Tag: negative thinking

How Writing Brings Me Emotional Clarity

Writing has become a path for clarity and understanding of my emotional challenges.  Seeing these problems in black and white and putting them into the world has brought me a feeling of empowerment and the knowledge that I am not alone in the struggle of being human.

Read entire article.

Tiny Buddha Blog Post #3

I am an extremely sensitive artist type person.  Fear, anxiety and self doubt can cause stagnation in my abstract art practice, and life in general.

But thankfully, I have found tools to help get past these times of sluggishness.  One of these tools is surfing.  There is nothing that puts me in the moment and shows me my place within the universe quite like being in the waves. 

Thank you to TinyBuddha.com for publishing yet another one of my essays, How Surfing Helped Me Turn My Fear and Anxiety into Confidence.    Take a read and comment below and/or share if it resonates with you.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!  Don't forget to get outside and play after all that turkey and pie!

Join My Mailing List and Be in the KNow!

You can also become a part of my art community by joining me on Patreon 

5 Ways Self-Employed Artists Can Battle Loneliness

After 18 years of working in restaurants, hotels and busy offices, suddenly I find myself able to pursue my passion of abstract painting…working all alone in my kitchen studio and home office and well...loneliness happens.

Sometimes I talk to myself more in one day than I speak to other people.  I’m not kidding.  I talk to myself out loud throughout my work day because, frankly, I get tired of the quiet.  I listen to music pretty much constantly, but sometimes I just want to hear other people’s voices.  I’m not quite desperate enough to have the TV on all day but man, do I yearn for humans sometimes.

Before jumping full time into my career as a West Coast abstract painter, I worked in many different environments.  Happening restaurants, bustling offices, full Yoga studios…I’ve had so many different careers but they all had one thing in common: I was always around people. 

Marigny Goodyear Art Abstract Mixed Media Painting Day DreamWhile I'm in the studio, I often day dream about being outside.  Loneliness can make me wish to be anywhere but where I am.

Now I find myself alone in my house all day.  Sometimes I relish in the quiet.  Sometimes I feel the silence is WAY too loud.  As a person who battles anxiety and depression, that quiet can sometimes feel utterly stifling and although I have a loving family and many friends, I can begin to feel pretty darn lonely.

Compound the physical loneliness with the fact that my daughter just turned 16, now has a car to get herself around and a very busy school and social life…well...I’ll just say that this year has been full of more transition than I was really ready for or expecting to deal with.  Transitions are always harder than I think they will be.  I knew that working from home and being self-employed was going to be challenging to begin with.  But throw in early empty nest syndrome and suddenly I find myself alone in my work AND in my role as a Mom. 

 Marigny Goodyear Abstract Mixed Media Art In the StudioJust me...alone and thinking away. 

Oddly enough, the loneliness can make it hard for me to motivate to be around people.  Weird, huh?  It’s like the sadness can wrap itself around me and I just don’t want to have to talk to anyone, even though all I really want are for people to be around.  I also find that when my friends reach out to me, it’s always at inopportune moments…like in the middle of my work day.  I vacillate between irritation when my friends call to wondering “why is no one calling me?!”  Oh Lord…

I started working with a marketing firm who tells me that I should be posting pictures of me doing fun things with my friends once a week.  I guess potential collectors also like to know that they’re buying from a well-rounded popular artist.  Well guess what…I have lots of photos of me making art alone in my studio but very few of me doing fun things with friends.  Queue violins here.

Oh me oh my! Whatever should a lonely artist do?  Well, having good cries every couple of days is a release, but does that really help me battle the loneliness?  Now, don’t feel too sorry for me.  My life really is great.  I have a loving and supportive family, amazing friends, and an incredible opportunity to follow my dreams.  Unfortunately, knowing this only makes me feel guilty in my loneliness.  So now I’m lonely, sad, AND riddled with guilt.  Oy.

I am an extremely goal oriented, organized, efficient person.  My social life has never needed managing.  I used to have dinners, parties, coffees and live music dates multiple times a week.  It used to be effortless, but life has changed.  I’m older, not drinking anymore and immersed in my art work. Now, 9 months into my new business venture, I am realizing that perhaps I need to apply new strategies when it comes to being around people on a regular basis. 

