Orna-Mental Landscape 1

 Ornamental Op Landscape 1. digital photography. http://acevesart.com/

article by Marisa D. Aceves

Artists are peculiar creatures.

When you’re an artist, you use your active imagination to create works of beauty, works that the speak the truth, and works that question the nature of reality.

You can also use that same imagination to torture yourself by adopting a fatalistic attitude toward your life, artwork and relationships.

When things are going well you are able to reach your goals easily, colleagues, friends and strangers compliment you on your work and your confidence soars.

You tell yourself that you can go anywhere and do anything you please.

Life is beautiful because you’re the art star you always wanted to be.

This sudden surge of self-esteem leads you to take on an enormous and costly project that might be a little beyond your present abilities.

A series of things go wrong.

You try to shake it off, but you feel the irritation growing.

You’re over budget and your clients are breathing down your neck.

Nothing seems to satisfy them.

The project fails.

You kick yourself.

A barrage of negative thoughts run through your head as you try to recover what little self-confidence you have left.

Did you make a horrible mistake?

Have you chosen the wrong career?

Will you ever experience the high of success again?

In order to try to curb this relentless cycle of mental flip-flopping, you must learn to address the individual issues in your life and art business that cause you to view things from an “all or nothing” perspective.

While “thinking in absolutes” can’t easily be dismissed, you may take important steps to minimize the effect it has on you and your art business.

Here are some tips that you might find useful in combating this extreme form of thinking:

1) Stop Taking Yourself and Your Business Too Seriously- While it is important to be a responsible business owner, you can’t get so wrapped up in art production, awards and figures that you forget to focus on meaningful, positive relationships.  When artists fail to learn the art of communication, they don’t know how to deal with project failures or how to smooth things over with unsatisfied clients.  A great sense of humor goes a long way. If you can laugh at yourself and your past mistakes, you can gain the confidence to seek help when you need it without giving in to time sucking negativity.

2) Failures Are Not the End, They Are the Beginning of The Learning Process- When I am tempted to beat myself up over a failure, I try to recall the man that created the Dyson vacuum cleaner.  He went through several unsatisfactory models before he arrived upon the design that would eventually make Dyson a household name.  If you view your failures as just steps to finding out what will work for you and your art business, you will begin to see them as opportunities for growth. There is risk, as they say, in everything.

3) Don’t Underexaggerate or Overexaggerate Your Abilities- When it comes to your art business, know your strengths and weaknesses.  The success of a current project may make you feel like you can attempt anything, but you need to be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do at this stage in your career.  If you are entertaining taking on a more complicated project, I urge you to do your research to find out if you have the skills and budget you will need to finish the project successfully.

4) Rethink your Business Strategy- When you are experiencing difficulty with certain aspects of your business, isolate those areas that are causing you the most problems and take steps to improve these areas.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help with organisation, business relationships, and artist technical problems etc. When you are aware that you are trying to solve a problem that has been bothering you for a long time, the anxiety associated with that problem may lessen.

5) Be Humble yet Hungry- Constantly bragging about your successes or thinking that some success makes you a master in your medium or genre sets you up for extreme disappointment once reality sets in and you begin to find out that you know a lot less then you thought you did.  Instead, let success motivate you to improve your skills while understanding that you don’t know everything there is to know about art.

6) Don’t Be Pessimistic, Be Positively Realistic- I know there are probably many dreamers out there that would like to personally shoot me for making this statement. However, I believe that there is truth in such a suggestion. There is nothing wrong with a positive attitude or dreaming about what you’d like to achieve in the future, but reality teaches you that things happen in steps, not all at once. When you ignore this fact and something goes wrong (eventually it will), then everything appears to fall apart and you find yourself descending into negative thought patterns again. This only makes the situation worse. It is easy to fall into extreme optimism and propose pie-in-the-sky solutions, but when those fail, your optimism goes with them and you are ready once again to visit melancholy land. Be aware of all the obstacles that you will encounter as you learn the skills you will need to reach the goals that you dream about. Approach these in a healthy, but realistic manner, knowing that somewhere along the way, things are going to get tough.  However, you can seek the help, do the research, put in the hard work and practice it takes to overcome them. Unrealistic thinking and approaches to your art business set you back instead of helping you move forward.

7) Learn to Love Problem Solving – When problems arise, try not to give in to frustration.  It’s natural to want things to run smoothly.  When they don’t, it is easy to blame yourself or others around you.  However, every job has its difficulties.  Choose to start seeing obstacles as welcome challenges.  Each challenge offers you the opportunity to learn a better way to approach the situation you encounter.  The second time you experience a familiar situation/problem, you will know what to do about it.

The majority of extreme thinking results from an unrealistic perception of ourselves, our abilities and the world around us.

Once we understand how to properly view our current situation, we can come up with more effective ways of dealing with the problem of “thinking in absolutes”.

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