When I started this journey, I did so as a means of prioritizing my art over the things I can’t control. As it turns out, there’s a lot I don’t. I can’t control whether or not the U.S. goes to war. I can’t control the uptick in racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic acts. I can’t control so many “big picture” movements and shake-ups, blow-ups and gaffes. The only thing I can, is me–or so I thought. Sometimes, I do get overwhelmed and I’m finding that is very, very common because life doesn’t stop and start with a headline.
How to cope? There’s a prominent idea that, to be successful, you have to shut off all your emotions and be productive as if you were a robot. That has never been the case for me, and I feel dealing with emotional stress isn’t talked about a lot. This is supposed to be the fun job, the glamorous gig we’re lucky to have. Only, the expression of emotion is something fans do/have/expect in response to our work. Now, I am a fan-turned-creator making works for other fans to respond to, which is one of the reasons why I make art. Emotions are part of being human and they are natural after all. Sometimes, we feel things that are so compelling we have to make art and that vehicle, that physical manifestation of our emotions, is how the artist connects to the audience. Other times, we shut down completely due to a thousand tiny bites, those little cuts that chip away at our confidence. Or, in my case, harassment.
Emotions are important to making art. Forgiving yourself for getting sick, falling into a depression, needing a vacation, etc. is so important, because there are many myths about the suffering artist that are works of fiction for a reason. To suffer, to be happy, to be angry or sad…those emotions are part of who you are and they may not necessarily be reflected in your work. You don’t have to suffer to make good art, and anyone who tells you that probably doesn’t realize this mantra causes you harm. Pain can be a catalyst, but it is not the only emotion we draw upon as artists. The beauty of being human is that we deal with our emotions very differently, and that is something no “one-true-wayism” can ever address. However, feel too many emotions and you can get overwhelmed, shut down, and not make any art because you are reacting to your brain weasels. For artists, this is a danger because there are a lot of reasons not to make art in a culture that struggles to define its value.
The flip side to tapping into your emotions is to veer toward routine. Discipline, which was the foundation for my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge, is important to making art. It matters because making art consistently is the only way to become successful as (or learn how to be) an artist. You cannot sell what you dream about making. You cannot paint a masterpiece if you’re still learning techniques. I know that can be a hard pill to swallow, but making art has to be our core competency and primary focus as artists. However, like emotions, there is a dark side to too much discipline. When you plot, plan, and form routines, you wind up punishing yourself when your actions don’t satisfy your intent. Maybe, you’re the type of writer who now knows you cannot write every day, for example. That’s okay. As I’ve said before, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, because how you make art folds into figuring out your process. Your process doesn’t always impact the end result, provided you keep at it.
For these reasons, I am proposing alternate rules to help you customize this template for your needs. I want to reiterate that my challenge is here to help you feel empowered to make your own choices as an artist. I cannot stand over your shoulder and force you to write; I cannot overpower your personal brain weasels; I cannot give you the secret to making art or being successful as an artist. There is no secret other than to sit down and actually do it. Right now. Not five years ago, not three weeks from now, but today.
With that in mind, here’s the original pledge followed by a customization:
Original My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:
- I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.
- If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to write down the reasons why I wanted to take this challenge for fifteen minutes or one-to-three pages whichever comes first.
- I pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.
- As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
- I pledge to check into social media twice a week for personal use, and once a month with my local community of artists and writers.
Alternate My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:
- I pledge to devote five hours a week to my original art.
- If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to explore what is blocking me from making art. I can do this by talking to a peer, writing one-to-three pages, or meditating.
- I pledge to acknowledge and celebrate the projects I’ve completed for Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge.
- I pledge to evaluate how I’m doing, by checking in bi-weekly. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
- I pledge to review, refine, and reduce distractions, like my time on social media, that are affecting my ability to make art.
As you can see, the new rules shift the focus slightly to incorporate your feelings. There are other customizations as well, because not everyone has the same schedule or means to support the ability to make art. Sometimes, materials are expensive or the allotted time is shifted to account for a family emergency. That’s extraordinarily common, and often I think we forget that the opportunities we have aren’t what everyone else has, too. Further, customizations like this don’t significantly change the challenge goal, what they do is fine-tune the experience to your needs while avoiding extremes. I have total faith that you will customize these rules based on your lifestyle, to make room for making art when you can. Be kind and give yourself some credit!
Lastly, I want to point out that self-evaluation may yield interesting results for you. You might find out you’re suffering from a mild depression. You might recognize that a change in your job or activity levels are impacting your mental-or-physical health. You might notice that you are more isolated than you’ve been in the past, or the political atmosphere is so charged you don’t realize you’re being triggered by current events. I cannot stress the value of self-care enough, and should you find yourself in this position please do not punish yourself for not making art. Your health is so important, and while making art can be cathartic in many ways it is not a replacement for getting the medical help you need.
Be well, and I hope that you are figuring out the next steps on your journey as an artist.
Mood: Moody like the weather. It’s stormy, it’s sunny, it’s rainy in 20 minutes?
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A solid three.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Fish tank and Captain Whinypants snoring.
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Originals Season 3.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.