Are You a Zombie Artist?

Zombie Uncle SamHappy Independence Day! Our Founding Fathers were action takers who were passionate about their ideas, and after a long struggle, they were rewarded with freedom from British rule. Imagine if the Founding Fathers had been zombies though. Not much would have been accomplished. Why? Because although zombies have an actionable goal of eating brains, they don’t strategize beyond that. In fact, they create more competition every time they take a bite of a living person. What is the zombie sustainability plan for when they run out of humans? They just don’t have one.

As an artist, you can choose to be an independent thinker who makes plans and takes action, or you can be a zombie who moves from project to project without any strategy or forethought.

Here are three tips to avoid being the latter:

  1. Think about sustainability. When your current project is finished, will you have depleted all your resources, strained your relationships, and exhausted your physical and emotional self? If yes, you aren’t behaving in a way that will sustain your career as an artist. The Founding Fathers didn’t say to themselves, “Hey! America! That’ll last for a couple of years!” And you shouldn’t think that way either. You’re an artist for life, not just one project.
  2. Think about your purpose. Your purpose as a creator may not be as lofty as founding a new nation, but it is what drives you. And if you’re like most artists, your purpose serves your community somehow. If you only think about eating brains, that’s not giving back to the world. What do you want to do artistically? Who do you want to affect and how do you want to affect them?
  3. Think about where you’re going. In the movie World War Z, the zombies are attracted to loud noises and immediately shuffle off towards every ping and clang they hear. If you’re as easily distracted, then you’ve got to learn to focus and stay the course. No one is going to shape your career as an artist for you. You’ve got to take responsibility for yourself.

Celebrate your freedom from the mindlessness of being a zombie.  Take this holiday as an opportunity to declare your own independence from whatever is holding you back from being the artist you dream of being.  Create.  Create.  Create!

How to Get Past Your Fear

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No one ever said being an artist was easy.  In fact, it can be downright scary!  Even close friends are quick to tell you how hard it is to find (traditional) success.  Not only do you have to struggle in creating your art, you have to balance the  cost of doing your art with your cost of living.  You have to consider work-life-art balance.

Then there are the doubts you have about your talent.  You may find yourself asking, “What the hell am I doing?”  or “Who am I to think I could pull this off?”  You wind up unfairly comparing yourselves to the greats in your field: Chopin, Maya Angelou, Martin Scorsese or Frida Kahlo.

In these moments, you need to find a way to ground the artist inside.  Here’s how:

  1. Reconnect to your artistic vision. Your artistic expression is uniquely yours, and you should share it with the world.  Look through past works and see how far you’ve come.  Envision how much further you can go and get to work.
  2. Remind yourself why you do what you do.  Dig deep and remember why you’re creating your art.  Why are you a writer?  Why are you an actor or musician?  Chances are reaching back and examining your original impetus and purpose for being an artist will inspire you all over again.
  3. Cultivate your internal strength. Go within and experience your personal power and core strength. That is the source of your creativity.  Sometimes, the best you can do for yourself is to sit still and listen to your inner artist speak to you.  You may have to wait a while.  You inner artist may be reluctant to speak up after weeks of self-doubt, but the artist is there.  Create a daily practice  of detaching from all the negative  noise that holds you back and let the artist in you help you stand your ground.

Don’t let fear take over your life.  You are a creative being, and you should feed your art, not starve it.  The road you need to travel won’t always be smooth, but the journey will be worth it.