by Nic Palmer
If you want to be a successful artist in this sense: you’re independent, you’re able to make conscious decisions about who you work with (galleries, curators, exhibits etc) and who you sell to, you make more than enough money to live (pay bills, mortgage/rent, food etc), buy materials, afford entry fees and so on, and don’t have to work a regular job, then you must be curating a mindset that is geared for this kind of lifestyle.
We are not taught this in art school, at least that’s been my experience. We aren’t taught that we can cultivate exactly what we need to be successful as artists, from the inside, and specifically through the way we think and act based on our personal mindset. Our mindset has been formulated throughout our lives by our parents, schooling, family, friends and social media for example. You don’t have to give away everything you’ve ever learnt about the world and yourself, the things that have shaped your mindset, but you have to consider unlearning things and formulating new belief systems and values that comprise your mindset.
Changing things about your mindset will require some strategy and strong decision making for yourself. For example you must be able to switch off from social media, eating or doing other things to distract yourself, and procrastinating (a little is ok because it can be a productive time daydreaming, gathering inspiration etc). Procrastination usually arises simply because we are fearful of fulfilling our creative endeavour. It’s basically a coping strategy designed within the mind. The underlying belief is often that we are going to keep ourselves feeling safe if we do not take action on the thing we want to create. Feeling safe is a primary need for people. Our minds have been cultivated to believe illusionary things such as not doing/creating equals safety (think about the conditioning received in a classroom where you are told to sit down, be quiet and keep still!). This can lead you to believe that being quiet and keeping still is the only right thing to do. I’m here to tell you that you can take your power back and change these beliefs and this conditioning.
For example, imagine it feeling super safe, freeing and amazing being in the creative process, whatever that is for you: cooking, painting, making music or whatever. Once you convince/retrain your mind that being engaged in your work/passion is something to look forward to and feel good about, you won’t have the need to procrastinate because your mind doesn’t think procrastination is the answer anymore. This is the hack – hacking the mind is about consciously changing your beliefs and understandings about things – reframing – which I’ll get to in a sec.
You need to be able to commit to a plan, a plan that is also changeable, so as not to get attached. This is because sometimes (especially for sensitive artist types), a plan can feel like a trap where if you don’t live up to it, you are a failure and it feels terrible etc. Creating extra pressure by forcing a plan up on yourself can burn through your energy like nothing else and when you are lifting yourself off the ground as an artist you need all your energy. The new way is that you have a plan but you are in the mindset of understanding that it can change. This approach helps you subconsciously feel free and open to possibility – a really important thing for any artist I believe. Remember: plan and be open to letting it change.
If you catch yourself beginning to stress about aspects of your practice or career for example, stop and ask yourself why am I stressing about this? Reframe it! What does that mean? You can write down why you are feeling stressed, and then keep asking questions. For example, I’m feeling stressed because I don’t have enough money to pay for the materials I need for this artwork. Why does that stress me out? I won’t be able to see my project through and I’ll feel unsuccessful/like a failure. Why is that so bad? I don’t want to be seen as a failure. What’s so bad about being seen as a failure? And so on. Keep digging and you’ll get to the core – the real reason why you are stressed about not having enough money. Usually it comes down to not wanting to feel a certain way. Once you find that reason, it’s possible to feel a great sense of relief and then reframe your approach to the task. For example, a new belief might be: “I don’t have the money right now, but I will, and I’m open to receiving or creating it in a way that feels good and generates more than enough.” Focus on that instead. Shifting your focus will cultivate a new, healthier and more successful mindset for any artist. The “starving artist” days are OVER.
Most mindset work is simply about reframing the way you see and think about things, and you can watch your entire world shift.
For personal coaching on this, and to find out more, please don’t hesitate to send me an email: email@example.com
Visual & Performing Artist, Sydney, Australia