No one ever says it’s easy being an artist. If you do hear that, you instinctively know it ain’t so and the speaker is uninformed and not to be trusted.
You start making art and find you have talent at it. You also find you have a passion for making art and want to pursue it. The decision to pursue art on a professional level often puts artists into an identity crisis.
The quandary usually has two sources.
If you are like many artists, you were driven to make art while dealing with self-doubt about your talent and the worthiness of your art. These things can sometimes happen even when you know what you are doing is top notch. A tiny voice sometimes speaks loud and causes hesitation. Your mixed emotions about your art and your future as an artist are sometimes terrible beasts of burden to bear.
If dealing with inner demons aren’t enough, there are also external battles to fight. Maybe you’re lucky and have a supportive spouse, partner or family that believes in you. And, there is never a guarantee of that happening. It’s just as likely you have a scenario where well-meaning and influential people in your life don’t get it. They lack your vision and don’t understand your passion and motivation. They are hard wired left-brainers who fear you are on a path to disappointment and doom. Unfortunately, in some cases, that might describe the best of your naysayers.
Whether you have the good fortune not to deal with first-party resistance in your immediate circles or from within, you are far from over the hump. You’re still dealing with buyers, galleries, jurist, show managers, journalists, professors and pundits. And, none of them may get you right away either, or ever. Stories of artists of every stripe who have been rejected are in abundance – and fortunately, there are many stories of artists who pushed past the obstacles and rejections to go on and enjoy a fruitful career.
It is evident you need a tough skin with great perseverance and persistence to overcome the negativity around you, and even within you. Sure, there always seem to be examples of some lucky person who get it all, confidence, charisma, talent and big breaks. I think instances like that are more myth than reality. What’s important is that even if it’s real, it’s someone else’s story. So other than other providing inspiration or aggravation depending on your reaction, those stories add nothing to your journey.
Steven Pressfield, in his excellent and highly recommended book The Art of War – Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, urges his readers to embrace their creativity and to fulfill their potential as humans and as artists. He sums up all the ways we don’t work at doing this fulfillment as Resistance with a capital “R”.
I’ve experienced plenty of self-induced Resistance in my life. I’ve battled back and gotten ahead and then fallen back in some vicious loop. Ultimately, I broke through and created a credible, exciting plan for my professional future. It was never easy and still isn’t.
The plans I’m working now are more complex and challenging than anything I’ve ever done. Despite that, I can’t wait to get to work every day because I’ve never done anything that remotely rivals how rewarding and motivating what I’m doing now is.
There is something special about this time of year. I think it fits this weekend to talk about renewal and rejoicing. Spring represents a special time of year where everything seems to begin anew. It is a time of renewal. A perfect time to take stock of your situation, to find and face your Resistance. For those of you who celebrate Easter, it is a symbol of rejoicing and renewal.
It’s a great time to rejoice at how lucky you are to be an artist alive today. You have so much in your life and career. Your opportunities on every level exceed that of any generation of artists who came before you. The implements and training you have to make art have never been more abundant or better. The communication and marketing tools at your disposal to help you to identify, contact and connect with potential buyers are unparalleled. Collectors are more open to working with you directly.
I recognize that if things aren’t going that well for you, asking you to rejoice at your good fortune compared to previous generations of artists may fall flat. I feel for you if that is the case. I know that sometimes circumstances make following your dreams and achieving your goals challenging. Life gets in the way.
Here are some things to consider. Nothing stays the same forever. Now is always a good time to get started. It’s never too late. I posted on my Facebook business page recently about how 88-year old, color-blind artist, Phil Monteith, has a gallery show running through April. How’s that for never saying never?
Here’s a hard but incredibly invaluable task to undertake. Step back and evaluate your situation. Look deep inside to see if you are part of the problem. Are you suffering from Pressfield’s Resistance? Are you holding yourself back? Are there things you should be doing and aren’t?
If you recognize, you are part of the problem. You’ve got to take the next step and learn why. Are you afraid to fail, so you are not trying? Are you using perfection to disguise procrastination? Is there something else you are doing to sabotage your success?
Are you starting projects or joining some program only to quit before you get through? Only you know why, and you may not be aware you have this problem. You might be quick to blame and find fault everywhere but with you. There is a reason for this kind of behavior. It is hiding something else.
The good thing is if these are actions and attitudes you have now that they are not permanent. You may have carved a deep rut, but you can climb out of it. The first step is recognizing you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. The next step is finding the resolve to want to make real, meaningful changes.
You may need to get some help to work through the problems. It might be a business or life coach, an accountability partner, or a mental health professional. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have gotten professional help for an individual problem and have come away with fantastic results.
Whether all you need is a gentle nudge by reading this post is enough, or if you need to enlist outside help, I hope you’ll take the signs of Spring bursting forth as a good time to get going to begin to renew, rejoice and turn the tables on your career!