Our Life in The Arts

Questions, reality, and musings on a life of joy and wonder

Vol. 2, No. 1

January 8, 2022


By Rich Holly

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2022! Woo-hoo! Now what?

We’ve just been through about the craziest two years anyone could ever imagine. The pandemic. Numerous acts of violence against African Americans and Asian Americans. The one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the US Capitol. New COVID waves (five at this point). Defund the police. Businesses closing. Artists of all types losing work and income (well, maybe not those few who have cashed in on the NFT craze). The current Omicron surge. Too many people we know and love becoming sick or worse.

And we’re supposed to be motivated to keep going?

Frequent readers of my posts will know that I am a strong proponent of making sure you’re finding and taking advantage of whatever it takes to keep your mental health in check. I believe, first and foremost, that good mental health is important for all. And for those of us who need to be (are supposed to be?) motivated, it is a real necessity.

If you’re experiencing a lack of motivation, I can tell you that you are not alone. I’ve heard from people who are exhausted by the past two years and are looking for ways to cut back on responsibilities and projects, not move forward with anything new. I’ve heard from people who, for the first time, are experiencing self-doubt. I’ve heard from people who are ready to quit the arts because they don’t see a future in it for them.

I certainly don’t know what’s best for each and every person out there, but I do often think about how we all have limited time here and how important it is for each of us to create positive impact as often as possible (and yes, I’m still a hippie at heart). As you may know from my other writings, experiencing joy and bringing meaning to arts-engaged citizens is what it’s all about.

Here’s a song about taking your passion and making it happen (and it just might make you get up and start dancing):

Full disclosure: I went through about a two-month period this past fall when I didn’t practice or perform. At all. In retrospect, that was a huge mistake. For me I believe it was a vicious cycle – I didn’t feel motivated, so I didn’t practice. By not practicing, I wasn’t experiencing daily joy, which lead to me not being motivated. Repeat.

What worked for me to get out of that cycle was to approach playing again in very small chunks of time – 3 minutes here, 5 minutes, there – and to practice only “fun” stuff, nothing terribly difficult and certainly not trying to learn anything new. I’m now back to practicing 20-30 minutes at a time, often several times a day, incorporating new material with the fun stuff. With my work schedule and family obligations, that’s what works best for me. Your situation, I fully expect, is different.

Rich Holly, executive director of the arts at NC State, sits in the center of a drum circle gathering on a balcony at Talley Student Union. He is joined by four NC State students.
Rich motivated to teach and perform with students. Photo credit: Becky Kirkland/NC State University.

But the key here is to find what works for you to stay motivated. What brings on that innate passion for your artistry? What can bring you joy (artistically or otherwise) so you begin to feel motivated? If you’re not currently motivated, how might you ease-in to working on your artistry so you don’t become overwhelmed?

After all, your artistry will ultimately bring joy and/or meaning to numerous people, which (in turn) will better allow them to produce positive impact more frequently. We need to keep feeding our own souls as well as those of others. Take care of yourself, find ways to stay motivated, and keep your artistry flowing throughout 2022.

Rich Holly serves Arts NC State and the NC State University community as the Executive Director for the Arts.

All posts in the “Our Life in the Arts” series are available here.