Snapshots: Art Careers in Transition

It’s hard to change, at first.

When career change is calling, artists and other creative professionals are navigating the undertow of conflicting directions, and often need support. Most artists want to answer the call, but we also prefer to stay in familiar territory–precisely because it is familiar. The circumstances of our creative project or career direction may change drastically. If so, we must adapt to the changing circumstances and switch course. But working through resistance is often required, and sometimes it’s hard.

Fear of change can immobilize us; the antidote is to take action.

Fear can actually be good for art careers in transition. Fearing things may get worse can prompt us into action, or to seek the artist career support we need. But fear produces negative results when so intense that it weighs us down. It can be unwise to wait until we are “ready” for change. Often it’s preferable to look 90 degrees to the right or left, and take that first plunge into the unknown. As an Artist Career and Creativity Coach for many years, I notice that during their first steps, artists usually feel a strong pull to maintain the status quo (i.e. to keep the creatively-draining job, or to stay mired in relationships running counter to their creative core.) No matter what we are feeling at the moment, it’s important to take a deep breath, and begin to move…slowly.

The good news is: it gets easier.

Once we are past the gate, the art career in transition feels easier. We come to realize that it’s actually safer to stumble around in the newness than to remain where we were. We wonder what the heck took us so long to move out of the stagnant position! To take action shifts us away from fear and into the moment. Our energy is transferred from worry to problem solving. And the journey feels better and better.

The bad news: it ain’t over yet.

New desired outcomes rarely come fresh out of the gate. It takes some time. Often clients in transition form a new vision that does not pan out in the short run. This can be discouraging. The fear may creep back in at this point, to a rather high pitch. We might start imagining a frightful scenario, or feel undertow form old situations no longer working in our live. Here it is most crucial to keep faith that the new direction will bring results. We must stare down the fears born of imagination and lighten them off their backs. It helps artists in a delicate phase of transition to imagine actions they would take if unafraid; then start to employ those actions in a reasonable way. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “We must do the thing we think we cannot do.” Many artists in transition, upon learning to sustain through discomfort, will discover help and nourishment along the creative path. They begin to feel freed up and more alive. The road is challenging, but nothing as dark as we had feared. The journey of change actually becomes something to enjoy.

Creativity is empowered when we imagine a new situation before finding it.

With a positive attitude about what is possible, we feel more energized. We bring the mind’s attention away from what we are losing to notice (and imagine) what we are gaining. Change never has to lead to a worse condition. If fact, in the longer term, it leads to better conditions overwhelmingly. Again, action is key. Steps in one new direction will lead, at the very least, to a another revised direction.

Old beliefs will not lead to new desired outcomes.

New beliefs encourage new behaviors in our creative process. Releasing worn out beliefs, we gradually behave differently. We can choose to resist change, believing it will harm us. Or we can choose to embrace change, believing that a new situation will support our creativity, creative process and art career transition.

Loss can teach us to change course sooner.

Once in the swing of creative transition, we may notice missed opportunities in hindsight–things we might have pursued and won if we hadn’t waited so long to act. When this happens, it’s time to digest the lesson and regard it as a signal that another opportunity is around a corner–if we keep going. Creative doors shut, yes, but others open. By learning the lessons of change, we are empowered to shift more quickly from denial, hesitation and fear when next faced with a changing situation. To take new action steps is to increase the odds for new positive outcomes.

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*Essay by Barbara Bowen of GatewaysCoaching.com - the definitive source for artists and creative careers in transition. Contact Barbara to empower your creative process and for help with your career goals. She would love to hear from you.*