It Doesn’t Get Any Easier
In the course of writing these articles, I’ve sometimes discussed the role that fear plays in the creative process. Fear manifests in many ways. Sometimes, it’s that feeling that you want to throw up an hour before you go on stage. Sometimes, it’s the unbreakable procrastination that prevents you from actually delivering your finished album for months. Sometimes it’s the fear of the blank page, or even sitting down in your chair to work. I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the bad news: it doesn’t get any easier.
The throwing up example comes from Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art. The album thing is me.
Fear Doesn’t Go Away
Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance even when he was seventy-five. In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day. – Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art
I have found this to be true in my own artistic practice. Although the process becomes more predictable, and I’m better prepared each time around, the same emotional resources are required to overcome the fear each time. It still feels like everyone is going to laugh at me and something terrible is going to happen every time I release an album, even though I’ve released four personally and been involved with many more in different capacities.
Face Your Fear of Being Judged
It turns out that this is not just some silly fear, but has deep roots in our human development. Today, if we are ostracized from our peer group it will be painful and unpleasant, but that’s probably the extent of it. In primitive cultures, though, conformity and acceptance were survival necessities. If you were forced out of the group, there was a pretty good chance you would die. It seems that this is where much of our fear of being judged and rejected comes from. Even though we know that having our album laughed at won’t kill us, it definitely feels like it will.
I mentioned that there was also some good news. The good news is that being aware of this fear can help us to adjust our expectations, and relax into the long grind of making art. There will never be a time when we have reached the top of the mountain and can take a nap; knowing this allows us to manage our mental and emotional resources accordingly.
Relax Into The Long Grind Of Making Art
I learned to do yoga a few years ago. Although I haven’t been a reliable practitioner, one of the best lessons I learned was the idea of relaxing in every position. Often, as you’re doing yoga, you’re in some uncomfortable pose and your muscles stretch and burn. In these moments, the temptation is to grit your teeth, hold your breath and make angry faces. Instead, the goal is to hold the pose, but also to relax, breathe, and if possible, smile. This certainly isn’t easy, but as a goal it can be very helpful.
I’m six foot three inches tall, which makes long transatlantic flights pretty unpleasant. Usually, my knees are wedged into the seat in front of me, and I can’t sleep or get comfortable. After studying yoga, I realized that I could either grit my teeth and scowl for six hours, or breathe, relax, and ease into the situation. I found the latter approach to be a much easier and more pleasant way to get through moments like these.
This same approach can be applied to the life of an artist. No, it’s not going to get easier. If, knowing that, you still have the desire to make art, relax, breathe and smile. It’s a long, hard trip but you can enjoy it if you choose to.
- Matt Shadetek
Matt Shadetek is a DJ, producer and teacher based in Brooklyn, New York. He runs the Dutty Artz label with DJ/Rupture and has just released his second solo album, The Empire Never Ended. Hear his music at mattshadetek.com
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