5 Practical Tips for Artists

You are a cre­ative person. Maybe you are afraid to claim the title, but if you’re sac­ri­fic­ing time and effort to this crazy life, you’ve earned it. With this eter­nal gift comes the bit­ter­sweet knowl­edge that the road ahead will never get shorter — but per­haps these tips can help you over the rough patches. Remember to enjoy the ride.

Get a notebook.

If you don’t do any­thing else, do this one. Get a scrap­book if you’re a visual artist; get a good record­ing app if you’re a musi­cian; what­ever you do, start exer­cis­ing your craft every day. For starters, just jot down ideas as soon as you get them. (No judg­ments, it’s all about explo­ration.) Next level, find a reg­u­lar slot in your day when you can sit down and push ideas out, prac­tice tech­nique, read up on your craft, what­ever. Just teach your brain never to shut down. This is how you earn the name ‘artist’. You make it as nat­ural as breathing.

Bonus: next year you can come back and look at your jour­nal, and you will lit­er­ally know how much you have grown. Your okay ideas will look ridicu­lous; your best ideas will need work. Still, there will be a couple of wild ideas that you never fleshed out, and I guar­an­tee you’ll be ready to turn one of them into a masterpiece.

Get knowl­edge.

In the cre­ative field, we keep hear­ing how all the inno­va­tions come from fresh, untrained people. It’s true, you see it hap­pen­ing every day. That makes it sound like it’s okay to skip the train­ing, but it’s actu­ally an argu­ment for more edu­ca­tion. Newbies bring new per­spec­tives because they tap into unfa­mil­iar pools of knowl­edge. As a vet­eran, it’s easy to get dry and stuck in your ways, and that is what kills the spark. Never stop learning.

The main thing is to value every con­cept or dis­cov­ery, even if you don’t see its rel­e­vance, or don’t agree with it. No need to take it too seri­ously — just show some inter­est in the world, and allow your mind to grow. Watch for­eign movies and pick up phrases. Read tech­ni­cal papers; talk to people who are pas­sion­ate about their work. Just get out­side and look at nature. You never know what it may lead to.

Get dis­ci­plined.

“Hey, cool work. How did you do that?”… “I don’t know.”

It’s pro­found when you say it once, like a light­ning bolt brought the inspi­ra­tion to you. It’s a good vibe. But when you say it five times, that’s a prob­lem. It’s impor­tant to know your process, and the kind of atmos­phere that inspires your best work. You can’t force inspi­ra­tion, but dis­ci­pline will boost your exe­cu­tion. You can get to a point where your first draft is better than yesterday’s fourth draft. You can get to see the fin­ished work in your head before you even get started. And at that level, you’ll dis­cover, more of that light­ning-bolt awe­some­ness sur­vives the jour­ney to your audience.

Second thing, most artists get their reg­u­lar money from com­mis­sions. If you’re doing that, you can’t wait for the inspi­ra­tion — some­times the orig­i­nal idea is even dic­tated to you. But your qual­ity needs to be con­sis­tent, even if you have already done five projects with the same theme. If you don’t get dis­ci­pline and a solid grasp of your busi­ness, your cre­ativ­ity can just dry up and leave you star­ing at the wall.

Get social.

Learn how to share your pas­sion. Learn how to nego­ti­ate and present your work to people who don’t get it. It’s great being in the zone, but some­times you need to get some new eye­balls on your work. Also, get out of your shell. Express your­self; share a laugh with your client; col­lab­o­rate with a ‘rival’.

Start shar­ing your work. And this is where the inter­net comes in, allow­ing you to keep your art real and still find your audi­ence, even if they are halfway around the world. Yes, people some­times sell out for likes and shares. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. If you build real con­nec­tions, you can find real sup­port­ers and valu­able feed­back. Another thing: if you can find a way to launch your­self with­out shar­ing some work for free, power to you. Typically though, every­body does it. In exchange, you get cri­tiques and refer­rals, so you can become the kind of big-shot who can afford to sue small-time blog­gers for shar­ing with­out permission.

Get deep.

The earth is in upheaval, pol­i­tics clearly can’t save us, and the inter­net can be full of hate and igno­rance. People will usu­ally wel­come celebrity gossip and songs about kit­tens, because we all need cheer­ing up. But we also need people who have some­thing more to say. Try to accept the respon­si­bil­ity that comes with your gift, and find ways to help people with it. Be gen­uine and honest no matter what it costs. If you make one person think and change their mind, you have made a last­ing impact on your world. What could be more profound?

Get to work.