 Marigny Goodyear Abstract Mixed Media Art In the studio day dreamingWhen THIS is what I'm thinking about while I'm working, it's time to go outside and play. 

5 Ways Artists Can Battle Loneliness:

  1. Schedule a coffee, a hike, a dinner, an anything – Duh. This is so obvious that I’m not sure why it took me so long to do.  I schedule everything from exercise to social media posts so why it took me so long to realize this is beyond me.  I now try to schedule time with a friend at least once a week even if I have to do it a few weeks out.  It’s good just to get dates on the calendar.  

 

  1. Allow social media to boss me around– I mean, I already do. I have to post to social media every day and to do that I have to have content to post.  So, I’d better be getting in my studio to make art every day or else my followers are going to get bored with me.  Since I have been told that I need a friend post once a week, that means that I actually have to be physically next to a friend at least once a week in order to have photographic proof that I’m not an isolated hermit. 

 

  1. Talk to my family when they get home – This is harder than it sounds. The 16-year-old, while she still seems to like me ok, doesn’t want to be bombarded with me talking at her as soon as she walks in…or at all really.  My husband gets an ear full when he comes home.  It continuously surprises me how many words come out of my mouth when I’ve been alone for a whole day or two.  He’s a very patient and kind man and gives me ample time to vomit words before we surrender to exhaustion, fall down and go boom.  Bless him.

 

  1. Talk to a therapist – Yeah yeah yeah.   I went back to her this week after not going for about three years.  I’ve gone on and off since I was 13.  I won’t go way into this except to say that if therapy works for you, as it does for me, every couple of years a check in is a good thing. And let’s face it, talking to a therapist is different than talking to friends or family.  I don’t have to censor myself at all, which can feel really liberating. 

 

  1. Get outside and play – I know…this is on every single one of my “How to cope with _______” lists. But it’s true.  Being outside helps with just about everything.  Sometimes, I get up and go for a morning walk before anyone else in my family is up.  Oddly enough, it’s alone time that I feel is really good for me.  I don’t have to think about work, or anything in particular at all.  I just get outside and get some exercise while the sun is coming up.  I suppose when I’m in tune with nature, I feel I’m closer to something bigger than me and that is very comforting.

 

So yeah…I get lonely working by myself.  I am getting better at applying old strategies to my loneliness, which is merely a new problem that old solutions will work for.  I’ve just never in my life been in tune with this particular issue as much as I am now.  As I’m typing this, new solutions are presenting themselves: I’ve just been invited to a meeting with 6 other professional artists this evening.  So, I can now add to my list of strategies: “Get involved with local artist community.” 

It makes sense…I mean…anyone who works alone is familiar with this particular struggle.  Why should we have to struggle alone? So, I’m going to motivate and reach out more so I freak out less.  Because even though I’m living my dream I’m also going through new experiences and transitions.  Change is hard and loneliness can happen, even in noisy, crowded rooms. 

Join my mailing list and be in the KNow.

You can also become a part of my art community by joining me on Patreon 

 

 

How I Know it’s Time to Stop Asking for Advice

As a West Coast abstract artist, I am, by default, also a small business owner.  Even when my gut is telling me the answers, I find that I yearn for outside approval before making decisions regarding my business.  It's time to stop.

I am a well-supported individual.  I always have been.  I have the love and support from a team of people who want nothing else than to see me succeed.  I have always felt this support, especially from my parents, my entire life.  They supported me when I wanted to go to art school, switched majors to business, became a yoga teacher, a stock broker, when we decided to move 2500 miles away…  I am a well-loved person.  I am so grateful.

But now that I'm 8 months in since I quitting my day job to focus on my art, I am asking myself the question “Am I listening to too many voices?”.  Feeling so supported is a wonderful thing, but I wonder, does it change the way I listen to myself?  The past couple of weeks I have felt a bit stuck.  Like, in every way.  It has been difficult to make decisions and therefore, my forward momentum has been like moving through molasses. 

Now, I am fully aware that my idea of “productive” is probably way beyond a normal level of productivity.  My Mom and I were joking the other day that the reason that I didn’t cry when I was born, but instead lifted myself up with my arms to get a good look around, was because I was trying to figure out where to start multitasking.  I have always been a “doer”. 

