The good news is most of them suck.
The same problems come up again and again, keeping artists from building a dynamic body of work and a loyal following. So how about you? Do you commit one of these seven deadly sins with your work?
This is the big one.
Nothing kills creativity faster than perfectionism. If everything you create has to be perfect, you will create nothing. It’s that simple.
It’s okay to leave some loose ends and ragged edges. And it’s more fun too.
Here’s why I don’t do much one-on-one career consulting with other artists any more.
The 1,000th time I heard a client say, “But that sounds like a lot of work,” my brain exploded.
You know what’s a lot of work? Working at a job you can’t stand to support yourself so you can paint in your spare time. 12 hour days, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Maybe after a couple of years your boss will let you take some time off to take an art class.
By contrast, running a full-time art studio is a lot of fun, not much stress (by comparison, anyway), and yes, less work.
Not no work. Less work.
I don’t think there’s an artist in the world who hasn’t been frustrated at some point in their career when things just aren’t moving as fast as we want.
It takes some time to build your skills and create a following, and momentum is your friend. Most of us don’t take off like rockets. We build slowly at first, then the snowball starts to grow.
If you’re not finding your direction or the audience you want yet, ask yourself:
- Is my work actually interesting to someone other than my mom and my cat?
- Am I finding true joy in my artistic expression?
- Am I having fun?
- Am I working on cultivating a network of like-minded artist friends, and supporting their work as much as I hope they’ll support mine?
If the answers are yes, you’ll need to cultivate a little patience. Maybe even a good dose of stubbornness. Trust me, I know it isn’t easy. Read Seth Godin’s The Dip to keep yourself motivated while you get there.
In the art world, the currency you pay is being totally amazing.
If your work is lame, you don’t find an audience and your message doesn’t get through. If your work is fantastic, you’ll find a nice-sized audience who will love to come to your gallery openings and pay big prices for your art.
To paraphrase the sales and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, lame people have skinny kids.
As an artist, you’re always giving much more than you’re asking for.
Be inspired by others, but find your own place.
Interestingly, that place is often defined by the people you serve. Think more about them.
This is why so many “get rich quick” schemes don’t work, and why they’re particularly ill-suited to an artist’s path. They’re about taking. They’re not about giving.
It’s lovely to put your heart into your work, to infuse it with your personality, to come across as a real and likeable human being.
The game still ain’t about you, baby.
Some people are naturally attracted to topics that other people care about. Others aren’t. Don’t try to sell broccoli ice cream, even if that’s your favorite.
Boorishness usually comes from one of the other deadly sins. Selfishness being the most common.
You know that guy at the party who just refuses to shut up? The one who lectures you for 45 minutes about his Warcraft collectible figurines, without ever noticing that you’re desperately wishing you had a cyanide pill so you could quietly end it all?
Don’t be that guy.