From time to time, in our journey on this earth, it's good to ask ourselves some provocative questions. Whatever gets stirred up may feel uncomfortable, or even painful, but just might lead to a big forward leap. Here's a good question: who do we think we are? Some of us are artists right out of the gate, working hard on our art and carving a place for it in the world. Some of us are highly creative people, with dedicated hobbies that allow us to express ourselves and enrich our lives. And some of us are artists masquerading as hobbyists, unsure of how to become who we truly are. If you are in the latter category, you might need some help to get moving in the right direction. A creativity coach can help you sort out the particulars, and work with you to create a brand-new paradigm that reflects your identity as an artist. These 6 questions are a good place to start:
1) Are you willing to trade joy for hard work?
- Your hobby is your refuge, your sanctuary, your place of enjoyment and expression. You are passionate about your hobby and enjoy talking about it with whoever will listen. You think about it when you're not working on it, happily dreaming and scheming about what you'd like to do next, or you forget it completely and return to it with relief and gratitude for all it gives you. In any case, your hobby is a source of joy, so much so that working on it doesn't feel like work. If you decide to turn your creative/artistic hobby into a full-time job then be prepared to fall out of love with it, at least for awhile. This is a necessary part of the process as you transition from hobbyist to working artist. During this transition you might experience a loss of joy as you slog through all the details of setting up your business, figure out where and how to sell your art, and wrestle with your schedule to accommodate family, clients, and work sessions, not to mention time to attend to your own self-care needs. The lives (and incomes) of artists are often unpredictable, and some people have a tough time staying connected to their joy in the midst of so much uncertainty. If you are willing to work harder than you've ever worked before, and if you have "spiritual stamina" and trust your process, your joy WILL return. Be careful not to tie it too tightly to external success or validation: take your joy from the work itself, as you did when you were a hobbyist. Love it more than it loves you.
2) What is your philosophy of being an artist?
- What do you believe about being an artist? Take out a piece of paper and a pen and complete this sentence 10 times: "I believe that artists are ___________". Don't think about it too much, just write whatever comes to your mind, no matter how grand, silly, or judgmental it may be. Now step back and look at your answers. What do you see? Take an inventory of your beliefs and feelings, and understand that ultimately they will shape the life you live as an artist. If you believe that "only a starving artist is a true artist" you could end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy that is hard to undo. This is not to say that your thoughts are controlling the entire Universe, necessarily, only that the attitude that you bring to your life as an artist counts. Take the most practical and positive answers from your list of ten sentences and build those into a philosophy that informs every day of your life and work. For a good example, read the Holstee manifesto.
3) What does success look like to you?
- This is hot button for most of my clients. It brings up all kinds of issues related to fear, anxiety, ego, and jealousy. Artists can't measure success the way most other professionals do, because our career path is so unpredictable and uncontrollable. The metric of success in our modern world is based primarily on accumulation of wealth, prestige and even fame. These things are elusive for the vast majority of artists (though not for our lack of trying!). In order to make art we must be engaged with the deepest regions of body, mind, heart, and soul, and this process is internal and private. Our job is to keep honing our skills and craft, keep producing good work, advocate for the art we make, and help the world understand its value. It's a good idea to make a list of successes that are both internal (related to the art we make and our creative goals) and external (pertaining to our finances and our art's visibility in the world). Knowing exactly how you define success, and weaving it into your larger philosophy of being an artist, will help you manifest your goals. One piece of advice I often give to my clients on the subject is THINK BIGGER!! Most of us start out with modest (safe) intentions that may not allow our full potential to develop. Miracles can happen when we move out of our comfort zone. Think bigger, artists! Now back it up with great work and the will to power.
4) Who do you know that you can consult for counsel and perspective?
- Is there currently an artist in your life, someone whose work blows your mind? Even if you don't love their work you can still admire their drive and passion. Can you meet with this person and let them in on your plans to move from hobbyist to artist? If you are lucky enough to have someone in your circle that is already a professional artist, make sure to treat them respectfully and let them know how much you appreciate their taking the time to meet with you. Making art is often solitary, but artists that cluster together succeed together. We can inspire, excite, and promote each other, and we can share resources and help each other make new connections that can further our success. If you don't know anyone personally, you can hire a creativity coach to help you. Also, let your community know that you're looking to form an artist support group that meets monthly. Provide the meeting space and/or location, and come prepared with snacks and a piece of your work to show. Regular support as you move through your transition from hobbyist to artist will help you stay connected to your goals and ground them in reality.
5) Who are your top 5 living artists and how did they get where they are?
- We are all in love with dead artists. Their work continues to inform and inspire us years, even centuries, after they've gone. As much as a knowledge of art history is valuable, we need to keep our eye on what is happening here and now in order to figure out how to succeed here and now. Make a list of your top 5 living artists and research how they arrived at a place of visible success. What kind of education and mentors did they have? Have they been through a crisis, and how did they handle it? Who represents their art to the world? What is their online presence like? How do they brand themselves? What do they have to say in interviews about their work? Do they have any regular collaborators? Have they partnered with corporations for any projects, or are they completely "indie"? What was their breakthrough moment, and how has their art progressed since then? Do they care about fame, celebrity and notoriety, courting the spotlight at every turn, or are they reclusive and cagey? Search all these things for clues about how you might live your life as an artist and help your own art breakthrough.
6) How will you protect and nurture your creative inspiration?
- Burnout: it's real. Coal miners, single parents, and animal rescuers get it, and so do musicians, painters, actors, novelists, screenwriters, bloggers, fashion designers, dancers, and photographers. Hobbyists almost never burnout, because in general they spend less time on their hobby (compared to working artists), and are not subjected to the pressures of having to sell it to the outside world. When we are actively making art to pay our bills, and working toward visible/tangible success, we need to draw from our well of creative inspiration every day. Even if we are in great physical shape we might feel fatigued or even exhausted if we're not consciously filling up the well again. There are many ways to do this, including regular meditation (enter your email in the box on the top right to get my free Guided Breathing Meditation) and self-care, but more than anything we need to keep renewing our creative inspiration. Each of us is responsible for maintaining our creative spark. This particular process is as important for the success of our work as learning how to brand and sell the work itself. If you decide to make the leap from hobbyist to artist, understand that staying connected to inspiration is your superpower: an inspired artist is an invincible artist!