If you heard Tina Bridgman’s music before seeing her – if you approached from around a corner, for instance – you’d notice there was something particularly moving about it.
If, upon rounding the corner, you saw her for the first time, you’d be surprised to see she plays the guitar with one hand. She lost the other in a car accident.
If you asked her, as people often do, how she still plays guitar, of all things – a two-handed instrument if there ever was one – she’d smile and answer as she always does: “With love.”
She brings that same love to her advice for artists who encounter creative obstacles of any kind. Below are her 10 tips for overcoming self-doubt, getting inspired, and making what you’ve always wanted to make.
Aside from losing her hand, Bridgman says her biggest creative obstacle has been a “cloud of self-doubt and a sense of futility.”
Sometimes she still finds herself under it, “But I realise the root of this state is born of fear that I’m not enough, and often it is because I’m simply tired,” she says.
“This state of thinking/feeling can pretty much paralyse any creative action, so, I remind myself of what I love and do whatever I need to do to recharge. Nowadays, that often means going for a swim or yoga. I use the swimming as a kind of ‘counting my blessings’ meditation, and I get to feel pretty good after 30 lengths of that!”
“For me, maintaining a creative life requires self-discipline and keeping all of body, mind and spirit in balance.”
Click to Tweet: “For me, maintaining a creative life requires self-discipline and keeping all of body, mind and spirit in balance.” – Tina Bridgman
2. Let yourself ‘do it badly’.
If you know what sort of art you want to make, Bridgman advises allowing yourself to play with it, letting go of self-judgement.
“I think a lot of us start with really high expectations of ourselves that stop us before we have even begun,” she says. “Allow yourself to just have a go.”
3. Don’t compare.
“There is no right or wrong way – just your way,” Bridgman says. Instead of comparing yourself to others, she advises cultivating a sense of curiosity about work that inspires you and that you admire.
4. Get mentored.
If you think you might be lacking in skill, Bridgman suggests finding “an inspiring class or teacher.” Embrace the learning process: “Enjoy every step of the way,” she says.
5. Follow your highest joy.
“If you want to do something creative but have no idea what,” she continues, “then I would say follow your highest joy, your passion, and ask yourself, ‘If I couldn’t fail, what would I do?’… There will be something that pops into your thoughts.”
When it does, she says, “Keep hold of that thought and just ask, ‘How?'” Then, listen and wait. “Keep following that inner voice.”
If the voice tells you to do something creative, then do it, Bridgman says. She uses the acronym “A.C.T.” – “Action Creative Thought” – to remind herself. It ensures she follows through on ideas instead of letting them fade, she says. “It is my little motto.”
Bridgman acknowledges she didn’t always follow it. In her TEDx talk (embedded at the bottom of this page), she says that after several years playing professionally in the United Kingdom, she forgot what she loved about music. “I felt like I was on a treadmill trying to keep up with the music scene, and I felt pretty dull and lifeless,” she says. Burnt out, she left the UK to spend 11 years in New Zealand. That’s where the accident happened.
After the accident, she says, “I wanted to feel joy again. I wanted to feel that ‘Yes’ to life. And I found the more I listened inside to what that joy could be like, the more I wanted to immerse myself in music once again.”
7. Go on an “Artist’s Date”.
If you’ve forgotten what you love about being creative, Bridgman suggests thinking about what caused that loss of passion. Often, the problem is that we’re pushing ourselves too hard, in which case, she says, an “artist’s date” can help:
- Go for a walk somewhere beautiful.
- Go to an art gallery.
- Go to the library and “let yourself be drawn to a book.”
- Explore a new town.
- Check out some new music.
- Try a different flavour of your chosen art.
- Explore anything new.
- Find some comedy: “Laughter is always good medicine.”
- Work in the garden.
- Let yourself be. “It’s amazing some of the ideas that can start to flow when I’m just pottering,” Bridgman says.
“I know for me, if I’m not feeling it, it is often because I am tired and can feel ‘bored’. So, have a break. Think of what would bring you joy right now and do it.”
8. Don’t try so hard.
“Stop pushing your boat upstream,” she advises. “Turn it around and go with the flow. I think creativity can be a very precious state and can only come sometimes if we stop trying. It is like a bird that, if we hold on to it, it can’t fly.”
9. Get into a rhythm.
She also points out we might just naturally be more creative at certain times than at others, and that’s okay. “Creativity has its own rhythm, like the tide. It ebbs and flows, so accept where you are in that cycle.”
10. Practice the art of gratitude.
“For me, it feels like life itself is an art,” Bridgman says. “I count my blessings and list all of what I’m grateful for. I start to feel an inner sense of contentment and a quiet joy starts to happen and, when I do this, I start to notice beautiful things and start to feel inspired by life, and I find I want to sing.”
What about you, Reader? Have you ever found yourself under “a cloud of doubt and futility”? How did you get out from under it? Share your stories in the comments.
Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Tina Bridgman.
PS: I’m headed into the Himalayas to do some hiking for a couple weeks, so I’ll be pausing my posts until Dec. 30th.
PPS: I’m writing a book about the creative process. Subscribe for free, and when it’s done, I’ll send send you the first chapter.