Maybe I am an anomaly and a lot of people I know may be anomalies too … but … I know a lot of happy artists. OK, so, truth be told, I also have known a lot of unhappy artists along my journey too. I made sure that I did everything I could to help them become happy …. so they didn’t stay unhappy long while I was acquainted with them. I also honored those who weren’t interested in being happy, but I am not one to force happiness on anyone.
So many of the Artists who were committed to their own unhappiness drifted out of my life along the way as sometimes happens when two people are very different. See … I am a Happy Artist – a Happy woman – a Happy being … just plain ol’ Happy. I probably make people who are committed to being unhappy crazy. I don’t mean to … I just have a hard time not showing my happiness and frankly, I don’t want to hide it. As a matter of a fact … along with the starving Artist myth, the UnHappy Artist myth is another myth about Artists that I am out to rid us of.
I know we are taught that pain and suffering makes for good Art and that if you are a real Artist you will gladly take on that persona. Not only is it part of the historical myth we are fed and keep feeding ourselves, but we have tons of Artists from the past and current who would point to that myth being true. That makes it very convenient for us to make it into the “truth” if we want. You know the list don’t you? You can come up with lots of the brilliant painters, writers, poets, musicians, singers, etc. … the ones who are or were legends for being miserable or that even ended in suicide.
You can even look around you and find peers who may have amazing work but who are living an obviously painful life. Well here is the deal … it is NOT a requirement to be unhappy to make Art … not even great Art. We all start this game with own culture, family, situations, qualities, abilities and circumstances. What we have total control over … right now, right in this moment … is that we get to choose how we react to our life and everything in it.
There is never, ever, ever anything that dictates that we must react in any particular way. We always get to choose!
What is that? But surely some things dictate we should be unhappy??? Nop. That means that there is nothing that dictates that we need to be unhappy. Show me someone who is unhappy about their situation and I will show you someone with the same or worse situation who is happy regardless.
So it is our choice to be happy or not and that choice is available to each of us as artists (o, and the rest of the people in the world also …). Do sad things happen? Yes. Do traumatic things happen? Yes. Do we work on our creations without ever knowing if they will be loved? Yes. Do we face public opinion? Yes. Do we have to be unhappy? No. We can always choose.
By the way, I am talking about the kind of happy that brings a smile to your face at the end of a day and when you wake up into your life in the morning. Real happiness. Not superficial happiness. The real deal!
SIDEBAR: Now, let’s be straight up here … this conversation can dip fast if we do not address that there are diagnosed conditions like actual depression … conditions that are chemical by nature and need to be dealt with appropriately. I have had many clients who deal with real chemical conditions that make it difficult for them to experience happiness … if that is the case for you then I urge you will reach out and find some professional help ASAP – it is there – it can even be found for very little money – if you will just look for it.
However, most of us do not have chemical issues that we are dealing with … we just plain ol’ let ourselves be unhappy and grumpy and miserable and we find reasons to attach to the unhappiness (because we must have a reason or multiple reasons) and away we go with it. It is a bit of a badge that is worn for some Artists as if it is part of being an Artist. I am Calling “BS” and saying “NOT TRUE!” Let it go … it doesn’t serve you or your Art. It is a trap that limits our productivity and creativity.
Several studies were done (by University of Zurich in 49 European countries & by Vanderbilt University’s Curb Center for the Arts, Entertainment and Public Policy with 13,000 graduates of Art Programs) that found that artists were much happier in their jobs than non-artists despite all of the obstacles and the average economics of Artists. Fancy that. Not the unhappy lot that we are made out to be. Or, at least not the unhappiest group on the planet it seems.
The researchers pointed at them being self-employed, having more flexible hours, being able to focus on what they are passionate about, finding their work to be important, interesting and stimulating, the ability to use and grow their skills, ability to use their own initiative, etc. Funny enough, things like job security and even income seemed to be less important to the Artists than to their no-artist participants. Artists even reported being happier with longer work hours than no-Artists. Doesn’t seem to match the unhappy, miserable Artist portrait does it?
It is interesting, this stereotype of an Artist as a moody, reclusive, sad, angst-driven sort. Funny that there is no stereotype for a happy, optimistic, joy-driven type of Artist. Even more interesting is that most of the nastiness that leads us down an unhappy path is thrown at us by our own brain, voicing its negative opinion, out to sabotage everything we are and that we do. Our role in this: We listen to it!!
Instead of listening to that dibble in your head, I suggest instead that you create. We are creators … so get busy and Create a new way to be … Create a new YOU! Create a you that becomes committed to being a Happy Artist and leaving the unhappiness behind.
Now the plus to all of this is that Happiness increases Creativity just as Creativity increases Happiness so it is a win-win situation! So what can make us happier Artists? First of all Create and Practice your Art constantly. You were meant to create. Don’t leave it out of your life. Honor yourself and your gift. Find a way to practice daily, if even for 10 minutes. There is nothing more happy-creating than engaging in creation.
Most of us know that creating makes us deliriously, deep-down-inside happy. In those moments of creation, we are turned on, alive and excited not miserable. Our Art is Joyful to us. Like little children we open ourselves up and gush that joy all over and into our work. Even the Artists who we know by name who were/are deeply miserable … in the moment when they are creating … in that pure moment … they were/are mostly happy.
