TRANSCRIPT Ep: 280 Inner Demons: The Real Ghosts Haunting Our Creative Process


[00:00:00] Miriam: We’ve all been at the crossroads of creativity and in the throes of doubt. And maybe you’re there right now. Maybe you’re there right now in a cobweb of confusion. Just know that these feelings are natural. These feelings are normal. Every artist, every marketer, every entrepreneur, every artpreneur, no matter how seasoned, hears these monstrous whispers at times. But we can’t let them paralyze us. We need strategies to push through.

[00:00:38] Announcer: It’s The Inspiration Place Podcast with artist Miriam Schulman.

[00:00:46] Welcome to The Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists, by an artist, where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

[00:01:11] Miriam: Well, hey there, artpreneur, this is Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration, and you’re listening to episode number 280. I am so grateful that you’re here, and if you’re listening to this when it goes live, happy Halloween. If you’re not listening when this goes live, well, you can go back in time and enjoy all the spooky adventure that I have waiting for you today.

[00:01:43] So let me set the stage. About a month ago, I published an episode called How I Get So Much Done Even Though I Have ADHD. By the way, we’re going to mention a lot of episodes today and I’m not going to pause every time. Just know that every episode we mention, every link will always be linked up for you in the show notes. So today is 280. You’ll find everything in the show notes

[00:02:13] So that episode about ADHD was stocked full with great time management tips. But what if your problem isn’t managing your tasks or managing your time, but you’re having trouble focusing because of your mind. Because of your inner demons? That’s what we’re gonna focus on today. 

[00:02:39] And this is exactly what happened to me recently. Now, it’s no secret that I’ve been focused on writing my book and coaching other artists the last few years, so my own studio practice has taken a backseat to that. And I haven’t even promoted any of my commissioned portraits.

[00:02:58] As you know, where focus goes, success flows. And the reverse is also true. Without any pushes from me, just inertia, my commission requests had quieted down. Which is why I was a bit surprised when I got this email from Marty. 

[00:03:17] Email: Hello Miriam. My name is Marty and I am emailing you to inquire about having a painting done of two animals. This would be a birthday gift for a dear friend who has a dog and a bunny. In looking at your style, I think it’s amazing and I believe she would really cherish a painting of her two pets, Bamboo and a Ahoy I have a few photos of the animals, but nothing where they are pictured jointly posing for a photo.

[00:03:40] Can you explain to me your process, requirements, and pricing? We’d like to have something that would ultimately go into a nice frame with the picture being somewhere in the size of 20X16, give or take, depending on what standard sizing would be. We are gearing up to celebrate our friend’s birthday on October 4th, and it would be amazing if a painting could be completed by then, but not sure if that’s asking too much. Hope to hear back from you sometime soon. 

[00:04:04] Thank you so much. Kind regards, Marty.

[00:04:07] PS you may also text or call me. 

[00:04:09] Miriam: Now, considering I’d been plagued with lots of scam requests, and I’m sure you have, too. Most of them come, by the way, not via email. Most of them come on Instagram. And I did do a whole episode on that as well, which we will link up, if you want to dodge the dark arts of the internet scams. That’s episode 254, Three Common Internet Scams that Target Artists.

[00:04:40] I was half expecting this to also be a scam and that my next response from Marty would be about how he wants to pay by cashier’s check, because that is one of the scams. And one of the new scams that is going on that I didn’t even mention in that show that happened to me right after this commission, somebody reached out to me on Instagram and they offered me a good price for a portrait. They offered me 500, which is what I charge anyway, I charge a lot. And maybe that’s more than what most artists charge. And they’re like, well, we want to pay just 60 percent by PayPal, which sounds legit. But then they insisted on getting my PayPal address. And first of all, just so you know, this is a learning moment for you. For commissions under $1,000, I don’t take a deposit. They just have to pay in full. And even if I were to take a deposit, everything has to be done through my website checkout process. So I said, you don’t need my PayPal address. You can check out here. I’m fairly certain that was a scam because after I wouldn’t give them my PayPal address, they stopped communicating with me.

[00:05:54] And the other red flag on that particular one was when I looked at this woman’s IG, and it may not have been a woman, I’m assuming it was a catfish picture profile. There were only six posts there, and she said she wanted to have me commission a dog for her daughter. And all the kids post pictured in this, what I’m assuming now is a catfish profile, very young kids. So not like an adult daughter. It was just like the whole thing smelled fishy. 

