The Artist’s Mindset

Something to keep in mind as you go into this new year…

All is Mental… It’s all in your head.

What do I mean? 

Well I was thinking, what is the best idea I could share that would help everyone that reads it? Something universal so that it doesn’t really matter what kind of art you make. What is the number one most important thing I have learned so far?

The importance of mindset.

Everything we experience in what we call “Reality” is filtered through the mind. You may think you see with your eyes, but actually those are just like camera sensors, you see with your mind.  You may think you can feel with with your fingers but if the nerves were properly communicating with the brain you would feel nothing.  You may think that emotions are just arising in you but they get interpreted and contextualized by the mind.  You may think your circumstances are an issue but that’s only in your mind because chances are someone from worse circumstances has already achieved something similar to what you are trying to. 

Everything that happens in your life and art is touched at some point by the mind.  This being the case, it is clear that one has to guard, cultivate, and develop the mind in order to accomplish anything and find true deep meaning in life.

Your Mind-Set is the actual set that the play that is your life unfolds on.  My goal is not to try to convince you or guide you to some certain mindset that I think is best, although I will be sharing mindsets that I try to cultivate.  My goal is only to convince you that you need to be intentional about your mindset, otherwise it becomes very difficult to sustain the intense level of consistent effort required to meet whatever goal you have, whether it’s becoming a wedding photographer, or putting out your first EP or mixtape.

lets continue with the play analogy for a second.  If the set for your play looks like this

what kind of things do you think make sense for the plot of the play?

What about if it looked like this?

Granted there could be a twist, something that you didn’t see coming but generally speaking if the set is gloomy gloomy stuff happens, if the set is happy happy stuff happens.  We all know that environment plays a huge role in development thus the environment you establish in your mind determines how much your ideas actually get developed, and as artists we want our ideas to see the light of day instead of being trapped in a toxic environment in your mind where they cannot develop.

Now before I share the mindsets that have been most helpful to me so far It’s important that I stress to you that you cannot (in most cases) change mindset over night.  Once you find a frame of reference that serves your happiness and your goals it is required that you find ways to reinforce and cultivate your new mindset otherwise you will simply regress back into a mindset that doesn’t serve you.  This means again that you must be intentional.

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Let’s talk about what it means to be intentional because it is a very misunderstood concept.  People are mislead by this idea of good intention vs bad intention.  That “good” vs “bad” thing is judging, it’s a trap.  I could talk about why judging is a trap in another post that’s really beyond the scope of this but let me know if you’re interested.  

Let’s start by understanding the word intent.

Intent means intention or purpose.

synonyms:aim, intention, purpose, objective, object, goal, target;

as an adjective it means

resolved or determined to do (something)

attentively occupied with.

example: “Jill was intent on her gardening magazine”

synonyms:attentive, absorbed, engrossed, fascinated, enthralled, rapt, riveted;

So why did I do the most with that and going into definitions? Because I want you to realize when you say I didn’t have bad intentions what you mean is most likely that you actually didn’t have intentions at all, and that you were acting without intention because every true definition of the word implies some specificity.  If you say you intend to finish a project, or even change your mindset and it doesn’t happen there’s only a few things that could be wrong. One is that you didn’t put forth the required effort, this is a conclusion that many people jump to about others but in most situations is not the case.  Another possibility is that you simply haven’t been patient enough and that the thing you are intent on will still happen given enough continued effort.  These first two are obvious what isn’t as obvious is maybe the problem is that you were not entirely attentive, absorbed, engrossed, fascinated, enthralled, rapt, riveted 

when it came to your

aim, intention, purpose, objective, object, goal, target.

And this happens because you did not create enough clarity within your mind about what this aim was that you needed to be so engrossed in.

I say all this to let you know the scale of what you’re trying to do when shifting mindset so that you don’t disrespect your own efforts because it is difficult to actually be intentional and consistent.

(This has me thinking i should do a full post on intention…)

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So what mindsets have I found useful?

The Growth Mindset and the Pro Mindset.

There’s a lot of info on the growth mindset but a good start is the book Mindset by Carol Dweck and a good place to start understanding the Pro mindset is my article Are You a Real Artist  and This video by the Storytellers.


How to Reach Your Desired Destination

So I haven’t published a Blogpost in a month so we’re gonna talk about it.

First of all, lets talk about why this blog even exists.  As many of you know I mainly do photo and video.  I manly make content for Instagram and YouTube, because right now those are the two platforms where the attention are for photo and video.  Each platform puts viewers in a certain state of mind so it’s important to put the right content in the right place.  So for longer form written word content I started this blog because there only so much people want to read on Instagram, and people need good long form video not just audio on YouTube (I will eventually get into audio).  With these platforms I want to help you, the people who support me, and consume what I put out.  I will never produce content that is purely a cash grab because my goal is to help you improve your life through art however I can.

So why did I stop?

Well I didn’t stop I’m here which is what this article is about, but i get it so I’m gonna give a real answer.

I was making excuses…

Lets go through some of them:

  • I don’t know what to write about.
  • I don’t have enough time.
  • I’m not in an optimal mental state.

Now I’m gonna explain why all those things were real, but still don’t matter.