For the past twenty years or so, I have had jobs where my checklist was clear and straight forward and I spent my days with a great sense of satisfaction as I moved from one task to the next, checking the items off my list.  Five years ago, I brought my art practice and business development into my routine and every day I checked off items.  Make art, check.  Build a website, check.  Set up Instagram and Facebook business, check.  Incorporate mailing list and send eblasts, check.  Write blog, check.  Attend business webinars, check.  Setting everything up was not hard for me.  It was just another to do list.

Marigny Goodyear Art Visual Meditation Paintings Work In ProgressI made a decision to make smaller pieces in order to create a lower price point rather than reproductions because it felt right for me, despite advise from loved ones saying otherwise.

But then I quit my day job to work on my art business full time.  Suddenly, the check list items became more ambiguous.  Like, Revise Bio and Artist Statement…ok, with what changes?  Grow social media following…sounds good…how?  Start working on different series of art work…uh…won’t I confuse what I’ve already done?

Then there is my support team.  They are awesome and each bring something different to the table in the ways of life and career experiences.  But what happens when I try to talk things through with the people who are closest to me and they don’t say what I hope to hear?  Or suggestions are made that are simply not in line with the business model that I’ve been investing in.  Do I go and change everything around based on their advice? 

I’d like to focus on a fragment from the above paragraph: “…and they don’t say what I hope to hear”.  Basically, by admitting that I’m hoping for certain advice to come out of their mouths, I am acknowledging that I already know what I think the answer is and I am just simply passing it by another to reinforce what I have already decided.  When the opinion is different, it just confuses and frustrates me.  

I think I’m at a point in this process where I know what is best for my art and business.  The problem is that I have always had such an amazing and enthusiastic cheer squad, that I have become habitually reliant on passing things by my support team.  It’s almost like it’s not real until I talk to one of them about it, whatever the “it” might be. 

Marigny Goodyear Abstract Art Visual Meditation Paintings Work in ProgressEven at this point in my process, just finishing the under paintings, this choice felt right for me

It is because I’m scared.  I’m scared of making the wrong choices.  Of spending my time and focus on the wrong items.  Of failing.  Of letting them all down. 

Maybe, in a way, I feel the need to pass every little detail by them because it takes some of the burden away.  If they give me advice, and it turns out to be the wrong choice, then part of the responsibility is taken off of me and put on them.  Just typing that makes me feel like a coward. 

Recently, I’ve been feeling as though maybe I need to keep things a little bit closer.  Maybe I need to proceed with actions based on the instincts within me.  For example, I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for “entry level art” and the idea of reproductions keeps coming up from one of my support team.  The problem is that I have wanted to build a business making only originals.  The idea of creating cheaper reproductions is not attractive to me.  I can’t finish the paintings the way I want.  I can’t wrap the paint around the sides of the canvas.  I can’t hand sign the back.  It’s just not the ideal model for me.

I’m not throwing the idea completely under the bus, but I know that I need to try to build my ideal business and right now, I’m not sure I want to invest the time and energy it would take to get high quality photos taken of the pieces for reproduction.  To research all the different print on demand companies.  To test each one by ordering the reproductions…and on and on…

I would rather invest that time in creating small originals.  And so that is what I’ve been doing all week.  Now, I will say that I did have an hour-long conversation with my Mom (the Head of my Cheer Squad) about this that enabled me to make this final decision.  She asked good questions and at the end of it, I had clarity.   So, I’m not saying that should become an island.

Marigny Goodyear Art Abstract Mixed Media Visual Meditation PaintingsI am so glad that I put energy into this project.  Not only do I have a new series of work in the form of visual meditation paintings, but I also have a great price point for the holidays and for "introductory level" art.   

What I do think is that when it comes to my art and business, that my instincts are usually correct and that I need to learn to trust them more.  Because of that, I think it may be time to talk less and act more.  I need to trust my artistic voice and my business gut.  

It’s difficult because in the past, I haven’t always made the best decisions.  But in looking back, most of those decisions were based on what I thought other people would want me to do.  As Polonius says “To thine own self be true.”  How can I be true to myself when I am constantly reaching outward for approval?  It’s a bad habit.

Going forward, I am going to only ask about things that I have actual confusion about.  Not things that I know the answer to and I’m just hoping that someone else will agree with me so I’m sure it’s right. I already knew the solution.  What I risk is confusing what is already clear, and that is just a waste of valuable time. 

