Category Archives: Motivation
The One Thing Artists Need to Commit To
Every time I sit at this keyboard to write, there is a moment where I am caught between two worlds: do I trust that my voice matters to someone out there or should I just stay silent (because my voice can’t possibly matter in all the noise out there)?
This is a moment that many of us pivot on every time we actually get to the “starting point” in our creative work. That pivotal moment where a decision has to be made, again, fresh, every time, as if we’ve never been here before. (Is that because in reality, we never have been at this point in time, right here and now, faced with these blanks pages, new paints, new lines, new notes, new images?)
Every time we come back to our creative expression we have to decide. Does our voice matter or doesn’t it? What is the reason to express ourselves? There are those abundant times when so much is moving through me that expression is an overflow — it simply must be poured out. More often there are the quieter, drier times when my mind says: you’ve said everything there is to say. You’re just repeating yourself. (With 109 blog posts, I probably am)…
But, even repetition seems necessary. More than necessary. More like we have specific themes that we keep diving back into because we feel compelled by something to explore them again and again. What keeps that from being boring is that fact that my themes are mine and yours are yours. Somehow through us being One Consciousness, we find the people and themes that speak to us in the ways we need. (And that’s usually the point of logic I use to convince myself to write.)
So, does it matter?
When I think of my life, there have been (and continue to be) very specific artists who have unknowingly shown up in my life at very precise moments. Not only that, but there are specific people in the business of art who have no clue that their executive decisions to keep saying YES to what called to them have repeatedly impacted my life and creative journey. For example, an executive’s decision to sign a particular band and produce a particular song that became my saving grace during a dark period, who eight years later, turned out to be an executive behind another artist I interviewed — (blessings go round). Or an author who published her journals and in doing so, gave voice to my feelings when I was too young to trust my own voice. She said what I couldn’t and in that, gave a certain companionship to my journey. I could go on and on… but the point is, NONE of these artists have any clue that their work has impacted me the way it has. That a song, a line in a book, a phrase in a poem, a scene in a film — has shown up at just the right time, met just the right need, been there, and inspired, turned my thoughts, and guided my choices along the way.
None of them.
So what does that mean for you and me? When we come to that starting point and hesitate between two worlds?
Everything we create finds its way. IF we say YES to bringing it forth into this world.
What do we need to commit to? Not “being an artist.” Not “this many units of work within this period of time.” Not “getting published.” Not “being famous or making a living at this.” No. Those things just aren’t strong enough to get us from one world to another in that pivotal moment.
Expression. That’s what we can commit to. That’s the only thing that really needs us.
That commitment will get us from one world to another.
Are You Dreaming Too Small?
Are you settling?
Keeping your dreams small, contained, manageable?
What is holding you back? Or down?
Have you ever stopped to realize that the only thing that holds us back are the thoughts we think?
What we believe is possible or doable, or justifiable. Thoughts. Those strings of words we give meaning to. Words that have no power at all until we decide to give them power and embrace them as truth.
What if you dreamed a little bigger? Just outside of what seems reasonable?
What if, instead of asking what is safely attainable, you asked: what do I want? Really, really want?
What would that look like for you?
I guarantee you what you really want is bigger than what you’re asking and hoping for.
We decide what is possible and impossible for us. Then we use other people’s reactions to our dreams to shore up our beliefs. Stop saying it’s too hard. Stop saying the chances are slim. Stop even looking at chances.
Look at what you want to experience and go for it.
There is no advantage to dreaming small. And there is nothing to lose by dreaming big.
Either way, you take a risk.
There is, however, a danger to dreaming small. And that danger is a life half-lived.
They may be the two most important words in an artist’s life.
Every time we step away from our creative work, we risk it being the end.
We return to the keyboard, the canvas, the clay, the rehearsal, the notes. And every fear that has ever thrown its weight against us steps up. Every reason to not continue argues for its right to live. Every ounce of fatigue, doubt, boredom, discontent tugs at us: “Not in the mood.” “Not feeling inspired.” “This is crap.” “Another day.”