[00:06:27] But anyway, this turned out not to be fishy. I went to my website and I looked at my portrait prices and they were not $500 for the starter price. So I said, you know what, I am not picking my paintbrush for less than $500. And in fact, for this commission. He wanted me to paint a rabbit and a dog in the same portrait, but he didn’t have a photo of both of them together. And I decided there was no way I was doing this for less than a thousand, so I actually edited the prices of my website, and I sent him a link for the one thousand, and he had no problem. He just checked out and paid for it. 

[00:07:08] So that was nice. I was like, okay, great. I’ve got my money Now the problem was that I had no idea where my paints were. Actually, I did know. So I got this commission request when I was in New York City, and I was fairly certain my paints were in the country and I didn’t know what condition they were in. I didn’t know if the particular paints I wanted might have been dried up. So I didn’t want to wait to find that out. And besides, I have two homes. I don’t have one toaster that I drive back and forth, so I didn’t see the point of saving money on art supplies. And I figured, let’s just start over. 

[00:07:47] Luckily, I do have my own supply list, which I’m happy to share with you. It’s linked in the show notes,, my complete watercolor supply list. 

[00:07:58] And I went through my supply list and I ordered a palette and I ordered the paints that I needed. And I even ordered a really nice Kolinsky Sable paintbrush, so I would have everything I wanted, no excuses.

[00:08:13] Now you can see where this is going. I have this no excuse thing set up. I was paid $1,000 in advance for the whole thing. I ordered new art supplies, which came much faster, by the way, than I expected. And I already had the paper, I didn’t have to order that. Here was the problem. It was my inner demons. 

[00:08:35] Now, I kept blaming it on other things. I mean, who can focus when you have this tiny little kitten who’s demanding playtime from me? And yeah, she is extremely cute. This little kitten keeps dropping her toys at my feet, and she wants me to toss them to her, and she’s like a little puppy. She runs, and she gets it in her mouth, and she comes back. And it’s so cute. Then I said, well, all right, she’s only gonna be a little for a short time. Let me just play with the cat and wear her out. 

[00:09:05] And then finally I gave up and I found myself sitting on the couch, petting the cat. And then I used my other strategy, which I shared with you in that ADHD episode, which is you set a deadline. Which I did have. I told Marty that I would have the commission done because he needed to give it as a birthday gift. I said it would be done by September 15th. So, that means ready to mail by September 15th. And I really wanted to go to the Armory Art Exhibit, which is not at the Armory anymore, it actually was at the Javits Center. I had VIP tickets, so I had all day blocked out on Thursday, so I had no excuse. 

[00:09:46] And I did, by the way, do the strategy of breaking it down into tasks. So I brought, broke it down into the task of I ordered the supplies, I photoshopped the rabbit with the dog, I ordered a print from Staples because I didn’t want to have to worry about my printer running out of ink,.And by the way, it’s a lot cheaper sometimes to just order from Staples than to get your ink working in your printer.

[00:10:13] So, I had everything ready. I even drew the commission. So that, none of that was a problem. And I was ready to paint. But it had been a long time since I had painted. So, the real specter was the creative anxiety lurking in the shadows. It wasn’t just about having the time, it wasn’t about the distractions, it was about the chilling touch of fear and uncertainty.

[00:10:42] I even found myself revisiting my old art classes, the ones that I taught, the ones that I filmed. So, that’s the thing, it’s not like I never did a dog portrait before. It’s not like I never did this type of dog before, that’s why Marty chose me, he saw examples of this on my website. So, I like watched myself on it. And that did help somewhat, but I still found myself procrastinating because of the anxiety of not having done it in so long.

[00:11:13] So, the real magic lay in facing my fears and chasing the ghosts away, and reclaiming my artist’s throne. 

[00:11:23] So before we get into, and don’t worry, this does have a happy ending, but before we get into this, because the solution really isn’t the crux of this episode. The most important thing in this episode is facing your fears. And you can’t even face your fears until you have identified what they are. They’re much scarier when you don’t see them. That’s why in horror movies, and I’m not a huge fan of horror movies, but let’s take like Jaws, for example. You don’t even see the shark until the end of the movie. Most of the time, you don’t see it at all. In fact, it’s much less scarier once you see it, especially for us modern audiences when we see that, like kind of, fake shark. It’s not so scary. 

[00:12:08] What’s scary is that like lurking in the dark, the unknown, the unseen, the unexamined. That’s Scarier. So let’s uncover our reasons for creative anxiety. 

