January 2004
Coaching For Creative Artists - A Few Notes

Artist is also a businessperson in the sense he or she needs to sell products in order to make living. The fact that an artist makes and sells originals rather than copies, though, highlights different aspects of work than in business as we generally understand it.

Obviously I am speaking here about a creative rather than a reproductive artist though the difference between one and the other is sometimes not quite clearly defined.

Artist needs to stay creative, original, self-expressing ... qualities not quite heartily appreciated by most authorities in our childhood. No matter whether our native culture supports primarily survival or self-expression... it forces or gently pushes a child into obedience, following the lead of an authority, accepting prevalent norms, values, ideals, repeating what the authority does and finds important... and most of this actually as a consequence discourages spontaneity, originality or creativity.

Children are generally praised for not being creative or original but rather dutiful and following more or less exactly what they are told... everywhere but in few lessons of arts, a pathetic minority of time and curricula, seen mostly as far less important than mathematics, natural science and other subjects.

Being faithful to oneself and one's personal experience which is another inevitable condition of being an artist may be seen even as misbehaving in childhood and systematically punished.

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Not always, though. I want to speak about quite an unusual example depicting quite the opposite to what I have just stated:

My friend, an architect, remembers his father, a respected university professor and a writer, would let him as a boy sculpt and make models no matter how late in the night it was and wouldn't interrupt him by ordering to go to bed. The father rather let him sleep longer in the morning and wrote a note for a teacher lying that the boy had stomach disorder and couldn't make it to school in time. By the way, my friend's father was a very strong personality persecuted and imprisoned by both nazis and communists.

This of course gives a child a very unambiguous message that self-expression is more important than submission to general norms and expectations. By the way, my friend belonged to the best students all through his school and university years and didn't have problems with learning or opposing teachers' authority.

And there is another story my friend told me from the time of his childhood, probably earlier then the previous: His nanny a woman who had been a long-term patient in a mental hospital was a woman of extraordinary patience... and she would let my friend do basically whatever he wanted even if it wouldn't make much sense from the point of view of an average nanny I imagine - for example filling glass bottles with leaves, pushing them inside with a stick for hours and hours without any obvious goal or meaning... which would probably make most adults impatient and prompt them to make the child do something more "meaningful"... from their point of view of course... thus interrupting the child's natural pace and imagination that must have been going on in his mind during this peaceful activity.

Of course my friend is as an adult a very creative person, completely faithful to self-expression to his experience but also as a teacher of architecture generous in support and encouragement of students' self-expression. He works without respect to any formal working hours which makes him extremely hard performing architect and... he doesn't have problems asking for good fee as he didn't develop the guilt feeling for doing something wrong when he expresses himself creatively and originally.

In order to say something less flattering about him... he has some problems keeping deadlines... as if the outer reality was indeed less important that the creative process itself.

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Unfortunately few have parents so assured a human being is basically a self-motivating, self-guiding system that has to be rather supported in what he or she chooses based on innate gifts and talents and spontaneity rather than forced into what an authority chooses for him or her in fear that if the authority doesn't interfere strongly enough the organism wouldn't be able to exist and find it's direction healthily.

Actually my example more or less shows what kind of support an artist needs: a contrast to what my friend doesn't need because he already got it.

My deductions have broad basis in my experience of living among artists quite a lot: my mother was a sculptress my uncle an architect, many artists were coming to my parents house and I had the opportunity to hear them talking about their work and life, bragging sometimes while hiding fear and uncertainty, drinking lightly and heavily, showing their egos, showing their struggles, showing their self-destructiveness sometimes more, sometimes less directly. My childhood experience had initiated my more and more serious and professional interest in artistic creativity that I have followed all my life.

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What are some more concrete steps in coaching for an artist?

IDENTIFICATION OF TALENT surely is the first step. A strong enough talent... that would be worth the effort invested into developing it. This is a risky step for a potential or starting artist as well as for me... as in these cases I mostly agree on a success fee - percents from the future income of an artist. I trust my intuition to make the right choice but the risk is always there as there are indeed many variables involved in a development of a talent.


What is a disturbing and distracting influence in work of a normal businessperson may become a fertilizer of creativity in work of an artist.

In case of a manger I will surely encourage dealing with emotions, with inner conflicts and fears, unconscious contents... but the objective of my my agenda will be to get them off the way of rationality of the work in order to minimize their influence on or interference with work performance.

For an artist the inner conflict, emotions, fears, dreams, contents and products of unconsciousness, intuition, hunches, imagination, fantasies are the raw material and they have to be gently embraced in all their complexity if possible, registered, kept in touch with, I would say even "domesticated"... and used for and in the artistic production.

What it takes is often to learn how "not to be scared of one's own inner conflicts, frustrations, anger, fears, anxieties, depressions or nightmares" how to work with them without interfering, how to cherish them and not act them out in a self-destructive way. How to work "from them" how to use the inner process and never ending changes as a starting point and a vehicle of creativity... how to "surf on a wave of the inner process" using its energy to the full for the creation but also for keeping the inner balance of the organism.