Excuse #1 “I don’t know what to write about” 

Now this is somewhat true because although I actually have a backlog of topics, I had the idea in my head that every single thing i wrote needed to be super valuable. As a result some of those ideas i saw as not as good as others so i convinced myself that I shouldn’t publish anything unless it was even better than the last thing I posted.  All this sounds good, it’s easy to convince yourself excuses like that are valid BUT THEYRE NOT.

The truth is, the more I write the better I will get at writing, so If I’m actually trying to provide the most value in the long term the best thing i could do is write as much as possible so that i reach my potential as a writer even faster.  In that way I will be able to provide value at an even higher level to you.

Every Idea I write does not need to be the best most mind blowing thing.

Who’s to say if what I write will be valuable or not?  

I don’t get to decide that, you, my reader decides that something that might seem simple to me or uninteresting to me could be a break through for you if it’s something you just didn’t know or never thought of.  If you’re an artist you know this sometimes you make a bunch of work and a piece that you thought was so so turn out to one that someone or maybe even everyone loves the most.

You get to make things but you don’t get to decide how it’s received that’s for the audience, all we need to do as artists is make as much as possible.  We can leave interpretation and all the things that come with that to the audience, that doesn’t need to be your focus.

Excuse #2 “I don’t have enough time” .

Now this excuse is big bullshit, I know it’s bullshit, you know it’s bullshit, and deep down inside everyone knows this excuse is bullshit, but it still gets used so much.

Why?

Because people are afraid to face the truth.

The truth is time is one of those rare things where the playing field is all the way equal.  I’m sure you’ve heard before that saying “we all have the same 24 hours” and that’s because it’s true.  What it ultimately comes down to is priorities. So let’s talk about my situation.

It’s not that I didn’t have time, I chose to prioritize other things over writing this blog. I could have easily still be writing. I just had to do less of something else in order to do it and I didn’t want to, it’s that simple.  

I chose to make a money grab, not gonna even lie to ya’ll I was just focusing on a doing a lot of shoots that I didn’t necessarily feel like doing because I needed the money and I just like how it feels to help my customers (in that order not gonna lie to ya’ll).  That may not have been the right choice long term, which is why I’m back to being selective with my gigs in order to create more content.

Yes, I needed money because real life stuff was happening. And yes I love taking peoples picture pretty much anyone, but money, or just taking peoples pictures is not my main goal, so my priorities were not in alignment with my main goal… 

Which is why I’m back to writing, because that’s more in alignment with helping my fellow artists.

Excuse #3

This one is kind of touchy subject so be open minded as you read.  

I don’t think you should wait for the right mental state before doing your work, at least not always…

 You have to asses thing’s for yourself don’t want to tell you how to live or to do anything that’s gonna make you unhappy.  But I’ve found for myself and many others doing the things you don’t feel like doing because your depressed or anxious helps to relive the depression/anxiety.  

Again I’m talking about in art making, I’m not a psychologist so I’m not going to claim to 100% know what you should do about your mental health just sharing what works for me.

My mind was full of worries, I want to move and that requires money so I was trying to get some extra money to set aside to make sure moving is as painless as possible when the opportunity to do so arises.  Someone died that I didn’t really expect to, and it really made me reflect, a lot, like too much.  

I found myself reflecting on things coming to conclusions, and then reflecting more and spiraling downward instead of actually taking action on the conclusions that I came to about life.  We all need to reflect when major events transpire but not to the point where you get stuck in overthinking.

One thing that I always have to keep in mind that overthinking usually mean underacting, and action is they key to results.

What does all that have to do with you?

I’ve heard so many artists talk about ideas they want to make reality or skills they want to learn, and then I see them later and they haven’t gotten there and have veered off the path to getting there completely.  I do not want this for you!

I say this phrase a lot to myself and to others “I will reach my desired destination”. There isn’t just one point where I want my life to end up I have a ton of ideas to make realities, I just like the journey metaphor for life.

The only reason my ideas get done is because i just keep doing them until their done once i decide that they have to happen.  

Things will always come up.

There will be things knocking you off your metaphorical horse for the rest of your life. It is absolutely imperative that you do not let those obstacles keep you off the horse for too long.  My goal is to become someone who gets back on the horse super fast, but I’m not there yet and that’s ok.

As long as you get back on the horse you can continue toward your desired destination and with time you will get there, just don’t waste too much time in the dirt when you get knocked off.

- Jamal


How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled with getting things done.  You may be all too familiar with the feelings of disappointment, discontent, and even despair that grips you after realizing days weeks or months have gone by and you never actually started/finished that project you were so excited about. 

In the past couple months I’ve become the most productive I’ve ever been after years of trying to figure out why it was hard for me to get everything done (like starting this blog lol). I’m going to explain one of the reasons why you cant get the things you want done and how to fix it.