[00:12:24] All right number one, fear of failure. This is probably the most obvious one. But the thought of not meeting one’s own standards or expectations of others can be paralyzing. And I think this is what was gripping me the most. Because I had succeeded so well in the past. I was worried about not living up to my own expectations of what I had done in the past.

[00:12:51] I know my daughter has this right now. She has a new job as a middle school music teacher, and she’s struggling a little bit with some classroom management, not with all the classes, not even all the students in all the classes. Just one class, a few students, and she’s, like, worried that she’s not going to live up to her own expectations and own standards. So fear of failure, that’s number one. That’s real. 

[00:13:20] Number two, perfectionism. This is very closely related to fear of failure. Because fear of failure, it’s not even about completely failing. It’s failing to live up to your idea of what perfect should be. So perfectionism, this is your desire to get everything just right. And that can sometimes prevent one from even starting.

[00:13:44] Now what was happening to me is I would start and then stop, and start and then stop. That’s what was happening to me. I even had, I had the whole day blocked out. I had the reward of going to the VIP show at the Armory. And I never made it to the Armory because I couldn’t get through my commission. And I would start and stop and start and stop, and I finally found myself on the couch watching the Project Runway finale with the cat. It was not good, not good at all. 

[00:14:17] And I also had tickets to go to the Armory brunch on Saturday that I really wanted to go to. So on Saturday, I was going to try all over again. And I had that deadline looming. I mean, this is right before. So the Armory show was, I think, I want to say that was September 9th. I was very close to my deadline and I wanted to go away for the weekend and I didn’t want this hanging over my head. 

[00:14:48] Let’s move on to number three. Number three, imposter syndrome. This is doubting one’s skills, one’s talents, one’s accomplishments, having an internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.

[00:15:05] Now, this was something that I never really felt with my art in the past. I can see there’s glimmers of that happening here that maybe, oh, I can’t do it anymore. Maybe I’m washed up, maybe I’m over. But I definitely had this when I was writing my book. So, when I was writing my book, when I was focused on getting the proposal done and getting an agent and getting a contract with a publisher, all those accomplishments, I was just focusing on getting those milestones.

[00:15:39] But once it came time to writing the book, I thought, Oh, my God, they made a huge mistake. I’m not gonna be able to do this. And what I was facing with this commission had glimmers of that same thing. I was doubting if I was going to be able to do it. Even though, and this is what’s crazy, even though I’d done it. Even though not only had I done it so many times before, I taught a whole class on it. I have hundreds of students who have taken my pet portraits class. And I’ve taught them how to do dogs exactly like the one I was painting. So I had that push and pull and push and pull of starting and stopping on, not just Thursday, but also on Friday. 

[00:16:19] Number four, fear of judgment. This is huge. This is worrying about how others will perceive or critique your work.

[00:16:30] So this was huge with commissions. A lot of artists struggle with this, that you’re afraid of what they will say. I don’t think I was so worried about this at this point because I wasn’t even meeting my own expectations yet. It wasn’t coming together. My thing was more about the next thing. 

[00:16:47] But I know my daughter with her job, she is very worried about what the kids think about her, what the other teachers think about her, what the principal thinks about her, what the parents think about her. So that fear of judgment definitely is plaguing her right now.

[00:17:01] So if that’s plaguing you, recognize it. I would suggest you go through each of these things and we’re, I will summarize it at the end, but right now we’re about halfway through a number four. 

[00:17:13] So ask yourself this question. So we had number four fear of failure. Where am I? How am I feeling fear of failure? Two how am I feeling perfectionism here? How am I feeling imposter syndrome? Who am I afraid is going to judge me? Go through each one of these. 

[00:17:31] So we have eight, and we’re halfway through, so we’re going to do the next four right after this break. 

[00:17:41] Ad Announcer: And now, here’s a review of Miriam Schulman’s best selling art business book, Artpreneur, from John Herbert. “Practical and inspiring. I don’t write many reviews, but I felt compelled to give this book a good rating. This book came to me at the right place and right time and inspired me to get off my butt and make some changes to my art practice that I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Namely, raise all of my prices with confidence instead of fear. It also inspired me to revamp my website with a focus on selling products and making more money. It’s a good, quick read filled with practical advice. And I’ve recommended it to several of my artist friends who are also struggling with how to position themselves in the market.” 

