JOMO for artists


Dear Artist,

German-born English psychologist Hans Eysenck, in his studies of the brain’s reticular activating system, suggested that we all have a set point for regulating arousal levels.


“Sketch of Mrs Currey Sketch of Mr Cassatt”
1871 oil on canvas
by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

Fifteen percent of us, Eysenck determined, have a naturally high level of arousal, which makes us introverts. He also notes that when introverts develop the skills for managing social activity and relationships and then optimize their penchant for looking inward, they can be among the very happiest of people.

The Joy Of Missing Out, or JOMO involves having to turn away from overwhelming stimuli like social media, parties, committees, and may even call for re-visiting our level of professional ambition or need for approval. Artists, especially, can take JOMO to masterful heights by recalibrating goals to make them creativity-centric. What, simply, are the conditions for maximum creative joy?



“Baby on Mother’s arm”
oil sketch
by Mary Cassatt

Introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, you probably know where you sit on Eysenck’s scale of arousal. Are you drained or energized by large groups? Do you revel in delicious solitude or find it a bit bleak? How about your friend group? Is it intimate or ballroom-sized? Do you need to get out more? Introverts tend to be drawn to jobs that involve some kind of independent work and sometimes struggle with chitchat. They also like to solve problems privately, as opposed to by committee. They often enjoy learning through observation. When my dad began writing these letters, now twenty years ago, his idea was that we would all have access to regular creative connectivity without the interruption of having to leave our studio sanctuaries. The times when Dad did leave his studio, he always took his dog.


“Ellen Mary Cassatt”
1899 oil sketch
by Mary Cassatt



PS: “Your inner voice, your instinct, knows everything.” (Henry Winkler)

Esoterica: If the goal is better art, JOMO, like introversion, need not be an all-or-nothing enterprise. I’ve noticed that when presenting my work or meeting other artists, onlookers have remarked on my ready, verbal diarrhea. My reply is usually, “It’s easy when you spend ninety percent of the time alone with your thoughts” — I’m aware of a possible, implied social delinquency. “An extroverted introvert,” my dad used to say. An artist mother once told me that being a parent was like throwing a party every day for the rest of your life — depleting and relentless, but ultimately creatively inspiring. Perhaps artist JOMO involves pulling even closer the most important and arousing aspects of our life rather than shutting them out in search of monastic fierceness. Work at the masterpiece can be done inclusively.


The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop. Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign in solitude.” (William Wordsworth)



  1. Love that phrase JOMO – the Joy of Missing Out – now I have a way to label when I don’t want to socialize – thank you! (lol)

  2. Describes me to a T, Sara. Discovered in the past two years that if I keep painting, drawing, sketching through the holidays, depression seeps in at a minimum. This piece fits me like an Invisibility Cloak!

    • This was such a good letter. I’m exhausted often when surrounded by people and my artwork is better when alone. Loved the artwork by Mary Cassatt. It made my day! ~Shari

  3. Thank you Sara. I have a certain facility with words. I can meet and greet without any difficulty. The superficial is easy. Deep down I prefer the quiet of my studio. Developing and maintaining relationships is exhausting. Small groups are better and I do not do enough socializing. I find much joy in missing out.

    • I feel the same Linda! I often decline group gatherings; and get ‘odd’ looks from friends who then seem to assume I’m depressed lol.

  4. Thank you Sara for your Extroverted Introversion. Maybe I’ll try being an introverted extrovert and find joy in missing out – which I believe is true. Joy to our art! Have a wonderful new year!

  5. This letter seriously rings a bell with me. It confirms and reinforces the ‘rightness’ of the life choices I have made. I live alone and have done for some 25 years. I have noticed that even family gatherings ( I do not have a big family) can be taxing. I totally enjoy my solitude. Solitude gives me the necessary space for problem solving and project development. I actually find it difficult to solve problems in a group. I am definitely a visual/visualizing learner.

  6. whether it’s JOMO, or simply doing my better work away from the commotion; I still experience from time to time, an aimlessness! perhaps a fluctuation between crowds and solitude is the balance that I am always struggling with.

  7. Just spent 2 hours talking nonstop with a new Artist friend, both of us gabbing away. On the other hand, I like being invited, but usually don’t go..= introvert..thanks Sarah

  8. Great letter, Sara. The discussion about different levels of arousal is very useful. For me, it goes through the roof at the solo show openings and turns the events that should be joyful into agony. Understanding why this happens is helpful. Thank you for writing about it so empathically.

