Ten years reflection- some personal, practical advice for creative people wanting to put their work out there (PART ONE)
It's now been a decade since I started really focusing on my work as a visual artist, and deciding early on that I wanted to do that work engaging "out there". At the start I wasn't quite sure what that meant exactly, but after having worked as an art and antique dealer for ten years before that, I had some related experience that gave me a general sense of where I might be headed, or wanting to go.
Recently I've been reflecting on this decade, and in the past year and a half I've recalibrated myself in different directions from my earlier efforts. With changing course has come a lot of reflection on both what I have experienced but also what has worked, and what hasn't, and also what I thought and hoped for at the start.
There's a lot to this so bear with me, I'll break this up into a few posts
1. Whatever you do, visual art, writing, any kind of creative expression, when you decide to put yourself out there, you must be confident about your unique vision, and realize, that not everyone will appreciate it, get it, support it, see it, but there is only one you, and only you can be the best of what only YOU do.
Also you will hear so much nay saying, "it's all be done"..that everything is "derivative" etc etc blah blah blah. It hasn't all been done and also yes we are connected to tradition but so what? That doesn't render creation useless. There is only one you living in this time and place, as far as we know, in our known universe, so celebrate that and express yourself. Hear constructive criticism from people you respect and/ or who is working themselves, or knows better. Otherwise if criticism deflates you and makes you not want to work, then step away. Look at the person and work of who is speaking, it's very easy to criticize, it's very hard to do work and offer it out there. The bottom line is creation is infinite and so are the tastes of people. The idea is that the longer we put ourselves out there that the better chance we can connect with people who like what we do. And there's enough for everyone!
2. The only way to know how you want to be out there, is by trying, and it takes longer than you think to be known, so be patient.
We have become so messed up and impatient now because of technology. Our brains are being rewired to want everything now and the internet makes it seem like that's possible, but it's not. It takes a long period of persistent effort to be known in a field, so it's important to set up your mind for that. Otherwise choose another pursuit that gets quicker results, though I'm not sure what that is!
3. There are many ways to put yourself out there, try a bunch.
There are calls to artists all over the place, unfortunately, and you'll have to do research to find them. I suggest starting locally. At least now we do have the internet so you can find opportunities pretty easily. Humble yourself and look for opportunities for new / emerging creatives. Submit and prepare for more chance than not of rejection. Get used to rejection and deal with it. It's often not even really rejection it's more you don't fit to that project, and they can't include everyone (though some are open calls, try those too!) Sometimes if you're lucky you will get feedback why you were rejected- learn unless it's nonsense, as some of it will be (google rejection letters to famous writers and artists for some perspective). If you are able to go out and socialize go to events, talk to people meet people, because everything ultimately happens with other people.
4. It's about everyone, not just you.
Don't be a narcissist. You are not the only creative person...support other people, take a genuine interest in other people's work, admiring, supporting. You do not exist in a vacuum alone as a creative person. Others are potential friends and allies and also can share similar sensibilities. Be generous!!
5. Talk to other people in the field.
One friend who knows your field can save you years of work and perspective. Get to know other people who are interested in what you want. Find supportive people and avoid the super competitive, it's just an unhealthy environment and it's already tough enough to do this.
6. If your work is reasonably okay to start, sooner or later you'll have some success.
It's a numbers game, keep submitting, keep trying, and sooner or later you can find the right fit. If not, then get some help, take another class, get some decent feedback, get professional help. Your commitment and determination are what is most essential.
7. Don't quit your day job
Unless your work is highly commercial and you land some crazy advertising deal (congratulations that is AWESOME, seriously!) financial success is something I have not even come close to achieving. Do note though, that my number one requirement as an artist personally is that I give myself the freedom to create whatever the blank I want. I do not work well without inspiration. The cost of that? My work sells but not yet big ticket style income. I know this, and I am not giving up my wish to work on what I want. You can do whatever you want.
8. Lastly, it's your life, make your own path, your own rules
This is the joy of creativity- this is yours, for you, your vision, your work. So much of our life is determined by others- let this be all yours. Celebrate your vision, your life, your work. Remember, very creative people think differently. This is both great- we can think originally, but also difficult, we might not think like others, and might not fit in with others as well. Make peace with it and you will be happier, share it successfully and you can connect with others and enjoy some validation. Good luck! The worst thing of all is wishing you tried- you will fail, believe me, again and again, but only by repeated failing do you have any chance of any kind of success. If you want to try, go for it!