Artistic "Style" - Meditate on This No. 2

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I love painting loose abstract modern watercolours. I also love creating highly detailed watercolour animal portraits. I love painting loose landscapes or drawing meticulously in ink. When I think of all the things I paint and draw, it’s a pretty long list of subjects. Seeing so many different things all in one place caused so much confusion and almost a type of “artist paralysis.”

What in the heck is my style? How will I ever succeed if I don’t have a distinct style? What even is style?!

My thoughts generally went round and round in circles over questions like that. Then inevitably, the creative blues kicked in and I was suddenly spiralling into some weird and ridiculous identity/career crisis territory. I mean, really, come on now. Talk about a waste of time!

It was only recently when I was discussing said spiral that a friend said: “I think you are using this idea of style as a crutch, as a delay tactic in just going for it.” I have to say, it took all of 2 seconds for me to hear it and totally agree. Then she asked me: “Are you willing to let this idea of ‘style’ go? Can you commit to action and embrace all avenues of your art?”

I really wanted to say yes at that moment but, like quitting a bad habit, I knew letting go of the “style struggle” wasn’t going to happen with the snap of my fingers. I expect it’s going to be an up and down battle to let go and commit to what drives the paintbrush to move in my hand.

However, I do think that the tides have turned thanks to that one conversation. It’s become easier to stop the spiral faster and many days it can be avoided entirely! As an artist and freelancer, these types of mental blips are abound to happen, but when they do, they won’t seem so dramatic as they have in the past.

You may not always see your style but trust in the creative process and embrace all aspects of your creativity. You’ll be so glad you did!

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Meditate on This - No.1

I was chatting with a friend about the hurdles one faces in a creative career. I talked about the struggles and the frustrations and the confusion; I kept saying, "Oh I don't know if I can do that. I'm not sure I'm brave enough or have the right voice/look/style/experience...." etc. etc. etc. It was then and there that she interrupted me and asked: "What are you afraid of?"

I stammered to actually have a coherent and legitimate answer as she probed into why I felt "I could never do this" or "I'm not brave enough to do that." And then she sent me this quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

― Marianne Williamson

I found it extremely inspiring and thought provoking. Whatever you do, whatever goals you have,  I bet you've been given everything you need to succeed.

Don't let your light frighten you. 


Finding the Right Idea for Right Now

Disclaimer: I had help coming to this realization (thank you Heather if you are reading this). There are still moments of doubt and I have to actively remind myself of what I am about to tell you... Are you ready for it? Here it is:

When you have a million ideas, beginning with one does NOT mean you must abandon everything else.

It's so simple and obvious and yet, all too often, creative people get paralyzed by the fear of choosing the wrong path as those dreams, goals and new ideas continue to bounce around inside their heads like pinballs in a pinball machine. The anxiety grows as each idea practically yells at you for your undivided attention and you start to think, "How can I choose just one? What about that one? Or that one?! But I love doing this too!"

The biggest thing that has held me back - and I'm sure many other creatives - is the lack of permission to pursue multiple passions. You are allowed to choose more than one idea. The trick is choosing which one is right for right now.

Choosing an idea to pursue right now does not mean you need to say goodbye to all the rest. What you need to do is to discern which idea or passion is the most meaningful to you in this particular moment of your life. I know that this is easier said than done, but the fact that you are simply prioritizing ideas rather than throwing them away will help you move past the analysis paralysis.

How I found the Right Idea for Right Now

Make a List

It all begins with a list. Write down your ideas, your dreams, your goals. Just write down every thing you ever wanted to pursue. Don't go into details. Write the "what" and not the "how."

Do you see a theme? Can you spot the pattern? Perhaps there is even a chance that one idea would flow very well into the next one, after you've spent some time bringing it to life.

Serious vs. Dabbling

Again, don't agonize here. Whatever you write down is not set in stone. Go through your list and throw those ideas into one of these categories. Could you see yourself seriously pursuing one? Maybe you just enjoy the other so you'd rather just dabble and do it for yourself.

Connect the dots

Now take a look at your "Serious" list. You've just narrowed down your options. Go through this short list and pick one idea. Don't freak out now. Choose a starting point and try connecting the dots to the rest of your goals and dreams. Don't put dates; this is a lose timeline. Just begin with one dream.

Et Voila!

Giving yourself permission to pursue more than one dream at time allows you the breathing room to make a start. All you did by choosing was choose a place to begin, while leaving all the doors open.

The only time constraint you should give yourself is a window of time to give your chosen idea a chance to flourish. If it doesn't feel right, then try again with a new idea for right now.

Your ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive. By narrowing down your choices for right now, you are giving yourself the opportunity to actually try rather than getting stuck in a rut. You might even discover that some of those ideas are actually not great for you after all. Who knows... At least you will have tried.

P.S. I'm not an expert, but Heather is.


Create Without Drama


I was listening to the Being Boss podcast the other day and Kathleen said something that really struck me: "Create without drama." My first thought was, "drama like tortured artist drama?" The whole tortured—perhaps mentally unstable from all the paint and varnish fumes—artist persona is an extreme. But like most things, drama comes with varying levels and degrees of severity. So what is this drama she's talking about?

I must confess: I create with drama. What's my drama (is this word losing all meaning for you too)? I create and then I work myself up into a panic that people won't like what I do. I build up this fear and nurture silly insecurities, alongside my writing, sketches, this blog, this website, design projects; and I let it cloud over the joy of creating something.

This debate with the inner critic that leads to fear, insecurity and Creative Block is the drama. This is the drama we need to leave behind in order to move forward.

Sound familiar yet? I'm sure I'm not the only one who hesitates sharing even small creations (like this blog post). For me, the drama that accompanies creativity is the fear of putting my work out there. Essentially, it's a fear of being judged. If you feel this way too, stop and think for a minute: whose opinion are you most worried about? If you are really honest with yourself, I'm willing to bet that the insecurity to share a dream, a goal, a creation, comes from the fear of being judged by a particular people—people who care about you and want only what's best for you. Is it worth it to be worried about a few people's opinions, no matter how well intentioned? Probably not, but only you can be the judge of that.

Paradoxically, there is also the fear of not being seen. In our social media world filled with followers and likes, it's way too easy to fall into the trap of relating your creative worth to the amount of likes and followers you have. This quantitative way we live online adds another, super weird level to our creative drama.

I wish I had the answer on how to deal with the fears of having your creative work be seen and not seen. All I can say to myself and to anyone in need of a encouraging shove, do your best to create without drama.