3 Major Challenges Emerging Artists Face (And How to Overcome Them)

Eisklettern_kl_engstligenfallYou’ve made a commitment to being an artist. You’re not hiding your creative side anymore, and when people ask what you do, your art is included in the description (if not leading it). Congratulations! As you march towards your goal of becoming a successful artist – whatever that means to you – you’re bound to face these obstacles in one form or other.

  1. The Catch-22 Problem: You can’t get your work shown, produced, or published because you’re not a name brand, but you can’t become a name brand until you get your work shown, produced, or published. This is the familiar lament of emerging artists everywhere.

    What you can do about it: There’s not a silver bullet solution to this problem and it takes time, but there are steps you can take to get your work recognized.  Do the art for art’s sake first. Then figure out what themes run through your work so you can speak intelligently about it. Get comfortable talking about your work. Create a succinct and exciting description of what you are doing (otherwise known as your elevator pitch) that rolls off your tongue and will make others interested in knowing more.  Socialize with other artists and producers in your medium.  Get involved in an organization that supports artists in your field. Become a fixture in the community. Take the initiative to produce your own small shows, productions, or short films, collaborate with friends on projects, make friends with bloggers and other press on the scene.  All this activity contributes to the relationship building that is essential to getting your work noticed and supported.  It will help others get to know you better and in turn they will contribute to a critical mass around you that is necessary for you to breakthrough.

  2. The Cash Problem: You are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of materials or software you need to buy to support your creative practice. You can’t afford the classes you’d like to take to increase your skill set. The kitchen table or garage isn’t cutting it anymore, and you need a new workspace pronto.

    What you can do about it: Save your money. Being an artist isn’t cheap. You need to invest in yourself before you ask others to do the same. Maybe you cut back on the fancy coffees. Or bring lunch to the office more often. Trim some kind of indulgence and put it in your artist fund. If you have a few shows or publications under your belt, you can begin to apply for grants to support your work. Do a crowd-funding campaign to finance one aspect of a specific project-start small ($5,000 or less) so that you reach your goal.  There are even residencies that provide artists space for their practice. Caution: grant applications can become a job unto themselves! Apprentice with a more established artist for access to advanced machinery. Barter for leftover materials or equipment.  Split the cost of the software with some friends. There are a myriad of ways to get access to what you need.

  3. The Confidence Problem: You are comfortable telling people you’re an artist, but you’re not so comfortable telling them about what type of art you create. You downplay your work by telling people it’s not that interesting or that it’s not groundbreaking and you don’t know why you do it.

    What you can do about it: Bite your tongue. Well, not literally. Every time you get the urge to sweep your creative work under the rug or downplay its significance, say something nice about it instead. If you don’t believe in your work no one else will!  And if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Change the subject, or tell the person you’re speaking with that you’re far too superstitious about your art to talk about it.  Regularly take the time to go inward and get in touch with why you do what you do and what is good about it.  The more you say positive things about your creative projects, the better you’ll feel about them and the more confident you’ll become.

Are there any challenges on this list that keep you from growing as an artist? Do you have any creative solutions to these common problems that we didn’t already mention?

So What! … Dealing with Rejection

So-WhatThere’s always a risk when you put your creative work out into the world. Is the work ready to be seen? And what do we do when we show our creative work and we have a less than enthusiastic response? Dealing with rejection and criticism is a natural and necessary part of any creative process. It’s hard not to take it personally. So what do you do when you’re feeling shot down, you’re feeling that it’s an attack on who you are creatively and it hurts to the core?

So much of how we deal with rejection is dependent on the narratives we write in our heads and these narratives are often the results of lifelong patterns that develop from the time we were children and how we were conditioned by parents, teachers, society, the media, our peers and other negative noise that we have been bombarded with throughout life.

“SO WHAT!” is one of my favorite mantras. It’s a brilliant response not to let negativity into your psyche. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen? So they don’t like it. So they don’t produce it. SO WHAT!  If you can, try to find out specific feedback about what they liked and didn’t like.  It is better to know so that you can progress toward making your work the best it can be.  And each rejection will get you closer to the right people who will work with you.  It only takes one to say yes.

Best selling authors J.K Rowling, Joseph Heller, Pearl S. Buck, John Grisham and Dr. Seuss are among an endess list of artists who endured numerous rejections of their work and went on to be wildly successful.   The entertainment industry is filled with people who will tell you no –often for the most arbitrary of reasons.  Learning to practice detachment from a specific outcome helps to build your inner resilience and courage to step out of your comfort zone and follow your vision in the face of negativity.

Other than having the talent to create the work, dealing well with rejection is probably the single most important skill an artist can develop to be a success.

Here are some tips on how to deal with criticism and rejection and not let it hold you back:

  1. In the beginning of your process, only show your work to a few trusted friends or colleagues who know how to effectively give criticism.  A work of art is delicate and evolving , so don’t expose yourself to someone who wouldn’t have your best interest at heart.
  2. Listen to criticism with an open mind but only take in what resonates with you and disregard the rest. You don’t have to agree with it. However,  if you are getting similar comments from multiple people you might want to consider it. But remember to trust your instincts and stay true to your personal creative vision. It’s your work!
  3. If you are not sure that it’s ready, don’t show it too soon to people who might be interested in producing or working with you, as you may only get one opportunity to show it to them.
  4. Reach out to the people for whom your work is the best fit.  Do your research and know who is right for you. For instance if you are a screenwriter writing character driven stories – don’t target an action movie producer or director to read your screenplay unless you know specifically that he or she is looking for your kind of material.
  5. Take some time every day to go within, and nurture yourself.  It’s important to take a the time and feel your feelings -even the pain of rejection and criticism – but don’t wallow in it. Give yourself a limit.  And then do something that makes you feel good and allows you to detach from it.  Tap into the joy of your creative work regardless of who likes it or doesn’t.
  6. Develop a core support group of like-minded creatives who will be able to empathize with you through the ups and downs of your career.

Remember what one of my heroes Eleanor Roosevelt said : “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  So don’t give anyone that power over your state of being.

If you are looking for a community of like-minded creative artists to share resources with and help you stay on track and keep resilient, consider joining one of our upcoming Creative Breatkthroughs workshops starting in January 2014.  For more information click here 

What are some of the ways that you stay strong in the face of rejection? Please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Our Newest Workshop Off to a Great Start!

joannespeaking  Our newest NYWIFT (New York Women in Film and Television) workshop started up last Tuesday and is really inspiring! I’m thrilled about the group, made up of smart, creative, motivated women and ONE man! It’s a diverse group of writers, actors, musicians, digital media makers and filmmakers who are working in a variety of genres. They’re all excited about taking their projects to the next level.

Do you feel fear or lack of clarity is holding you back? Would you like to work in an area where you can truly excel and express yourself? These are some of the issues we address in the workshop and in the past there have been some amazing results – people who are doing what they always wanted to do and getting paid for it! (Be sure to check out the testimonials on this website).

We will be starting up a new artist career support workshop in the near future for New Jersey residents, and another New York group as well. If you are interested, drop me a line at: joanne@zipcreative.net.

Complimentary 30-minute consultations are also available for individual coaching.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to be up on all the latest happenings.