A manager surely needs to use imagination and intuition but the ratio of the OUTER WORLD vs. INNER WORLD should be about 95% : 5% in favor of the outer world, TOUCH WITH REALITY or REALISM should be 100% most of the time if he or she is supposed to be successful in what he or she is doing.

For an artist the ratio of the OUTER WORLD vs. INNER WORLD should be, in my experience, about 30% : 70% and REALISM or TOUCH WITH REALITY about 50% because an artist creates a new reality him or herself.

There surely are psychological ways and techniques to support a manager on one hand and an artist on the other hand in keeping the balance adequate for their goals. And a psychic can keep giving feedback on where they currently are and how to get them back to an optimal position.

A typical managerial work is mostly highly approved of by a majority culture and majority of authorities. Parents mostly love to see their children pursuing a career that will very probably lead to a good saturation of the need of security and safety of their offsprings and will give them widely respected and socially acceptable and acknowledged position. Somehow the prestige and monetary benefits of such career outweighs a high probability of psychosomatic diseases stemming from intense long term stress, overworking even workaholism and as a consequence often very unsatisfying conditions of marital life and parenting.

I think that tolerance to all the negative aspects of managerial career can be ascribed to the fact that such a career is seen by parents and other authorities a continuation of being a "good boy" or a "good girl" dutiful, doing the right thing and pursuing the goals highly valued by authorities and therefore highly rewarded...

And I think there is nothing wrong about it... just quite a couple of hidden dangers that I keep trying to remind my clients of...but anyway, these do not belong into this very text.

I think most parents (even parents artists themselves) deep in their hearts... or quite openly, depending on the type of art, are not crazy about or even dread the possibility of their child choosing an artistic career. Yes, it is uncertain and though it can lead very very high to uniquely glamorous positions... it is very unpredictable who will get there... sure only few of those who try.

By the way I think tolerating own children to choose their way and support them wisely rather then control them compulsively surely belongs to virtues of a parental role and is very difficult to achieve.

Anyway the career of an artist doesn't get much of a - badly needed - wide support or appreciation unless one is already on the top... where one still needs it... but perhaps a bit less than in the beginning.

An artist works from one's inner child... but doesn't do things that the child was much praised for by authorities, even though a few of elucidated authorities "tolerate" them. The artist does things that authorities mostly comment by: "Why don't you stop wasting your time and go and do something meaningful... or valuable, sensible, needed, to help us, to make your parents happy???" Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!

In my experience for many artists this turns into a deep omnipresent torturing doubt because the experience of a creative, artistic work not being praised comes really from such a deep, deep child's experience. And this is what the voice of the inner enemy repeats again and again: 'Who will like my work? Who will care about it? Who will understand it? Who will appreciate my effort and my struggle? Who will perceive it as a real work? Who will love and respect (me for) it? Who if anybody will be inspired by it? Who will be thrilled by it to the degree I am while creating it?... and - last but not least - Who is going to pay me for it? Who am I to deserve to be paid for it adequately, anyway!?... since my inner parent firmly states and repeats: "Nobody cares for what you are doing, stop wasting you life and do something real!"

So a big part of my coaching goes to correcting this inner programming, that can be so strong and biased it can completely discourage a gifted person and send him or her on a self-destructive course.

Coaching for an artist includes dealing with the unique strength and weight of the experience of creation that is one of the most intense, most positive, most desirable, elating, even godly experience... followed sometimes by its counterpart: back-lash or a wave of self doubts, fear of loosing talent, hitting a creativity block, fear of not having new ideas. There is fear of how the public will accept the production. Even self-destructive impulses yielding to the lack of interest or punishing tendencies of the inner parent and projected to outer authorities, critics, public, audience. So helping tactfully in self-motivation is also a vital part of coaching for an artist professional.

Giving feedback concerning adequate self-care, daily support of one's organism: securing healthy enough life style - eating properly, sleeping enough, keeping the energy level high; doing enough OUTER ACTION the part of an artist's work that many artists basically hate - marketing, public relations, cooperation with an art dealer, publisher etc., selling itself, necessary clerkship etc..

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But in the end all this happens with the objective to secure the same important issues I take care of in couching for managers or entrepreneurs: keeping hight GENERAL ENERGY LEVEL, balancing the preferences so the efficiency of DISTRIBUTION OF ENERGY keeps at 100% and as a consequence the PSYCHOLOGICAL NEEDS are saturated, PSYCHOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS used as fully as possible, and the SUBJECTIVE QUALITY OF LIFE is kept high enough that the client makes the most of his or her life... and is simply as SUCCESSFUL and as HAPPY as possible. Right???

Cambridge, USA, January 2004

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Text by Jan Jilek, http://www.auguring.com/worknotes
Copyright © Jan Jilek, contact jilek@auguring.com