With so much going on in the world, maybe you wonder if your creative work is frivolous–if it’s out of touch, if it’s speaking to what people care about, if people will be open to it.
The truth is, people are having all kinds of experiences. Some people have hours on their hands and will be immensely grateful for art to uplift or entertain them. Some people are working long hours and need relief from their current world.
People are going through so many different emotions, and they all need different things. Some need a light, entertaining escape. Some people need a moving love story that validates human connection. Some people need to identify with a wily, scrappy heroine who uses her wits to survive in tough times.
So if you’re asking, “Does my art matter now?”, it doesn’t mean your art is now irrelevant to other people. (This is true whether it has a connection to current events or not).
What your question actually means is your own experience has changed, so your relationship to your art no longer feels exactly right.
This isn’t a signal to dump your current project–it just means you need to bring more of who you are and what you feel NOW into your art.
So instead of asking “Does my art matter now?”, consider asking, “What am I experiencing?” and “How will I bring that into my art?”
This will let you create some of your deepest, truest, and best work.
P.S. Stay tuned for more posts, trainings, and opportunities to go deeper with your creative work–especially in this pandemic time.
I went through a stretch where I didn’t feel like a “real writer” anymore.
First I was sick with what was probably the coronavirus. (For three weeks I had a cough and aches/chills, then fatigue, chest pains and shortness of breath, but NYC won’t test unless you’re sick enough for hospitalization.)
Then I was writing and submitting a lot of articles–but when my favorite ones weren’t immediately accepted, I started to lose energy and motivation. And, I still wasn’t writing my fiction, which is my “truest” art.
PLUS I was staying up late to play… guess what… the Pandemic computer game! After a long day, it was a relief to curl up in bed and escape into a strategy game where I could cure diseases and prevent outbreaks before the world spiraled out of control.
(Other people appeared to feel the same way, because the Pandemic board game was sold out on Amazon except for a couple sellers offering it at double the prepandemic price. But, I digress…)
Playing Pandemic was messing up my fiction. I was too tired to write in the mornings before I started homeschooling my kids, and later in the day I was too scattered to write.
Then I read an article that reminded me: I’m a writer… and as a writer, I live a certain way, make certain choices, take certain actions.
The article is about a woman’s experience after her husband’s death–and how it applies to parenting during coronavirus. But, to tell the truth, I found it even more useful for myself as an artist.
“In the fog after Jake’s death, I did my best to focus on the strength I wanted, not the weakness I feared. I wasn’t a broken single mom. I was a mother guiding a family. In doing that, I stumbled into one of the more effective kinds of habit-forming: I’m the mom of a happy family, so I get up and make my kids bacon; I’m the mom of a family with a full life, so I let my kids climb the jungle gym even when I’m nervous. This mindset doesn’t keep me from crying or drinking too much wine or struggling with anxiety, but it puts me on a path to managing those things.
So, what do you need to believe about yourself right now?”
At its core, the article is *really* about constructing an identity that helps you get through each day in the best way.
This is an approach I’ve lived by for years, but sometimes we come off our center and need to relearn our own lessons.
After I read this article, my energy shifted. I no longer had a strong desire to play Pandemic. Instead, I was curious about another writer’s work and decided to read it. I started going to bed earlier and getting up early to do yoga and write.
The value of fear–and how to let go of fear when you’re ready
I want to talk frankly about fear in this time of coronavirus.
I’m just coming out of something that I suspect was a mild case of coronavirus. I had a dry cough that became aches and chills and then shortness of breath… I couldn’t get tested in NYC because that’s reserved for people who are sick enough to go to the hospital, but because I’d already had a flu shot AND two flulike illnesses in January, I knew there was a good chance this was COVID-19.
I wasn’t paralyzed by fear because my symptoms were mild, but every time the aches and pains or shortness of breath flared up, I would get scared again. And between resting and researching the symptoms of mild cases and learning about the coronavirus and supervising my kids’ new home schooling, I didn’t have the bandwidth for my creative work.
But, because I’m a coach and creative priestess, my online world is filled with coaches and spiritual people. All over my Facebook feed, people were saying, “Be in a higher vibration. Don’t live in fear. Keep going, keep doing your work…”
I recognized the value of that, but at the same time, a part of me said, “Shut the f*ck up. I don’t want to deal with you, and I don’t want to hear about rising above fear. I’m reading about coronavirus because I might have it and I need to figure out how likely that is and what I need to watch out for, to know if I need to go to the hospital.”
