Whenever you set on a journey, it pays to be prepared. If you’re an experienced hiker, you know you should stay on the trail, wear the right footwear and avoid plants with three leaves. Likewise when you’re embarking on a creative journey, it pays to know pitfalls along the way that may impede your path. This advice applies to beginners as well old-pros.
What comes to mind when you hear the word artist? Starving? Ramen noodles? Have you ever heard this discouraging ditty: People who write novels, live in hovels,
Society is constantly telling budding artists the same thing: Keep your day job. Being an artist is impractical. Only a talented few should dare to travel along the creative path.
These messages come fast and thick, like propaganda and they twine their way into the artist’s mind, choking off all inspiration to pick up a paint brush or pen a poem.
Spiritual teacher Allan Watts wrote a powerful lecture called, “‘What if Money Is No Object?” and encouraged people to pursue their creative dreams, saying they’ll eventually make money from it. He also chides society for not encouraging young people to go after what they desire:
We’re bringing up children and educating them to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch, and no vomit. It never gets there.
This kind of limited thinking stops artists before they even begin. Along with fear of censure comes fear of failure and fear of looking stupid. If any of these fears are keeping you from pursuing what you love, it might be useful to embark on an artistic recovery plan. I recommend reading and following the directives in The Artists Way. This book has helped thousands dislodge the limiting beliefs that keep them from their work. (Including myself; I wrote my first novel after reading it.) Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Without The Artist’s Way, there would have been no Eat, Pray, Love.”
- False Clarity.
When I got my first novel published, other writers were continually hunting me down for advice, and I was tapped to lead a number of workshops, as if I was some kind of expert. After a while, I felt like an expert, when the truth was I’d barely made a dent in the all the knowledge I needed to become a seasoned novelist. My false clarity cut off new insights at the knees, and I’d lost my beginner’s mind.
Beginner’s mind means you retain a wide-eyed openness and eagerness for a subject, and you don’t harden yourself with preconceptions. For instance, among writers there’s an ongoing debate between those who write organically (so called “pansters” because they write by the seat of their pants,) and those who write with an outline. Some of these debaters have their minds set in cement, and they cut themselves off from any information that deviates from their point-of-views.
That’s a mistake. Artistic practice can teach you more than you could ever learn in a lifetime. Don’t be such an expert that you quit evolving.
As artists we often daydream about winning awards or creating high demand for our work. Success is extremely seductive, but along with it comes with the most destructive mind set of all.
When you operate from the power mindset, you actually believe your press. Your head swims with superlatives, and you’re woozy with your own brilliance. It’s heady stuff finally achieving what you’ve always dreamed of, and your ego is delighted to take its bows.
Trouble is your best creative work doesn’t come from the attention-savoring part of your mind that is enjoying all the attention. The best work comes from tapping into Big Mind or as Jung called it, “The collective consciousness.”
Big mind is generous, and creates art for art’s sake with little thought of fame and acclaim . It taps into the truth and infuses your endeavors with freshness. Small mind is the opposite. It always has an eye toward rewards, and it creates work that’s cramped and derivative.
As Einstein said, “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
These three mind states can visit you any time during your career. Don’t let them undermine you.
Write authentically and love authentically.
That’s the theme of Karin’s latest romantic comedy, Love Literary Style, about an emotionally stunted literary writer who falls in love with a vivacious self-published romance writer and becomes distressed when her success surpasses his. Library Journal calls it, “Thoughtful and addictive.” Learn more here