Let’s say that you have a meeting coming up with a gallery owner or a collector. What’s too much preparation for that meeting? What’s too little preparation? Read on!

In working with my creativity coaching clients I find that they tend to fall into two distinct categories, those with a “perfectionistic streak” who over-prepare and those with a “denial streak” who under-prepare.

Both a perfectionistic streak and a denial streak are anxiety states, so folks in these two categories are really suffering from the same issue: nerves. It’s just that their anxiety manifests differently!

How does “over-preparation” manifest itself? One typical way it manifests is in a fixation or obsession with your website. “I can’t really see Collector X until I have a much better website built, but I can’t get it built until my 13-year-old nephew finds the time to help me, until I figure out how to categorize my art, until I get a new headshot of me, until I get my artist statement written, until … ” and so on.

A second way it manifests is the following: in the belief that you don’t have “enough paintings yet” to show. This sounds like, “I have eight completed paintings in my latest style but I read somewhere on the Internet that galleries like you to have a dozen paintings done before you approach them, so I still have four more to produce and that’s going to take me at least another two months.”

All of this is anxiety talking!

How does “under-preparation” manifest itself? Anxious about entering a certain juried show, you put off filling out the application until the last minute and then you fill it out all in a rush, leaving out some crucial information that causes the application to be rejected.

Or it manifests in the following way. A collector emails you wanting a studio visit. Rather than preparing in the most natural and ordinary ways, say by looking the collector up on the Internet to get a sense of who he is and what he likes or preparing your talking points, you do nothing and stand mute and flustered when he arrives … and then wonder why nothing came of the visit.

This, too, is anxiety!

Whether you over-prepare out of anxiety or under-prepare out of anxiety, the answer is the same in either case. First, bravely recognize what you are doing and call yourself on how you’re letting your anxious feelings get in the way of properly preparing. Second, learn one or two anxiety management strategies, even ones as simple as a deep breathing technique or a relaxation exercise. Third, demand of yourself that you prepare properly even in the face of whatever anxious feelings remain. “Right preparing” or “the Tao of preparation” means that you accept your anxious human nature, deal with it, and prepare properly!


Are you a writer as well as a visual artist? Then take one of my deep writing workshops! You have five opportunities in 2013, including Esalen on the Big Sur California coast and Rome! Check them out:



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