I recently saw a tweet by Stephen King that said, “If you think artists are useless try to spend your quarantine without music, books, poems, movies and paintings.” Could you do it?
I, for one, could not.
Our civilization cannot function without the arts. Their imprint in our history is paramount. Creativity has become essential to our endurance during this pandemic. And not just the creations by famous individuals, but those of our own design. Without television, movies, art, books, crafts or radio, boredom would be the first step on the staircase to crazy.
The arts don’t just keep us sane and whole, they bring us together. Actors/actresses, singers/musicians, art teachers, tattoo artists, writers, photographers, designers and many other artistic people are currently out of work. However, they continue to create from the safety of their homes, and use their gifts via the internet to help uplift us, while we fight the COVID-19 spread.
Individuals who are not naturally prone to such forms of expression are also reaching out. They have risen above their own concerns, for the benefit of humanity, by performing balcony serenades or televised anthems, or painting cheerful window art. Local musicians have turned into seamstresses overnight, in order to stitch masks to aid the shortage. These individuals are the light of our communities.
They are truly inspirational.
However, there are those who struggle. The other night, a friend of mine said he no longer felt motivated to draw, to create. He didn’t lack inspiration, but he felt hampered by the negativity of others. He wasn’t the first artist to say so. Though there are no physical hindrances, many artists feel blocked.
There is nothing wrong with this.
These are uncertain times, and we are all doing our best to adjust. We’re not all Edgar Allan Poe or Alice Cooper, who can turn darkness into masterpieces.
Art is a form of expression and imagination, involving a diverse range of creative concepts. It thrives off our thoughts, emotions, experiences and desires. It cannot be forced (well, it can, but I don’t advise it), but it needs to be felt. It is a living, breathing entity inside us that must be nurtured, or it may go dormant.
If motivation leaves you, Google has many helpful suggestions. The most common ones are to create a schedule and a suitable workspace, to avoid procrastination, and to persevere. All of which I agree with 100 percent. However, those suggestions may not always help when your heart is not in it.
10 tips to for staying motivated
Here are 10 tips I’ve compiled from various artistic acquaintances who have continued to stay motivated during our current crisis.
With anything in life, it is important to stay grounded. When surrounded with nothing but detrimental noise, the best thing to do is find your happy place and reconnect with your medium. ‘Regroup,’ so to speak. Take a moment and find what inspired your artistic talents in the first place. Once you do, start fresh.
First and foremost, art is a form of expression. Therefore, if you’re frustrated or depressed about current events, express it. There is no right or wrong way for an artist to create. Our work reflects what is happening in our lives, and we can change it up whenever the mood strikes us. Just look at Garth Brooks’ Chris Gaines album, Picasso’s periods, Robin Williams’ dramatic acting phase, and authors such as Margaret Atwood, who have successfully mastered more than one genre.
Art is a natural stress-reliever. If you find yourself less motivated due to stress, instead of shying away from your gift, use it. Meditate through your art and let the bad vibes fall away. Sing songs that are appropriate to your mood, use bold brush strokes and dark shades, re-enact dramas that speak of human struggles or write the words shadowing your heart. Get it out!
Lower your expectations
Stop expecting yourself to scale Mount Everest. Though I find that people do some of their best work when faced with deadlines, sometimes you just have to ignore them and focus on what you can accomplish day-by-day. You might not compose the next top radio hit, write a bestseller, or paint a piece perfect enough for the Louvre, but as long as you’re creating, nothing else matters. Take baby steps.
Get back to basics
Who doesn’t want to be a kid again? If you can’t paint, draw, sculpt, etc., pretend you’re back in your kindergarten art class. Doodle, colour, create abstracts, do rough sketches, play with Play-Doh, or finger paint. Believe it or not, these things can be very cathartic.
The same goes for those involved with music. Play “Chopsticks” or “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Mimic the masters. If you are a stumped writer, keep a journal, free-write or carry a notebook with you to jot things down in. Even simple creations equal something, and will help you on the road to recovery.
Those who cannot do, teach. Even if you are not motivated to create new material yourself, you can still help others do so. Whether you are a qualified teacher or not, you still have the ability to share your artistic talents with those who are willing to learn, be they your own family members or children, friends or acquaintances, or friends of friends. Thanks to modern technology, we can maintain our distance while aiding others.
Take a course
If you don’t feel inclined to teach, why not take a course yourself? Broaden your skill set. A lot of artists, writers and musicians currently offer online courses or free tutorials. Take advantage of it! If you feel stuck, try something new. You might find your way back on course. Plus, you’ll have a new trick or two up your sleeve.
Give yourself positive reinforcement
I’ve always found positivity to be one of the best things for motivation. Surround yourself with inspirational quotes, clippings or famous pieces of art. Listen to your favourite music and read your favourite books, poems and stories. Tap back into those artists who made you aspire to follow in their footsteps. If none of that works, pull out the Disney movies!
No matter what is going on in the world, it is important for us to remain connected. Though we need to continue to practice social distancing, the world is at our disposal with only the click of a mouse. You can still jam with your band members through Facetime or Skype, create podcasts or audio files for your readers, make how-to or demonstration videos on artistic techniques or record yourself reading a book for your grandchildren.
If you take nothing else from what I’ve said, remember to never give up! You may feel down right now, and lack the motivation to do what makes you happy, but if you stick with it, even if it is a simple task each day, you will be able to rise above it.
Shut the world out if you have to, to quiet the storm, and just focus on yourself. Don’t despair. You are an artist, and that doesn’t change just because you can’t get motivated.
We all will face a period in life when, no matter what we do, we just aren’t feeling it. There is nothing wrong with that. Cut yourself some slack. History is full of artists who went through some downtime and then made triumphant comebacks. Time heals all, they say.
Take the opportunity presented to you to reflect on your artistic path. Look at your achievements, ponder your work and set goals. Reconnect with yourself, your muse and your chosen medium, and play with your art. Have fun with it, and just see where it takes you. No deadlines, no expectations, just do it for you.
Stay safe and create.
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