“Fear of Missing Out,” according to psychologists, is pandemic and getting worse. For us creative folks, FOMO is not just a social disorder, it can be a career killer.
More prevalent in younger people than older ones, it’s that terrible feeling that you’re missing out on something that might be better or more fun than what you’re doing right now. Since the cellphone revolution, checking and texting can be based on a thin hope that something really wonderful is coming up. In life and art, it can be a false hope that keeps us checking.
And it’s not just technology. Artists regularly move to the Big Apple hoping to take a Big Bite. With so much going on — openings and exhibitions every night, MOMA, Guggenheim, etc., to say nothing of the theatre scene — there’s little time for work. Many artists function better in dull places like Sedro-Woolley, WA.
Addictive FOMO is a malaise that strikes close to home and particularly in the studio. If you think you’ve caught it, here are a few thoughts and findings:
Temptation preys on our extroverted nature and our optimistic outlook. Introverts and pessimists tend to be less troubled by it. To be truly productive, creative folks need to withdraw to privacy and self-sufficiency. In a beloved art-cave, work can triumph over outside distractions. In other words, the artist needs to look eagerly toward a satisfactory outcome of work-in-progress. Even quasi-satisfactory outcomes are superior to being stuck in traffic or watching pole dancers in a noisy cabaret. One’s art needs to be personally elevated and seen as its own reward. When this happens, a marching band out the window cannot budge you from your self-appointed rounds.
Luckily, as we get older, we tend to be more settled and less likely to have our heads turned. The golden years can be highly productive. But we’re all on the horns of a dilemma — connectivity and temptation are here to stay. FOMO researcher Sherry Turkle says, “Our current relationship with technology fosters immaturity.” It’s been my observation that the greatest generator of quality work rests within the development of personal character. Some of us need to grow up.
PS: “We just don’t know until we check.” (John M. Grohol, PsyD)
Esoterica: Here’s a compromise system that accepts the current situation and goes a long way toward managing addictive FOMO. Not wanting to miss out what’s going on in the world, you might try one of those tiny clip-on battery radios with earphones. As you move around your work area and beyond, the passive info goes with you. (I’m currently using the marvelously informative programs on CBC AM, 690 kHz, also available on satellite.) While it might sound like giving in to the devil, it’s a good example of 21st Century mind expansion and multi-tracking that, while not diminishing creative focus, simply and effectively retards the temptation to step out the door and join the band.
The introvert fight
by McKenzie Bass, Merrifield, MN, USA
I am less of a train wreck when I am careful where I focus my attention, what influences I allow, and how my energies are dispersed. Admittedly, it is difficult daily choice when the entire world seems intent on insisting I am missing out. You may be one of the few championing the introvert fighting private battles and celebrating secret beauties in their studio, through their art. Thank you. It’s how I deal with what’s out there. How I let the world in on my contemplations without unveiling the mystery. In that way, I suppose I am universal and connected. Part of the conversation without being ruled by it.
Others are missing out
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA
Some of the best ever horse paintings, drawings, were made in Chauvet Cave 35,000 years ago. We art people, by definition, are troglodytes. We are still doing this human thing of using pigments to make static images. And yet we compete with film and video. We all must make a web page. This is so sad.
For 35,000 years, a real artist is challenged to make a static image which captures a viewer. A piece of art that defies motion and change. My worry is not missing out. My worry is that other human beings are missing out. They are looking at ever changing digital images. They cannot see an interesting static image. Most people cannot see anything. When most people cannot see, the artist is a dead man.
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Technology allows isolation
by Catherine Stock, France
Plato said the first stage of life was physical, the second work, and the third contemplation. The description of my blog, The Tramizal Diary, reads “I gave up New York in early 2005 to see if I could live happily year round in a small village in southwest France. I hoped, by getting away from the constant bombardment of big city distractions, to be able to focus on my own creative work. I see this blog as a bit of a record of this time in my life.” Needless to say I see myself as entering, if not already in, the latter stage. I need to add however, that technology allows me work from my small rural village and keep in touch with the world and people like you. Don’t know if I would be as happy without my daily peruse of The NY Times, etc., via the Internet.
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Sidetracking the ego
by Jeanne Long, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Before cellphones and texting existed I suffered from this disorder. It reached its peak one day as I caught myself standing in the foyer having just opened the daily mail wondering if the mail had come yet! I knew at that point I was an addict to looking for the next thing, a next of kin to Fear of Missing Out which causes one to constantly be thinking one should be doing something else. The cure as you said is to immerse in what work you do, not foregoing awareness, but forgoing thinking about oneself. The ego self is always wanting to build itself, but being both cunning and stupid it sidetracks itself by always chasing something “better.” This leads to scattered energies and disappointment. Picking something and sticking to it no matter how hard the ego complains turns out a product more enjoyable than any enticing distraction can provide.
