Monthly Archives: May 2012
People advise you to be yourself, develop your own unique voice/style in your work. But other voices tell you that if you want to get paid, you need to conform to industry expectations and what is “hot” right now. These “other voices” are usually business executives. They often see you through stereotypes and preconceived notions of how they expect you and/or your work to appear. Why? Because they are tending to the commerce of art.
What they’re ultimately looking for is the response you generate in others. This is true for actors, writers, musicians, visual artists – people buy art (and what we are all creating is art) when it generates an emotional and visceral response.
But there’s a fine line to walk as artists.
Business wants what has been proven to sell because it minimizes financial risk. Artists want to create what is yet uncreated.
Both are valid and necessary.
What is ironic in this, is that audiences respond the deepest to artists who are unique and individual – but overall they tend to buy art that is predictable. Art in all mediums is purchased because of its ability to move people emotionally – for the Story it tells, the feeling it evokes, the dream it inspires, the beauty it endows.
This is just as true for films as for novels, paintings, sculpture and music albums. It also makes the business of art unpredictable because every human being responds individually to art and artists.
So we have this tension between the business of art and artists themselves. We are each responsible for ensuring that our part of the whole succeeds. As artists, we need to keep in mind what it is that business executives need from us and our work, as we both serve the audience.
But we also have to develop our unique creative voice. If we do not, we risk being forgettable. And being forgettable means you haven’t touched people emotionally. Not good for any artist’s ability to sell.
The good news is that when you stay true to your own creative voice, you retain the power to move people. When business can package and present your art in a form that has the comforting ring of predictability to it that audiences pay for – you have the conditions to surprise people with your unique voice in a medium that can sell.
So, should you consider what will sell when you create or develop your art?
Yes. And. No.
Yes, in the sense that you need to be aware of the business side of your industry, you need to know and meet the professional standards of your industry and you need to remain conscience at all times of the response you intend to evoke in an audience.
No, in the sense that while you have all this business “noise” in the background, you are the ARTIST in this industry and you need to bring and create what is fresh and unique in voice, style and content.
So be conscious of what the business folks need, but don’t let them decide who you are. And always, always, always put your soul and yourself into your work.
The most memorable art is art that touches the human spirit in ways we didn’t expect it would. That connection to spirit comes through only when the artists involved stay true to their unique voices/styles and the business side of art is willing to take a chance that that connection will drive sales. Oftentimes, they’re very pleasantly surprised.
Why? Because as much as audiences are proven to buy what’s predictable, the human spirit craves art that connects, inspires, and reminds us of our humanity in a way that blesses.
That’s what makes art and artists unforgettable.
Tips to Shape Your Creative Voice:
1. Listen to credible mentors, but make decisions based on your own inner guidance.
2. The best way to connect with your unique voice is to allow yourself to connect to vulnerable emotions. Feel it.
3. Stay true to the Stories and Themes that mean something to you.
4. Make your art personal, bring all of yourself to it, every time.
5. Own your art. Take responsibility for your work, your style, your voice, your purpose.
Every artist knows their inner critic. That voice inside that speaks from a place of fear. Most advice out there is on how to silence or ignore this inner voice in the hopes of continuing to create your work.
There’s a better way to deal with this.
First of all: who is the inner critic? Who is this voice that warns you, tells you you can’t do something good enough, makes you feel small, quivering, scared, and even can get you to stop moving toward your dreams? Where does this voice come from?
We often hear that it’s from all the people who molded and shaped you as you grew up.
I don’t think that’s who it is.
I think this voice is you. Not you now, but you as a child. I call my inner critic “Little Girl Me.” And I see her as a child who doesn’t need to be silenced or ignored, but heard and reassured.
Little Girl Me speaks up every time I’m about to branch off into an area that she’s never been before. She speaks up when I’m expanding into bigger dreams, bigger risks, venturing into areas where she sees the potential to get hurt or, get this, left behind. She’s scared and doesn’t know what comes next, so she shows up in my emotions as fear, hesitation, dread, big whopping ‘what ifs’, insecurity and ‘who do you think you are to do this?’ kind of thoughts.
It took me some time to realize that unlike most of the beliefs out there, Little Girl Me is not my enemy. The inner critic is not there to destroy you or stop you from being happy. It’s not your mother or father or your elementary schoolteacher’s voice either. It’s you – your inner child. The part of you that will always need nurturing and reassurance. You don’t need to fight this part of yourself, you need to parent it.
So, what can you do the next time your inner “child” acts out and needs attention?
1. Be kind. Your inner child is scared, not naughty. You wouldn’t yell at a child for being scared, so don’t yell at yourself.
