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How to Be a Resilient Artist

Being as resilient as bass strings - Pyragraph

I can yank the hell out of my bass strings and they spring right back into place.

The same isn’t always true for us human beings, but as creative people we can build up our resilience to avoid being thrown off-track by criticism—or flattery. Here are seven strategies we can use to build up our resilience on the cheap and easy.

1. Invest in Positive Emotions

Many of us are creatively inspired by darkness, loss and pain. That doesn’t have to change for you to be resilient. Happiness comes from feeling good, not from avoiding feeling bad.

Positivity may sound lame, but take it from Friedrich Nietzsche, the man who questioned everything, including nihilism. “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”

Or take it from the many scientific studies on positive emotions and resilience. One found that positive emotions broaden creative thinking. Another found that resilient people feel as many negative emotions as less happy people, but more positive emotions, making them better at rebounding from adversity and stress while warding off depression.

Try It: Practice Gratitude

Write down three things you are grateful for every day, no matter if you’re having a great one or a terrible one.

2. Document Success

You know the feeling of being deeply immersed in your creative practice or finishing a creative project? It’s amazing! But we forget that feeling once we start doing dishes, paying bills, especially after a long day of sitting at a craft fair table watching people browse through and dismissing our life’s work.

Try It: Success Journal

Keep a notebook with the rest of your gear. Whenever you are feeling proud of your work, open up your notebook and write down what the experience is like for you.

3. Reframe Your Perspective

Successful people are good at seeing things from different perspectives. As artists, we are inherently different from our customers, critics and peers. Engaging in different ways of seeing the world can be a learning opportunity and can even give us inspiration for our next creative project. Reframing is the process of intentionally seeing something from a different perspective. It takes creativity, an open mind, and practice.

A flat tire is a great excuse, if a great excuse is what you want.

Try It: Reframing

Think about the last thing that pissed you off. What good was in that situation? What did you learn? What is important to you that was missing in this situation? What are you grateful for even though you were pissed off? What will you now do differently?

4. Use Your Power to Choose

Artists always want to be in control of their art, right? An internal locus of control is a trait of resilient people. We command our own lives instead of being pushed and pulled by things we can’t control. We all have more power than we give ourselves credit for. For instance, were you late to a gig because you got a flat tire? That’s a great excuse if a great excuse is what you want. If you were playing your dream gig, would you let a flat tire ruin it for you? Hell no. You’d get to that gig no matter what.

Try It: Choose

Write down a list of 10 things you have to do in order to be a successful artist (or whatever you call yourself). Start each line with, “I have to….” After you’re done, go back and cross out the word ‘have,’ and replace it with the word ‘choose.’ All our commitments are choices.

5. Nurture Support

It can be tempting to delve so deep into creating that we neglect our connections with others. Invest your time in people who want the best for you, who want you to succeed, who are there for you when you need them, and who show up even when you didn’t realize you needed them.

Try It: Support Network

Make a list of the people who support you. Include their names, numbers, emails and even physical addresses. Keep in touch with them regularly, and occasionally ask them to do something specific that will be helpful for you.

Wellness Wheel

6. Relax and Take Care of Yourself

Many artists are on a limited budget, but self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. We can take better care of ourselves in all aspects of our lives by using reason to set limits and targets. Make sure the ways you relax are good for you and not too expensive or time-consuming.

Try It: Relax

Close your eyes. Push your belly out as you breathe in. Hold it. Release slowly until every last bit of air escapes your lungs. Look around you and find five colors. Then look around you and find five shapes. Take another deep breath.

7. Give

Helping others builds resilience and also builds connection. You can volunteer your time, donate money or your art, play a benefit show, or be a support for someone else.

Try It: Give

Write a list of 20 things you can do to help others. Do one thing from your list every month.

Resilience keeps you grounded whether you’ve got gushing compliments or ridicule coming at you, whether you just booked your dream show or you’re losing your house. With resilience you can bounce back and keep on your path no matter what.

Photo by Antonia Montoya.

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