The Benefits of Anxiety: An Artist’s Perspective

Irreantum, by Michael Aaron Hall

Irreantum, by Michael Aaron Hall

We asked artists about the anxieties they face and how they overcome or cope with those anxieties. Today’s post is a guest post by Michael Aaron Hall, who believes we can use anxiety to help our artwork.

Michael Aaron Hall:

For years I tried to figure out how to overcome and get rid of the anxious feelings that were constantly with me. At times, it kept me from having a desire to create altogether, and for a professional artist that can be a bit problematic.

After the death of my brother, I began to experience sever anxiety in every aspect of my life. I immersed myself in master artworks that I love, from Michelangelo to Winslow Homer, and I noticed something. Many of the works looked the way that I felt inside. It made me wonder if any of these artists dealt with the same things I was dealing with. I started to notice similarities in acquaintances who are also artists and even asked them if they had anxiety. I was surprised when every answer I got was “yes.”

 

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At this point, I came up with the theory that not only is anxiety connected to creativity, but that it is an essential part of the creative process. I realized that not only did I not want to completely overcome my anxieties, but that they are essential to me as an artist. For example, if I am feeling particularly anxious about any given thing, I could try to infuse that thing into a work of art, almost like writing a subconscious code that people could pick up on without fully realizing it.

Maybe this is why I feel so connected to certain works of art, or pieces of music or poetry, etc. I also realized that when I am feeling anxious about something, I am incredibly focused.

Heaven and Earth, by Michael Aaron Hall

Heaven and Earth, by Michael Aaron Hall

If I can guide that focus into a specific project that I am working on it helps me to see it through to the end, and I usually notice something special with the result that I couldn’t have arrived at any other way.

So in a way, anxiety can be like a hidden superpower for an artist. I don’t want to make light of the subject or make it seem like “it’s all sunshine and roses.” I am aware that anxieties can be crippling, cause fatigue, and make a person feel alone and hopeless. I am however saying that anxiety can be understood and utilized and that in some instances a person can personally benefit from its effects. When I’m feeling very anxious, I know that more often than not a creative spurt is just around the corner, or I have a short window to try and create something beautiful and unique while in my anxious state. And hopefully, the result will be something that will connect with someone in a deep and meaningful way.

See Michael’s work at michaelaaronhall.com and on Instagram at @Michael_Hall_Sculptor.

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