2. Don’t ignore him/her. She needs attention, she needs you to sit down and listen to what is scaring her. The inner critic will not stop until you listen.
3. Listen with understanding. Why is he scared? What is he scared will happen if you proceed? What is behind the fear that’s driving the insecure thoughts and doubts? I’ve found that Little Girl Me most often is scared she won’t be taken care of, scared that she’ll be left behind as Grown Up Me moves forward into places that seem too big and frightening for her.
4. Realize that Grown Up You has the ability to take care of Little Child You. You don’t need to rehash all the ways that you didn’t get the love or nurturing that you needed as a child (you can, but you don’t have to). You have the ability now to take care of, comfort and reassure your inner child. And that’s what you need to do. Explain to Little Child You that while things look scary, everything is going to be all right. You are going to proceed toward your dreams and you promise to take care of Little Child You along the way. Often just a few calm, soothing words of comfort are all that the Little Child You needs to feel safe and stop berating you.
5. Don’t try to make Little Child You grow up. You wouldn’t assure a scared child by telling them to grow up. This part of you may never grow up and will most likely always be with you. Accept that. Be kind and loving, soft and tender with Little Child You.
6. Recognize that when Little Child You makes a fuss, it’s because they need to be heard and reassured. It’s not because there’s something wrong with you, or that you don’t have the ability to pursue your dreams, or that you aren’t good enough. All of those things are what Little Child You says to get you to stop doing whatever it is that’s scaring him/her.
Embracing and mothering/fathering your inner child is far more effective than ignoring, trying to silence or stepping into the past to try to figure it out.
I know now to expect Little Girl Me to show up whenever I’m taking new risks and expanding. I can head off her fear by addressing it before it comes up. And that lets me move faster and more confidently toward my goals.
Next time your inner critic shows up, try this approach. And let me know how it works for you.
What would happen if we all started spending more time discussing just how happy we are as artists?
I know, sounds kind of odd, doesn’t it?
That’s because we are so accustomed to thinking about the work, learning about the work, doing the work – work, work, work – that we forget that this is really, all-out, truly, you have to admit it - fun. And it is, isn’t it? Don’t you enjoy the process of creating? Even when it’s stretching you to grow and learn and become more of who you truly are?
I do. And I make happiness a priority in my life. I firmly believe that the purpose of life is joy. And, yes, you can choose to be happy. And no, this isn’t just about “feely-goody” emotion. Happiness is an authentic driver of success. It’s not something you should just wish for, it’s something you should experience regularly.
So what would happen if we spent more time talking about the amazing happiness that springs from our creative lives?
I think we’d have more energy, a different quality of energy, one that springs from contentment in the midst of continually pursuing what’s next, one that makes us see opportunities and open our eyes to what really matters to us. Happiness grounds you in the present and lets you experience your life as it is, right now. And right now is all we actually have. Now upon now.
You can’t hinge happiness on what’s next. You have to experience it now. Find that joy and create more of it in your life. That’s how happiness grows.
Unfortunately, it’s not popular to be happy. Or at least, to admit that you’re happy. And if you’re an artist, it’s even more expected of you that you will talk about how “hard” art is, how many challenges you face, how difficult the industry, agents, producers, executives (no offense agents, producers, execs – I love you!) are and every other thing that gets at our artistic nerves.
I say we should stop. Stop complaining. Stop seeing it as hard. Stop focusing on the challenges. Declare a no-complaint zone about our art. And admit just how happy we really are to be making a living (or pursuing making a living) from creative expression. We’re a privileged lot, we are.
Take some time today to think about how happy you are.
And really feel that joy well in your being.
Is it possible to spend too much time studying craft?
Information on how to improve your craft is everywhere. And there’s some solid, very useful stuff out there. But I believe you can fall into a trap where you spend more time reading/discussing/learning/talking about your craft than actually doing it. It can be a form of avoidance. Learning from credible sources is valuable, yes. And you need to take the lead and find out what you need to know. But after you’ve gleaned that info, you have to act. There is no other way to learn the physical and emotional aspects of your work than by doing it yourself. And it’s the only way you will grow into yourself and learn to trust your own opinions.
Why do we avoid actually doing the work? Is it some kind of block?
Fear, mostly. I run into it all the time. Often when stepping back from a revised draft and needing to come back to it. It isn’t always fear, but hesitation to confront the heavy subject matter of the characters and content. I’m not always ready to be in the character’s space, to dwell in their conflicts and pain. Or to feel it. What do I do? I put on some inspirational music, sit down with the writing and characters, and do it anyway. I’ve never come away from an experience like that wishing that I had done something else.
