An Artist’s Beginner Guide to Staying Sane

Hey! I’m an artist and I’d like to stay sane. I’m not an artist but I am interested in how artists think, see the world, and stay sane. I’m a writer and I want to learn as much about creativity as possible. I’m an entrepreneur, a business person, or a small business owner and I’d like to understand how artists work and what they do that works so well.

Tl;dr: If you are interested in creativity at all, you should read this blog.**

The art community is a small world, so it’s very easy to get involved in all kinds of drama. The most common scenarios are:

1) Feeling like everyone else is succeeding and you’re not;

2) Comparing yourself to others, or worrying about what other people think;

3) Trying to be perfect all the time, instead of just making art.

You can spend a lot of time worrying about these things and even more time trying to fix them. But the truth is that it’s just not possible to do everything perfectly, keep everyone happy all the time, and make it look effortless. If you haven’t figured this out already, this is a good time to start learning it. Successful artists of any kind have figured out how to maintain their sanity in the face of a lot of stress and uncertainty. They’ve also figured out how to manage the pressures that come with success because they’ve had to deal with both. It’s much easier to do this when you understand what you’re up against and what you need in order to succeed.

This blog is going to be a place where I share my own experiences with these issues in an effort to help other artists succeed without losing their minds along the way.”


Artists are not lone wolves. We need each other. We need to remember that, and to let go of our fantasies about being misunderstood geniuses who will never fit into the mainstream.

The truth is that artists need more than anything else to be understood—to be part of a community. When we are alone, it is easy for us to feel crazy. And when we feel crazy, it is easy for us to act crazy and lose touch with those around us.

When you are around other people who understand what you are doing, you don’t feel crazy at all. You feel like a regular person living your own life, and they pull you back into reality.

And that is not all: they can also help you get your work done!

Art and money are uneasy partners. Unless you are living off the largesse of a family trust, your art is not likely to be a commercial endeavor. The arts today are more accessible than ever, but that does not mean they are better understood or more respected than in the past.

A popular misconception holds that artists need to be poor, or at least close to broke, in order to create good work. But this couldn’t be further from the truth: artists need to be free. If you’re worried about paying rent, or having enough money for groceries, or what your rich uncle thinks of your latest project, then you’re not going to have much energy left over for creating.

The paradox of being an artist is that the less time and energy you have for other things, the more successful you’ll become as an artist. You can’t eat your work—well, okay: maybe you can if you make paintings out of bacon—but as an artist you will never starve as long as there is a market for what you are selling. This is why I’ve always found it so puzzling when writers will claim they don’t write because they would starve if they tried. If that were true there would be no writers!

The solution is not to try and

This blog is for the people who are called artists in their day jobs, the ones who have to wear a suit to work but still feel like an artist on the inside. When I say “artist,” I mean it in the broadest possible sense. If you paint, draw or sculpt, you’re an artist. If you play music or sing in public, you’re an artist. If you write stories and screenplays and blog about your creative process, you’re an artist. You’re an artist if you create anything that doesn’t exist before you made it, even if no one ever sees it.

Trying to be an artist while having a day job is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s also one of the most difficult things there is to talk about with other people.

But because so much of what we talk about here at Art Angels will be tried by other people and experience can save so much time and heartache, I’m hoping this becomes more than just my own personal journal where I document my successes (or failures) and share them with whoever cares to read along.

The purpose of art is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

-Art Angels

The truth is that there are no shortcuts. There is no secret, no trick, no way to win the lottery and have time left over to make art. You can only do it one thing at a time.

There are things that will help you, though. Here’s what I’ve found works:

1. Keep a routine, even when you’re not working on anything in particular. It’s the easiest way to keep your head in the game.

2. Make sure you’re eating well, staying active, and getting enough sleep. Being healthy will help your brain work better—and remember that it’s your brain that makes art, not your hands or heart or soul or brainstem (though those parts all help).

3. Take breaks, especially ones with deadlines of their own. You can’t get anything done if you run yourself into the ground and then try to do it all at once when you finally get some rest.

4. Be kind to yourself! Artists are often a little hard on themselves—you’re both your toughest critic and biggest fan. Remind yourself that this isn’t school anymore; there aren’t any teachers to impress and no one keeping track of whether or not you’re doing good work (though maybe

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