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There are many reasons why we start procrastinating, but they main thing that starts it is being forced to do something that you do not want to do. We usually start procrastinating around middle school, sometimes before, simply because of how our society works where you start being forced to do things that don’t feel important. In that situation procrastination kind of makes sense… I mean you if you don’t want to do something you’re not going to be excited to start right away, In fact you might resent getting started.  But since you’re being forced, you will do whatever it is, but you’re gonna wait till the very last moment that you can start and still pull it off.  And lets say something isn’t urgent and someones trying to force you to do it… well that’s definitely not getting done.  When you’re a kid, this happens all the time, you don’t have the control over your life so you have to do a bunch of stuff that you don’t think you need to do because no ones explaining why, and if you were a certain type of kid that meant you weren’t doing any of that crap! YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME (my 7th grade self says in my Kanye Voice).

Here’s the problem.

When you do that over and over, it becomes a pattern, an unconscious pattern where you put things off and delay them unless they seem like they absolutely need to get done RIGHT NOW. This pattern is especially destructive for an Artist because working on your edit’s or planning your next shoot, writing that next song is never going to be something that’s urgent, something that needs to be done RIGHT AWAY…  Your art is always something you could put off for one more day unlike the bill you have to pay, or that errand you have to run, which is why those things get done but your art doesn’t. So you’ll do those things first and find at the end of they day your’e out of energy so you put that thing that was important to you off until tomorrow… and after enough tomorrow’s it becomes another idea you never actually turned into a reality.

There are 3 steps to overcoming this…

  • Having a big enough and clear enough why
  • Differentiating between Important vs Urgent
  • Creating Structure

The answer really just comes down to creating a structure for yourself, but we need the first two mindset steps in order to come up with the right structure and stick to it.

Major Mindset Change #1

Step one is simple, you need to have a reason to get things done that you connect with emotionally.

You see the reason you started procrastinating was because you could feel that the things people were trying to force you into were not important for you, so in order to create the habit of getting things done you have to feel like what you are working on is important.  

My advice to you in coming up with your why is that your why has to be as grandiose and as specific as possible, and of course it has to be true to you.  Your why has to be grandiose so that it feels important, so make it something long term and something that affects more people than  just yourself.  Your why also has to be specific, so that it feels real. You want something so specific that you can imagine and visualize it just as much as you can with urgent things that may come up.

Major Mindset Change #2

Step 2 is to understand that everything that is urgent is not important, and that things that are truly Important are seldom ever urgent (a prime example is your general health).  Let me explain… sending someone close to you a random text to say that you appreciate them is not nowhere near as urgent as texting your landlord that your air conditioning isn’t working.  But lets say that close person you were gonna text dies in a car accident, all of a sudden you would have wished you sent that text instead of forgetting because you were texting the landlord. Put into perspective that text to someone close to you is waaayyyyyyy more important… but that text will never be urgent, because there are things that are also important that need to be done withing a certain period of time.  Something could be higher up in importance but because there isn’t a set time-frame for it, there is never a sense of urgency compared to something that does have a concrete window of time.

This is where Structure comes in

In your childhood you fought against structure because you were being forced into something that didn’t fit you.  But in order to regain control of your life you must enforce structure onto yourself.  But a structure of your own design, a home base not a prison.  You need to come up with structure so that you are planning to do the important things withing a certain time window so that they don’t get drowned out by all of the urgent things you have to do that way.  There are many systems you can use, one I may try in the future is the bullet journal (I’ve heard great things about it), but before i heard about it i just came up with my own system.  You can also come up with your own, just make sure that its simple and easy enough that you’ll actually do it. If you try to do too much at once or too soon you will burn out before the structure you planned becomes a habit in your life.

I used a simple to do list:

  • As I have Ideas i write them down in my phones notes.
  • On Sundays I refine that list to only the ideas i think are worth perusing These are the important things.
  • I begin to schedule errands chores and urgent things day by day Monday - Friday.
  • I leave the weekend unstructured to give myself a break and time to finish the things that may slip through the cracks that way I don’t have to beat myself up if I miss something here or there on my M-F schedule because I didn’t have time or because something came up.
  • I make sure that for every 2 urgent things I have to take care of for the day I have 1 important thing on my list. This (1:2 ratio of important to urgent is mandatory in order to feel fulfilled, 1:1 would be better but i know for many people that’s unrealistic with all of the things that they have to contend with in life, but if you ever let it fall below 1:3 be ready for the depression lol)
  • When I started I would only put 3 things on the list for each day so that I wouldn’t overwhelm myself. (over time I was able to add more and more things onto the list per day but if you try to do too much at first you will burn out and if you let that happen the habit will not stick)
  • If I i could do all three things on the list I win the day no matter what. (mentally you gotta let yourself have it, reward yourself with something physical too if you need to, you need to feel like you won for the habit to stick)

This is what worked for me so you can try it, or try the bullet journal, or try your own thing.  But 100% you need some sort of structure otherwise there’s no way of making sure those important things happen.  Create a structure for yourself, or keep hoping and wishing the things you want just appear and see how that work out for you.

If you’re not used to it structure is difficult to adhere to…

So make sure you don’t forget the principles outlined here if you want to start consistently getting stuff done and moving your life and your art forward. Know your why, know what’s important, then apply structure.

I really hope this helps! And when you start to feel demotivated, just imagine yourself on your deathbed having never accomplished any of your dreams. (I’m serious)

-Jamal Mortimer

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