As artists, we are all searching for something to put out into the world that other people can relate to. Whether it’s a painting or a poem, a lyric or a beat, we reach out through the infinite creations of others and try to make a lasting impression with something unique. The goal may be to inform, inspire, seduce, or simply to entertain, but the process is the same.
A creative thought, maybe it’s a word or maybe it’s a sound, strikes a chord in your consciousness and suddenly you are filled with such inspiration that you know it needs translation to the page.
Other people need to see it, you think; other people need to hear it.
This is the best part: the beginning. And every beginning is a promise. In order to be credible, though, you need to deliver on your promises.
That’s where the next step comes in; the hard work.
Hard work is what separates an idea from a product, and also what separates a person who wants to be an artist vs. an actual artist. There is a saying that all writers loathe because of its basic truth: “writers write.” Obviously you can sub in “painters paint, or, “musicians make music.” Either way, it’s imperative that it becomes your new mantra because there is always going to be a reason not to write, or paint, or make music. Whether it’s your day job, the dishes, that long overdue phone call to your grandmother, or the new show on Netflix, don’t procrastinate. Putting off your art is the surest way to let your creativity shrivel and die a very depressing and often permanent death. Even if you can only take ten minutes a day to breathe some fresh air into a project, do it.
Don’t let yourself get caught up in the expectations of others.
No seriously, don’t. There are going to be a precious few people in your life who truly get where you’re coming from and support you as an artist. Many will think you are lazy, or crazy, or both. They are probably more practical than you are. That doesn’t make them right. It’s just that they are on the outside looking in.
Throughout your career you will need others to be critical of your work as you progress, but don’t let people criticize you. There’s a difference.
Do keep up with what’s current (and what’s so new it hasn’t happened yet) in your particular Indie art scene. Go to shows, read books, see an installation that only ten other people in the universe have heard of. Then think about it. Find people on the internet who know what they are talking about and talk to them. You’ll learn a lot, quickly, about what inspires you and whose work is genuinely good. If you know what’s happening in your industry you will improve your own art.
Don’t be a cliché. You don’t have to stay up all night smoking cloves and drinking absinthe to be artistic. You can have a cup of warm water at 7am and still do your best work. I don’t have anything against those rituals if they actually work for you, just don’t restrict yourself to the image of who you’re supposed to be because I guarantee no one cares. You aren’t living in front of a camera; you are probably alone, all alone, as you create.
Finally, there is no such thing as perfect and no one that I know of has even approached it. When it comes to being an artist you can basically forget it. You won’t get there. Even if your work is damn good, everyone is different. When someone hears your song or reads your book or looks at your painting, they will bring their own bias and experiences to the table as a means for comparison.
Dita Von Teese said: “You can be the ripest, juiciest, peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches” and she’s right.
As an Indie artist, your struggle to achieve solid creative work is going to be even more challenging. Why is that? Well for starters you probably don’t have a lot of experience yet, or much money to invest in yourself. Without that, stress can and will creep in and smother some of those brilliant ideas before they even take root. Established artists have the huge benefit of editors, agents, managers, benefactors, and other such connections that often greatly aide in improving the quality of their work. Indie artists have to reach that point on their own. At this stage, many people start to lose interest in their project. Getting this close and quitting is about as common as dirt. If you find the patience to keep working on something long after it inspires you, you have an honest shot at actually making it.
And that’s about all you need to know starting out; the rest you will learn along on the way. So go be creative and figure it out for yourself. Sound off in the comments if you have anything brilliant to add; I’d love to hear from you.
Keep it real,