 Marigny Goodyear Abstract Mixed Media Art Seagulls Work in ProgressIf I wouldn't have made the decision to do this, I wouldn't have my Seagulls painting.  (Detail of Seagulls can be seen at top of this blog post.)

I am my own CEO, CFO, Creative Director, Marketing Manager, PR Executive and Board of Directors.  I also have an Advisory Council.  Not every decision must be passed by them.  They are there for support and guidance, when needed. 

It’s intimidating being my own boss.  If I fail, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself.  But failure is just an outcome of being ballsy enough to try, so what’s the big deal?  Faith in my own abilities is a muscle that I need to exercise.  I have a feeling it’s one of those things that will get easier and easier the more I do it.  So today, I begin.

The detail at top is Seagulls 36x36 Acryllic and Paper on Canvas.  

Join my mailing list and be in the KNow!

How Art Helps Me Manage Unrealistic Expectations

Through the practice of Abstract Expressionism, my inner control freak has loosened her grip on my life and my loved ones.

Thank you to TinyBuddha.com for publishing my article titled How Expectations Can Drive People Away and How to Let Go of Control.

I once was my own worst enemy when it came to being fixated on outcomes.  Being so focused on what I thought "should" happen all the time led to constant disappointment and a feeling of isolation.  Through the practice of my art I have found that stress truly is optional.  

Once again, I am completely humbled by the response to my writing. I have received emails, DMs and comments from people who know and struggle with the constant disappointment of expectations never being met.   Please take a read, and if it resonates with you, feel free to share.  

Join my mailing list and be in the KNow!

Self Develop Shop Blog Post

My inner critic has a loud, booming voice.  Sometimes it can drown everything else out. 

Thankfully I have identified my Critic and have learned how to manage her so that she doesn't control my decisions and how I feel about myself. 

I want to thank selfdevelopshop.com for publishing my article titled When Feelings are Fiction - 5 Ways to Know if I'm Telling Myself the Truth.  

Please share or comment if this resonates with you.  If the response from this tells me anything, it's that I am not the only one feeling this way.  We must learn to be kinder to ourselves.  

Join my mailing list and be in the KNow!

How I Move Past Defeat & Rejection

For this West Coast abstract artist, dealing with rejection is just part of putting myself and my art out into the world. 

In the past week, I have received 2 rejection emails for articles I wrote, very little response to a social media challenge that I’ve been working 2 months on, and an art show that yielded no sales. Oy…all of that sure doesn’t feel too good on the old confidence level.    

If you know me, you know that I have a very healthy work ethic.  I’m a goal oriented doer.  I have the ability to get more tasks done in one day than most and this didn’t change for me, as it does for some, when I started working for myself at home.

So, when I received a flurry of rejection this past week, the work horse side of my ego took a supreme hit.  “What the hell?!  I’ve been working my ass off! Doing ALL THE THINGS that I’m supposed to do to grow my business. Why isn’t this working?”

Being a professional abstract artist means consistently putting one foot in front of the other, but sometimes a rest is in order.

 

I received advice from my artist group and my mother (who is a novelist) that it might be time to take a little rest.  This is not my instinct.  My default to “failure” is to work harder.  But this advice, mixed with exhaustion and a touch of sadness, led me to take a few days off.

bacon blue cheese burger comfort_foodSometimes I just need some good ole comfort food to take the sting off of rejection.


After two days of loafing around, one cheeseburger with tater tots, a carton of chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream and more episodes of “The Good Wife” than I care to admit to, I was ready to get back to work with a renewed sense of optimism.  That makes rejection recovery sound pretty simple but I have to note a few things about dealing with “failure”:

By doing the following, I am able to renew my creative energy and confidence and get back to making abstract paintings.

 

  1. Shift your perspective, Woman. I need to stop using the word “failure”.  These periods of time when more people are saying “no” than “yes” are not total defeats.  I’m new at what I’m doing.  The fact that I’ve only been at this 6 months and have had multiple acceptances (2 shows under my belt and another in August, articles published, press from local media…) and multiple rejections mean one thing:  I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is putting myself out there and which also means I’m going to hear the word “no" often…but I also have heard “yes” plenty of times too. 

