Have you ever had any of these thoughts raging in your head at one point or another:
“Will my art lead anywhere? Would my earnings be enough to help out at home? What about savings and retirement? What if I was never meant to be an artist? Maybe it was just because I kept drawing and drawing that my skilled improved, but I was never really meant for art…“
These are actually some questions that designer and illustrator, Claude Aranza, has constantly had to deal with throughout her career. And in our interview this week, she gives some very practical advice on how to get over that initial fear, and continue on, creating great art.
Claudine Aranza is a freelance illustrator and designer based in Manila. Some of her work and illustrations have appeared on the Food Network, CNN, Nickeloden, NEDA, BuzzfeedPH, Catapult Magazine, and Adobo Magazine. She is a member of the Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang-INK), and has also had some of her work exhibited for the Bloom Arts Festival. She’s currently working on a picture book to be finished this 2019. And when she’s not working on her art, Claudine enjoys cooking, the company of a lot of friendly dogs, and watching movies and Koreanovelas. You can find more of Claudine Aranza and her work on Instagram, Twitter, and Behance.
NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. In plain english, that just means that if you buy a product through any of the links below, we’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. In other words, it’s a great way to support the magazine, and at the same time improve your art by learning something new. ^_^
Some days the impostor syndrome gets so strong it’s so hard to breathe, my heart starts palpitating and I have to pause and lie down. You’d think that after almost 4 years of working as an illustrator the doubt and anxiety would fade away, but it hasn’t. It’s still a daily battle.Claude Aranza
There’s this story I’ve heard success coach, Tony Robbins, talk about in one of his audio seminars, wherein he compared the experience of two music artists (one of them Bruce Springsteen).
The first artist said before she’d get on this stage, she’s experience chills. Her heart rate would increase, and her hands would begin to shake. She’d find herself breathing shorter and shorter breaths, to the point that it was difficult to breathe.
And in that moment, she’d throw her hands up and declare, “I’m having a panic attack!”
Bruce Springsteen also described some weird and awkward sensations that he’d often get before walking onto the stage. He said he’d feel his heart beat faster and faster. He’d get the chills, and he’d feel his hands begin to shake, his breaths coming in quick gasps.
And in that moment, he’d think to himself, “Okay! Now I’m ready!”
And the reason I want to I tell these stories is not to belittle those with anxiety attacks in any way.
Rather, the reason I tell these stories is because we all have it in ourselves to dictate how our minds and our bodies react to certain situations.
It all begins with how we think, and the thoughts that we allow ourselves to entertain in our head.
Listing down what was making me doubt my choices or feel anxious helped me a lot. It helps me grasp why I feel that way – what are the things/situations that make my doubt/anxiety shoot up. I realized that when I ignore these worries, these thoughts would just keep on pestering me the whole day. When I’d finally pen them down, I’d see that my worries were sometimes foolish, or could be easily addressed. Knowing the source helps me figure out solutions to deal with them and continue working.Claude Aranza
In the TV series, This Is Us, the couple Beth and Randall have this thing wherein they blurt out to one another all the “worse case scenarios” that are going through their heads.
It sounds crazy, but the truth is that it helps them slow down, reflect and process the situation that they’re in. And oftentimes, once those fears are out of the bag, they often seem crazy and over-the-top.
What Claude does is no different. By getting all those fears out and down on paper, she’s processed both what to expect, and what are the steps that she could take to actually deal with those fears or problems one by one.
Take this a step further, and you can take each and every one of those fears, and reverse-engineer them to figure out how you can safeguard yourself against their possibility.
If one of your fears is not being able to make money and support your family with your art, then the best way to get over this fear is to write that fear down, and then ask yourself the question: “What can I do to make sure that I get to pursue my passion, and make enough money from it so that I get to keep my family from going hungry?“
The reason this works is that your brain shifts from being “passive and reactive” into being more proactive.
Because you’ve decided to actively ask this question out loud, your brain is already coming up with all sorts of solutions and ideas to respond to the question. And even as you go through the motions of your everyday, it’s been activated to constantly seek out those answers.
In psychology this is called the reticular activating system.
