Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coaching Your Inner Artist

Illustration Friday Painting by Seal

On the days you want to quit most, there is a tiny voice inside of each of us that says, "You can still do this." "All is not lost." "What if we try this." or "That might be interesting." And on the days you succeed, it congratulates you. "Way to go!" "I knew you could do it." "That wasn't so bad."

If you have ever played a sport, cheering on your artistic endeavors is much like being a sports coach. Different challenges call for different tactics, and as the coach of your inner artist, you have to know your team and you have to know what you're up against. Are you a procrastinator? Timid artist who doesn't like to pitch their ideas in person? Do you have a great batting average, but only when you've had enough sleep? As artists, we need to be our own coach. We need to know what it is we need, what is holding us back, and the tips and game play we need to move forward with our art. If you are a procrastinator, find out why art is so painful for you, find ways to manage expectations and time for projects. If you are shy about selling your own art, hire an agent/manager, enroll in speech class, or practice in front of a friend or in the shower. If you are the type who can't do anything creative until you have that nap, then gosh darn it, take that nap and fully rest or decide to push through.

Every day, from the moment you wake up, there are many negative obstacles blocking you from creating that day. Your friend calls to have lunch, then lunch turns to an entire afternoon. Your painting is left un-touched. You finally wrote that novel and the publisher who promised you great advance on royalty, decided in the end that they had a "better candidate in mind." Your art rival is making headway and landing the job, that you applied for. The cat needed to be fed first before you craft. etc. etc. As artists, we tend to be very giving with our time. Too giving. But since we cannot build a wall around ourselves and we choose to live this life with the people in it, we must learn to center ourselves and coach ourselves back to focus "on the game," our love, that is art.

So how do we do this? First of all, as our own creative coach, we need to know our team. We must be very honest with ourselves and fess up to our biggest culprit. What is the most negative anti-creative force in your life right now? Do you spend too much time dilly dallying? To tell you the truth, Seal is a workaholic. She keeps herself very busy. Too busy, in fact, to work on her own personal art. Because, YES, it is much easier to work on everything else, except her personal art -- because it is personal. And personal means, we are invested, we must pour our hearts out. And that is scary!

What is your worst creative enemy? As your very own inner creative coach, how do you get yourself off the bench and into the game of creating?

Some coaches Coax: "C'mon, you can do it. Come out kitty kitty"
use Bribery: "If you paint today, I'll reward you with 1 hour reading time."
Pushing/Prodding: "You're almost at the finish line. Now push through it!" (You're almost finished with that novel!"
Tough Love: "No more excuses, you are going to create, right now."
Threats (doesn't work for Seal, but perhaps others might respond to this method): "Sew this plush toy now, or else (you'll get a late dinner, etc, etc.)
Compromise/ baby steps: "If you do this now, then I will . . . " "Okay, how about just 15 minutes of creativity today"

They all work to some degree, it's just about finding out which ones work for you best and for what circumstances. For example, Seal really hates being threatened. She will react in the opposite and shut down instead. "Then, fine. I won't create at all." And there are days when she needs to be pushed with tough love, rather than coaxed. Only you know, what you truly need.

As a coach, you are a dreamer ("the big game"), a realist (we are 5th in the league, but not dead last, nor the best team), a practitioner (you are also the artist that knows the game best). You must employ equip yourself with supportive resources and must be ready to pull up any number of repertoire of tricks up your sleeve to get you to play your best in your art.

Every day you will have to review your plan, chart your course, and create. Every day you will sit with rejection, disappointment, and successes. Every day you will re-evaluate and re-commit yourself to your craft. And never forget to always celebrate your successes, however big or small. Will you take on the meaningful task at hand?

We believe you will. After all, inside each one of us, is an artist and dreamer at heart.


For further reading: Eric Maisel's Coaching the Artist Within


shirlsd said...

Came across y'all at b/bizarre. Glad I am on your shout out list. Great post. Will poke around more.

Monkey + Seal said...

It was very nice meeting you at BazBiz! And thanks for stopping by to comment! :D