancy, and a pandemic to challenge our previous way of life, now more than ever artists are able to connect long distance as well as have messages of productivity shoved in their faces every day. ~ Robot or humanoid? ~ Ultimately, when one is an artist, there is an unspoken agreement with the world in which you are sharing your creative endeavors. Whether it is a completed masterpiece or an ongoing project entirely depends on your field and what you are throwing yourself into. However, when the artistic process is flooded with the expectations to produce, keep up with current trends, post on social media, keep enhancing one’s craft, engage and network with other artists in the field, maintain physical and mental peak condition - let alone tend to outside affairs with daytime job, family, friends, self-care and positive habits…
Just to level with all of you peeps and offer a visual of the day-to-day with myself, I have a laundry list of health challenges - fibromyalgia, a systemic virus, kidney issues, migraines, chronic depression, anxiety, C-PTSD, etc. The list goes on. I wrote that shopping list to say this: The journey as an artist has had it’s roadblocks because of what I mentioned above, yes. However, I found there are several components in meeting it head on, which I have conveniently listed below for your reading ease. ~ 1. Utilizing spoons effectively ~ I was recently in conversation with the editor of this magazine. We (and many other artists and performers) have all at some point in time experienced the big B… BURNOUT. It’s real, it’s rough, and it can incapacitate artists for anywhere from a few days to years at a time (see paragraphs above on A-Zs of why burn out occurs). Most you know you have only a given amount of energy every day, and what to do with that. The question is, how do we effectively divvy that energy out and maintain the integrity of the artistic process? Simply put, count your spoons. What are spoons? Refer to Spoon Theory here to answer that question. In terms of counting your spoons, a simple action to determine this is to draw a simple flow chart of all the areas of your life, estimate how many you use in each avenue, then follow these questions:
How many do you have in a given day?
What areas are most of them used in?
Utilizing them for the day-to-day vs creating
Are you deficient in spoons in certain areas that support your artistic process?
Now, before you faint after looking at your Spoons board and the questions you’re asking, take a breath. The biggest question that us movers and shakers seem to have challenges with IS: * What can be eliminated or put on the back burner for my own well-being? Yes, you read right: I said to SUBTRACT. While baking brownies for your partner to take to bowling night might be important, or staying up late to research the mating habits of polar bears to beat your friends at Jeopardy, or (we’ve all dealt with this) incessantly window shop online day after day… you, my friend, must cease and desist the spoon using for tasks which someone else can handle. Counting your spoon usage requires complete and total honesty with yourself, objective discernment, and an ability to shelf the guilt that you’re “not doing enough”, which is an entirely other article topic unto itself.
~ 2. What drives you to be an artist? ~
This isn’t a question you ask yourself every ten years. It’s one that should be queried every. Single. Day. Or at least once a month. How does this have anything to do with tea in China? Well, when an artist regularly reassess what the value of their creative activity is to them, they tend to create more definition around their short term goals, long term goals, and especially the messages that they’re wanting to send out. While this might seem elementary, the intrinsic drive that we artists have to create also requires a solid re-defining from time-to-time in order to grow. And that is okay, BECAUSE we do not and should not stay stagnant. Growth is an element which determines our success ~ 3. Nix the comparisons and start sweet-talking yourself ~ This is a big one - STOP comparing yourself to other artists! Stahp it. Right meow. A little louder for people in the back. I CANNOT emphasize how diminishing this is to our output and idea center. It is a legitimately shitty thing to do for a number of reasons (which I will not be listing on here, please use your imagination), and speaking from personal experience as well as hearing other people’s stories, comparing yourself to others is the quickest way to self-sabotage. An example; I am a belly dancer & folkloric dancer. I have a curved spine in two places which does not allow for certain movements or ergonomics, plus fibro and other injury weirdness. While I may not be able to fully contort myself like some other amazing dancers do or turn myself into a graceful jackhammer, that does not mean my dancing has less talent or accuracy. What it DOES mean is that I am moving within my capabilities and skill set at that given moment. Therein (coming full circle here), there is an acceptance of what my capabilities are in that moment and time. If I witness that bad ass dancer and feel inspired to work harder, then that also caters to a certain level of personal success, because I am striving to improve with a positive purpose. Each completion we make should be rewarded with praise, because much like an athlete, a scientist, or a film-maker, it is imperative to appreciate ourselves. This means offering words of gratitude, gestures, or intermittent breaks. Sometimes it can mean a spa day, letting yourself have that chocolate pie, or taking a night off with your sweetie(s). The most important gem lies in just appreciating that we’re choosing to involve ourselves in something important for our mind, body, and spirit.
~ 4. Tend to your mental health and happiness ~ Mental health seems to be one of the most underrated components of the artist archetype these days - I’m not speaking to the ‘tortured poet’ icon here per se, but certainly the trappings of being a human with a desire to produce abstract thoughts into life. Art does not require us to come at it with a pristine mindset. What it does require of us is to be present. If we cannot engage with the design because we are laid up on the couch from burnout (speaking for a friend, cough) and anxiousness (covered in the next portion below), then we disservice ourselves and our development. Mental health care does not always mean seeing a therapist, although if that’s what you need to keep yourself upright and hold that creative spark, then by all means. When I say mental health, it pertains to how you feel about your involvement - the appreciation, the challenges, and the milestones.
For example, if I am feeling craptastic about dances that I have done, or have simply not been inspired to create in my normal fashion, I will automatically defer to point one, then backtrack as to where I feel blocked. If I am not in the headspace to create, but I do feel the spark, sometimes simple exercises to get myself back in the groove creates momentum, whether they last 5 minutes, 15 minutes, an hour, etc. Whatever it takes. Granted, all of this is not to say that if you are not blasting out some masterpiece or some production constantly that this constitutes you as a failure; don’t be silly. The point is, what atmosphere is your mental health currently residing in when you look for those dance moves, pick up that paintbrush, that eyeshadow palette, or composing those song lyrics? (See the film Inside Out for details). If it’s been a rollercoaster, then in the vein of human compassion, you may simply need downtime to recharge, which, newsflash, is OKAY. I cannot emphasize enough how imperative rest and self-care is to the artist’s journey. If there is completely and utterly no semblance of interest, be it short-term or an extended period, then indicators may point to examining one’s needs in allowing oneself to decompress and eventually recalibrate. You are human. Not a cyborg. Please tend to your needs and listen to the internal alarm system when there is an overload threat.
~ 5. Shaking things up can be healthy ~ This is also pertinent to mention and will use myself as an example again for ease of access: Sometimes my brain will request to express itself differently based on what I am having to deal with at that point in my life. This may result in a slight deviation in creative endeavors I engage in while still allowing my subconscious to speak it’s mind while also not being stagnant. To tell myself that the rules of artistic engagement have to be conducted a certain way is to flirt with artistic suicide. Granted, I am a “let’s-try-to-do-all-the-things-in-this-lifetime” type person, and I can lovingly reassure both you and myself that this… Will. Not. Happen. Taking breaks to experiment with something different can be healthy… at least depending on what you’re breaking to do. Exploring something unique to unblock our creative process is done regularly, and helps to inspire as well as to offer perspective and depth to what we are offering on the microcosm and the macrocosm. ~ 6. Set reasonable goals for development ~ Overcoming production anxiety, especially in the digital age, is definitely the working cry of the creative. So how do we surmount this go-go-go mentality, even if you are not an artist by career? Start by referring back point one. Once you’ve assessed your spoon count, then cast your gaze on what your project is. Start at the beginning… or, work backwards from the vision of booming success if you’re one of those types.If you can research without becoming attached to the standard answer, observe how often other people post, then ask yourself if you are capable of the same threshold in lieu with your other responsibilities. Stop there and take a breath. It will be okay. Again, be truly honest with yourself, and for the love of the Muses, do NOT judge your answers. A few considerations: * How viable are your goals? Create a rough timeframe around when you would like to see certain things achieved AND, as you do them, be sure to reward yourself for it (see point 4 above). * What have you done to feed your creative process? * Do you believe in what you’re sharing, or are you simply caving to societal expectations to be a content machine? ~The Longwinded Takeaway ~ Ultimately your art is going to be a reflection of not only your heart and your talent, but how well you are tending to your own self. If you are not happy with yourself, or at least content, your art is not going to be satisfying (notice that not all art appears “happy”, nor should be).
Effort is what makes the grade. Granted, if you are entering into competition settings, obviously there is a bit of cruciality in requirements, but for now, we are speaking to the journey rather than various destination points.
Lower your expectations. Be honest and flexible while also building a rhythm. Connect with others. Be willing to try different things. Appreciate the growth process, not the perfectionism. Treat yourself the way you would your best friend.
Enjoy the road across Middle Earth my dear Baggins.
Anadonis of Rhythmic Enterprises
Anadonis is a performer, entertainer and instructor based in New Jersey. As the owner of Rhythmic Enterprises her goal is to enhance somatic and cultural dance education for both others and herself. She is also passionate about astrology, tarot and her DJ equipment. Rhythmic Enterprises | Facebook https://rhythmicenterprises.com/ Instagram @ Rythmicenterprises