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3 Simple Commitments You Can Make To Start Being a Better Artist

Photo by Eddy Klaus on Unsplash

1. Create more than you consume.

In the past, I’ve found it too easy to consume. Especially at the end of a long workday - after a long commute - to flop down on the couch and consume.

To mindlessly consume an endlessly streamed show, consume pre-packaged junk food, or in more recent months consume the news. Then to climb into bed afterwards and devour books. This is too easy. It’s addictive. It’s numbing. It’s an escape from troubled times.

But this won’t make you an artist. You need to create.

I believe it’s better to take anything troubling, worrying and frustrating and pour it into a new project. To process it through creation rather than numb it with consumption.

It’s too easy in our world today, bathed in a consumerist culture, to take in more than we need to. To seem knowing, ‘being in the know’ of transient and ultimately meaningless things. Trending shows. Fast fashion. Socially viral memes. I feel like an old curmudgeon just saying this.

Because these are the transient artefacts of our collective moment, our zeitgeist.

There is a loss in ignoring it all. But everything we consume becomes a part of us. It can both weigh us down, or it can distract and delude us into thinking it is important.

It’s crucial to absorb the world around you.

To learn, to know and to absorb through all your senses, the wonders and creations of others.

But only to a point.

At some point, we need to draw the curtains, turn off the feeds, and reflect on what we’ve seen.

I often find myself reading, reading, reading. Voraciously absorbing every shared lesson, tutorial and method on how to write. But taking in all this work from your betters can drown out your own creative voice.

In our current world, it’s so so easy to be swept away in a torrent of information, to convince ourselves that we are learning how to create.

But, you must actually create to hear your own voice. To strengthen it and make it heard. It is in the doing that we learn the most. We need to balance consumption with creation and ideally favour the latter.

To create requires sacrifice.

We need to give up certain comforts; the distraction and escape of happier and more numbing fictional worlds.

It’s not easy to stop watching TV to park the streaming services. To step away from the shows, everyone is talking about. Or series that you enjoy watching with your wife, shared time together.

But in the weeks that we’ve skipped them, I’ve found I write more; I paint more. We both experience the time as more. Consuming makes time fleeting.

As it is, I often have trouble finishing works; something new and shiny always comes along. Netflix does not make it any easier.

Creating requires being present.

If you want to be an artist, you need to carve out time for the hard labour of actual creation, not the fantasy of creation.

To spend time with yourself and create what matters to you. Embracing the discomfort of creation and expression is necessary for growth.

Creation over consumption has since become a mantra for me.

Nicolas Cole, one of the top writers online, has the same belief. In his book The Art and Business of Online Writing he states:

I have a rule I live by, and it goes like this:

“The number of hours I spend consuming should never equal or exceed the number of hours I spend creating.”

2. Know what matters to you.

Not what matters to the people that matter to you. Not what matters to the talking heads with the ticker tape distractions spooling underneath. Not to the screaming voice at the lectern, persuasive and pressuring.

You need to know what matters to you. And why.

It does not need to be political or spiritual. But the things that stir passion within you. In a chaotic world with thousands of messages a day, a million distractions, and billions of voices - we need to know our own truth.

I care deeply about where psychology and creativity collide.

The emotional blockers that get in the way of making art. There are a thousand ways to make something, often shared in detail by talented people. But if you cannot get your head and heart back into the right places, they don’t matter one whit.

For me, this comes from years of self-doubt. Having this get in the way of whatever knowledge I have about how to write or to paint. What matters to me is unblocking my own creativity, and helping other artists do the same.

We need to know where we draw lines, where we stick to our guns.

Where our integrity begins, it’s from these clear boundaries and where these intersect with the world that our creativity springs forth.

Where our own wondrous works come from.

It’s from this foundation that we can uncover our purpose. Then we can stoke our passions and pour them into creative work and have it resonate with someone.

Somewhere someone else feels similarly. Being honest about what you do believe and then vulnerable enough to share is how connection happens.

3. Practice in public.

Share before you are ready.

No matter the effort you put in or the time you sink in your art, it needs to see the light of day for it to grow.

It needs to be seen - experienced by others - loved or hated for it to flourish.

For your own growth, you need to climb over the hurdle of self-doubt and fear, to break it down with repeated mashing of the Publish button. The more often you share, the easier it will become. It is daunting but so necessary.

You need to submit to the review of others.

We need to risk rejection to find acceptance. This is where the painful, fast, iterative growth happens, in collaboration with our audience, our future friends and possible fans. Out in the open, in public, with others.

Your art will wither in the dark, by itself, hidden and eventually forgotten.

I started by choosing a weekly online contest with a low bar (1000 words), free entry, lots of flexibility (5 prompts each week) and a large friendly community.

  • I know I have the time in a week to write 1000 words.
  • I know one of the prompts will inspire something worth writing about
  • The deadline forces me to share a piece before I think it is perfect.

The odd bit of feedback, a like or a comment, contributes to a positive loop that picks up momentum. It keeps me going.

For painting, I take ‘commissions’, more like requests really from family and friends. They cover some of the costs, and I am more focused on their specific interests and the cues from their homes. All combined it keeps me practising and learning in a structured way.

What started as a lockdown resurgence of an old hobby, now has led to a very fulfilling practice with my art in multiple homes.

Find your own learning loops, that keep you excited, that make you want to create and share every week. That keeps you accountable. But most importantly, it keeps you learning and creating.

So, to be a better artist:

Create more than you consume.

Know yourself and your purpose.

Share your work and learn.

Keep creating, keep learning, keep sharing.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Opinion Piece, Self-Help