How To Resist Urgency In Art-Making
Embracing a slower approach, honouring the creative process, and taking a pause in a digital world that sees art as content — while still growing your practice.
Since beginning my art journey a few years back, I’ve grown a love/hate relationship with social media, just like so many other creatives have. On one hand, digital platforms have undoubtedly given artists so many opportunities to reach success with their craft and have created an inspiring, thriving creative community. However, social media has created a sense of urgency in art-making: in a digital world that sees creativity as content, there is a pressure to keep up with the quick pace of algorithms, audience likes and attention span, and the constant need for something new — which proves to be unsustainable for many artists (myself included).
That’s because it’s far from what the creative process actually looks like. Most of us create in the hidden places between work and life whenever and wherever we can find the time. And even when we do find these nooks and crannies to create, creativity wavers: sometimes you show up to your craft but inspiration can’t find you, or suddenly life gets busy or too hard. The "ideal artist" is an image we all hold, but in reality, that’s not how most of us create — and that doesn’t make your art any less valuable or worthwhile. Your art doesn’t have to be monetized, you don’t have to pursue your craft full-time, you don’t have to share it with anyone but yourself and your bedroom walls, and you don’t need a big studio space or the best supplies to create.
With this constant pressure to keep up, how do we as artists resist urgency while also embracing social media as an attainable way to build our practice? There are two components to striking this balance: reworking your own social media practices to mirror your creative process and crafting a feed rooted in community and meaningful connections.
Setting Your Own Pace
“Visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear and see what comes to you in the silence.” - Michaela Coel.
One of the hardest parts of existing as an artist on social media is the constant pressure to create something new. It can feel discouraging to spend so much time creating something just for the algorithm to enjoy it for an hour or two and then promptly ask, “what’s next?” I was in a cycle of this just a few months ago, feeling behind because I had nothing new or exciting to share and trying to rush through my projects to catch up. Social media will never stop moving, and it is okay to be still for a moment and slow down in the rush of it all. Yes, that includes the necessary pauses and breaks creating requires of us.
But I get it: you still want to grow your art practice, and maintaining and growing your social media is a part of getting there. Striking a balance between honouring your creative process and growing on social media involves finding your own pace: a rhythm and routine that works for you. Social media experts agree that one of the best ways to grow on digital platforms is by being consistent, so I’ve found it helpful to create a sustainable schedule that allows me to retreat and only post the things I’m genuinely excited to share. Whether it’s possible for you to share something new once a week or every day, craft a schedule around the pace and rhythm of your creative process — and don’t be afraid to take a break and sit in silence for however long you need, whether it’s a day to rejuvenate or a month-long detox. Silence is often necessary for creative work, and I know from experience that when you do return to the digital world, nothing will have changed: things keep moving and will be there the same as they always have been when you're ready to return.
Making Meaningful Connections
Once you have reflected internally on how your own practices can help you resist the pressures of the fast-paced digital world, I’ve found it equally important to use social media as a vessel for making meaningful connections with people that truly inspire you. To me, this involves finding a niche, filling your feed with people that uplift you, and bringing your real-life connections to your online world.
1. Finding Your Niche
You may have heard this one before, but if not, a niche is the unique place you occupy with your practice. Everyone has value to bring that no one else can: your journey and style are unique to you and if you’re authentic in sharing your story, others will naturally resonate with what you’re doing. You don’t need a massive audience to build a successful practice, you just need a small, loyal group of people that truly connect with the stories you tell. If you’re having trouble identifying your niche, ask yourself this: what unique value do I bring? What do I hope to achieve or inspire with my art? Why do I do what I do? You’ve probably known the answer all along — and while our practice grows and evolves as we do, honing in on your story will help you find and build a community. Show up authentically, and those connections will follow.
2. Fill Your Feed With People That Inspire You
The power of how we use social media lies in our own hands: we can curate our feed in a way that fills us with inspiration and a sense of community. No, we won’t feel like that every time we log in — especially when we’re already feeling a little low offline or we’re having a moment of doubt — but try your best to fill your feed with accounts and people that you truly connect with (and rid your feed of the accounts that do the opposite). Some of my favourite accounts to follow are creativity coaches — who always remind me of the value we all bring — local organizations doing wonderful things in the community, and nature-filled accounts that foster a sense of calm while I'm scrolling.
3. Bring the Local Community to Your Online World
One of my most helpful tips for curating a feed that fosters meaningful connections instead of falling into the urgency of social media is to make your feed mirror your local community. When I scroll through Instagram, I like to see the people and places I pass when I take a walk around my neighbourhood, so I follow my favourite coffee shops, local grocers, markets, galleries, and boutiques! This small practise helps build a sense of belonging, community support, and familiarity that reminds you of all the real-life connections you have cheering you on and doing amazing things alongside you.
While I still have a long way to go when it comes to my journey with navigating social media as an artist (one that will continue to evolve and change), I hope these tips inspire you to create a more sustainable relationship with the digital world that allows you to grow your artistic practise without burning out under the constant pressure for the new and the fast pace of consumption. In a world that won’t stop moving, don’t be afraid to sit in the silence, slow down, and give yourself and your art the time it needs to grow. 🌱