There is more at stake than us being artists.
There is more at stake than the work not getting done. It’s NOT about us. It’s not about our talent. It’s not about reward, or recognition, or accomplishment.
It’s not about us.
The art we are called to make, the stories we are called to share, the music we are called to express — it needs us.
It needs us, because there is something more at stake.
A heart somewhere, just one perhaps (one is enough), will see, read, hear what we have allowed to be expressed through us. A heart that, in that moment, will recognize something of itself.
Whole lives are turned on the point of that moment.
New perceptions experienced.
That point. That still, small point, one second in time, when the Light of our art enters a soul and changes it. It is no small thing, my friends.
It matters so much more than you can ever imagine.
Marketing Your Art: Responding to What Moves You
Early on in my self-employed career, I was going through that phase where you seek out a million articles on how to market your work. Fear drives that process more than true learning and pretty soon you’re overwhelmed. Everyone has an opinion about how you should market your work, what you should and shouldn’t do, and the deadly sins to avoid. At that time there was a huge push toward internet information marketing, and at that time, everything in me said: no.
I didn’t want to run an internet information business. I didn’t want to grow a list. I didn’t want to do A, B, & C and get E, F & G. It felt pushy, it felt inauthentic. I still cringe at those long-form web pages that try to convince you of how much you’re getting while you scroll for miles to find the “discounted” price is $299.
Oh, I understood the sales logic behind it all. But it wasn’t me.
And when you’re just starting out, you aren’t sure if it’s okay to be you. What if you do it wrong? What if everyone else is right? I was in that confused state when I ran across the following short blog post by artist Keri Smith, whose message gave me permission to be me and whose words of advice I have kept as my guiding light when seeking clients and promoting my work. I’ll let her speak to you here, because her message is what being an artist is about. Authenticity. Trust. Knowing that you are led. Responding to what moves you.
Without knowing it, I have been giving lectures based on a “do-nothing” approach to illustration and design, employing terms like “don’t promote”, “ignore your audience”, “fuck the money.” A recent interview I did goes into this a little more. This is not to say I “do nothing” to promote my work, you do have to put things out in the world so that others can see and respond to them. But I do feel strongly that all of the techniques, calculating, obsessing, entering contests, trying to get awards (annuals), wanting to be a rock star in your field, trying to land “the” great job, trying to be like someone else who is successful, trying to target your portfolio, trying to be cool, and schmoozing, don’t actually help to move your career forward.
If i look back over the course of my career so far, it is only when I stopped trying to do all of those things and focused on the work that the good stuff started to happen. Only when I relinquished control to some extent and focused on the things that moved me did I start to attract some kind of success. And this method of “doing the opposite” of what I was taught required much less effort in the long run. (Instead of sending out hundreds of mailers, as they tell you to do in art school, I sent out a few here and there to places I really responded to.)
So I guess the questions that I learned to ask myself where, “what the hell makes me want to stay up all night so I can work on it, forgetting entirely about the fact that sleep exists as a possibility?” “what makes you get up in the middle of the night to scribble something down?” “what is in my nature?” (NOT “what should go in my portfolio?”, “how do I target an audience?”, “how do I get more work?”) none of the artist’s whose work I respond to try to ‘target an audience’.” – Keri Smith
When we respond to what moves us, we follow our hearts and the Universe’s guidance for what aligns with us.
It’s okay to be yourself. It’s more than okay, it’s necessary.
What if it all works out?
What if it turns out better than you imagine?
What if every moment spent in fear and doubt isn’t wasted, but necessary to grow faith and confidence?
What if you make what you want to make?
What if you say what you want to say?
What if no one actually has the power to stop you?
What if you stop worrying about “what if’s”?
What if you being you is all that actually matters?
What if you say “yes” before you get over the fear?
What if there is nothing to overcome, and only everything to become?
Yes. What if.