Artist Soapbox: Take Your Work Seriously

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 30 April 2018

Greetings, Soapboxers!

Next week, Tamara and I are launching our first Creative Accountability Group. I can’t wait!

I’m already inspired by the statement these artists have made by signing up for this group: they have put Creative Resistance on notice.

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield posits that every artist is engaged in a war against Resistance. In his definition, Resistance is any act that prefers immediate gratification over long-term growth, health or integrity. Resistance is fueled by fear and Resistance never sleeps. The battle must be fought anew every day.

Does this sound familiar? Imposter syndromeprocrastinationperfectionismcomparison — these are all forms of Resistance. The good news is: we are not powerless in this fight. Recently we’ve talked about cleaning up and bringing in beauty as resources. Today I’ll offer one more, inspired by Mr. Pressfield: Take Your Work Seriously.

Do you want to write a book? Make a web series? Learn an instrument? You do? Cool! Quick question: HOW SERIOUS ARE YOU?

Serious enough to delete some time-sucks from your phone?

Serious enough to decline a night out with friends to do your work?

Serious enough to reach out to friends/mentors for help and feedback?

Serious enough to spend time actually *doing* the work?

In this context, taking your work seriously does not mean putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to produce something “Serious.” It means you recognize the intrinsic value of your artistic endeavor and prioritize it without apology.

One of the biggest lies Resistance wants us to believe is that we don’t have enough time. Do you have 5 minutes? Sit down and do your creative work for those 5 minutes and you have overcome Resistance. Do it again and again and your work is going to add up to something. I’m a big believer in this axiom: “Show up for the work and the work will show up for you.”

This is why I’m so excited to begin our Creative Accountability Group. This is a group of people who have said, to some degree, I am serious. I am serious enough to get some help. I am serious enough to show up and put my goals out there. I am serious enough to risk feeling less-than in front of other people. I am serious and I take my creativity seriously.

Next month I’ll be sending a dispatch from the front lines. In the meantime, we’d love to hear about the ways you battle Resistance. What works for you? Leave us a comment or email us at artistsoapbox@gmail.com .

‘Til next time,

MT

Artist Soapbox: Farewell, Creativity Obstructions. Hello, Creativity Resources!

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 12/29/2017.

**Last post of 2017!**

Happy New Year, Soapboxers!

How does that salutation sit with you? How does it feel to be looking ahead to a fresh calendar? Hopeful? Scary? Exciting? Full of dread? Are you taking stock of 2017 or lighting a match and throwing it over your shoulder as you Auld Lang Syne your way into 2018?

I’ll be honest, this month I didn’t show up for my creativity as much as I would have liked. Can I get a show of hands from all the folks who have been running around ragged this month? Holiday parties, traveling, work and/or family obligations… December is NON STOP. While I treasure time spent with friends and loved ones, I can feel my creativity squeaking out a quiet “Remember me?” in the background.

I hear you, creativity, and I haven’t forgotten you. You are important and you will not be ignored.

Is your creativity talking to you? What is it saying? What does it most need from you in 2018?

So far in this blog series, Tamara and I have discussed different obstructions that present themselves when you’re on your creative path.

  1. Imposter Syndrome: Who do I think I am? Why even try?
  2. Perfectionism: I’m so afraid that my creation will not be perfect that I never actually do it.
  3. Comparison: I’ll never be as good as that person. I should probably quit.
  4. Distraction: I’ve convinced myself that all these other things have priority over my creativity.

This framework has helped me when I’m struggling creatively. I can remember that these feelings are part of the process. They are normal but that doesn’t mean they’re true or that I need to indulge them.

Right now I am definitely guilty of #4. But you know what? I’ve made progress on the others. They don’t have the hold on me that they did even one year ago. Change is possible, friends! But here’s the fine print: it took work. It took facing down fears and doing it anyway. It took getting out of my own way. It took hours at the keyboard doing the actual work of writing a script. It took hours of self-resourcing to help me navigate re-writes and self-doubt and the excitement and stress of seeing the work come to life.

In 2018, I would like to share with you and learn from you the things we do for ourselves that resource us. That give us confidence. That align us with our hopes and dreams for ourselves. That give us a boost, whether that’s emotionally, physically or creatively. Because I gotta tell you — creativity can be scary. It can be vulnerable. Performing in front of people, sharing your words with others, displaying your paintings or drawings — these are courageous acts. I truly believe that we must unapologetically care for ourselves to be able to share these parts of ourselves with others and maintain our emotional, physical and creative health. Let’s talk about how to make this happen for ourselves and our creative community.

What do you think, Soapboxers? We’re all in this together. Thank you for supporting the Artist Soapbox endeavors this year. It has been a pleasure to share with you and especially to hear from you! Please leave a comment or write us at artistsoapbox@gmail.com .

‘Til next time!
-MT

Artist Soapbox: Comparisons, Part I

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 11/25/17.

In general, comparing yourself to Patti Smith is a terrible idea. I don’t recommend it. But there I was, not yet 30 years old, reading her then-newly published Just Kids and mercilessly chastising myself over my boring, disappointing life.

Patti read Rimbaud and traveled to France and lived in the Chelsea and made Horses and on and on and on all before she was 30. By comparison, I was a washed-up old hag whose punk days, such as they were, were behind her. I missed my chance. I could never possibly accomplish anything worthwhile at this advanced age. Cue the violins.

Patti wasn’t the only hero I put through this deification/self-denigration gauntlet. I used to frustrate myself endlessly by comparing artists I admired and what they achieved by such-and-such an age versus my whole-lotta-nothing existence. Lovely readers, if you find yourself doing this, PLEASE STOP IMMEDIATELY and remember what Uncle Teddy said:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

When I read Just Kids, I was at a low-point, creatively. It had been a few years since my band broke up and theater was not yet on the horizon. I felt stuck but my limited emotional skill-set allowed that stuckness to spiral quickly into hopeless catastrophizing. Everything needed to happen RIGHT NOW and if it didn’t, well, that was further proof of my worthlessness.

Then I started a new band. And then I got cast in a play. And then I took a pretty epic motorcycle trip. And then I started working with Little Green Pig. And then I started running. And then I did a lot of not-insignificant work on myself to get at all this bullshit that was holding me back. And on and on and on.

Because it’s bullshit, friends. It’s total bullshit. The thing that tells you you don’t measure up? Bullshit. You aren’t ____ enough? Bullshit. You’re too old/fat/lazy/whatever to do the things you want to do? Bullshit. That someone else’s success is somehow evidence of your failure? Bullshit.

Comparing myself to Patti Smith is bullshit. I will never be Patti Smith. Now I can read that as a simple statement of fact rather than a denouncement of my existence. What’s more, I am not here to be Patti Smith. I’m here to be me. I don’t have Patti’s words or experiences. I have mine. They are not any more or less significant than hers. They simply ARE. I’m done comparing.

Now I can put on Horses and feel nothing but inspiration. I can even remember my Just Kids low point with a fond wink and a bit of maternalism for Young Me, the ever-harsh. I can support and lift up my fellow art-makers because there is room for all of us. This is the world we’re making.

We’re all in this together, Soapboxers. I’m interested to hear from you. Leave a comment or email us at artistsoapbox@gmail.com .

‘Til next time!

-MT