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How Artists Can Use Mindfulness to Cope With Distractions

Image courtesy of Michele Theberge

This is a guest post by Michele Theberge from www.themindfulartist.com

One of the most common problems artists express to me is:

“There’s not enough time to make art!”

One of the ways I have carved out more time in my life for art is to eliminate distractions.

Nine years ago, when I was an artist-in-residence at the Morris Graves Foundation, I spent eleven days in a remote and isolated setting. It was structured so the artist had no contact with the outside world: no telephone, newspapers, radio, Internet or TV, and no other artists or visitors of any kind. Nothing to distract me from my thoughts and my work.

Thoughts by Michele Theberge

For many people this would be torturous, but I found it heavenly. By spending time alone with my thoughts, I was able to observe which thoughts were productive and which were counterproductive.

This is something my meditation practice has taught me. When we are present with our thoughts, they lose some of their power over us.

By noticing and not fighting the counterproductive thoughts, I was able to stay in the present moment and keep focused on the work, I was not only able to accomplish a lot, but to work through difficult moments in the work.

Each evening I sat in a cozy armchair by a window over looking the lake and wrote in my journal. I spent this time musing on my day in the studio—what was working, what wasn’t and where to take the work next.

I was able to make time for reflection—something that at home I had never considered a priority.

When I came home, the contrast hit me. I realized that just by moving through my home it was quite easy to lose focus. Each room provided fresh distractions. I would sit down in the living room to rest and idly start reading a magazine. This distraction is not bad in itself, but multiply it by twenty such incidents and my mind zigzags all over like a hummingbird zipping from flower to flower.

Harmony in my Head by Michele Theberge

Keeping books and magazines piled in every room is like keeping snacks in every corner of the house and indulging even when I am not hungry. This distraction functions as a form of mind-clutter for me.

I must be discriminating about what I choose to put in my mind. I must carefully select which lectures to attend or films to see which books to read. I have learned the hard way that I cannot read every newspaper, support every cause, read every cool blog nor attend every art opening (even of my most beloved artist friends!). I cannot even cultivate or maintain friendships with all the people I enjoy! I have decided I must root out what is not essential. The best filter is my gut. Is this something I would really love to do? An article I feel really drawn to read?

I have found I need to have enough experience to stimulate but not too much to over-stimulate.

I know each artist has her own balance point with outside stimulation. What’s yours? Please share your experience in the comments below.

About Michele

Michele Theberge

People fall in love with the quiet, ephemeral quality of Michele Théberge’s drawings, paintings and installations constructed from delicate and light materials such as paper, paint, fabric, mylar, foil and pins. Collected internationally, her work has been exhibited in New York, Osaka, London, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Miami and the United Arab Emirates. www.micheletheberge.com

As a recognized expert in acrylic painting materials and methods, Michele travels the U.S. and Canada inspiring thousands of artists from beginners to established professionals with the latest techniques and materials. Her popular online Mindful Artist Mentorship Program teaches up-and-coming artists how to tap into their creativity at a deeper level, and move into the realm of professional artist. More experienced artists appreciate Michele’s gifts for helping them stay accountable, focused and effective in their studio practice and career.

To learn more about The Mindful Artist Mentorship Program, you can download a free audio recording of a recent class Michele taught on Connecting With Your Deeper Wisdom to Overcome 3 Common Obstacles as a Professional Artist.

In the recording you’ll learn:

  1. Why it can be so hard to get in the studio and what to do about it.
  2. FEAR – What no artist likes to admit to but nearly every artist has.
  3. How to Shore Up A Rickety Foundation with 4 Key Pillars to Success

As well as a handout with some specific action steps so you can get started today.

Download your free recording now.

(Michele Theberge retains the copyright to all the images in this post.)

Note from Dan: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you decide to register for Michele’s Mindful Artist Mentorship Program after following these links, I will receive a commission payment, which helps me keep this site running. If you’re uncomfortable with that kind of thing, that’s fine, no hard feelings. If you do sign up through my affiliate links, then thank you, I really appreciate your support!

9 Comments on How Artists Can Use Mindfulness to Cope With Distractions

  1. Emma says:

    This is so true – we are so easily distracted and pulled in different directions by our thoughts and feelings. I am starting some meditation/mindfulness classes soon and am hoping they will help me to be less distracted and more focused in my creative pursuits.

    • Emma – I hope your mindfulness/meditation classes are a source of inspiration and focus for you! I know how important it has been for me. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  2. pauline donohoe says:

    Thank you Michele for your posting. My husband and myself are in the process of decluttering our house. Our spirits have been lifted already. I really relate to what you said about having piles of books, magazines everywhere to read. We have, today, concidentally, been putting the books we really want to read in one spot, so we can see them and read them when we feel inclined. Our cd’s are being sorted and given to the library, leaving only the ones we really enjoy. Having so much choice of reading and listening to music, I find overwhelming and exhausting lol. Also creativity I feel is stifled by the choice of too much to do, and then doing nothing. I’m working on the process of being with my thoughts and being mindful of what I think, and where my attention goes. A life long process, but very worthwhile I feel. thanks again Michele.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Pauline! I love hearing about when people are de-cluttering! I find it so invigorating to do so myself. I think creatives are often overwhelmed with choices. I had to put away some projects recently because I was spreading myself too thin. My mantra is focus and complete. I have so many ideas all the time for new works and projects! Am in the process of completing some paintings and that feels great! Cheers!

  4. umanbn says:

    Nice article…I find I do my best work too when I’m relaxed though it often takes an hour or more to reach a state where I’m at my most productive. I also liked your point about being discriminating about what we put into our heads with so much information out there we are in danger of allowing ourselves to be info-polluted…thanks for posting. Thanks…

    • Thanks for writing! It seems as though most artists have a “break in” period before that get rolling. I have been able to eliminate that time by using a ritual before I get started. I encourage all the artists I work with in my mentorship program to develop their own ritual that helps them focus quickly by keeping a close connection with core reason for making art. Mine is a short prayer I read as soon as I get in the studio with my intention to uplift and inspire others through my work and my commitment to work from a place of service and allow the work to come through me, not from my ego. I love how centering this practice is.

  5. Hey Michele,

    this is a really interesting article – we have lots of articles on mindfulness on our website too from how to practice mindfulness, to links to other useful sites about the subject to midful eating – but nothing on mindful art!

    Really interesting stuff – of course mindfulness is going to help immensely with creativity – I already love the idea of mindfulness which is such a simple yet also such a powerful concept, so I loved reading your article,

    take care & best wishes for the mentorship program,

    Alan

  6. Average Joe says:

    Million dollar question: do you see things first or do you think things first?
    Here is a form of de-cluttering if you will.

    Anything you see is always in line with what you think. Direct your thoughts and you shall see greatness. Deeds are done because they were chosen and choice is always made because it was thought of beforehand with or without awareness. There are no good or evil thoughts; it’s the deeds that are good or evil. Control your thoughts and direct them to into positive direction for the good of mankind and you shall see greatness. Art should be abstract enough to convey the message. Mind is abstract enough for me hence this message. Ego keeps you going; hope gets you started; fear helps you conquer; without these emotions you can’t feel complete. Imagine someone never fearing or getting angry or getting distracted, hard eh? No classes can remove these emotions from someone. However, you can control them.

    Peace!

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