Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Who's Laughing Now?

You are not a joke.
What I'm pretty sure most non-creative
people think of when they hear
I'm an artist. © Mitch O'Connell

Let me just say that one more time, YOU are not a joke.

One of the biggest challenges that I face as an artist (and that I think plagues most creative people) is this constant feeling of our profession being somehow silly and having to justify the importance of what we do all the time.  We sometimes get it from our family, when they constantly ask us when we're going to grow up and get a "real job."  Sometimes we get it from our friends, or our community, when we're asked, "So what do you do for a living?" We respond, and then are met with, "Oh… do you actually make money doing that?" But a lot of times, I think it simply comes from us.

It comes from us because we are scared.  As a society we have this idea that anyone who is creative and successful has somehow "beaten the odds."  Which sets up a very interesting idea that successful creative lives are not something readily attainable to the average person and can only be achieved by a handful of magically blessed individuals.  This is not true.

Creative professions are just like any other job, they take hard work and dedication but most of all, you have to take yourself seriously.  In most other professions, there are people who do a company's marketing, PR, accounting, market forecasting, selling, buying, social networking, negotiating, developing, production… etc.  You only have you.

You have to learn how to wear and juggle all those roles, or hire people to help you with them.

Most creative people fail because they think they can sit around in their studio all day making art and that if they were really good they would simply be "discovered."  When they are not magically "discovered" they give up, thinking their work was crap and that they were a joke.  However, they weren't a joke at all and they might have been very talented, they simply forgot to show up for all the other job titles they held.  Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue at a major company if only the creative department showed up for work everyday and the CEO and accountants and PR guys and marketing dudes all just disappeared?  Yet that is how most creative people treat their lives, and when they fail, they think they simply weren't talented enough, not that it had anything to do with the fact they were missing their support team.

There is an old saying that is more true in the creative fields than anywhere else I think:  the fastest way to get a job doing what you love is acting like you already have a job doing that thing; eventually all your pretending will turn into reality.  This is ridiculously true.

What you do is not a joke.  Yes, it may seem at times like, "Who is ever going to want to pay money for this thing that I made?  I mean, I'm nobody…" These are just our insecurities talking.  What we do has value, what we do is important, and what we do is not, and never will be a joke.  Which means we need to give it the honor and respect that it deserves.  We need to get serious about ourselves, we need to get serious about our creative well being, and, most importantly, we need to get serious about our work.  Because when we start taking ourselves and our own work seriously, people take notice.  Stop living your creative life apologizing for what you do and start taking pride in it instead.

On that note, I will leave you with this video from Jackie Battenfield, author of "The Artists Guide: How To Make A Living Doing What You Love."  If you are really looking for a place to get started in understanding how to get serious about your creative career, I HIGHLY suggest picking up a copy of Jackie's book.  It is down to earth, easy to read and full of fantastic information for creative individuals.  Enjoy, be inspired, and remember, You are not a joke.  :)

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