Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Save Yourself From Deprivation

Imagine yourself with a piece of string, tie the ends together and make a circle. Imagine yourself at the center of this circle. Everything inside the encompassing circle is yours. This is what you perceive as your rightful space. How big is the circle? Is it just in one particular room? a corner? at home or at work? by the piano, computer, kitchen, or other rooms? Does it take up other spaces. Do you have many circles?

For a long time, Seal's circle was a very small one about the size of a golf ball, inside of her heart. By the time she went to high school, she had heard so many negative stories about being an artist, she packed up her creative self and left. Checked out. She hid herself well inside that mini circle. On the outside, she looked like a very successful Berkeley graduate with many distinguishing accolades. But inside, her artist self was deprived.

Being a creative artist has a lot to do with how abundant and safe you feel inside. When you feel deprived, your art is cornered, frantic, you feel that if you're not "tapped out" of ideas now, you will be soon, someday.
Often times as artists we deprive ourselves in many ways. We give to others our time, our ideas, our excitement for their projects, but we hardly treat ourselves the same way. We don't hesitate to buy our friends dinner, our date presents, or our community donated time, but we hesitate to buy ourselves that $3 coffee or paper for our new art project, or to carve a studio space in the shared room, or to have 15minutes of relaxation of doing absolutely nothing.

Sometimes we are even stingy with ourselves under the pretext of being busy. Too busy to paint today. Too busy to go for a walk. Too busy making art to have an uninterrupted lunch where we must cram food down in a hurry without tasting it, in front of the computer. Sometimes we deprive ourselves of trust. Must stick to my writing schedule, if not my day will go to shit. Must put in 6 hrs of drawing today, otherwise I'll lounge around playing videogames and not be "productive." We are essentially saying to ourselves, "If I let you have your way, you won't create... you must reign yourself. 'Control' yourself. Must fight laziness, apathy, boredom, general feelings of inadequacy." At the heart of it, we have decided that left to our "nature," we are unruly and need strict regiments to make art. Under such deprivations, no wonder we are tired, angry, rebellious, and still not getting any art done. If are getting any art done, it is like pulling teeth. We forget that inside of us are all the seasons and weathers and we expect our creative self to follow some sort of predictable path. Some days it is raining inside and you want to curl up and read (not write or draw). Some days it is sunny inside and you feel like sharing a coffee with friends (but I must write! you exclaim and deny yourself that much needed break).

We Deprive ourselves of care. of nutrients. of the safety to create.

What are the ways you deprive your artist self? Do you allow yourself a "free" day? Do you replenish your art supplies? Do you allow yourself a second helping when you are hungry? What are "selfish" things you really want to do? Leave work early and paint? Call in a sick day? Bake a cake and eat it all yourself? Say no to calls after 6pm? What are "forbidden" things you are not allowed to do? Quit your job? Buy that $120 pastel set? Take a drawing class? Make a list. This list will help to show you the ways in which you are depriving yourself. Now make it a point to work on getting yourself things on your list. One at a time.

But Monkey and Seal, I can't quit my job now I won't be able to pay rent. We're not abdicating impulsive behavior, especially if it is financially out of your means. But what we are asking is that you start to examine the values that are important to you. If quitting your job is forbidden. Why is that? Perhaps you simply wanted a freer work schedule where you can leave earlier to do you art. Perhaps you have deep seated beliefs about artists not being able to be financially prosperous. Perhaps you are still fighting the ghosts of your parents who once told you that you lacked talent in art. Who knows. But you have to start digging. If you are depriving yourself from being the artist you are truly meant to become, you're going to have to confront yourself. If quitting your job is forbidden and financially out of your means right now, how about taking the first steps? Do you like the actual job that you are doing? If you do, then is it the environment, or the project, the pay or your colleagues? You can be proactive in changing your situation and giving yourself more time and space for your art. Can you take 1-2 days off and work from home? Change projects or negotiate for bigger pay? Take a walk during your lunch break? Buy a used camera from goodwill and start shooting 2 minute videos before work?

Perhaps you think it is selfish or forbidden to buy art supplies? Why is that? Because you may think art is frivolous. extra. people are starving in other countries. how can i buy myself that $120 pastel set? Perhaps you think that you might fail again? if you buy that pastel set, it's not as if you'll use it. get real.

Would you ever treat your friend this way?

If she says, "I'm tired."Do you barrage her in a snarky way, "Well you need to finish this report anyways." NO! You say, "I'm sorry, here, let me fix you a cup of tea.  Or why don't you take a nap or a long bath." If she's frantic and says, "I need to write. omg, I've been so bad." Do you say, "From now on, you should go on a strict regimented no-fun-time diet. You must write from 8-5pm." NO! You say, "It's ok. You're not a bad person. Why is it that you didn't write? Were you tired? overworked? had no ideas? etc. Let me help. We can start now. How about just one word or a paragraph tonight and we'll start fresh tomorrow? We can go to that cafe you always wanted to try and write to the ambient jazz and steaming chai latte." Perhaps the militaristic yelling helps motivate some people. After all, artists work in different ways. You need to find what is "caring for yourself" means. For Seal, she writes better when she's nurtured.

From our experience: Cats come out NOT when they are being yelled at, but when they are coaxed and rewarded. Same with your inner artist. Even if a Cat comes out by yelling at it, it is out of guilt, her head is down in repose, she looks at us timidly, for the next couple of weeks, she's easily startled, she's run out of room when you call, she retaliates by peeing everywhere. She doesn't trust you. Same with your inner artist.

Trust that at the heart of you, you want to create. Trust, that when you feel safe and abundant, you will create when left to yourself. Because you want to reach for something deeper, because it is fun, because it is who you are meant to be. Trust that you will get there. If suddenly you are struck with images of your past failure, trust anyways. Trust that in this next minute, this next second that is yet to happen, you are different than the stories your parents, friends, school, people, and yourself have told about you. Like a broken record, you should change it to a tune that best suits you now. Trust that when you provide the nutrients and safety net you need to create, your creative inner life will ablaze.

It's time to care. for yourself. It's time to give to yourself. Because you deserve it. Because there is something inherently good about you, just as you are, just as a newborn baby should be loved simply because, so should you give to yourself in those ways.

The secret and best remedy for a flower to blossom is the willingness to care and the freedom to grow with wholehearted attention and trust.