 

  1. Chill Out, Lady. My Mom told me that early in her career, she and another writer friend of hers decided that when rejection hit particularly hard, they deserved at least one day of feeling sorry for themselves and room to mope.  I’m a sensitive artist.  Sometimes ignoring negative feelings is not effective for me to move on.  I have to honor the crap-ass feeling.  Usually this happens when I’m more tired than I realize anyway and rest and relaxation is exactly the remedy.

 

  1. Get back on the damn horse, Artist. This week I continued work on a botanical and nature inspired series that I’m doing for my August show.  The style of abstract painting is different than what I have been doing and the change was refreshing.  I’m also deciding that it might be time for a strategy change in my marketing and PR efforts.  I still haven’t found all of my audience and after six months of my current tactics, it’s probably time to move on to new ones. 

That doesn’t mean I’ve failed!  It means that I’m making progress.  I know more now than I knew last year and I will learn even more in another 6 months. 

I am a sensitive artist by nature.  Sometimes exhaustion, frustration and sadness just have to be honored in order to move forward.

By now, you’re probably all familiar with the old WWII British motivational poster, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  I’ve seen many satires of this poster all done in red and white with the crown at top that say things like: “Run Around and Freak Out” and “I am Latina!  I Cannot Keep Calm!”  I often thought there should be one for artists that says “Keep Painting and Cry Often” (maybe with a cheeseburger on top instead of a crown). 

All joking aside, sometimes the emotional release is necessary for continuance.  So is rest.  And the funny thing is that once I cried, ate junk food, slept and binge watched Alicia Florrick, I was able to be calm and carry on.  Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to glimpse defeat in order for the fire of persistence to start burning again.

Marigny_Goodyear_Art Pelicans Flight in BayouRest and relaxation allows me to take flight once again.

And so, I shall close with a silly poem as #4 on my list should be “don’t take myself so damn seriously”:

This isn’t happening overnight. 
Rest is needed to take flight. 
Sometimes ice cream is the thing
to making art work fresh again.

Onward. 

The details seen in this blog post are from my painting "Pelicans, 36x36, Paper, Acrylic, Graphite and Crayon on Canvas".  
Join my mailing list and be in the KNow!

Tiny Buddha Blog Post

I'm a West Coast Abstract Artist who struggles with anxiety and negative thinking.

Thankfully I'm not alone.  I wanted to thank Tiny Buddha for including my article,  "My Proactive 8-Part Plan For Beating Anxiety and Negativity".   

The response to this has been overwhelming.  Thank you all for commenting, sending messages, emails, etc.  I am truly humbled.

Join my mailing list and be in the KNow!

How to Shake the Doldrums

When sitting on the sofa, eating crappy food and feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t improve your mood, it’s time to take a different approach to attitude adjusting.

I have just come off a week-long gloom binge. I wasn’t feeling well at all.  My work wasn’t satisfying, my home life irritated me, exercise was an unattainable motivation and food…well…if it wasn’t made from sugar or high levels of sodium, I wasn’t interested.  

As a sensitive and moody artist who is prone to anxiety and depression, it can be hard at times to pull myself from the depths of my own head.  Once I’m there, the darkness can wrap around me like a blanket which, oddly enough, can feel rather comforting.  Instead of craving things that would improve the situation, I hunker down, binge on television, cry in the shower, eat ice cream for dinner and procrastinate doing anything that could possibly be good for me.  It affects my productivity in EVERYTHING.

Last week, while in the midst of a down-swing, I continued working on a painting and although I worked on it every day, I didn’t make much progress. That is kind of indicative of how my mood affects my day-to-day.  When I’m in a negative head space, everything seems to take longer and my actions don’t seem as productive as I know they can be.  It’s like everything is done in vain which depresses me even more…OH THE DRAMA OF IT ALL!

Marigny Goodyear Abstract PaintingIt seemed like every "big" change I made to this painting made no difference at all.

 

On Friday, after my 12th biscotti, 7th grilled cheese sandwich and 4th failed attempt to get to the gym, I had to do something.  I chose to take the same attitude towards my day-to-day that I take when I’m stuck on a painting.  JUST DO ANYTHING.  Seriously.  The more different, the better.  

Just as in abstract painting, contrast can also be the solution to depressive moods. Trying something opposite to instinct can help.

