Creating depends on having a mind quiet enough to allow ideas to bubble up. Living a successful, healthy life as an artist requires that your self-talk align with your goals and your aspirations. Your job is to quiet your mind and extinguish negative self-talk. These are your two most important tasks if you want a shot at living your best life in the arts. Here are some headlines:
One. Recognize that you are the only one who can get a grip on your mind. There is no pill to take. There is no one to consult. There is nothing to read. You must mind you. You can let your thoughts do whatever they want and go off in any direction or you can say, “No, that thought doesn’t serve me.” Only you can do that work.
Two. Recognize that you do not have to accept, tolerate, or countenance a thought just because you thought it. You may have the thought, “Wow, John really made me angry at the gallery today!” Then it is your choice whether to brood about John or whether you want get on with your painting. It may be easier to brood about John than to work on your painting, so you may have powerful reasons to stay angry. It’s your choice.
Three. Listen to what you say to yourself. If you don’t hear your own thoughts you can’t get rid of the thoughts that aren’t serving you. If you kind of know but don’t really know that you are constantly thinking that life is a cheat, that you’ve badly disappointed yourself by wasting so much time, or that you hate to be criticized, you won’t work to dispute and extinguish those thoughts. Yes, they can be extremely painful to really hear but it is better to hear them and deal with them than to let them cycle endlessly.
Four. When you decide that a thought doesn’t serve you, dispute it and dismiss it. It can seem very strange at first to dispute your own thoughts. Yet you must. Get in the habit of saying to yourself, “That was interesting thought. Did it serve me?” If you know or suspect that it doesn’t, dismiss it out of hand. Do not linger over it! This sounds like, “That thought doesn’t serve me and I am dismissing it!” Mean it when you say it!
Five. After you’ve disputed and dismissed a thought, think a thought that does serve you. Creating thought substitutes that you begin to use is an important part of the process. These thought substitutes can be tailored to the situation or they can be simple “global” affirmations that you create once and use over and over again, thoughts like “I’m perfectly fine,” “Back to work,” “Right here, right now,” or “Process.” Because for so many of us our default way of thinking is negative, self-critical and injurious, we want to create and use thought substitutes that help prevent our brain from conjuring up its usual distortions and distractions.
You may have never thought about the possibility of getting a grip on your own mind. I hope that you’ll seriously consider that possibility now. To be the artist you want to be and to have a successful life in the arts, you need to get—and keep—a grip on your own mind.