If you've ever played a first person shooter like Call of Duty you're probably familiar with a "Free for All". In one of these types of battles, everyone on the map is an enemy. Your radar is literally filled with little blips you need to strategically avoid while still being on the attack. Negative experiences can be looked at in the same way, little dots on your radar that try to pull you from your goal. The difference with life verses a game though is you don't have any way of seeing all of the dots of negativity. Sometimes you can see them from a distance, but often they often just pop up out of nowhere. What's worse is they tend to cloudy up the rest of our radar so we can't even see other problems around or respond well to the moment. It's important for your happiness and your progress as an artist to learn how to armor up and deal with that. Fortunately there's some easy and actionable steps you can take without buying anything new or reinventing the wheel.
Remember Why You Started
In the effort to be successful or feel accepted as an artist, you may begin to feel entitled to success because of our efforts. After all you do work your butt of and deserve recognition right? But all successful artists got into the process at the very beginning purely to explore and create. If you find that things are moving a bit slowly, take five minutes and close your eyes. Literally force yourself to remember those first steps that led you to say, "yup, I need to make noise". It probably wasn't success driven. Something inspired, healed, or called to you and you had to create something. If you consistently bring your headspace back to that place, you'll always be rooted in that initial inspiration, and that's an automatic happiness trigger.
Perspective is the way that one looks at something. It is also an art technique that changes the distance or depth of an object. You can say that perspective can allow you to change what you derive from something,by looking at it differently, and that's an important skill to master for every aspect of your life. In any moment, the negative elements are easier to spot because the body has a tendency to protect itself and correct wrongs. But this reflex is blinding, and can skew the way you feel about your current situation completely. Now nothing can get your full effort because part of your conscious or subconscious energy is going to that issue. On top of that, if you're a perceptive person, and most artists are, you'll always find something you can identify as "negative" or "bad". How can you expect to operate at 100% if your day is filled with you identifying and subconsciously trying to fix little problem after little problem?
One quick way to try to change how you feel in any particular moment is to stop and force yourself to list three things you appreciate having at the moment. Physically write them if it helps, or find a place to say them out loud. Even at the lowest, there's something you can be grateful for. Got writer's block and can't get anything out of your DAW that day? Stop and be grateful that you have a DAW in the first place, you didn't always have one. Be grateful for having the free time to crash and burn ideas, some people work so much that they can't. Hell, were you able to pay for the electric bill to even keep the computer on? That's a win right there. We overlook wins all day as if they're pennies in the street, but if we stack all of those pennies, dollars start to add up.
Study the Struggles of the Greats
We have tons of tools to read about the legends of the past and their process. If you check any Netflix documentary or read a long interview about one of your favorite artists from the past, you'll inevitably read about some type of hardship they had to work around that'll blow your mind. Every great has doors close in their face. Eminem asked Fat Joe to sign him 4 times and you see where that ended up for both of them. Successfully. This whole story is intertwined with all of our experiences and pans out over a long time. Remind yourself that struggle and steps "backwards" are a part of the process by familiarizing yourself with the stories of others. And put less weight on shit when it goes left.
Earlier we talked about negativity being a blip on the radar that you can't always see. One thing you can do, even blind, is to avoid areas on the radar that are known for having a lot of problems. This involves some soul-searching and consciously owning up to what you feel constitutes a happy life. Take an honest look at all of your relationships, personal, spousal, and professional. Really put some thought into whether or not your moments with that person are taxing, and how worth it that is to deal with. Those who aren't making the cut need to be proactively avoided more. Again as creatives we like to fix things, but it's important to focus on the relationships that work and benefit both parties and spend your time there. Find more positive communities to engage in whether offline or online.
When we talk about avoiding certain sections of the map, you can also take it quite literally. Some creatives like clubbing and partying, some don't. A lot pretend they do because they assume that's what they should be doing. It's 2016. If you're smart with your gmail skills you can network during the daytime and arrange opportunities to meet that way instead of going out and wasting money you don't have. If you feel yourself awkwardly drinking too much in a room full of folks you don't want to network with anyway, you're not helping yourself. Be honest, avoid that space, and use your time better. Spend your evenings studying conversation skills and negotiation maybe, so you can enter those kinds of spaces ready to network next time.
It's important to start the day right. Setting your vibe early has been proven to achieve better results throughout the day. I look at morning affirmations as a chance to stack the deck on the positivity side, so even if there's some early morning BS on the way, it's not my first emotional experience of the day. You may have a morning routine already, coffee, wake and baking, Pornhub etc, but figure out how to add a few minutes of positive reflection and self-encouragement to it. During those first sips of coffee, force yourself to look around the room and acknowledge things your grateful to have. Then take a few minutes, look in the mirror if that's your thing, and remind yourself of your greatness and the things you've achieved. Be your own coach. I personally say things like:
" I've come a long way as an artist and have a lot to be proud of"
" Something as simple as music has introduced me to so many people I would never meet otherwise"
"I can do things creatively nobody else can because I've studied and worked at it my own way. My experience got me here and no one else took that path so they can't beat me at it"
"Today's going to have ups and downs but I've clearly proved that I'm built for it because I'm here. Let's see what the world needs me for"
I really want you to start your day by reminding yourself that you're a all-powerful superhero whose only weakness is a 5-star orgasm if that's what it takes to get you vibe right in the morning. Affirmations become truth over time. And flying seems awesome.
We often can't change the logistics of a scenario, but we have a lot of power to change what a scenario does to us. By understanding perspective, and taking some active steps to reinforce your perspective and sense of self-worth, you start to achieve the type of happiness that affects both your art and your life as a whole
SentZ is a Brooklyn raised writer and producer who hasn't been the same since his 1st Helio phone