Mentally Preparing for a Successful Career in the Arts

Posted by: Sonya Highfield

Being an artist isn’t easy. Having a successful career isn’t easy. Being a woman artist and having a successful career also isn’t easy. But there are ways to find more ease and success, and one of the best strategies to do so is to mentally prepare and create a positive mindset that keeps you motivated for a long, happy career in the arts.

An important idea to get into your head is that the people who find success do so because of their persistence. It’s not because they’re the best artists in the world (not to discount talent), but because they’ve chosen this path and then did not stop pursuing it. No matter what. So if you are set on creating and making your artwork your career, holding that desire, being endlessly persistent about making it happen, and being able to release the notion that you must be the best to do so, will help you get there. It’s not about perfection, it’s about persistence.

A great mental practice you can adopt is to acknowledge your fears. We all have fears, rational and irrational. And they will undoubtedly pop up throughout your career. They can be particularly strong in the beginning as you first step into the professional art world, but don’t think you won’t experience fears anytime you make a change or commit to something new. We may think our fears protect us from harm, but often they tend to hold us back from things that are GOOD for us, rather than things that will hurt us. For example, many people fear receiving money. Receiving money is of course a good thing because we all need money in some capacity to survive. So if you fear receiving money, you’ll probably struggle to sell your art, and when you do make sales you’ll find ways to get rid of whatever money you do bring in. By identifying the simple fact that you have this fear, you can now use that awareness and energy to push back at the fear. You can work on building up your confidence, releasing your fear, and practice receiving, rather than spending time procrastinating and ignoring the thing you actually want – which is to make and sell art for money.

The other thing most people fear is rejection. This can hold artists back in various ways that are truly detrimental to your career. If you’re afraid to show people your work, afraid to receive feedback, and constantly shy away from putting yourself out there for shows, publication or clients, you’re likely to not be living your dream of being a working, and well-known, artist.

So try this- reframe the idea of putting yourself out there as if you’re asking a question, and each “yes” or “no” that you receive is the exact answer you need to point you down the path you’re meant to be on. This takes a mental load off of us, because the “no’s” stop simply being rejections and we can say thank you for pointing us in the right direction! And now we’re off to find the “yes” that we’re looking for from somewhere else. It’s much easier to mentally rebound when we frame it that way, because it’s not that we’re bad or wrong or a failure, we just have to pivot slightly and find the place or people who do support us and want what we’re offering.

How could your art career expand and feel easier if you acknowledged and worked through your fears, and then reframed what happens when you make yourself visible and the responses you get?


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