A Young Artist’s Guide to Playing for Keeps, Pt 10

You’ve chosen an uncertain path.
You’ve adopted an inconvenient lifestyle.
You’ve embarked upon an unconventional journey.
You’ve felt the voice inside you growing more urgent.
You’ve committed yourself enough so you can’t turn back.

IN SHORT: You’ve decided to play for keeps.

This is the critical crossroads – the emotional turning point – in the life of every young artist.

I’ve been there myself, and here’s a list of suggestions to help you along the way:(Read part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here, part six here, part seven, part eight and part nine.

1. Honor thy ache. Anxiety is a right of passage. It’s a sign that you’re on the right path. And thankfully, it’s an effective form of self-pressure to help you get over – and stay over – yourself. Forget about trying to eradicate feelings of inadequacy. They’re not going away.

In fact, the more successful you become, the more those feelings will creep in. Truth is, anxiety is a fundamental human posture. And once you change your relationship to it, you can put it to work.

Instead of convincing yourself that your fears are a futile campaign, greet your worries with a welcoming heart. Accept them a natural part of the life experience. And understand that there is no art without an occasional crisis of doubt.

As Arthur Koestler once said, “If a writer loses his doubts, he’s finished. He’ll just go on writing the same book like an idiot.” What are you converting your anxiety into?

2. Break out of the deadlock. A book that every artist needs to read is called Mental Traps, by Andre Kukula. It explores how chronic indecision, monumental overplanning and endless anticipation cripple your artistic and earning capacity. Here’s a rapid-fire list of suggestions that flipped a few internal switches in my artist’s heart:

Stop attending to project when they’re not calling for your attention. Stop carrying around a scenario for everything. Stop scrubbing the world clean of surprise. Stop remaining perpetually ahead of yourself. Stop killing yourself trying to accomplish an outdated goal.

In short, the book reminds us that life isn’t one prefigured scenario after another. It’s not an endless stream of things to get over. Are you standing on your tiptoes to foresee the future, or grounding your heels into the earth and making love to the present moment?

3. Art that mirrors, matters. Botticelli was Davinci’s mentor. During an interview about his student’s work, he said, “It will reward the viewer from any angle.” Does your art meet people where they are? Does your art make people’s own experience available to them?

That’s the whole point: Art’s purpose is to remind people that they’re not alone. That they’re not the only ones having an experience.

Next time you sit down to create, don’t write, paint or draw – breathe life onto the page. Create an infection that leaves the viewer better. Turn your art into a mirror in which people can see their own reflection, and you will make your name dear to history. Does your art recognize the pain in its patron?

4. Quantity eventually produces quality. I write between four and seven hours a day. Not just because writing is my religion, and not just because I have a love affair with my art, but because value is a function of volume. My experience has taught me that if you want your voice to matter, if you want people to follow your thinking and if you want to make a name for yourself, volume is the vehicle for being heard.

It’s more important than accuracy, knowledge, winning, talent, popularity and influence. Simply by playing the numbers in a prolific way, quality eventually shows up.

It has to. Because the best way to have a great idea is to have a lot of ideas. Even if most of those ideas suck. Sometimes you have to slog through a sea of shit just to find the one diamond. If you tripled your creative output, how much better would your body of work become?

5. Confidence opens checkbooks. If you’re in art, you’re in sales. Period. You have to show the world your wares and ask them to give you money for it. Otherwise you’re just winking in the dark. And this doesn’t come easy for a lot of artists, myself included.

Personally, I hate the business side of art. I don’t care about making money. I could care less about closing sales. And the mere thought of quoting a price for one of my pieces makes me want to ram my head through a steel wall.

But selling is part of the job description. And if you don’t make peace with that reality, you will cripple your earning capacity. As George Plimpton observed in Writers At Work, “You can’t set art off in a corner.”

The secret is to get good at stating your fee. Whether you’re a performer, writer, painter or singer, here’s the rule: Speak with uncompromising language. Be unapologetic. State your fee confidently – then shut up. Otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your life donating your work to charity auctions. Do you feel guilty for demanding compensation for your value?

6. Balance creative needs with survival needs. The art is essential. For the sake of your sanity, you must yield to the devout motions of the soul. But for the sake of your survival, you also have to yield to the devout motions of the mortgage. The secret is to hone in on which of your artistic efforts are the most income generating.

Not just fun. Not just cool. Not just creative. But the specific actions that physically put money into your bank account on a predictable basis so you continue to make the art you want to make.

And you have to prioritize those efforts over the majority of your daily endeavors, save your actual creative time. Otherwise you’re going to end up sitting on the floor surrounded by piles of your own work, eating beans out of a can with nothing to show for it.

You can’t just write all day. Eventually, you’ve got to get your ass out there and make some money. What consumes your time that isn’t making you any money?

REMEMBER: When you’re ready to play for keeps, your work will never be the same.

Make the decision today.

Show the world that your art isn’t just another expensive hobby.

Have you committed with both feet yet?

For the list called, “52 Random Insights to Grow Your Business,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011-2012!

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