There’s this cultural fantasy of the artist’s process: consumed by beauty and art, swathed in velvet (probably), excused from the mundane. But the cold reality is much different. Obviously because I’m swathed in silk! How dare you think I’d be caught dead in velvet! And, frankly… I’m experiencing a lot of anxiety, something surprisingly common amongst creatives, but talked about very little. The pressure to create something new and beautiful, but also remain connected to my previous designs; the weight of wanting to please everyone but the knowledge that great art doesn’t come from that place… it can feel like a battle inside my head which culminates in an anxiety that makes me want to pull my blankets over my head and burrow away from the world.
There’s this term: psychological vulnerability. It’s mentioned in a recent study in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, which delves into the correlation between creativity and anxiety. Like many artists, my best work comes from being open -- spiritually, mentally, personally -- and receiving the world around me. But that openness also means being sensitive in a way that doesn’t jive with our very loud, very aggressive 21st century world. It also makes the transition from imagination time to grocery shopping time, or admin time, much more jarring.
A few tried and true things have helped me soften that adjustment: I try to keep a routine as much as possible that includes exercise and (don’t laugh) eating the same breakfast every day. Hey, comfort can come from anywhere! I exercise every other day, and read a lot. I scroll through Instagram when my brain needs a break, and don’t punish myself for the necessity of it. I’m also lucky to have a support system of friends and family who are more than happy to yank me out of my funk, and remind me there’s a whole world going on outside of my head. And sometimes it’s just about having patience and knowing that I’ve lived through these cycles before -- it’ll pass. Other times, it’s about knowing that the imagination is a double-edged sword which can bring both beauty and negativity.
One of the surprising results of that study, though, is the idea that although the artist may be more prone to anxiety, they are also more capable of handling it. Psychological vulnerability breeds resilience and hope. I guess it shouldn’t be such a shock -- it’s that very openness that allows us to see the best in the world.
Though I can’t purge the anxiety in the moment, in some weird way it helps to know it’s making me a little stronger each time. That I’m ready for the fight.