Writers run into “writer’s block” which can stem from fear, unprocessed rejection or simply from the story/characters not being ready yet. There’s a fine balance you have to walk between leading the forward progress of a story and listening, waiting and being patient for the story/characters to reveal themselves. If you’re avoiding your work, step back and have a good look at what it is you’re not wanting to face. Is it you or is it the story/characters?
So is it a question of discipline then?
Discipline has such a negative connotation to it. It’s so associated with punishment that I don’t know anyone who really responds well to that word. But we talk a lot about it in the creative professions. I think this discussion is actually about whether or not you will create consistently and complete projects. If you’re a professional, you will. And if you are committed to your project, you will.
Sometimes it really isn’t a matter of discipline, but of making a decision. Too often, for various reasons, we give ourselves room to hedge, options to turn back, and dwell in a place where we haven’t fully made a conscious decision to do something. When we haven’t fully committed it leaves a nagging sense of hesitation. Should I or shouldn’t I? Will I or won’t I? I don’t really have to because I’m not sure if I really want to be doing this, etc. It gives us an excuse not to succeed.
I get that this struggle is complicated if you’re not a full-time creative professional. But I think you can still make the decision to be the artist you want to be, regardless of your current circumstances. And doing so, can change your life in amazing ways.
One of the benefits of being a full-time writer is that it’s a guaranteed fact that I will be writing. It’s what I do. This is who I am. Whether or not I write on a particular day is always girded by the fact that I will be writing in the days to come. I don’t give myself the option of not returning to a project, not writing, not finishing it. If you’re not full-time and you have a day job to manage, you can still make a commitment to your creative work, just as you would if you were going back to college and pursuing more education. When you do that, you decide that you’re going to be a student. You can do the same thing with your creative life. Decide who are you going to be.
We don’t commit: is it fear of failure or success?
People assume they’re afraid of failure, but more often than not, it’s success and achieving a dream that scares us the most. Why? It may be unfamiliar territory, we may not have evolved our inner beliefs about success and what it will mean to us yet, and we may just be scared because we can’t see what will come next. Here’s something to remember: once you achieve one dream, another will take its place. Something new will evolve for you, new desires, new wishes, new creative goals. You expand in spirit as your learn to live in your power. You take on bigger dreams and understand that you can have a bigger impact. You won’t be bored.
But isn’t it because the creative life is hard?
It’s popular to tell ourselves and everyone else we know that creative life/work is hard. I’ve never gotten this one. When you are doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work at all. Time ceases to exist. Hours, days fly by as you’re lost in creating. It is one of the most joy-filled, most satisfying activities one can do. So why do we keep telling ourselves that it’s hard? As in, you shouldn’t expect too much of your work, yourself, the industry because your chances are so little of “making it” that it’s just pointless.
No one who ever achieved success believed this.
Does creative work, take work? Yes. Does it takes time? Yes. Effort? Yes. Does it take being willing to keep at it until your work (and you) grows into its strongest, most powerful form? Yes. But hard? No. Don’t tell yourself that. It’s not hard. You can do this. “Do” is the key word here.
How do you get to a place where you trust your own opinion?
You have to grow into it. By practicing your craft, knowing what you want to create and measuring your work against professional standards and your own. It does not mean not asking for credible feedback or being unwilling to change your work if it strengthens and empowers it. It means having the confidence based on experience to know when and when not to change your work. The more experience you have, the more you know how to separate the chaff from the grain. You take feedback and filter it through a deep trust in yourself and trust in your art.
You know what matters most in your work, and know that only you can determine if you’ve expressed it. You understand that you have to be in command of your work and take responsibility for the executive-style decisions that have to be made about it.
This comes with experience. And the only way to gain experience is to be doing the work.
Rejection is talked about so often in creative circles that one may not take the wounds it can cause seriously enough. Even creative professionals who know that it’s just part of the journey tend to minimize the impact it has when discussing it. We’re brave (or try to be) and since it’s simply a fact of creative life, we often just try to shrug it off.
But is that healthy? And are we really healing from it? Do we even know we need to heal from it?
Rejection comes when we pin our hopes and aspirations on someone elses’ decision to represent or buy our work. Someone passes on our work and says no. If they are gracious enough they might tell us why, but for the most part, we are left guessing.
And what do we guess? You got it. The worst. Fear, doubt and insecurity come crashing in. We feel like failures. We second-guess our ability and our purpose.We wonder if it’s worth it. We blame the person who said no. We come up with excuses, rationales, reasons that make them the bad guy and us the good guy. We feel shattered and down and hit the ground with a thud.
