I’m 21 years old and have been writing since I was a junior in high school. Many a time I have drifted away from my craft, taking breaks from the written word which can at times seem both exhausting and daunting. Yet, I realize time and time again that I have a natural magnetism towards the pen or perhaps it towards me, and for whatever reason we seem to be an inseparable duo – estranged or not. In my five introductory years as a writer, I have encountered a few simple truths that have helped navigate my career thus far. By no means have I persistently abided by these ten tokens of advice, but in taking notes from my peers, learning from my elders, and observing myself, they have become something of a personal doctrine.
What is the context or mental space that allows you to wholly dedicate your energy to your craft? Shut the doors, block out the rest of the world, clear the chaos. Or don’t. You know how your work best. Maybe you’re inviting a hoard of friends over to party while you and your band play. Maybe you are isolating yourself for days on end writing the chapters of your novel. Whatever your method of choice, flow with it. If you want to grow in your medium, be it photography; videography; painting; writing; or instrumentation, you must simply focus in whatever mode suits you best. Build a relationship with your canvas, your instrument, your paintbrush. Get to know it and let it get to know you. Be patient with it. Look at those you admire that have been successful in their creative careers – Jay-Z or John Coltrane, Woody Allen or Woody Harrelson. Ask yourself how they got to where they are today. Learn from their stories, and start writing yours.
2. Stop Talking About It. Just Do It..
We get it. You’re passionate about what you do. And that’s great. But, will your body of work live up to your blab? Oftentimes, the most successful and brilliant are those that feel the least obligated to incessantly talk about what they “do”. Don’t let your craft define you; let it work through you. Remember that actions speak louder than words and that humility and hard work speak even louder.
3. It Is Possible
Look, Beyoncé wasn’t always Queen B. Your role models weren’t born on the big screen. They started off like you, artists with a dream. We have to remember that we are all humans with unique potential. No one can tell you how the cards will play out, not even your skeptical conscience. Have trust in your dreams. Know that rejection is normal and that not everyone may embrace what you do. You are an artist. You are a creator, the only one of your kind. Let your voice be heard! Think big, dream bigger, and don’t knock the hustle!
4. Tend To It Every Day. Like A Plant. Or A Baby.
Practice makes progress, not perfection. We are all learning, growing, and evolving, and so is our art. Doubt and insecurity are normal, but that doesn’t mean that we should fully give into them. It only means that we have room for improvement. If your practice is spotty and sparse, that improvement will tread slowly. At the bare minimum, ten or fifteen minutes a day will allow you to see for this development to take place. Don’t wait for inspiration to come; be your own inspiration. Delve into untrodden territories. Like a baby or a plant, it must be tended to like a living thing. Water it, feed it, play with it, and observe the evolution.
5. Learn From Your Peers. Grow A Community. Use Your Resources.
There is nothing more powerful than a community of artists. With so many different skills, perspectives, and voices, anything is possible. Not all artists are meant to work together or even with other people, but those who are can build and grow together. Don’t be so territorial over your art as to not hear out other opinions or engage in collaborations. Let go of ownership and ego and be a part of something that may be bigger than yourself or anything you could have imagined. When all is said and done, have fun with it!
6. Reach Out To Artists You Admire.
I have been able to speak with some incredible artists, even some of my favorites, because I have simply reached out to them. Some, if not most, have even become personal friends. Whether for an interview, a friendly note expressing admiration, or an advice-laden inquiry, just reach out. If nothing else, people like compliments, talking about themselves, and support. So, why not say hello? Let them share their wisdom with you. Listen to what they have to say.
7. Don’t Have An Agenda.
An object of creation should come without expectation. Let your art speak from your soul. That is all.
8. It’s 2014. Be Professional. Learn About Social Media. Also Be A Part Of The Real World.
OK guys. Social media is important if you want to establish a name for yourself. Don’t rely solely on it, but know how to navigate it. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and the worldwide web are tools. Use them; don’t abuse them. You have to market yourself as a brand, which is why it’s important to have some – if not all – of these social media portals in tact. It’s unfortunate and unusually obligatory, but it goes along with the territory of being an artist or person of ambition in 2014. That being said, get out into the real world too! Perform. Hang your art. Meet people at a concert. You never know who you’ll run across and how they can help you (and vice versa). Some of the coolest people I’ve been able to work with are those I met unexpectedly. Be opened to the world, but also savvy to the workings of the biz.
9. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others.
There is always going to be someone ahead of you, unless you’re Oprah or Obama. Just remember that they are on their journey and you are on yours. The more you focus on what someone else has, the more you become dissatisfied with where you are. As I stressed earlier, you have a vision that is unique to you and only you. Don’t let scrolling through someone else’s braggadocios Instagram feed impede you from doing you.
10. Let Go!
Let go of your identity as molded by others. Be bold and be you!