Need help dealing with the stress of art

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  • This topic has 9 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 8 years ago by Anonymous.
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    Hi guys, I have a problem that I would like some opinions on.

    I was a video games artist for some time, I have a background in traditional (pencil sketching) art and am currently employed as a dogsbody in house artist/typesetter/designer/whatever else they can think of for me to do.

    The thing is as long as I can remember whenever I am doing work for someone else and specifically later on professionally I always get so stressed. I get stressed for a number of reasons, things go through my head like:

    >This person is paying me for my time or people are counting on me but as this is a creative work and there is no right or wrong how do I know what will look good or what they will like?
    >They must be wondering why I am taking so long
    >I am embarrassed that I need to research techniques (mainly digital work) before I start work like I can’t do work on my own or like I feel I should know or be able to work this stuff out and because of this like I am a fraud

    I always feel inferior and like I am just making it up as I go along and that any moment people will realise that although my title is artworker and artist I am not an artist and in fact have never really liked ‘art’. I get very self conscious and feel like I am just flailing. The stress that builds up can get quite intense and cause mood swings even when I am at home after work. I just feel like I am under a lot of pressure to live up to this title of artist and to prove that I am good or that my work can stand up.

    Because of this stress I haven’t really ever finished a full piece of art at home and almost always push myself too much and get overwhelmed and then find excuses to put it off and eventually quit. At work I can’t quit but it makes doing this kind of job stressful. I would like to get another job doing something else but I don’t want to have to start from scratch somewhere else for low money.

    Do other people experience this sort of thing? I am even ashamed to admit I get this stress as surely after being a professional for 4 years I should surely be over this by now or at least be comfortable in it. How can I deal with the uncertainty of being given a task with no certain right or wrong criteria? I absolutely hate that I can spend months on a piece of work only to have it shot down and feel ashamed but can at other times do something at the drop of a hat and have it admired. Skill and time have little to do with the response I receive sometimes.

    It doesn’t help too that my current job is 99% boring monotonous work and every now and then they set me a ‘creative brief’ but expect me to be able to smash something creative with minimal information to go on and no practice as I wont have done anything creative for months in between. Not to mention they still expect me to do all the work I normally do and this on top so I get very little time to actually experiment which is pretty important for me as everything they ask me to do in this job is new to me.

    Thanks for allowing me to vent, any advice would be appreciated but it feels good to put it in words. I am actually studying at home to become a web designer as soon as I can as I think I want to try and get away from creative stuff and get some skills that are more practical and have a more definable right or wrong. Not to mention better job security.



    Hi Ben,

    I was an Artist back in the 90’s before any of this techno-stuff came on the scene. Now I get in the mindset of “Why bother”? If you know what you’re doing, you can make a pencil sketch on a crumpled napkin look like a masterpiece with the right programs. (I don’t know what I’m doing LOL)

    Yes, my work had been rejected, and I was all So why did you hire me in the first place? The problem is art is so subjective!

    I got stressed out and still get stressed out if I try to produce any art for other people.

    Now I’m a Mom and I view my art as a hobby only. I do feel like I “failed” as “Artist” was my identity for so long.

    I wish I had better advice. I like the Web Designer path. Also consider Social Media Consultant, where you set up businesses’ social media sites and update them. I have another friend who is making a killing transforming other people’s photos into art. Again, techno stuff, BUT the person will see kind of how it will turn out if she’s seen one.

    • This reply was modified 8 years ago by Inky.
    Mike DiLeone

    Hi Ben. Your level of stress is very obvious. One thing that jumped out at me is the level of self-awareness you have. You definitely have the answers you seek within, you just need to gently pull them out.

    On the surface it sounds as if the job you are currently in is not what you want to do with your life and that in itself can cause tremendous stress. I was there once too and believe me, when you start doing things that are in alignment with your purpose, you will see life and stress in a different light.

    You mentioned that you are going to school to be a web designer. Congratulations, that is awesome! You also mentioned that you dont want to start somewhere else for lower wages. There is a chance that will happen if you decide to switch company’s. Have you considered staying where you are at as a “bridge job” while you finish school? Or while you start a side business? Try to think of the positives of this job- the money, hours, location, etc.. and focus on that until you find a job that you want or build your own business. If you have skill in web design, you can freelance or post “gigs” on a site like Fivver, which is what I used to design my blog and eBook. There are people on there making some nice money and doing good work. That might be something worth looking into.

    As for feeling like a fraud, I think that can be related to two things (and likely includes bits of both): first is that this work is not in alignment with what you really want to do. Next is that it could be also related to low self-confidence for this particular skill. Just remember that us creative types (I am a writer and coach)- we will always have our fears and feelings of inadequacy. It comes with the work. it is scary to put it out there, open to criticism and comparison. But, we continue to do it anyway because we have the courage to do so. Do the best in what you do, and have authentic intentions, and your path will unfold in front of you just the way it is intended.

    Good luck! Please feel free to check out my blog, mikedileone.com, to see the work of the people I worked with on Fivver (also had my eBook designed on there and the work she did was amazing). Please keep us posted.



    Dear Ben:

    The creative part of you suffers when the job is monotonous (99% of the time, you wrote). Unfortunately, the creative part of you suffers when you do have a creative assignment in front of you (1% f the time) because the Bully part of you, is active when the job is creative: you inner-bully is beating on the creative part of you.

    This is a no-win situation: you are unhappy whether the job is monotonous or creative. This is why the answer, I believe, is not in having a different job. Some jobs will be more unpleasant than others, but the problem is that inner bully.

