Many of us are competent creative people. Some of us are highly skilled, maybe even gifted. But there are very few Masters of the creative arts. Why? Because it takes a dedicated commitment over many years, with plenty of missteps and mistakes along the way, to achieve that distinction. A Master creative has typically undergone several major existential crises related to their life purpose, and what the ultimate legacy of their art will be. When they come out the other side they have usually made a great leap forward in their work and are able to articulate it to others, so that the world may learn from their experiences. Consistent excellence is the most identifiable characteristic of a Master artist's work, but most Masters also bring a visionary quality to their efforts that is harder to define. The visionary work of Master creatives is the highest artistic level that the human race has to offer.
There is no shortcut to becoming a Master. It is not a title bestowed upon us by others, nor one that we can buy, or even try on. It is a state of being that we choose to create for ourselves over time, by virtue of our hard work and ceaseless passion. It is not an easy road, and it can be dangerous to your health and wellness if you're not constantly working to keep these things in balance. Achieving Mastery does not even guarantee that your work will be recognized in your lifetime! Yet despite these trials, the rewards can be great. If we endeavor to take up this challenge we will be utterly transformed by the process, as our most essential Self is continuously revealed. We will be guided by an inner voice that grows in us and speaks to us, until its presence becomes as solid and trustworthy as the ground we walk on. Our Mastery will extend itself across everything we do, and we will be able to serve our loved ones and community at a much higher level. Best of all, our contribution will be secure, as we pass on our secrets to those coming up behind us, and encourage them to express their own Mastery.
So what can we do to embrace the challenge of becoming a Master creative? Start by teaching your craft to complete beginners. Sound counter-intuitive? It's not. A beginner is raw, untested and rife with potential, but the learning-curve of any art or craft is steep. It's true that beginner's mind contains its own joys, yet many promising novices will lose steam and give up without a living, breathing example of Mastery to guide them. You may be able to explain and demonstrate the basics of your art to a beginner, but if you can ignite a lasting passion for it in their heart you are truly on your way to becoming a Master.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind when teaching beginners:
Honor each student as an individual
- Meet them where they are, every day. Whether they're inspired and focused or exhausted and blurry, acknowledge their state of being and don't try to alter it too much. There is one exception, however: in service of your student's learning process, you must learn to disarm frustration and procrastination quickly. Remind them that the work is its own reward, and learning to do it in the face of discouragement is part of the process. Remember to taylor your language to theirs: use their own metaphors when giving instructions and praise. Make sure to ask open-ended questions, and listen carefully to the answers. Listen more than you speak!
Understand that each student has the potential to become a Master
- Treat each student equally, and watch for unconscious biases in yourself. If you believe that only "the quiet ones" will turn into Masters, you will neglect all the others, and you may miss out on a miracle. Remember that your job is to reflect a vision of every student's Mastery, every time you teach them. Take a genuine interest in their creative process, and let them know that you believe in them. Be generous with praise when working with beginners, and make note of each step forward in their progress, no matter how small.
Your presence says as much as your instruction
- Dress and groom yourself neatly: nothing sloppy or unkempt. But for goodness sake, wear it lightly! Be at ease with yourself, never formal or formidable, always approachable. As you establish a rapport with students and they start to trust you, you might become the recipient of some very personal sharing. Breathe deeply and remain calm under any circumstances. Never judge a student, but be compassionate and kind. This is the reason that you must always maintain good boundaries with students. NEVER act inappropriately with a student! Never flirt, tease, or act suggestively toward them. Treat them respectfully, always.
Share your greatest sources of inspiration
- Be generous with resources: reading and movie lists, online courses related to your art or craft. Be quick with suggestions when their inspiration is flagging, and draw from the lives of famous artists before the internet who forged inspiration from whatever was right in front of them. Describe significant breakthroughs that came from great inspiration on your own journey. Stress the importance of constantly feeding one's own inspiration, and the value of curiosity, exploration and discovery along the way. Point out community events that they can attend and be inspired by works in different kinds of art and creativity, and encourage them to play around in genres different from their own.
Provide personal examples of moving past fear
- Use select stories from your life and creative process to show how you got through times of low energy and existential depression. Remind them that the lives of artists contain many ups and downs as we learn to navigate the vast, uncharted waters of our talents and passions. Suggest meditation as a means of calming anxiety. Stress the importance of community over isolation, and encourage your students to collaborate with others. It's fine to provide a sympathetic ear for a student's angst, but know when a situation is beyond your ability, and be ready to suggest further help, like a therapist or other mental health professional.