[00:18:25] Plus, here’s another five star review of Artrepreneur from Andrew Schumacher. “Easy read, even for those who never finish a book. After taking Miriam’s course that aided in me setting up my art business, I didn’t give a second thought to buying her book. Even though I’ve not finished a single book as an adult, this one was so easy to consume. I’m so excited to utilize all the structure she has carefully laid out and can’t recommend this book enough.”

[00:18:52] Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to get myself a copy. Now, let’s get back to the show.

[00:19:01] Miriam: All right, welcome back. We have eight anxiety reasons for creative anxiety that we are going through today to help us exercise our inner demons. 

[00:19:17] So number five is attachment to outcome. This is about being too concerned about the end result rather than the process itself. Now this one I think really was a big one that helped me overcome what was happening to me.

[00:19:37] So on Saturday I completely I gave up on trying to use the Armory show as my carrot to get my work done. I knew there was other things blocking me and that it was mental, and it was anxiety. So I decided I was going to go to the show anyway. And going to the show helped me relax, helped me feel good and release a lot of anxiety.

[00:20:06] So when I came back and I was less concerned about the end result and I focused more when I was painting on the big picture. So not about trying to get an eye perfect, a nose perfect, an ear perfect, just the big picture of getting the bunny and the puppy. Focusing on the lights and darks and really being relaxing into the process. And that really helped me so much. Letting go of attachment to the outcome, just knowing it would, it was going to be fine. And it helped me relax. 

[00:20:42] Number six, lack of clear direction. Not having a clear vision or a roadmap for a project can cause hesitation. This was definitely not my problem because I had a photo reference, I was doing it somewhat realistically, but in the loose style. Marty had already indicated that he liked my style better than any of the other artists they had looked at. I think it was actually a group gift and they were chipping in. So they had already decided that they liked my style. So there was none of that. 

[00:21:12] However, lack of clear direction is a huge anxiety for many of my artist clients before they join the artist incubator. And if that’s you, I have lots of resources to help you. I have this podcast. We have the book Artpreneur and there are also other ways to work with me. So, for some people, the Artist Incubator is enough. For others, they want to work with me on a much deeper and closer level, and that’s what the Accelerator is for. You still get access to everything inside the Incubator, but you also get to meet with me every single week, so that I can really help you figure out what your clear direction is, how to apply things.

[00:21:57] And some of the artists who get the best results with them, not only do we meet every week, we meet as a small group, and they also meet with me one on one. And they also have unlimited email support. And some of the artists who get the best results, they’re always emailing me questions whenever they get stuck. They email me things like their welcome sequence, their artist statements, their bios, questions about opportunities, so I’m always helping them have a clear direction to move forward. Because this is a huge one for many people, the lack of clear vision or road map will cause them to hesitate. So maybe you are okay with your creativity on this, but you’re not clear on what to do with your business and your marketing, and that’s where I can help you.

[00:22:47] So, if you’re looking for more help, go to, that’s at biz as in the letter B, and boy, I as in ice cream, Z as in zebra, And you can see all the ways that I can help you move forward. 

[00:23:07] Alright, reason number seven. Creative anxiety number seven. The comparison trap. I also call this compare and despair. 

[00:23:17] So comparing oneself to other artists or creators and feeling inadequate. And guess what my friend? I am so guilty of doing this. So guilty. I don’t compare myself necessarily to other artists because I am confident in my art and what I do in that respect. But I’m constantly comparing myself on Amazon to other authors. Like, how many reviews and how many negative reviews and how many positive reviews and how do other people stack up to me? And I know it’s just nonsense and it’s such a waste of time. It really is. And it makes me spin. 

[00:24:00] So if you’re comparing yourself to other artists and creators and feeling inadequate, we’re all there. We’re there. I’m there right with you. It is something that I am working on. Not proud of it, but it’s a waste of time and it’s something to recognize. And when we recognize it and we can laugh at ourselves, then you can move on. 

[00:24:21] But if you find yourself doing compare and despair, that is a creative anxiety. That could be one of your inner demons that you have to recognize. And recognizing it is the first step to vanquishing it. And making fun of it, too.

[00:24:37] I’m just reminded right now of that part of Harry Potter. You know I’m a Potterhead. But in Prisoner of Azkaban, they are tasked with vanquishing a bogey monster. And a bogey monster in the Harry Potter series will take the form of whatever scares the person looking at it the most and the way to vanquish it is to make fun of it.

[00:25:03] So if you have a skeleton in your closet, an anxiety in your closet, a fear in your closet, one of the best ways to vanquish that fear is to make fun of it. Like what I’m doing right now. 

