Self-Care Advice: Improve Your Life to Improve Your Art


Are you spending hours hunched in a cramped room, waiting for the inspiration to come? Are you working a crappy, insufferable job which allows you more time to focus on a new project? Are you sick of being called a flake by your friends because you keep ditching them to eke out a little more time fleshing out your ideas?

This is all very common for artists who are making sacrifices — social, monetary and physical/emotional — because they want to really give this art thing a go. They make themselves regular hermits because they are bad with distractions. You get roped into one night of drinks and then you’re out all night, wake up the next morning hungover and spend the rest of the week playing catch-up. Or you pick up an extra work shift because you need the money and then at home you feel like doing nothing but zoning out in front of the TV.

Sometimes it feels like you’re being kept on task by the finest thread, and if you rattle it at all and succumb to fun or responsible things then it will all fall apart and six years later you’ll find yourself wondering whatever happened to that younger version of yourself who had so much potential.

Yes, many of us look back at our teens or twenties or the last fifty years and regret that we didn’t keep our nose to that grindstone. We imagine what else we could have done. We lament that we didn’t have the work ethic we have now. But we also remember that back then we weren’t very happy.

And feeling better allows us to make better art.

As much as you may not want to admit it, there may be some holes in your life that right now art can’t fill. Sacrificing so much for your project may sound noble, but if you’re waking up every morning hating your job, worried you can’t pay rent, dealing with an ache in your lower back and wondering why no one texts you anymore, then all this time you thought was being saved for your art is actually being spent feeling like a poor, emotional wreck.

Making yourself feel healthy and happy and secure will allow you to dedicate time and energy to your art — you just need to balance your time better. Don’t get too drunk on a night when you need to get up early. Don’t look for any excuse to turn Netflix back on. But also don’t remove every fun thing and person in your life because you think it’s that or nothing.

Yes, the tortured artist is a well-known stereotype, and a lot of good things have come from a lot of miserable people. But the world is filled with miserable people — just because a few of them made great art doesn’t mean that’s a requirement.

Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.