5 Ways to Stand Out From the Competition (and Rule the World With Your Art)...

Congratulations! This post marks 16 weeks of your creative and artistic growth. During this time you've overcome impostor syndrome, perfectionism, procrastination, and the #1 obstacle to your creativity. You've also learned how to collaborate with others and teach beginners how to do what you do. Your health and wellness is on track, you're working on new skills, working out your brand, and you've found new sources of creative inspiration as you move forward on your path. You may have even decided that you're ready to become a full-time artist! Next up is a full reckoning with your competition. Are you ready to rumble? 

Here are 5 ways to stand out from the competition:

1) Identify the competition

  • Not every artist dreams of climbing to the very top. Some of us prefer to operate within the confines of our community (friends, city, state or otherwise) and distinguish ourselves within that group. Some of us are only concerned with competing against ourselves, seeking to outdo our best work with every new creative project. And some of us are already wading into the shallows, getting up our nerve to swim with sharks. In any case, it's crucial that you figure out your own definition of the word "competition" (while you're at it you might also want to do the same for "ambition"), and adjust it accordingly as you travel forward. Set aside some time to meditate on what you truly want to do with your art, and write down any and all images that come to you. Create a sentence that describes your exact hopes and dreams, and write it in the first person present tense, as if it's happening right now. What feelings come up for you when you read it? Does it strike you as true, or do you feel like an impostor? Doubt your doubts, and believe in your dreams. Ground them in reality by taking daily actions that further your ambition.

2) Keep current with your competitors' work

  • Do you know what's currently going on your art form? Who are the biggest names and rising stars? What is their latest work all about? Why are they having such an impact? Get busy finding answers to these questions. Knowing exactly who and what you're up against will clarify a lot about how your own work might flourish in the marketplace. Fresh, innovative ideas often show up when we look critically at our competitors' work and fantasize about outdoing them. Don't be intimidated, get inspired! Challenge yourself to go where you've never gone before in your art, and be prepared for your current audience to be just as shaken up as you are. Tell them you have resolved to live purely by inspiration, and your new work will reflect this mandate. Now get to work!

3) Write out your origin story

  • Want to be a creativity superhero? Write out your origin story. Your beginnings play a huge role in who you are and how you make art. Understanding exactly how your past plays itself out in the present can illuminate all kinds of fascinating insights. From our current vantage point we might be able to identify recurring themes in our work, and trace them back to our childhood. Many of our greatest strengths were formed during that time, by people and events that may not have been within our control. Is there something from the past that's holding you back? Set a date for resolving it, and make this process part of your art. By examining our origins we might also get a better sense of our personal values, and consider bringing them even deeper into our work as artists (this is where that whole "be the change you want to see in the world" thing can manifest itself). You can even take this archetypal superhero process farther, and name your kryptonite, nemesis, sidekick(s), and magical accessory or costume. Remember: the way you present yourself to the world counts as much as the art you make! Knowing where you came from and how you got here translates as greater personal charisma, that essential force of attraction that can draw others to you like bears to a salmon-slick river. 

4) Challenge yourself regularly

  • Are you keeping yourself small? When is the last time you rose to a genuine challenge? Not just in your work, but in the way you market it to the world. Are you reaching everyone who might be interested in what you do? Have you approached every possible contact, and researched every possible marketing strategy? Take a good hard look at your goals, and throw them all out. Assume that lack of ambition has been holding you back, and resolve to create a brand-new paradigm, where you challenge yourself to surpass every success in both your creative and professional work. Not sure where to start? Read some biographies of famous artists and creatives that you admire, and learn about their trials and victories. Study the creative process of innovators in your field and borrow from their stable of techniques. Embrace happy accidents and coincidences, and remember to thank everyone who leads you to them. Get in the habit of meeting challenges and eventually it will feel like a natural extension of who you are. 

5) Understand the true nature of networking

  • Many of us are confused about networking, and unsure of how to make it work for us. We might feel uncomfortable with "using someone" to get ahead, but this is not how networking actually works. Effective networking is a mutually beneficial relationship between two people who respect and admire each other, and want to help the other succeed. This kind of connection has a ripple effect that can change everything. Every time you connect someone to good resources and/or contacts in your community, you are taking one step closer to your own goals, because that person will remember your kindness and return it when opportunity strikes. You'll also be known as someone who cares about others, and is not threatened by anyone else's success. Know how to recognize a fellow power-networker when you see one, and consider creating a group of like-minded networkers who meet monthly with the express goal of sharing resources, information, contacts, and goals. Having a diverse and dedicated list of people that you can count on increases your visibility and social influence, two qualities that play a vital part in helping you stand out in a crowded marketplace.