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How Do I Deal with an Artistic Crisis, Part III


ARTS SHRINK is a bi-weekly column designed to answer questions from artists and arts groups related to their arts business and practice. The Arts Shrink brings two decades of experience as an arts consultant, teacher, and mentor to the table as she responds your questions.

Dear Arts Shrink,

I'm in an artistic crisis! I can't work. My arts business (as you call it) is tanking. I don't know what to do. Any thoughts?

-L.A. Visual Artist

Dear LA VA,

I hope you've taken my advice in How to Deal with an Artistic Crisis Parts I and II, and have moved through a healthy introspection and that you have worked hard to write an artist statement. If you did, congratulations! I know that wasn't easy.

Hopefully you're feeling better now; more centered and energetic. If you've done a good job creating your artist statement then you have clearly defined who you are as a visual, literary, design or performing artist, and that's amazing! Share this statement with the public as often as you can.

Now, one last thing: This is a short exercise that should take about one half hour to complete. Try to approach it with a light-hearted attitude. You will have to use your imagination, which should be easy, right? Find a half hour in your day when you can relax and think about yourself and your artistic aspirations. Then answer the following two questions as specifically as possible.

  1. One year from now, what will you value most? For instance -- Is it artistic integrity? Innovation? Risk-taking? It can be more than one thing but try not to have more than two, and if you can, prioritize them. You may find that one value supports another: "I value artistic risk taking while maintaining my current level of artistic integrity."
    Perhaps what you value most now will continue through the year. Perhaps you imagine it will change or, even more noteworthy, you desire your values to change. If you expect your core values to change in the next year, then you are in an artistic transition (which may very well have been the root of your crisis). Transitions are critical, often transformational, times for artists.
  2. What are the three most important things you see yourself doing one year from now? Be specific. For instance -- do you see an exhibit in a gallery? or touring with your dance company? or having an article or book published? or having a workshop or performance of your play? or appearing onstage in a particular play or in a particular venue. You get the idea right? Three things. Write your answers down and keep them in a special journal or file. You can refer to your responses throughout the year to keep you on track. In the same way that you can use your artist statement to communicate to your audience and the general public, you can use your responses to these questions to help inform decisions you make throughout the coming year. Carry forward the practice of mindfulness (see How to Deal with An Artistic Crisis Part II.)
  3. I want to take a moment to talk briefly about unexpected opportunities. Just as it is important to formally state your desires and goals, it is equally important to remain open to the unexpected. You never know when something you never imagined will present itself. Sometimes we (and I'm talking to myself here too) have a knee-jerk negative reaction to a new concept or idea. I've heard myself say "No that won't work for me" on more than one occasion only to find out later that the idea may have held some real possibilities that I didn't fully explore. Don't make my mistake. If something doesn't feel quite right don't say "No" say "Let me think about it." Let the idea settle. Take a day or two. If it still doesn't feel right or harmonize with your artistic intentions, then say "No" and move forward with confidence.

On the other hand, you may also be presented with an opportunity that does not coincide with your stated goals but the idea delights you. In my opinion "delight" trumps everything, so consider throwing caution to the wind and allow yourself to skip down the delightful new creative path without abandon!
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Top Image: Alex/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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