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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.