Thriving as a Creative Artist in Uncertain Times

An open hand covered in multi-coloured paint

Dear Creative Artists,

I hope you’re staying well and taking care of yourselves. After some recent discussions with clients, I thought it might be worth sharing what I’m finding helpful, in terms of how we can support ourselves and each other under these unique circumstances.

Addressing emotional and mental wellbeing

Artists are a sensitive and empathic population, and I know at the same time it’s been tempting to just be stoic, to push down unwelcome feelings and just “get on with it”. However, letting yourself know honestly how you are feeling is amazingly helpful. Take time to be quiet and still each day and check in with yourself.

This crisis is bringing up very different challenges for people on a mental and emotional level. For me, for example, it’s brought up fears on a very basic level of not having enough to eat. For one friend, it’s brought back old memories of stress he had at a previous job during the 2008 downturn. For another friend, it’s fears of loneliness during a period of recommended “self-isolation”. For yet another, it’s “survivor guilt”, knowing that she’s ok, while so many others are suffering. It may be fears of illness or even mortality.

If old fears and anxieties are being triggered, the easiest thing to do is just take some time to scribble them down on paper, however they come out, and then tear up the paper or burn it. It’s best to take a few minutes daily to do this. Or if you feel you need to trace the feelings backwards more mindfully, do some journaling. There’s increasing data to support the theory that journaling actually has a tangible effect on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/style/journaling-benefits.html

For me, once I discovered that my fears could be traced to some specific experiences I had as a child, something relaxed inside of me and I was able to reassure myself that I would have enough to eat- which markedly reduced my stress levels.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but having fun is also incredibly vital right now- I recommend watching comedy, playing games with friends online, holding Netflix streaming parties, and so on. It can be easy to feel that we shouldn’t be enjoying ourselves during a crisis, but actually, it helps no one if we’re suffering, particularly unnecessarily (for example, worrying about situations that are outside our control- of which there are many). And laughing is great for the immune system!

It’s also helpful to notice what we have, and to appreciate it- being grateful to have enough food, a roof over our heads, a beautiful sunny day to go out in, and so on. There may be things about this new way of life that are actually better. Look out for them.

Addressing practical needs

Of course, there are new aspects of your work and study to deal with. For some of you, your working lives may have been drastically altered at short notice.

I encourage you to be flexible and adaptable, and to experiment. I’m sure you’re already brainstorming possible options to continue earning and to keep your business afloat. One of the trickiest parts of this challenge is that it has come so suddenly.

I know some of you are considering teaching online and needing to research the best modality with which to do this. For others, you might need immediate revenue and will need to start looking for temporary jobs. And for others, there may be extra unoccupied time to fill.

If you’re moving your teaching business online, I recommend checking out the Facebook group “Online Music Teachers” run by a colleague of mine, where he spells out how to teach effectively, and what kind of set-up you need. He has an extremely successful online teaching practice and loves to work that way and there are generous resources available.

If you find you have extra time to fill, then, once your life has settled down from this initial upheaval, I encourage you to set some practice, repertoire, composing or writing goals. After all, this situation is temporary, and it would be great to emerge stronger at the end.

In fact, I suggest you ask yourself some good questions- you know, not the kind that undermine you, like “What the hell is wrong with me?” 😉 but more like,


“How can I emerge [fill in the blank- stronger/wiser/more resourceful/happier] from this situation?”

And if you’re not feeling ‘together’ enough to do this yet (and even when you are), then I encourage you to play or write for pleasure and as a release, as much as possible.

Being open to receiving support

It’s vital that we reach out to each other. What kind of support systems do you have? Do you need to create more at this time? I’ve been calling and texting more friends and family members to share about the impact of this new situation, and being honest about the challenges.

So, reach out, even if you haven’t spoken to the person for a while. Many people say they are feeling more connected than ever, right now, and what a blessing it is.

Reaching out to support others

One of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed so far has been all the kindness people have shown each other. In our village of 1000 people, there are now 200 who have offered to help if someone is in need, through a volunteer-manned helpline. You may have read about, seen or experienced acts of kindness or selflessness yourself. Finding ways to be of service and take action will help you feel more empowered and take your mind off your own challenges for a while. I’m sure there are many opportunities on your doorstep.

I’d love to hear how you are doing and wish you well!

Bon courage,

Valerie