Breaking Through Anxiety: Strategies for Creatives to Stay Focused on Their Craft
Updated: May 23
Anxiety for artists is like standing at the edge of a cliff, knowing you have to jump and trusting that you will be able to fly when you do. It takes tremendous courage to take that leap and trust in yourself. This type of anxiety is common among creatives, whether you're a musician staring at a fresh piece of music you have to learn, an artist looking at an empty canvas, or a writer facing a blank page. It's natural to feel anxious, but it's important not to let anxiety derail your practice or creative process. In this article, we'll explore some strategies to break through anxiety and stay focused on your craft.
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
The first step to breaking through anxiety is to acknowledge its existence. It's easy to get caught up in negative thoughts and emotions, but denying or ignoring your anxiety won't make it go away. Procrastinating won't help either. Did you know we procrastinate to avoid uncomfortable feelings? That's right! You have to shake hands with these uncomfortable feelings. See them. Have a cup of tea with them. This will help diminish their power. Then, try to be compassionate with yourself and recognize that it's okay to feel anxious. Everyone goes through this.
2. Break Down Your Work
We talk about this a lot. Breaking down your work into smaller, more manageable pieces is a key strategy for breaking through anxiety. Whether you're a musician or an artist, breaking down your work can help you focus on small, achievable tasks and build confidence and momentum.
Start with the easiest section or task and work your way up to the more challenging parts. For example, if you're a musician, start with the easiest part of the piece and work your way up to the more challenging parts. If you're an artist, start with a simple sketch or outline before diving into the details. By focusing on small, manageable tasks, you can build confidence and momentum. If you're a calligrapher, go back to basic strokes, or warmups. Each time you complete a task, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment and be more motivated to continue. Remember, progress is more important than perfection.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is another key strategy for breaking through anxiety. Mindfulness means being fully present in the moment, paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. By practicing mindfulness, you can cultivate a sense of calm and clarity that will allow you to approach your work with greater focus and intention. Not only that, but if you're practicing your craft, the only way to improve is through mindful practice. This allows you to notice mistakes and fix them. If you're just on auto-pilot, you'll miss these learning opportunities.
One way to practice mindfulness is to focus on your breath. Take a few deep, slow breaths before you begin working, and try to maintain a steady rhythm throughout your session. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
4. Find Your Support System
Having a support system can make a big difference when breaking through anxiety. Whether it's a friend, family member, or fellow artist, having someone to talk to and share your experiences with can help you feel less alone and more supported.
It is very helpful to seek out other creatives because it's highly likely they have had similar experiences. Join a creative community or attend a workshop or class. Surrounding yourself with other creatives can provide camaraderie and inspiration. As Socrates once said: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" (including ourselves, so have compassion for yourself!
Remember, anxiety is a natural part of the creative process, but it doesn't have to control your work. Just remember, you can do it! You don't need a cape or superpowers. All you need is an open mind, a willing attitude, and it doesn't hurt to have a cup of coffee!
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