“In order to make it, you have to be really ambitious. Talent without ambition is nothing; you have to drive yourself to make things. And it’s the same thing with creativity: if you have a lot of ambition without creativity, you might not go anywhere.” — Jacob Escobedo, Cartoon Network’s VP of Creative Design
There’s nothing wrong with making art for art’s sake, discovering your voice and message slowly. There’s nothing wrong with making art for yourself and maybe some of your friends. However, if you want to have a creative career that is much bigger in scope, you need to have ambition, and you need to plan for success.
If you’re truly committed to having a fully realized creative career, then here are some mistakes you should avoid.
1. You are inconsistent with creative output.
The word “output” makes it sound like you work in an art factory. And art certainly isn’t a mechanical process, but when was the last time you finished a creative project? When is the next time? If you can’t answer immediately, then this is your first problem.
Waiting until the muse strikes isn’t helping your career. There are methods for increasing your creativity and you should use them to foster consistent activity. Without structure, it is easy for your artistic projects to stall and for you to abandon them.
If you don’t have one already, it’s time to write a project list for the year or create an idea book (or file on your computer). It doesn’t hurt to think ahead. When you know you have a queue of projects, it’s harder to get stuck on just one.
2. You’re hiding yourself as an artist.
When you meet someone, do you tell this new acquaintance you’re an artist? If you’re not, you’re making a huge mistake!
This person could become a big supporter in the future or even a buyer of your work. When you don’t identify as an artist, you’re depriving someone of an opportunity to become a fan of yours. You’re robbing the people around you from being healed or inspired by your art. That’s not fair.
Do you know what else? When you don’t present yourself as an artist, you convince yourself more and more that you’re not a “real” artist and that no one cares about your work. How can anyone care if you don’t give them a chance?
3. Your Internet presence is weak.
When you start meeting people and telling them you’re an artist, how are they going to learn more about you and your work? Too many artists don’t spend enough time building a presence on the Web. This will have an impact on your creative career. Nowadays, An internet presence is the equivalent of having a calling card.
Improving your Internet presence will not only tell people more about you, but it will also give others in far away places an opportunity to get to know you.
Your website can be as simple or as complicated as you like: your name and contact information with a few pictures of your work or some excerpts of your writing. Your Web presence could consist of a blog and a Twitter account. Maybe you’re only on Pinterest. Whatever it is, pay attention to it and constantly groom your Internet presence.
4. You ignore anything but compliments on your work.
Why do you make your art? Hopefully, it was to engage with people. If they were engaged enough to talk with you about your work (good, or bad), then why are you ignoring them?
Not all criticism is valid, and no artist should feel compelled to change their art based on what someone says … unless that comment or even criticism sparks a new thought, leading down a new creative path.
Likewise, beware of letting constant praise get in your head. Sometimes too much satisfaction with ourselves slows down our work.
5. You are not building relationships.
Some of the best artists, writers and musicians socialized and inspired each other. As an artist, you need to find a community of like-minded individuals that you can benefit from and can benefit from you in return. Over time you should build relationships with established artists so that you can exchange ideas and relay experiences.
Building these relationships take time and a sincere dedication to the process. Don’t just randomly send a fellow artist a note asking for a favor. Instead, get to know their work. Become a fan, if you aren’t one already. Share their work with the people in your life. Once you have done these things, you are ready to reach out and let them know how much you appreciate them and their work. You can also mention your work and invite them for a coffee and talk. Or go to their next show (or reading or recital) and invite them to yours. This may require stepping out of your comfort zone -but it’s worth it!
Giving and receiving are a part of a continuum that builds relationships. As an aspiring artist, you need to make a significant effort to spread the word about yourself and your art.
Don’t let these mistakes get in the way of building your creative career.