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FOMO on socializing
by Fleta Monaghan, Asheville, NC, USA
My FOMO takes the form of missing out on painting in the studio. I am having to work hard to pry myself loose to become more social! This resolution is on my list for the coming year to make a real effort to go to openings, pay my colleagues visits, etc. I don’t want to miss out on social events that could be career boosters, while I don’t want to leave the studio!! I do love to stay connected via electronic devices, love my mp3 player for radio and books on tape while painting, and Internet radio music can be programmed to my whim. I have observed that some are just born introvert and this is such an asset for an artist, that self-imposed isolation is a wonderful experience, and fulfills all needs. Extroverts have a more difficult time settling down to work.
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Need to define one’s own success
by Cathie Harrison, Roswell, GA, USA
This post reminded me of a very memorable quote from an artist I greatly respect, Bunny Harvey. I had the pleasure of visiting with her and interviewing her in her Vermont studio many years ago. I was just beginning to explore what it meant to be an artist, a word loaded with assumptions and endless interpretations. Bunny Harvey shared her view that “For artists, success happens in the studio.” I have recalled this quote numerous times over the years and it has remained a profound statement for me. When we as artist look outward for signs of our success we sometimes lose sight of our real goals. The more time we spend looking on the Internet at websites, blogs and Facebook postings of the “successes ” of others, the less we’re spending on our own work. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I love finding new artists on the Internet and seeing which paintings are awarded the gold medals and honorable mentions. I openly admit my envy of those artists who seem to spend most of their time packing and unpacking from their trips to Italy and France. From afar it looks like an amazingly beautiful and stimulating way for an artist to live. Then there are the artists whose measure of success is sales and few argue that they aren’t successful artists if they have a lot of sales. Gallery owners seek them out. Ultimately, I think we will save ourselves from the fear of missing out by defining success for ourselves and working toward that success every day. Robert’s letters always manage to help me focus on the real success that happens in the studio!
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Isolation doesn’t always do it
by Lillian Kennedy, Boulder, CO, USA
Cutting down on input doesn’t stop the gluttony I feel at the art buffet. In fact, I actually salivate when looking at the landscape or beautiful art. I try to narrow the choices, but still will want more and more. I want to put more into a painting (it all seems so splendid) and to paint everything. Currently, I sit in the woods in a cottage on a lake in Vermont — yet sitting here, I can easily succumb to a multitude of painterly distractions. I feel greedy to sink my paintbrush into the paint and taste the scene — then the light changes and I’m greedy for that new taste even though I’m stuffed with sensation already. No amount of isolation seems to take care of it, but calm, clear journaling and staying in touch with my deeper needs and goals steadies the appetite.
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Making the break
by Laury Ravenstein, Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada
I have a busy life with a great husband, two almost grown daughters and my niece, who lives with me, three dogs, three cats and a horse. I also run a busy retail art supply store and teach many classes and workshops. I used to make art each day, but as the demands of my growing family and business increased, art-making took a back seat. I now get less than a few hours each week to keep playing and learning.
Last week I decided to rent a remote cabin and leave it all behind for one whole week. I have some work to do that needs my full concentration. Scary thoughts surfaced. Can I still make art? Will I get all the way up to the cabin and sit alone staring at my canvases? Will anything be unique and artistically worthy?
Whatever happens, I will be alone for the first time in years and the solitude should sooth my busy soul. I will also be grateful for my husband for taking over the burden of teenagers, my bosses for letting me go away in our busy season and my co-workers who are picking up the extra shifts and responsibilities. As hard as it is to disconnect from our world, leaving behind the TV, the computer and limiting cell phone calls to a minimum, I believe the constant static of our electronics and the constant demands of our full and rewarding lives can disrupt the artistic process and we sometimes need to make significant effort to reconnect with our higher power.
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oil painting 16 x 20 inches by Grace Schlesier, CA, USA
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Tinker Bachant of Sautee Nacoochee, GA, USA, who wrote, “I listen to music on iTunes or ancient tapes on my ancient tape player. Out doors? I listen to the birds, the wind, the stream, or the quiet. I’m a throwback I guess…”
And also Raymond Chan who wrote a regular letter that said, “I’m not distracted because I live in a place worse than Sedro Woolley where nothing ever, ever happens. There’s definitely no marching bands around here, but some people have left town to join the circus and I was glad to see them go.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Managing FOMO…