Eyes front! On minding your own creative business, and why blinkers can be a useful part of your artist's toolkit.

Something that is becoming ever clearer to me as I continue my artist journey is that the less attention I pay to what ‘everyone else’ is doing, the richer my experience {of pretty much everything} and the clearer and more ‘me’ everything I do becomes. Which then ripples back out into the world with a very different, and frankly much more effective and useful energy.

Instead of a kind of scattergun, wide and shallow approach of absorbing everything like an indiscriminate sponge {since even when I’m discriminating, the world slips other stuff in with it}, when I face forward I can go narrow and deep.

This is not just because my attention is focused, but also because in doing so new insights and ideas can arise within the smaller – and paradoxically larger – space within which I’m working.

It’s not exactly ‘new information’ to say this, I realise. 🙂 But I don’t think it’s always about new information; it’s about understanding what we ‘know’ – often purely intellectually – in new ways. Of really getting it, all the way down, as a felt experience.

I ‘knew’ of course that poking around in what other people are doing – whether that’s painting, writing, online creative business, website design, or whatever else I’m currently looking at – is not the answer to finding my own path, my own artistic style, my own way of writing or creating.

And that it can lead to comparisonitis and disheartenment. Which really should be a word if it isn’t already.

And there are definitely merits to seeing what other people are doing; it’s good to have an idea of what’s going on, it’s good to allow new perspectives and ways of doing things onto your radar, it’s good to find inspiration outside your personal sphere, it’s good to connect with others doing similar work in the world.

But generally, I’m starting to find, all that absolutely must be secondary to facing forward and doing my own thing.

How can I possibly find out what ‘my own thing’ even means if I’m not actually in it, narrow and deep, discovering it?

Case in point: the {non}planner I created at the start of the year as a free gift for anyone who wants it.

First and foremost I created this planner for me. I tried doing it with ‘everyone else’ in mind and kept hitting walls and too much complexity. I’m not a structure person, so why would I create something with specific boxes to fill in or specific questions to answer if I’d never use it? Why would I offer something I wouldn’t use myself?

True, someone else might love that, but if I’m creating something that doesn’t align with who I am, the energy is wrong, it lacks integrity. People can feel that. It’s why we can feel a bit icky when we see something that’s clearly a rip off of something else. And I’ve found that when I create with full integrity – not just 90%, or even 99% integrity – more people like whatever it is.

My best offerings, my most helpful offerings, come from a place in me that is purely and 100% me.

It can be a difficult balance to navigate. To me, connection is an integral and essential part of being a creative person. Connection online is my primary means of communicating with friends and peers, of sharing my art, teaching courses and so on; I value it very highly and have seen it generate rich friendships, exciting collaborations, laughter, abundance and learning.

I probably could create in a vacuum, but eventually I’d also go mad; I need to be able to share, to discuss, to receive encouragement and support and to send those things out. For me, connection is what completes the circle.

And if I’m going to make my own ‘pure’ work, something that has real depth and truth to it, I must also isolate myself and shut the doors on what’s ‘out there’.

I think perhaps what it comes down to is the quality of the attention and a very deep level of self knowledge. My best attention really ought by default to be going to my own work.

That means knowing what part of the day and when in the month {and year} I’m most creative. It means really listening inside myself to intuitive nudges about when to step away from the computer, when exactly I need to go for walk to mull things over, when it’s the right moment to write because it’ll be the most clear and insightful, when it’s a good time to go to the studio and paint, when I’m on top of my game in terms of communicating, and when I need to rest and percolate.

I don’t know if it’s possible to be your most richly, rewardingly and originally creative self if you’re comfortable being more of a surface dweller, but all the active creatives I know and can think of who radiate uniqueness, are, generally speaking, naturally inclined to introspection, to solitude, to deep thinking and to questioning.

I find these qualities invaluable not just because they are part of who I am and need to be honoured, but also in identifying and developing my creative work.

I love to look at the work of other artists for inspiration, and I encourage it in others. It’s a totally valid means of finding inspiration. But I also know where to draw the line so that I am not copying when I take my inspiration to the studio, and so that I don’t become disheartened or self critical because I’ve started comparing.

It’s taken me literally years to really get to grips with this, and of course there’s always room for more learning. I’m not immune to envy and self doubt.

{Sidenote: Have you noticed how comparing is never a happy solution, whether you feel you come out ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than whatever/whomever you’re comparing yourself to? It’s utterly utterly pointless. And yet we still do it!}

I think that’s the essence of it really. Without taking the time – and not just sometimes, but as a way of life – to know ourselves deeply and intimately, to ferret around in our own business instead of anyone and everyone else’s, is the only way we can truly bring our richest, most powerful and completely unique work into the world.

What do you think? Is it more of a pleasing theory that your best, most original and whole creative work comes from taking an ‘eyes front’ stance, or is it an integrated truth for you at this point? Are you still finding it difficult to stop checking on everyone else and looking ‘out there’ for answers? I’d love to hear your experience around this sensitive balance – tell us in the comments!