A Young Artist’s Guide to Playing for Keeps, Part 22

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.

And I’ve been there

From my latest book, Writing is the Basis of All Wealth, here’s a list of suggestions to help you along the

1. Make your audience your accomplice. First comes acceptance. That masturbatory art can only matter so much. That it’s hard to be creative alone. And that a
crowdsourced approach is usually worthwhile. Second comes surrender. Absolute
artistic vulnerability. Letting the audience in on the joke. Giving them
permission to become co-creators along with us. Third comes accessibility.
Keeping the loop open. Making it easy for the audience to tap into their
creative flair. Creating a forum for them to express themselves freely and
fully. Fourth comes expansion. Of access, not information. Continually creating
a playing field on which people can create, not a smorgasbord from which people
can consume. When we do this, when we stop setting off art in a corner and
start enlisting the world to help us create, everything changes. The work grows
stronger, the experience grows richer and the audience grows more devoted.
Everybody wins because everybody plays. Are
you sitting in a room alone stroking yourself?

2. The need for attention is not a low
As a performer, I am not afraid to admit that I demand an
audience. When it comes to my readers, viewers, listeners or attendees, the
intention is clear: I want you to
miss me in your past. I want you to regret not meeting me sooner in your life.
And I want you to develop a crush on me that you can’t quite explain. I want you to believe you’re watching
a brain working. I want you to see that I am possessed. And I want you to
delegate certain chunks of you thinking to me. I want you to get used to me. I want to become a regular part of
your daily world. And I want you to make time in your busy life to visit the
world I’ve created. That way, for
the rest of my career, you’ll give anything I do a shot. Are you at peace with your need for attention? 

3. It’s not a blank page, it’s not a mirror.
That’s why we’re so afraid to sit down and write. It’s not the fear that our
work will suck. Or that nobody will read it. Or that people will read it, and
they won’t care. It’s the fear of confronting our own truth. The fear that,
once we stop editing ourselves – even for a moment – we might catch a glimpse
of how we really feel about something, and it might contradict what we thought
we believed. Forget about writer’s block, cognitive dissonance is the real
enemy. What are you afraid to confront? 

4. Creativity is about trying things.
First, we listen to our heart. We sit at the feet of that thing that sticks
inside of us and says now. And we put it out publicly so we can’t run away from
it, and so the world will conspire to help us achieve it. Next, we give
ourselves permission. We drop the illusions about what we can and can’t do. And
we knock down the inhibitors that stop us from pursuing something dopey,
different or whimsical. Then, we chase that idea down. We get experimental
without spending money. We fiddle around with things. And we execute small
steps that create the freedom to pause, test, reevaluate and adjust. Finally,
we listen for what sticks. We watch for what makes us think, Oh my god – that
counts? We ask ourselves: I wonder if I can take this further? And we become spawned
by the childlike desire to see how far it goes. What are you ready to finally try in your art? 

5. The best artists make art every day.
They make stuff and see what happens. They do the work and don’t think much
about it. They show up, bare down and push something out into the world that
matters to them, no matter what. And if they get heard, great. If they get
paid, even greater. But if they get nothing, that’s fine too. As artists, they
don’t do it for money or recognition, they do it because it’s their spiritual
imperative. They can’t not create like a rock can’t not fall off a cliff.
That’s why I publish a blog every day. That’s why I upload nametaglines every
day. That’s why I post adventures in nametagging stories every day. They’re not
just my daily gifts to the world, they’re contributions to my ongoing body of
work. They’re additions to my artistic legacy, building my lifelong portfolio.
And with every day that goes by, that reservoir grows bigger. That way, it’s
not just art, it’s an asset. And like a forced savings account, when the time
comes to make a withdrawal in the future, there will be enough of a surplus to
tap into and convert into something highly profitable. But it all starts with
the work I do today. What it becomes tomorrow isn’t my concern. Are you willing to let your art find its own

6. We don’t have to work for strangers
Whether we’re performers, publishers, writers, creators or
entrepreneurs, there has never been a better time in history to go out and find
the audience for what we love, or, better yet, create the audience ourselves.
Now, instead of buying tickets for the lottery, instead of shooting for the
masses and instead of trying to be all things to all people, we can be
something important to a small group of people. We can do what we love, the way
we love doing it, for the people we love, who love the way we do it. The hard
part is giving ourselves permission to break free from the mediocrity of the
masses and pursue the glory of the nooks and crannies. What tribe loves you?

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.


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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