What else can we do to create happiness? Well here are some things I have found that will contribute to your happiness quotient so you can become a Happy or Happier Artist:
- It isn’t all about the money. You create because you live to create. Let it be about that. Let it be about personal accomplishment. Let it be about anything that gives you joy. Meanwhile, don’t ignore the money … if you aren’t making enough to live on from your Art yet then keep creating but having our basic needs handled can reduce our stress so we can create easier.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Know where you stand against yourself instead. Jealousy, envy and any other nasty things that come from the comparison game is a sure fire way to trigger your unhappiness. Just give it up. Allow yourself only to compare to yourself … this will have you taking your Creative abilities and skills to the next level which is what will challenge you and inspire you vs. shut you down.
- Practice Gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most powerful happiness pills on the planet. It is really difficult to be unhappy while being grateful … I don’t even thing the two emotions can exist in the same space. Look around at all there is right in front of you, throughout the day, and watch the unhappiness go away. Be grateful for your love of beauty, your Art supplies, your camera, etc.
- Stop gossiping and complaining. Yuck!!!! What a time waster and also what a paved road to unhappiness. Each time you spin some junk about someone else, somewhere deep down inside, it fuels your own unhappiness. Each time you complain you just add to the mass of things that you tell yourself you are unhappy about. Catch yourself and interrupt it. Stop it Completely.
- Let go of your excuses and get responsible for your life. Figure out what will make you happy (really happy not superficial happy) and start taking actions towards it. Maybe you need to do things you have been unwilling to do like get a new job to support you better, or take a class or get help from an outside resource like a nutritionist, a marriage counselor, a coach. Get busy and in action on anything that is holding you back.
- Live in the NOW. You can’t do a thing about the past and spending your time projecting your past out into the future with worries and fears is a waste of time. Acknowledge things as they are now. Go from here. Stay out of your head and instead be right here, now, in the moment. I am not saying don’t make plans (I am a big planner) … just make them without dragging all your fears from the past into them.
- Spend time with others. Collaborate with other Artists, join a group or organization that is forwarding things you care about in the world. Studies have shown that interactions with others raises our Happy quotient.
- Stop being upset and frustrated and angry about the small stuff. (O, and the follow up to this is that everything is small stuff LOL) … but really, how much time do you spend upset? Be willing to let go of things and move on.
- Expand your Artistic Horizons. Go to Galleries, Shows, Theater, Dance and Concerts … get fresh ideas, stimulation and connections from other creative expressions and events. Allow yourself to take in and receive Art as much as you give through your own work.
- Give something back into the world. Teach others, raise other Artists up, contribute to those things you can make a difference with. Practice just smiling at people … it is shocking how effective that is at altering your mood and usually the mood of someone else too.
- Take your skills to the next level constantly. Try on new techniques, skills, mediums … be an on-going student. We are happier when we are learning. Expand yourself every way you can every day.
- Get your Art out in the world. Show it to someone. Get it in a show. Put it on social media … just get it out there as much as possible. It may be a work in progress. It may be something you decide to trash tomorrow … it doesn’t matter. Getting your work out in the world has you practice, build confidence and come face to face with your fears. Just put it out there and let it go.
- Take time for you just to be with you. As an Artist, you need time to listen to you, to be with you, to nurture you. Allow yourself that sacred time with just you and not all caught up in doing, doing, doing. No matter what you need to do find a way to create this and it will reward you tremendously.
- Be unabashedly unapologetic for being you and creating the Art you create. It is your Art. You get to say. No one really gets to say what you create but you. Even if you chose to do commission work you get to pick who you work with or don’t … work with people who love your work.
- Find a way to love the Business of your Art (or don’t do it). If you aren’t going to create ways to be happy about the business of your Art then get a job to support yourself instead. I think anyone can create ways to be happy having an Art business but you need to be willing to do that. If this rubs you the wrong way then see the point above about complaining – either happily go about it or if you are going to complain and be miserable about your business then give it up.
- Set boundaries. Put boundaries in place for yourself and the people in your life around your time to create. A regular schedule with few to no distractions will have you accomplish more and contribute to your happiness no matter how much the voice in your head is screaming at me right now.
- Take care of yourself. Eat well. Sleep well. Get outside when you can. Meditate. Your body-mind-spirit needs you to tend to it and nurture it … and then it will, in turn, be able to continue to take care of you in every way for a very long time so you can keep creating.
- Find happy people to hang out with and avoid drama. Nothing sucks the happiness right out of us faster than drama. Leave it for the theater, books and film and move it out of your life. It is said that you are a sum of the people you hang out with most … find some happy people and keep them around. Even better find some other happy Artists.
- Look for fresh new things. Take the chance of monotony out of your life. Open up to trying new things. This will keep the excitement in and increase your happiness and creativity. Newness brings out the childlike joy in us.
- Stop taking yourself so incredibly seriously. Notice I did not say that what you do is not important or that you are not worthy or deserving … I only pointed at how seriously you may take yourself. Try letting go of the self-doubt and harshness and perfectionism. Lighten up a little with yourself.
Now, these suggestions can get you on your way or up your level of happiness you already have, but IF you are not happy with your life as an Artist, the first questions to ask yourself is: Am I willing to make some changes? Am I ready to take on something new? We can change anything starting with how we think … but we have to be willing and ready!
It really is an equation of: Change Your Thinking = Change Your Life. You just have to decide you want to change, commit to making it happen and begin to take the actions to make it happen hour by hour and day by day until a Happy Artist it is the natural new YOU.
Are YOU a Happy Artist?
What do YOU create for YOU that allows you to be Happy?
Please feel free to let us in on any of your Happy Artist secrets. I am always looking for new happy tips to share with clients and other Artists and I know we each have a multitude of ways that we can share with one another. Thank you so much, in advance, for any sharing, questions or feedback …. That makes me VERY HAPPY!!!