    Happy new year!

  9. “Esoterica: If the goal is better art, JOMO, like introversion, need not be an all-or-nothing enterprise. I’ve noticed that when presenting my work or meeting other artists, onlookers have remarked on my ready, verbal diarrhea. My reply is usually, “It’s easy when you spend ninety percent of the time alone with your thoughts” — I’m aware of a possible, implied social delinquency. ”

    This is so me! I’ve been told the same thing.

  10. It’s all about finding the balance that is right for You. It requires self-awareness, knowing when its right to say no without feeling too much guilt . Of course there have to be exceptions especially when it involves family and others close to us
    I do like the JOMO expression.

  11. This whole JOMO thing is interesting and true for me to a certain extent. For example, I do know that when I’m painting or drawing, I like to be alone. Taking workshops is something that I don’t really enjoy doing because of the sociableness of the thing. Just chatting it up with others can be meaningless in this sort of setting. However, I find it easy to socialize when the opportunity presents itself. So, I’m not sure if I’m an extrovert or an introvert and accept the fact that I’m both! I am a huge fan of Mary Cassett and loved seeing some of her art on your letter, Sara. Thank you.

  12. The something we are missing out on means everything to some people, and I’m not sure they would understand the joy we experience working in solitude. It’s very similar to the difference between dependence and independence.

  13. Great. I think JOMO will be good for me to keep in mind. The Internet has led to my wasting time due to FOMO. I’m an INTP and recommend that anyone not familiar with Meyers-Briggs typology might find it interesting. BTW, introverts are not necessarily shy. I have no problem with public speaking for example.

  14. I have two things to share during this twilight zone between Christmas and New Years, neither exactly connected with this particular post.

    First, I am deeply fascinated with the process and the act of art. Painter’s Keys is one of the only sites I have found that shares my fascination and explores creativity with such eloquence and integrity.
    The latest series of posts on my blog: Art Rat Cafe ( reflect my own attempts to focus on this elusive subject.
    In a recent post I shared your site and explained why I held you in such high regard. Sorry, I didn’t ask your permission. Should I do so in future?
    A thousand thank yous for all the inspiration and moments of AH HA! you have given to my life.

    Second is the surreal wonder: In a recent purge of my avalanche of books I found a small, green covered publication of miraculous and profound poetic wisdom. It is titled ‘The Dreamway’ and its author is Robert Genn!
    Is this our Robert or just a coincidence?

    The book was printed and published in the Vancouver, BC. area. I am a Vancouver artist and have often connected your site to this location.
    I have been blown away by my second reading of this book after many, many years. It feels like Robert’s writing and I really hope it is.
    Please let me know if my intuition is correct.

    • Wonderful article today! Exactly what I have discovered in myself, JOMO. It’s hard to explain to people that you’d ‘rather not’! You are regarded as ‘strange indeed’ at least in my circles and by family when I had been the reputed ‘life of the party.’ JOMO is becoming more intense in these later days of life.

      Responsibilities press and dependency lingers and are hard to put aside, tho’ so these make life more challenging when you’d just rather not. It’s hard to opt out when you don’t see the choice.

  15. Norman Ridenour on

    ThankYou!!!!! I have tried to make myself more out going, more forward. It just does not come off as natural and people flee. I have sold my work most of my life in Art Fairs from ACC SF to small city markets here in the Czech Republic. (Two languages) I wind up, prepare main points and do it and then sleep all day Monday. I meet super people, customers and artists both, but enough. I have taught, it is performance art and I like it but it is exhausting. In the studIo time flies and I go past the limits of an 80 year old body and pay the next day but it is wondeful.

  16. Patricia Taylor on

    I really agree with these thoughts/writings. I’m told I am an INFP on the Myers Briggs definition and

    introvert/extrovert as applied here seems to fit. As an elder, great grandma I am still learning about
    all kinds of art and loving it.

    Many thanks for your sharing.
    Pat Taylor

  17. Gosh, so many that feel as I do. I like being with some people, usually in small settings, but I really prefer solitude, even when I am not actively working on my art. Curious in a way since I was a high school and college teacher and later a veterinarian, none of which permit JOMO much. But now I work at art. Too bad there can’t be a group for those who feel this way. Few would probably come.

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