My Four Rules for a Healthy Life as an Artist

By and large, we artists are a sensitive lot. We internalize thoughts, emotions, ideas and tensions from the world around us more deeply than many folks do, we get intense about our feelings, and we often get carried away in moments of inspiration or despair.

To help me cope with these traits in myself, stay productive, and maintain a healthy balance. I’ve come up with these four rules for living a healthy, artistic life:

  1. Act from self-love.
  2. When it calls, answer.
  3. Know who you’re talking to.
  4. You already are.

We’ll unpack those after the jump.

Act from Self-Love.

Sometimes you’re in the middle of a writing bender and you notice that you need to go to the bathroom. Then, forty five minutes later, you remember that you needed to go to the bathroom and that you’ve been ignoring your body for the better part of an hour because you wanted to stick with what you were doing. You got into “relentless discipline” mode at your own expense.

Acting from self-love means listening to yourself and giving yourself what you need – whether that’s as simple as taking a break to pee or getting out of a bad relationship. If you’re not acting from self-love, you’re going to get blocked.

When it calls, answer.

This is an aspect of acting from self-love that is particularly important to creative people. If you have an idea, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you must acknowledge the idea and record it in some form. If you get in the habit of ignoring the moment when your unconscious thrusts creativity into your path, your unconscious will stop talking.

Know who you’re talking to.

We all have voices in our heads. Some of them say productive things like, “you need a nap,” or, “how about some kale?” Other voices say not-so-productive things like, “your work sucks,” “just look at how much further along he is in his career than you are.”

It’s important to identify the voices in your head. Give them names if you have to. I imagine one of my not-so-productive voices as a chattering capuchin in oversized judge’s robes. When something comes up, get in the habit of asking who you’re talking to and if this is a voice that you can trust.

And remember, sometimes the untrustworthy voices have a point but they’re presenting it all wrong. Take the time to search out what that voice is trying to tell you and reframe it in a useful way. For example, “you really will never make any money at this,” could mean, “you’re anxious about paying the rent next month. Let’s figure out how we’re going to do that.”

You already are.

The relentlessly plucky Sierra Boggess (star of Disney’s The Little Mermaid on Broadway and one of the best Christines ever in Phantom of the Opera) has a lovely quote on her Twitter profile. It reads, “You are enough. You are so enough, it’s unbelievable how enough you are.”

I know that’s hard to believe sometimes, when the work isn’t working, or the money isn’t coming, or the fans aren’t showing up. But the truth is that you already are everything you are ever going to be; it’s all inside of you and unfolding in due course. You can only connect those dots when you’re looking back on the arc of your life – you can’t see them when you’re in the middle of the ride.

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