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.”
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.
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.