[00:25:18] All right reason number eight. Overthinking. So, this is something I talk about. I also call it procrastilearning, but it can be termed as overthinking.

[00:25:32] So this is analysis paralysis. It’s spending too much time in one’s head and not enough time taking action. You may perhaps you’re researching because you want to find all the right ways to get something to work so you don’t fail. Because you think that if you analyze it, if you research it, you’ll avoid all the fear of failure. You’ll avoid not being perfect. You’ll avoid all these things. But really, you just have to move forward. 

[00:26:06] So here is what worked for me. Like I said, I went to the Armory show anyway on Saturday and it put me into a state of feeling good and feeling relaxed and I started focusing just on the big picture. So when I came back, I literally finished this portrait that I had been struggling with for days in less than an hour. And then I was able to snap a picture of it. I sent it on to Marty in my email. I said, here’s the portrait for your review, which, by the way, I always say for a review, not for feedback. Because if you say for feedback, they’re going to find things wrong with it because they think that’s your, their job to do. I said, here’s a portrait for a review, and it’ll be ready to ship out Monday or Tuesday. I didn’t share this with Marty, but I figured if he did have some feedback for me that he wanted me to fix, then I’d send it out Tuesday. If it was fine, I’d send it out Monday. 

[00:27:03] Okay, so we’re going to wrap up in just a moment, but first, these words.

[00:27:14] Ad Announcer: And now for another five star review of Artpreneur from Cindy Rae. “The 14 Abundant Artist Lessons are sales in your pocket. Artpreneur is a clear, actionable, and realistic guide to moving your art career to new level. It confirms many of the actions I’m engaged in, but it also gave me new ideas on how to move my business to new levels. Including reconsidering how I price my art, what actions can move me forward, when to act, and when to stop talking. Anyone considering and working on the content will progress their artistic income and ultimately gain more time to enjoy making art. Thank you, Miriam.”

[00:27:53] Order your copy of Artpreneur now, wherever books are sold, or go to And now, back to the show. 

[00:28:03] Miriam: Okay, so let us wrap up. Back to my procrastination. My realization is that this wasn’t just about being out of practice, it wasn’t just about having the distractions of a little kitten, it was about the fear of judgment, perfectionism, casting a spell of doubt, and being in the grips of imposter syndrome. 

[00:28:34] So here’s the thing, artpreneur, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been at the crossroads of creativity and in the throes of doubt, and maybe you’re there right now. Maybe you’re there right now in a cobweb of confusion. Whether now it’s if it’s with your art, we can talk about the techniques we talked about today, relaxing, breaking down the projects. If it has to do with your marketing, I’m here to help you. 

[00:29:04] First of all, just know that these feelings are natural. These feelings are normal. Every artist, every marketer, every entrepreneur, every artpreneur, no matter how seasoned, hears these monstrous whispers at times. But we can’t let them paralyze us. We need strategies to push through.

[00:29:24] The game changer, though, is to face your fears head on. Embrace your imperfections, and remind yourself of your past success, and then you can thrive as an artist. 

[00:29:38] Now if what you’re struggling with is your marketing, I’m here to help you. We have, literally now, hundreds of episodes in the podcast. I have published a book, Artpreneur, which you can get at your bookstore. You can get it online, and we have a bonus package to compliment that, It also comes in an audio book form. It also comes in an affordable Kindle or ebook form. So we have that. 

[00:30:06] But those who are really dedicated and committed and want my guidance, want me every step of the way, I would love to be your guide. So you can go to and see what programs I have that will meet you where you’re at. Again, 

[00:30:35] Okay. So let me just recap the eight different reasons for your creative anxiety. And I would even add a bonus one by the way, which is fear of success. We didn’t even talk about that one. 

[00:30:46] But here are the eight: Number one, fear of failure. Number two, perfectionism. Number three, imposter syndrome. Number four, fear of judgment. Number five, attached to outcome. Number six, lack of clear direction. Number seven, comparison trap. Number eight, overthinking. 

[00:31:11] So we’ve linked up everything we mentioned, including related podcasts and my art supplies and even the pet portrait and all those things in the show notes. You can find that

[00:31:29] And don’t forget, if you liked this episode, you’re going to love Artpreneur. Check that out at

[00:31:39] All right, my friend, I’ll see you the same time, same place next week. Untill then, stay inspired.

[00:31:49] Announcer: Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place Podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @SchulmanArt, and of course on

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