Fight Anxiety in the Art Marketplace
Hello, Dr. Maisel. My artwork is piling up and I know I have to try to make some connections in the art marketplace. But I just feel petrified. Can you give me a few tips—anything!—that might help me jump in where I don’t want to go? — Marcia T., Queens, New York
Let’s consider the following six obstacles to marketplace relating—and what you can do to handle them.
1. Finding that anxiety gets in the way.
Strategy: Acquiring an anxiety management tool or two. Few people consciously practice anxiety management. Every artist should. The techniques available to you include breathing exercises (one deep cleansing breath can work wonders), brief meditations, guided visualizations (where, for example, you picture yourself relaxed and calm), discharge techniques (for example, getting your pent-up anxiety released through “silent screaming”), personality work (for instance, practicing acting “as if” you feel confident), cognitive restructuring (that is, changing the things you say to yourself and thereby reducing your experience of anxiety), and so on.
Really acquire one anxiety management technique that works for you! (I present a menu of 22 of these techniques in my book Mastering Creative Anxiety, in stores March, 2011.)
2. Not knowing what to say.
Strategy: First, practice what you intend to say. You should be able to say about your painting, “This is one of a series of paintings I’m doing that emphasizes the horizontal element in landscape.” It doesn’t matter if that is what you are “really” doing in your painting, since what you are really doing is beyond language. You are simply providing yourself with something better to do than grunt, mutter, ramble, fumble, and so on. Second (and in seeming contradiction to the first), do not feel that you need to have anything to say. Feel free to reply to a query about your painting’s meaning with a cheerful “Lord if I know!” Relax!—but also be prepared.
3. Feeling one-down or one-up to people who hold the power and the purse strings.
Strategy: Inner work on feeling equal. Although it is not easy to do, it is possible to get a grip on your mind and rethink the way you hold marketplace players, reminding yourself that your goal is to feel neither inferior to them nor superior to them but as if you and they were in the art-buying-and-selling enterprise together. If your tendency is to feel superior, remind yourself, “No smirking!” If your tendency is to feel inferior, remind yourself, “Backbone, please!” Our typical reaction to power is a version of the fight-or-flight syndrome: we want to strike first or we want to run and hide. The less you hold these interactions as threatening, the less your fight-or-flight reflex will kick in and the more equal you’ll manage to feel.