Sometimes we feel fear. And there’s a reason we feel fear. It comes from our ancestors, we evolved fear as a way of recognizing danger, and it played a valuable role in keeping us alive.
Fear can point to legitimate issues we need to deal with, and it can spur us to take important action to protect ourselves.
This is not to say you should feel fear–if you don’t, you don’t, and that’s a powerful place.
But, if you’re afraid about your health or afraid for people you love, if you’re afraid about money, or you’re questioning whether it’s meaningless to do art in a time when millions of people are dying or on the verge of dying, that is okay. There’s no need to force yourself to be “strong” or “spiritual.”
Your fear is telling you there’s something uncertain and unknown that could be a threat–something you need to deal with. That makes sense right now.
The coronavirus is real, and the things we need to do to flatten the curve and take care of ourselves are important.
Fear-shaming or pushing fear away can be a form of “spiritual bypassing,” where you try to skip over very real and very valid emotions. (This usually causes your emotions to break out in destructive ways later on.)
It can also cause you to skip over necessary internal or practical preparation. As risk consultant Peter Sandman says, “The knee-jerk reaction of overreacting early to a potential crisis is extremely useful. Like other knee-jerk reflexes, it protects us. People who have gone through it come out on the other side calmer and better able to cope.”
There are actually stages of dealing with an epidemic: denial, panic, fear, and rational response. By moving through these stages, you prepare yourself emotionally and mentally to face what’s there.
So be afraid if you’re afraid. Bunker down if you need to. Read obsessively about coronavirus if you need to. Let yourself cry or rage.
Moving through the stages also means you will come out of your fear–because we’re more than our fear.
We’re survivors. We have that in our genes and our lineage.
Our ancestors lived through sickness and war. They lived through epidemics including plagues that killed 60% of the population. And we will survive this too. Not only that, if we choose, we can thrive.
Yes, feel the fear. Let yourself. It’s all right.
And then let the fear go. Even when you’re still afraid, there will come a time when you’re ready to move on.
There comes a time when your spirit says, “All right. I want more than fear. Show me the way out. Show me what to do. I know I can be more than this.”
This meditation is for that time.
A Meditation to Come Out of Fear
NOTE: The meditation itself starts at 5:05 on the video.
Now, when writers and artists talk about quality work, many of us think about practicing our craft over the years. You humbly apprentice yourself, you put in the time, and you hope that your talent will be enough. Right?
Apprenticeship and craft are valuable–and 100% necessary. Craft and technique are what enable you to successfully translate your inner artistic vision into an external work of art.
However, there’s much more to quality than craft. Technically skillful work without anything to say usually feels cold or boring. People may admire it, but it doesn’t affect them deeply–so it’s unlikely to win awards or have raving fans.
Also, consider this: No matter how many years of study and dedicated practice you put in, your technical artistic talent will have some limits.
What if you never become the equivalent of Tolstoy or Picasso, Toni Morrison or Leonard Cohen? Do you resign yourself to mediocrity?
I say no.
You can become the most brilliant version of yourself.
You do that by finding what really wants to come out in your work–its deepest truths, most searing insights, and most moving expressions of the human condition.
So yes, dedicate yourself to perfecting your craft.
But don’t limit it to that: find the deepest truths in your work–and bring out your truest expression.
This brilliance–which can only come from you–is the quality you need for breakthrough success.
P.S. I’m bringing together a group of talented, ambitious artists committed to artistic success.
The CREATE! Mastermind is specifically designed to support you in EVERYTHING it takes to create a breakthrough masterpiece that can open up the floodgates of success for your artistic career.
We cover everything from doing original and brilliant work, to setting up your life so it supports your creative work, to turning your inner critic into one of your most powerful allies.
In the CREATE! Mastermind, you’ll also uncover the deepest truths hidden in your creative work—and bring it out—so your creative work moves people and changes lives. And, you’ll discover the unconscious emotional patterns that limit your craft—and transcend those limits to do your most powerful work yet.
This is how you create your breakthrough masterpiece.