As artists, we are often told to take every opportunity that comes our way.
You never know who could be in attendance at that next big gig, what connections you will find at that event, or what could lead to future opportunities.
Habits, as you likely know if you were ever a nail-biter, can be incredibly hard to break. The invisible mental habits of ours can be even more difficult to overcome, but because of this, even more important. So, give yourself permission to quit these things. And, give yourself the time and patience to break the habits.
#1 Give up on the “not enough” mind frame
Successful artists don’t frame things around “not enough.” There is never enough time, not enough money, not enough confidence, not enough of whatever it is at that moment to make or do what you need to do to be a successful artist. They all point to an underlying fear of not being enough, once you can deal with that underlying fear, the other issues fall into place.
#2 Give up comparisons
Here’s the thing about comparisons: you are always going to be better at some things than other people, and worse at other things. Dwelling on either isn’t going to get you anywhere. It can stifle your creativity as an emerging artist to compare yourself to someone who is twenty years into their career, and it can stunt your growth to compare your work to someone who is just starting out.
Instead of focusing on how you stack up next to someone else, invest that energy into comparing your recent work with the work you made six months ago, a year ago and five years ago. Have you grown? And where do you want to see yourself six months, a year, and five years in the future? Only compare yourself to yourself.
#3 Give up on making excuses
If you want to be a successful artist, you have to show up. You have to do the work. If you are like any other artist in the world, you probably have said to yourself at one time something along the lines of, “I can’t go to the studio today because I’m too busy/ too heartbroken/ my family needs me too much”.
And you know what? It feels good to do that. It feels justified and reasonable and like you are doing the right thing for yourself. this is “about our FEAR masquerading as Resistance; that thing, or idea, or busywork, or self-doubt, or procrastination, or rejection, that stops us from showing up and making our art”.
#4 Give up working all the time
Sure, you have to show up to the studio even when you don’t want to do the work. But you also have to know when to leave and when to take the time to take care of your body, your health, and your emotional and social well-being. You can’t make your best work if you aren’t investing in your body and mind as well.
We have seen artists sacrifice both of these in the name of their craft. But you need your body on the most basic of levels to create your work. Successful artists know that their success is a marathon and not a sprint, so you need to maintain your health to stay in the game. Make time in your schedule to stretch, exercise, go for walks, cook healthy meals and have conversations with your peers, family, and friends.
#5 Give up taking uninformed advice to heart
- “When are you going to get a real job?”
- “When are you going to grow up?”
- “At what point does an artist realize they are not talented enough to ‘make it’”
- “Must be nice not to have to work.”
- “Must be nice to only work when you feel like it.”
These toxic relationships can hold an artist back from reaching his/her full potential. But guess what? We can choose who to listen to and what advice to take. You may have heard the adage that we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. Spend it with those that push you to succeed, those that have succeeded as an artist and those that inspire you to do so. Not all advice is created equal.
#6 Give up perfectionism
This goes hand-in-hand with the fear of failure. Artists who obsess on the need to make everything perfect often are afraid of failure. But, the irony in this is that they then fail to ever put anything out there.
The only path to growth is putting your work out to the public. The hard reality is that you will probably fail over the course of your art career (however you define that). You will not get grants, you will have a show that flops, you will have a great idea that just doesn’t materialize. The comforting part of this is that so will everyone else. The belief that it has to be perfect, whether it is skills, talent, education, website, or statement will keep you endlessly spinning your wheels.
#7 Give up feeling selfish
Everyone contributes to the world in their own way. We need doctors, lawyers and teachers, but we also need musicians, craftsman and creatives that make our world interesting, vibrant and enjoyable. Your challenge is to find out what you are at your core and then do it. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and everything being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.
Musicians often feel guilty for not having a “real” job and that they should be contributing more to the family income. They then either feel guilty when they are in the studio away from their family or away from the studio and not working. Guilt is a counterproductive emotion. If you find yourself feeling this way, remind yourself that your work is important and needed – it is what makes you whole and able to contribute more fully to your family when you are up there.
#8 Give up your need for praise
You might want everyone to like your work (music), but that’s not going to happen. And, in fact, it’s better that not everyone does like your work. It’s really scary putting yourself out there, especially when your work is so personal and then allowing the world to view it and judge it and critique it.
Self-doubt definitely plays a role, but it can be empowering to know that not everyone is going to love your style of music or love you as a person, and that is OK. It means you are getting at something interesting and something different. As an artist, it isn’t your job to sell the most mass-produced album at Target. Your job is to say something and to reach someone.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in social media praise and the rush of a lot of “likes” on a new release you have posted online. But successful artists know that their growth comes from within and not from external praise.
Thanks for reading!
By: Law Wonders