I decided to approve my teenage daughter’s proposed 8-person sleepover.  I know what you’re thinking: “WTF?!  You’re fighting the doldrums by inviting a slew of crazed teenagers over?!”  Yes, that’s exactly what I did.  To justify this decision to my melancholia, I told myself that I would now have the weekend to finish cracking out on crappy food, as that is what the human teenager consumes at a sleepover. 

What I was hoping is that all of these fresh faced, energetic, silly-as-hell children running around my house would totally obliterate the misery problem at hand.  You try being stuck in a funk on a Saturday night when girls are being dragged across the floor laughing hysterically, sporadic dance parties are popping up on your front lawn and THIS is standing in your kitchen:

Pig Onsie Gangster in my Kitchen

The point is that it got me out of my spin cycle.  I woke up in my van Sunday morning (yes, I gave up the comfort of my house to the juveniles for the night) and joyfully cooked pancakes and scrambled eggs for a mess of youngsters. I found it amusing (instead of frustrating) when an iphone was found under one of our cars, when I realized that two entire jars of pickles were eaten by one 90-pound girl (ew) and when I was repeatedly asked for something to eat while I was in the middle of cooking a meal. 

As it turns out, my Mother was right…it really is important to get outside and play on a beautiful day.

That afternoon, I got outside for the first time in a week and gardened (another one of those activities that is so hard for me to start, yet feels so good when finished).  Monday, I woke up and rocked that painting, continuing on in a completely different direction from where I started.  I had been painting in a pretty dark pallet so I took a light blue and painted over about 85% of my painting.  

Marigny Goodyear Abstract Painting Work In ProgressWhen in doubt, just do anything.

After a brief panic attack, (and another biscotti) I took the canvas outside and started sanding the paint down.  Layers of texture and color slowly emerged through the light blue, creating a dreamy, twisted, complicated junglescape.  Out emerged something I never could have planned or imagined and it was beautiful.

When I needed a break from that, I got on my bike and hauled ass on the bike path for about an hour.  In that time, I was able to release most of the remaining dark cloud that I had been dragging around.  It was really hard to pay attention to the blahs when I chose to engage with the outdoors for a minute.  It’s Spring, Moody Artist!  For Pete’s sake, go outside and play! 

Today is Tuesday and I still feel my bad mood hiding out and waiting for an opening to creep back in.  But instead of engaging with it, I’ve decided to write about the ridiculousness of it all.  After lunch, I will incorporate some darks back into this painting and then I’m going mountain biking. 

Marigny Goodyear Abstract Painting Detail Blue MusicDetail of the painting after working a dark blue back in.  Sometimes you just have to keep doing the opposite thing until you land where it all comes together.

The only constant mood is the changing one 

We all go through ups and downs.  If I’ve learned anything in my 40 years being human, it’s that there is no such thing as an endless good or bad mood.  They are all temporary and part of a much bigger picture.  It’s where we choose to focus that’s important.  I’m always amazed when a once huge problem doesn’t seem quite so big when I don’t stop and stare at it.  I mean, it’s Spring in Southern Oregon…I’d much rather stop and stare at the wild flowers. 

Sometimes, it seems such an easier choice to curl up on the sofa and continue on with the pity party but right now I have to take the 180 degree turn that will get the spark back into my eyes and the motivation back into my hands.  If I choose to remain stuck in my mood, that’s all I’ll be…stuck.  Just like with my painting, I have to take action and I can’t wait to think of the “perfect” solution.  Just shake it up!  Throw caution to the wind, paint onto the canvas, and when in doubt, and if it’s available to you, laugh with a bunch of goofy kids (I hear puppies work too).

Goofy selfies with a 4-year-oldIt's impossible to be stuck in the doldrums when there are goofy selfies to be taken with adorable 4-year-olds.
 

When you feel stagnation set in, what do you do to get unstuck? Let me know in the comments below.  Goodness knows I need all the strategies that I can get!

Painting at top is Blue Music, 36x36, Paper, Acrylic and Watercolor Crayon on Canvas

Join my mailing list and be in the KNow!

You can also become a part of my art community by joining me on Patreon 

How Fear Makes Me a Better Abstract Artist

Fear Makes Me a Better Artist, Mountain Biker, Surfer, Skier, Mom, Wife...

