Want to avoid cyclical artist block? Try immersing yourself in the lifestyle of making art instead of focusing on the outcome of any one finished piece.
Most artists, whether they admit to it or not, have a desire for recognition. Recognition can mean a lot of things depending on who you ask.
For some people recognition means having your work sell consistently. For others, that’s not enough, it must be sold in a gallery. Or maybe it has to be in a fancy gallery. And even yet, for some, true recognition is being famous and having your work in a museum (a far-fetched reality for most).
For other people recognition could be how many social media followers you have. Or how many likes a post gets. And for others it could just be having your dad who doesn’t really understand your art say for once, “I like this”. It’s worth noting that you yourself may also be your own worst critic. It’s a delicate balance because your dissatisfaction with your work is part of what pushes you to reach for greater heights. But at the same time, if you’re too dissatisfied then you can become miserable and your work will show it.
“It’s hard to be creative when you’re worried about what other people think.”
Whatever recognition you seek, it’s a painful distraction away from what you set out to do in the first place: make art. Listen, we all want some recognition. It’s only human. So how do you end the pity party? Turn your attention back to the reason you make art at all. Not only will you be happier, but your work will get better too. It’s hard to be creative when you’re worried about what other people think.
So why do you make art? Do you ever stop to ask the question? Because if you aren’t sure, you’re sure to get lost, if not now, then eventually. This is a question that all great artists have to reconsider as disappointment and resistance comes up again and again. Knowing your why will help you to develop the grit you need to continue when other people can’t see your vision.
This is why focusing on the outcome of any one painting or sculpture, or whatever it is that you make, is a bad idea. Instead, view your work as a constant learning process. A journey without an end. Otherwise, you’ll end up depressed, just like many gold medal winners feel after the Olympic Games are over. It’s never over if you’re in it for the long game. And you’ll never be down for too long if you’re focused on things beyond winning.
So if it’s not for recognition or winning then what is it for? It’s for you and the people who enjoy your art. The hearts and souls that you touch with your work. Your own healing and peace of mind that occurs when you put your phone down for once and get into “the zone”. Focus on that piece, you know, actually MAKING art, and you’ll have a life-long creative practice.