Every Artist has an Elephant, like it or not it’s there following you around everywhere you go. It’s there in the studio, at home, at the concert, dance competition and art show. It follows us to workshops and sits behind us while we write. As a matter of fact it shows up whenever we are being creative. The problem with Elephants is it’s really hard to ignore them. Unlike a little bird on your shoulder or monkeys in your head, Elephants are quietly there tapping you on the shoulder and pointing to the big sign draped across their back that has your personal sign hanging off it. Even if you try to move this way or that direction the Elephant keeps getting in your way, pointing to that stupid sign.
What does that sign say, well, that depends on you the Artist. You are the creator of that sign and whether you like it or not you hung the sign across your Elephant’s back and allowed him (or her) to show you that sign exactly when you don’t want to see it. Your sign usually has a negative statement on it such as: I am not as good as the other Artists in the room; I really don’t know what I am doing; someone is going to watch me and see that I am really not an Artist; I am not ready to compete with other Artists yet; Everyone sings, paints, dances, plays this instrument and writes (insert one or more) better than me, why are you doing that style of work, that’s not what you do….I could go on and on but I think you are getting the idea.
Every time you put yourself into a stressful situation like getting up on stage, entering an art exhibition, asking people to buy your book you will have your Elephant walking in front of you and stopping and pointing to your sign.
“Just in case you forgot read the sign” the Elephant will say.
Well it’s time to train that Elephant to only accept positive signage on its body or stay outside in the field with all the other Elephants. It would be better to have the positive sign on the Elephant and let him follow you around reminding you how brilliant you really are, but until you are ready to make that sign whenever you start to see your Elephant mentally send him outside to wait. Be firm, Elephants can be stubborn. Just grab it by the trunk and gently lead him to the door if he won’t go then push him firmly out and mentally close the door so he won’t get back in.
Recently at a workshop I gave on painting the figure we did this exercise of putting our Elephants out in the field, it worked wonderfully as they let their fear of using a new method of painting or even drawing the figure or portrait go out with the Elephants. As the day wore on and the challenges became more difficult I could hear the Elephants (literally) stampeding back in the room. After firmly sending them out again they all got back on track. The work that was produced surprised and delighted them as they gave themselves the freedom to work without fear.
In case you haven’t guessed the Elephant is your fear; fear of competition; fear of going outside your comfort zone; fear of making a mistake.
Let’s transform our Elephants from representing our fears to being our banner of confidence. You are on a journey so ride high on your Elephant instead of spending all day reading that stupid sign.