Recently a good friend send a meme to me, one associated with Jack Ketchum. The meme was sharp and to the point.
There are two things about that meme that hit home for me. First is the quote. Jack doesn’t pull punches and this quote is dead on the money. I shared this with my acting class, in hopes the students would understand how important it is that you remain in the arts if you have to…if it is a call that you cannot, in any way, ignore. They understood that, knew I was saying exactly what Jack Ketchum so evocatively said in his quote. This also hits home because Ketchum wrote one of the most disturbing books I have ever read: The Girl Next Door. If you’ve not done so, read it now…just understand that “Girl” is a tough book to get through. This is a book that hurts.
With that said, I thought I’d offer up some of my own bits of wisdom that will apply to nearly any artistic endeavor. Understand, these are all from my perspective…so they may well not apply to your situation, your needs, your path.
Anyway…to the wisdom cave!
Commitment won’t guarantee success, but a lack of commitment will guarantee failure.
When you begin your career as an artist, you must think in terms of “five year plans”. What is your goal for the next five years? What is your goal for the next ten years? So on and so on. If you start thinking in terms of a month or a year…you’ll soon grow quite disappointed in the lack of results — especially in terms of success. A career in the arts is an endeavor that takes years and years to cultivate. Be patient.
Never get jealous of another artist’s success (be it deserved or not). Instead, celebrate their milestones as you would hope they’d celebrate yours.
The battle cry I offered up to my acting class:
Fight the power
Break the machine
Empower your art
and never back down
Write your truth, not another’s. Your voice, your art, your reality…that is the one true unique you “own”. You may tell a similar story as another, but as long as you tell it with your truth and voice, it will be unequivocally yours.
Know the rules and then break the rules. Don’t just randomly break rules because you think it makes you unique. If you break them without knowing them…you’re most likely just making mistakes.
Live. Don’t just exist. There’s an entire world of inspiration surrounding you in three hundred and sixty degrees. Don’t cocoon yourself in a protective shell such that experiences pass you by and you miss out on life. Life is one of the greatest teachers art ever had.
Do not engage in negative or destructive behavior. This goes for anything and everything. Negativity will prevent you from moving forward. Destructive behavior will take you down.
Laugh at yourself before you laugh at others. Until you can make fun of yourself, you have no right to make fun of others.
Treat your art as the precious cargo it is. Art is not a commodity to be brokered. Art creates a commodity. If you’re not treating that gift with the care it deserves, you don’t deserve that gift.
Never stop learning. If you think you’ve learned everything to know in your field…quit.
Believe in yourself, but not so much that you become blind to reality.
Have faith in your skill, trust in your craft and eventually the truth will be known.
Nurture a strong relationship with your fellow artists. Always. Nothing is as fulfilling as sharing a passion for your craft with others and helping others, cut from a similar cloth, to develop and mature.
Paint outside the lines. Only paint within them when necessary…to build a foundation. Once that foundation has been constructed, go crazy.
Write as if every word counts. Paint as if every stroke was genius. Dance as if that movement could be your last. Sing as if Mozart himself were listening.
Enjoy the tiny successes. If you constantly await a massive victory, you will most often live unfulfilled.
Now, read them all back to yourself…only this time, with a smile. We are all, in one way or another, artists and we owe it to ourselves to exist with grace and truth. Maybe one of these bits o’ advice will help you find yours.