Half way through my bike ride I stopped, ripped off my helmet, threw it to the ground and immediately burst into tears.  I had been mountain biking regularly for about 3 years and I couldn’t understand why I was still so scared.  I kept waiting for it to let up; for the fear to subside so I could bike with confidence; so I wouldn’t tremble whenever I went around a blind turn or when there was a sheer drop-off just a few feet away.  It never got better.  The moment I got on the bike, I was scared.  That was all there was to it.  As I picked up my helmet and inspected it for cracks, I asked “why on earth am I doing this to myself?”

This is the same fear I encounter every day in my work as an abstract artist.  Fear is alive and well and looms in my studio like a dark cloud.  It follows me to the computer when I’m trying to figure out marketing and social media.  It gets blustery when I sit down to write blog posts (because I’m a visual artist, not a writer!).  It starts to drizzle when I think about the future and if my choice to make art my living is a prudent thing to do. 

After that bike ride, I made a decision to stop riding.  I would no longer try so hard to do things that scared me like that.  That evening, I ran into my buddy, Nick.  (No, not on my bike…at a concert.)  Nick is also a mountain biker.  I vented that I was tired of the fear, tired of feeling timid, and that I just didn’t understand why it wasn’t getting better.  Then Nick told me something that changed my life:  IT NEVER GOES AWAY.  He said that after years and years of riding, he still gets scared and get this…he likes it.  It’s part of why he rides.  ?????????WTF?????????  Nick encouraged me not to quit and to embrace the fear.  It was a tactic I had never thought of. 

mountain biking Applegate Lake Applegate Valley OregonMountain biking on Applegate Lake.  It took me a long  time to get used to the sheer drop-off to my right.  Photo by Chris Goodyear.

Fear and Art is Another Version of Fear and Life

When I call myself an artist, I feel scared.  When I start a new painting, I’m scared.  When I decided to quit my job, and pursue art, I was so terrified that I got acid reflux and had to quit drinking coffee (true story).  But here’s the deal: some of the things that bring me the greatest pleasures in life are things that I’m scared of.  Mountain biking, surfing, skiing, being a good mother and wife, abstract painting…  I have the same reaction to them all.  I’m scared of failing so I work harder at it.

Abstract Art Inspiration Comes with Accepting the Reality of Fear

What Nick said to me changed everything.  I got back on the bike, this time, with a reframe of fear in my mind.  “Ok Fear!  You’re here!  I’m here!  Neither of us are going anywhere so let’s try to work together, yeah?”  I started peddling and a strange thing happened.  When I knew that fear was a natural reaction, it didn’t scare me as much.  It didn’t go away, but I wasn’t paralyzed by it and it didn’t influence my motor skills.  Riding became smoother and I became a better biker.

I have written before that I used to live my life driven by fear.  It’s true.  But what I have been able to do through outdoor sports like mountain biking is to re-define my relationship with fear.  There are times when fear means “STOP NOW” and there are times when I can brush it off my shoulder. 

mountain biking dread and terror trail north umpqua oregon
Smiling on the Dread and Terror portion of the North Umpqua trail.
Photo by Chris Goodyear

The Freedom of Art: Doing My Art Anyway Even If I Am Scared

Think of it in terms of a different emotion, happiness.  When I found out that I was going to be published in an art journal, I was so happy that I bounced up and down and hugged everyone around me and shrieked in excitement.  But does that mean that every time I feel happy that I need to do an ecstatic freak out dance of happiness?  I would go so far as to say that would not be normal behavior.

I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.  I don’t know if I will succeed as an abstract artist but maybe all I need to do is live with that insecurity knowing that it very well may never go away.  I do know one thing, staying still is no way to move forward. There a sure-fire way of falling over on a bike in a creek crossing and that is to stop peddling.  I think I’ll put one peddle in front of the other and keep moving.  Through moments of doubt when painting, through insecurities that tell me I’m not good enough.  I’m not going to stop and stare at that because then I’ll just be stopped and one thing is for sure…I do not enjoy and have never enjoyed being still.  I got things to do and people to see and paintings to paint and hustles to hustle.  Onward!

Artwork at top is Divide and Conjure 12x12 on Birch Board

"My Hustle has a Hustle." - Artist Ronald Sanchez

Join my mailing list and Be in the KNow!