    You detailed your thinking. I will quote what you wrote and follow with paraphrasing the message behind the thought, the message the bully is expressing to you:

    * “This person is paying me for my time or people are counting on me”
    Bully: “You, Ben, are not worth their money and their trust and they are going to realize it any moment now: watch out- any moment now and you will be found out for being unworthy and unreliable.
    * “but as this is a creative work and there is no right or wrong how do I know what will look good or what they will like?”
    * Bully: You can’t do it right- you will be doing it wrong! And they will not like it, you will see!
    “They must be wondering why I am taking so long”
    Bully: you are too slow (and…too slow doing it the wrong way)!
    * “I am embarrassed that I need to research techniques (mainly digital work) before I start work like I can’t do work on my own or like I feel I should know or be able to work this stuff out and because of this like I am a fraud”
    Bully: Shame on you, Ben! You shouldn’t be researching! You should be able to do this on your own! You are a fraud!
    * “I always feel inferior and like I am just making it up as I go along and that any moment people will realise that although my title is artworker and artist I am not an artist and in fact have never really liked ‘art’.”
    Bully: You, Ben, you are inferior! You are just making it up as you go along, you don’t know what you are doing (doing it wrong and taking too much time doing it), and you are not a real artist, your title is not fooling them. Anytime now, they will find out you are a fraud!

    So, with this Bully, life is almost impossible. You muscle through, do your best, but the bully is producing this heavy duty friction that acts against you moving forward. That friction harms your creativity at home and during the 1% at work. This friction also creates so much distress that it harms your health.

    If you agree, and if there is something new to you in my analysis, let me know and we can continue to communicate about … the answer, the solution.



    Anita, after reading Ben’s description and your reply, I find that my issue (as it relates to art, and everything else for that matter) is also this bully that keeps me unhappy. The bully whose goal is simply to keep me unhappy, it does this by immediately jumping on whatever side I’m not on. I know your answer was for Ben, but I’d love to hear more about “the answer, the solution”, and ways to start giving this bully less power, to lessen the ample friction. Hoping and looking forward to hearing back, -Dylan

    Mike DiLeone

    Anita- good take on the “bully” within. That was a great point!

    One way that I managed to quell my inner-critic, aka “bully’ was to engage him in conversation. When he opined negatively, I put a face to him so I had a visual and I asked for proof that what he as saying was true. Not just an opinion but real, unequivocal proof. I find that most of the time, he cant provide it. Only his nasty comments. Then I know I am on the right path because I have created fear in him, which is why he is screaming for attention. I gently remind him that I know he is looking out for my best interest, and also that without proof, I know that what he said was not true, so therefore I must continue on. At the end of the day, I know my inner critic is trying to help in the only way he knows how. And I know that the louder he screams, the more I am on to something good. Giving him a voice and a face has changed the direction of my life dramatically. He’s still there, except now he is more like a crusty old friend that I met along the way. I expect the bluntness but I know his heart is in the right place 🙂


    * Dear Dylan: since this is Ben’s thread, I will be glad to communicate with you on your own thread. If you’d like click FORUMS above, choose a CATEGORY (Emotional Mastery, maybe), click that, go down the page to the empty box. You can copy your above post and past it there as is.


    Hi guys. Thank you for your responses, I don’t come here often but when I do the support I find is really helpful, you guys are great.

    I should point out that I am not going to school to study web design I am doing it on my own. Mainly because I cannot afford to not be in work and I simply cannot afford education. And to be frank unless I know I will really love whatever I study or that it will be beneficial I am simply not ready to jump into bed with any subject that will require such a huge commitment. So my decisions are limited by what can I study on my own or cheaply and at least get a test drive before I need to commit to anything. And of course what field has jobs available in my locale. Web design is the current winner although I am also interested in therapy though in person I am perhaps a bit too gruff or macho to be a good fir for that….but we will see once I’ve checked it out a bit more.

    A lot of my stress stems from being unsatisfied with my work that is an understatement. It is monotonous until its impossible and I get little or no guidance or support. I have mentioned this in other threads but I definitely need another job and am working on that right now.

    Anita your Bully metaphor was really good, it reminded me a bit of the chimp paradox. It is amazing how simply putting a voice and a persona to those statements changes them and makes them clearer to identify. You are spot on with your assessment, I need to learn how to deal with this bully as this same process occurs whenever I do creative work that is to be viewed by others. I have had it all my life or at least since my teens. One thing I am really worried about is that if I totally give up on art and go into something much less subjective and more technical but still get this same bully I will have worked for nothing.

    There is also a lot of stress right now to get a new career as my previous one bombed and I still have little real interest in anything anymore but that is a different issue though no doubt contributes to my current mindset.

    Going to get some sleep now b ut thanks for everything guys I really appreciate it.



    Between the stimulus and response there is a space.. and in that space residues your freedom. It is how you respond to a situation that makes the situation stressful or pleasing. Remembering this means you can be free from the hellish ways of the primitive parts of the human brain.


    Dear Ben:

    Yes, the bully will go with you wherever you go and whatever career you pursue. It will because it resides in your brain, so … wherever you go, it goes.

    There are ways to deal with the bully, to weaken him and that’s the best way to go. There is a new thread that a respondent to your thread here started today and I will be communicating with her about the goal of shrinking or weakening the inner bully, aka toxic inner critic. You can visit that thread and you can also communicate with me here about it.


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