How to Manage Anxiety in Your Creative Process. My Interview with Artist Megan Carty

Megan CartyThe other day I was looking at Instagram, and I saw a series of videos from an artist I follow, Megan Carty. She was in her studio, working on a series of paintings for a gallery show she is preparing for. She looked directly in the camera and said this:

“I feel like I’m having a nervous breakdown. My heart is racing, I’m panicking, it’s hard to breathe. Resistance is hitting me so hard right now. I have a lot of work to do, I have a lot of money invested in materials for the show I’m working on, and I’m freaking out. Something inside me says, “What if this isn’t right.” I’m being hit with all the what ifs, the scaries, the freak outs. I feel like I’m going to cry. It’s not always easy to paint and come out how you want. It can be really stressful. The fear is real. It’s just nastiness.”

I immediately messaged her and asked if I could interview her to talk about this place that nearly all artists and writers encounter. To dig into the moment, as it is happening. She was kind enough to agree, and I am so excited to share our conversation with you! In our chat we discuss:

  • How the time, energy and money you put into your creative work is an investment, even when it can feel terrifying to put so much into it. How you never know how or when this investment will pay off. This is not a sure thing, but it is a necessary steps.
  • How building her art studio was symbolic of her art becoming a career instead of a hobby.
  • The jump from dabbling to doing: “[When I began], I dabbled, but I wasn’t all in. I didn’t full believe in myself.”
  • How it only takes a little problem, or a little bit of doubt to cause a nervous breakdown: “Sometimes it can feel like a house of cards that can come down. It’s my job now to not let that happen. I have to manage it.”
  • How social media can become “a rabbit-hole of self-pity,” and how she actively manages how she uses social media to resist this.
  • How one’s creative career is not about a specific outcome, but about appreciating the journey itself.
  • How self-doubt can sabotage someone’s career: “There is an energy flow to it (your career) Where you block that energy flow with your doubts, you aren’t going to go anywhere. It’s about shutting off the valve to the doubt.”
  • Why she shared her anxiety in such a public manner: “When you share the struggle, you create a connection to others who need to hear that.”
  • Why shame accompanies the work that artists do: “You are sharing something so personal, that when you aren’t sharing it the way you want to, its as if you are letting yourself down, and you beat yourself up about it. Instead you need to forgive yourself and be your own best friend.”
  • How one’s mindset is critical to making progress: “If you are feeling frustrated in the moment, that is okay, but coach yourself through it. Encourage yourself speak more nicely to yourself.”
  • On managing depression and her art: “I’ve had depression for a long time. i’ve had a lot of time to learn how to manage it. How to flip the script so your thoughts are working for you and not against you. I coach myself and change the dialogue in my brain.”
  • Why people get stuck because they give up their own sense of control to improve their situation, and her advice on how to fix it.
  • Why failure is an essential part of success: “You can’t make good work without waddling through the bad work. You have to go through the muck. Remember this was investment in getting to the good stuff.”
  • How she relies on a mastermind with a friend to help keep each other motivated and focused.
  • The danger of focusing too much on posting on social media: looking for praise instead of doing the hard work.

You can listen to the entire interview by clicking ‘play’ above, or you can find it on iTunes.

You can find Megan in the following places:

And I would highly recommend her deeply honest posts about creating art while managing depression and thoughts of suicide: