A Young Artist’s Guide to Playing for Keeps, Pt. 5

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 and part four here.

Here we go:

1. Quality can’t be your sole signature. My first book wasn’t really a book. It contained no promise; offered no benefit and provided no take home value.

It was just an idea. A story. But, it was a damn good one. And that’s exactly how it transformed from a book into a brand.

That’s the lesson: If you want to take your audience’s devotion to the next level, people need to buy the story you’re telling. After all, they respond to what you believe – not just what you create. As Hugh MacLeod explained in Evil Plans:

“Your product has to fit into other people’s narrative. It has to fill the gaps in their life. Telling your story has to become a survival tool for other people. Because it’s your soul and the purpose and beliefs your soul embodies that people buy into.”

That’s what most young artists overlook: The fact that people are buying your person, your process and your philosophy as much as your final product. If you want to play for keeps, never lose the destination for your work. Art is only as good as the why that fuels it. How are you marketing the motivation behind your work?

2. Opportunity enters through the door of yes. You are more multiple than you think. No labels, no limits, as I like to say. The problem is: You’re defining yourself too narrowly. You’re trying to tell yourself what you should be, instead of learning who you are.

If you want to get past the limited definition of yourself, widen out the boundaries of your being. Try small nibbles of your new identity. And be prepared to let go of what you’ve always been. That way you can evolve into what you were meant to be.

For example:

*What creative energy is seeking a new vehicle for expression?
*Where could you give your voice another outlet?

Maybe there’s an entirely new artistic medium just waiting to be activated. You have to say yes. You have to attend to your life wherever it moves. And you have to be willing to listen to what wants to be written. Otherwise new and valid paths for work that matters will remain undiscovered.

Remember: This is not all that you are. And the only way to know how much you want something is to try it. What would you allow in your life if you knew that every experience was part of your divine path?

3. Start stupid and broke. If I knew what I know now, I never would have started. From writing to publishing to running my own business, I always remind myself: “Thank god I was clueless.”

That’s the cool part about not knowing: Ignorance isn’t just bliss – it boldness.

How stupid are you willing to be? Because the reality is: Intelligence is the great impediment. The less you know, the less you fear. Also, lack of capital is equally advantageous. Especially in the beginning of your career, too much money replaces creativity, stamps out dreaming and eliminates the need for vision.

It’s like the rookie golfer who drops a grand at the pro shop before hitting the lynx in an attempt to buy a lower score. Doesn’t work that way. Branding doesn’t take money – it takes imagination. And even if a brand doesn’t take millions to create, that doesn’t mean that it can’t create millions.

The point is: Virtues like wisdom and wealth don’t always serve you in the beginning. Be careful not to back away from perceived negatives. Scarcity and poverty might be the best thing you have going for you. How does knowing nothing and having nothing work to your advantage?

4. Finished is the new perfect. Here’s a painful realization for any young artist: You’re the only one waiting for you to get everything right. In my experience, eighty percent is enough. Maybe seventy. There comes a point where you have to declare it done. And believe that the hay is in the barn.

Otherwise you’ll trap yourself in the infinite regression of better.

It’s like I tell my mentoring clients: “You don’t need another round of edits. You don’t need to consult with your peer review team. Just ship the damn thing. Most people aren’t even going to read it anyway. May as well write what you want.”

And I get it: It’s more convenient to be a victim of resistance than to risk executing what matters. It certainly gets you more attention and sympathy. But the biggest gamble an artist can take is not making art. Period.

My suggestion: Stop ironing out the wrinkles nobody is going to notice. Get your ass off the treadmill of the inconsequential and move on. By fixating on improvement, are you missing what you already are?

5. Robust emotional commitment. I once read an interview with a famous painter who had become paralyzed from the neck down. Not exactly good for business. The cool part was, the injury didn’t stop him from doing his art.

Unable to move his arms during the recovery process, he literally spit paint onto the canvas. And his fans stayed with him for years to come – even while he painted from a wheelchair. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is.

Are you that dedicated to your work? Does your throbbing sense of commitment invite onlookers? I hope so. Because consistency is the ultimate commitment device. Take it from a guy who’s been wearing a nametag twenty-four seven for over a decade – this stuff works.

The secret is: Absolute, unquestionable and unthwartable commitment means demonstrating to the people who matter most – every day – that you are not going away. Which means commitment isn’t just an obligation – it’s a demonstration. It’s constant exertion of your values, a consistent extension of your truth and a consummate expression of your core. How will you show the world that you’re serious about your art?

6. Give yourself permission to jump. Deep inside we are all holding our breath and crossing our fingers. But eventually, we have to take the plunge. My suggestion: Stop waiting for your artistic life to begin. Stop waiting for the rest of humanity to tell you that your work is okay.

Instead of spending a decade wining approval, just start shipping.

Here’s how: Dip your pen directly into the self. Find your source of effortless functioning. And work from the place that makes your heart soar. That’s the only way to fan yourself into flaming action.

After all, a real artist works from the part of her being that is a gift – not an acquisition. She paints with the part of herself that is most the permanent. And as a result, she gives people something they didn’t know they wanted. She takes them places they didn’t expect to go.

Remember: You can only let the marketplace call the tune for so long. Eventually, you have to become governed by the law of your own being. Will you contribute to the coalition of silence or create brilliant stuff that speaks to the market in a way that has never been spoken before?

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, “14 Things You Don’t Have to Do Anymore,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011!

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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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