To be honest, I am going through something personally challenging in my life. Everyone has points in their lives where we feel challenged. What can measure us as a person is how we choose to cope with our problems and the manner in which we attempt to resolve them.
I often find in moments of emotional uncertainty a desire to omit all of the joyful elements in my life, I feel as if I won’t enjoy them anyway. It is a self-punishing and negative reinforcing behavior. Thankfully, I am aware of my predisposition and can make a different choice.
My creative outlet is the greatest resource for coping with problems (outside of my communication with loved ones). Despite knowing this, I will often avoid creation in favor of, say, cleaning (no joke) when I am upset or stressed. I have discovered that if I actually keep myself creatively busy during these times instead of checking out of my creative life I better reinforce the positive feelings that I have from creating!
For example, in the past month I have completed 3 commissioned artworks, written several blog posts for Artist Strong and my artist blog, I have committed to being an author for A Hopeful Sign, worked on a personal art project, gone on two photo shoots, and begun planning for the Before I Die Project (which we are bringing to the UAE next year, yipee!).
These are only my directly related to the arts roles (besides my role as art teacher, of course 🙂 ). I also continue to maintain a social life, exercise, travel and try to pamper myself every once in a while (massages and pedicures are my two favorites).
If I hadn’t decided to accept those 3 commissions I am confident only half of my art-related list would have occurred. They provided specific deadlines that I had to build my other projects around. Because there were demanded by an outside source, my personal doubt and emotional trouble were forced aside in a way I felt less able to do for my own self-assigned deadlines. And they reminded me just how happy I am when I create. I love the feeling of losing time when you are involved with an artwork and the sense of satisfaction as well as adrenaline that comes from finishing an artwork. These good endorphins are more important than ever during a period of emotional challenge. It also gives your brain an opportunity to rest after being so overwhelmed by shock, sadness, or what you may be experiencing.
So, take this as my pep talk to all of you out there having a bad day or experiencing grief in some way: if making art is something you love, create! Don’t allow sadness or other challenging emotions convince you any other way. Do what you love and make art because it makes you happy, because we all deserve to be happy.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Commit to 1 or 2 creative projects with external deadlines. It may help you balance your creative time and reinforce that need for joyful moments in your life!
Want further reading? I enjoyed The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. My art teacher friend Dawn suggested it to me years ago because I was seeking more ways to incorporate joy into my everyday!