It’s the same phenomenon that happens when you can’t stop thinking about your one true love, and so you tend to see their name plastered on every billboard, or their face on every stranger you pass by.
Now, in contrast, if you ask yourself a ridiculous question like, “Why do I always screw things up?” or “Why am I so terribly bad at art?” Your brain will also go through the motions of looking for answers to those questions.
The thoughts that you fill your mind with will eventually and inevitably dictate the way you live your life.
Romans 12:2 states: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.“
I believe that one of the patterns of this world is embodied in what Steven Pressfield describes in The War of Art, as “Resistance”.
If you’ve read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, and you notice the methods through which demons try to destroy our lives and our relationships, it’s not a stretch to just simply christen this negative, manipulative force as “a form of evil”.
Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole.~Steven Pressfield
The goal of Resistance is to keep you from doing the thing that you were meant to do. If you were gifted these talents, skills, and passions since birth, I would personally conclude that the reason for that is because you were created exactly for that purpose.
And the thing about Resistance (as Claude Aranza discovered by listing down her fears) is that it has no actual power. It’s all fear-based, and thought-based. And the truth behind many of those fears, is that they just aren’t likely to ever come true.
Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.~Steven Pressfield.
Bruce Springsteen mastered such fears by changing his mindset to viewing a panic attack as his body preparing and readying itself by filling his entire being with excitement.
Let me say that again. he transformed “fear” into “excitement”.
And it livened his performance onstage.
Whenever I encounter a stumbling block and feel the anxiety rise, I list down (1) everything that I needed to accomplish, (2) every bump/problem to face/look out for, (3) solutions to solve these and (4) things I could do to address these challenges and move forward to the accomplish the things listed in number 1.
I then divide the steps to take into a timeline – what can I do this day/week/month to accomplish the list on number 01. I’ve been doing this since my thesis days when I felt extremely overwhelmed and paralyzed to move forward. It helped me break down the challenge to bite-sized tasks that I could work on per day to make progress daily and avoid spending too much time worrying.Claude Aranza
Julia Cameron is an artist and author who has helped creatives get over their fears and creative blocks for more than two decades now. Her book The Artist’s Way holds her teachings and practices on how artists and creatives (and even people who believe that they don’t have the gene for creativity) can break free of the cycle and the prison of fear and doubt.
What Steven Pressfield calls Resistance, Julia Cameron calls “The Logic Brain” or “The Censor”, because it keeps us from expressing the child within us, our wonder, our curiosity, our artistic nature.
And one of the things that Julia Cameron suggests, is taking the time, every day, to go through several affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements that help to regulate (and eventually eliminate) all the negative thoughts of Resistance, or The Censor.
Oftentimes, the way we think about ourselves and our lives is so destructive that it takes a lot to go through each day. But if you think about the things you say to yourself, “I’m lousy. I suck. I’m terrible. I can’t do anything right,” and try to imagine someone else saying those things to you out loud, you’ll quickly realize that that person’s a terrible human being. Not exactly someone you’d want to hang around with day after day.
And yet, we often find ourselves hanging around with such a person, day in and day out. And that person lives inside our heads.
Affirmations are the best way to change that. They’re a way to put in check that terrible aspect of ourselves that’s filled with fear and doubt, and to hopefully change our minds for the better.
And so to end, I’d like to leave you with a few of the affirmations from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
- Creativity is the creator’s will for me.
- My creativity heals myself and others.
- My creativity always leads me to truth and love.
- My creativity leads me to forgiveness and self-forgiveness.
- There is a divine plan of goodness for my work.
- I am willing to create.
- I am willing to learn to let myself create.
- I am willing to be of service through my creativity.
I highly recommend taking a few minutes to create your own personal affirmations, specifically affirmations that directly counter the fears and doubts that you yourself experience.
If you often find yourself thinking, “I have no skill.” Then you can quickly turn that around and instead think, “I am actively working on developing my skills every single day. And I am getting better and better because of it.”
Don’t let fear govern your thoughts, and your life. You have a purpose and a destiny that awaits you and your art.
Go forth and multiply your creative work.
What’s YOUR best affirmation? (share in the comments)
Lastly, don’t forget to click here to read our interview with Claude Aranza.