When you’ve been through it a few times, you know despite what you’re feeling right now that eventually (sooner is better) you have to pick yourself off the ground and get back in the game. And you do.
But this process of being wounded by rejection and having to dig deeper roots and decide to keep going takes its toll on the spirit. And it can change who you are if you let it go unexamined for too long.
What are we telling ourselves?
I’ve said this before, rejection is 97% perception and only 3% fact.
Someone said no. It wasn’t right for them. They weren’t interested. They have their own opinions, their own preferences, their own pressure to perform. Imagine being in their place. How excited would you be if a genre or the subject matter just didn’t interest you or you simply couldn’t stand it (for me = horror films)? Why would you want to force yourself to try to feel enthusiastic about it and sell it?
I’m of the opinion that when you find the right representation or buyer, you do so because you find a fit between interests, beliefs, passions and visions. And that’s what you want. No representation is better than poor, unenthusiastic representation or representation that represents you wrong.
But back to my point. What are we telling ourselves when we feel rejected?
1. This person had the power to decide my fate.
Is that true? Your overall fate is in your decision to keep trying, keep practicing your craft, keep knocking on the doors that are right for you and your work. Fate is a heavy word. The weight of it belongs to you.
2. I’m not good enough.
Did they actually tell you that? If they did, did they specify why they think so? We jump to this conclusion only because we give the other person the right to decide who and what we are. Chances are, the person who rejected you had other reasons – multiple reasons – that went into the decision. You may need to improve your craft, true (we all do), but being or not being good enough is a perception. Your craft may not be up to professional standards yet – does that mean you’re not a good enough person? No. It just means you’re not ready yet, you need more time to grow and develop. There’s nothing wrong with being in that place.
3. I’ll never succeed.
That’s true. But only if you make that decision. You decide.
4. I’m a failure at this.
Only if you quit. But even then, is that really a failure? Failure has such a permanent ring to it. And so little in life is actually permanent. Not even quitting. You can start again. Failure is a term of measurement we use when we’re living according to what we think other people expect of us. I’m not sure anyone actually, really cares that much what we do with our creative lives, do you? Do what makes you happy. Ban failure from your thinking. It’s not a concept that applies to you. If you’ve already quit, you can start again. If you’re happy that you quit, there’s nothing wrong with that. Be happy. This is your life. You decide if you’re enjoying it.
5. I don’t know what to do next.
Take some time. Feel your pain. Let it flow out of you. Then ask for guidance. You will receive it. And trust. Trust, trust, trust the process. Trust yourself, trust your opinion, trust the Universe. Take the next step. Try another avenue. Keep going. Remember, it’s easier for the Universe to guide a moving object than a still one. So find a way to move and trust, trust, trust that you will be led.
What do you do if you’ve been burned one too many times?
Burns leave scars. Reminders that something overwhelmed you, damaged you and that you healed.
You survived the pain, the regrowth, the process of overcoming it and evolved from it.You are different today because of it. And the scar serves to remind you.
If rejection has come in the form where it’s caused you to lose your sense of identity, or if you face it from sources that seemingly have no reason to reject you (like fame), these scars may have altered who you feel yourself to be. You’ve adapted and changed. But you may have also become less daring, less willing to be near the fire, less able to feel the potential warmth out of fear of the potential pain.
Repeated rejection changes how you relate to yourself, your work and your world. And so much of the deeper aspects connect intimately to how you accept or reject yourself in relation to what others are telling you and their reaction to you. This is where connecting to Source is healing. Disconnecting your sense of value as an individual and human being from your place in the world and focusing on the innately beautiful spirit that you are is essential. Nurturing your spirit is essential.
Stop Believing It
One of the biggest things you can do for your spirit is to own your thoughts. How you think about your experiences, the Story you wrap around what people say and do and mean, is ultimately responsible for how much joy or pain you experience. We give meaning to other’s actions and words based on what we believe most deeply about ourselves. We interpret their intentions through the filter of our harsh inner critic. One of the most valuable pieces of insight I received years ago was this:
“Stop believing it. You wouldn’t react so strongly if you didn’t believe it yourself.”
And isn’t that true? When we don’t believe something is true about us, millions of people can say it about us and it won’t affect us at all.
When we believe it, just one word from someone will tip us into a downward spiral of self-judgement.
Our beliefs are the underlying source of the sensation of rejection. And a belief is just a thought that you keep thinking.
You can change your thoughts. And you can insulate yourself from rejection by changing how you interpret what a “no” means.
Think about what you tell yourself, think about what you believe.
Where can you experience healing by changing what you think?