I was the Executive Director for nearly 6 years of a non-profit arts organization. It was a membership based organization and we had anywhere from 12-16 shows per year as well as the largest fine arts festival in New England. Needless to say, I met hundreds and perhaps thousands of artists over the years. Prior to working in this non-profit, I worked for, for-profit art galleries as a tour guide in Providence for 7 years, and I got to know a few dozen gallery owners and the artists they represented. Along with these two jobs, practicing my own art, and teaching, I came to understand the very real challenges of the creative individuals who embarked on producing their own art. Although I loved being around many accomplished and new and emerging artists, what I really was passionate about was the beginning artist. Over the years I was privileged to mentor many amazing people, helping them find their creative voice, and being one of the cheerleaders on their journey with developing their art. As this series develops, I will share insights from my Executive Director days where I developed programs that inspired both artists and their followers. I value your feedback and welcome your comments and questions.
It is a powerful thing, the call of the soul to express itself. As children we humans have no problem making mud pies, coloring outside of the lines and presenting a bouquet of weeds to our mom. It is natural to want to respond to an emotion by creating something. It is natural to want to show love to someone by giving them something beautiful or meaningful. So what happens when you wake up one day and realize that someone you want to give a gift to is yourself? And what if that gift is trying to learn and discover and grow your own talents?
It seems to me that once we become adults we have so many fears, that trying to push them back is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. But is this really true? Can we overcome self-judgment and the fear of failure to embark on a passion and just get started? If that passion is to paint or sculpt or write or sing or any other creative thing it is important to investigate the reasons why we stop ourselves.
Today I want to hone in on one thing. I want to approach the person who longs deeply in their soul to paint, or play the piano, or practice some form of art, but is intimidated to get started. First, I want to outline why most people don’t take the first step:
- FEAR: You are afraid it’s too late and you can never catch up and be great. The human brain craves to learn new things, it’s what keeps us young in our minds. It’s seems so overwhelming because it is new and not tried and true. Humans are creatures of habit, and if you are used to doing something, you are usually unafraid of it. But the human ego is very guarded and does not like taking the risk of failure. The ego wants to know it will succeed before it starts. It knows what failure feels like and hates that pain. Beginning to start practicing an art form can be daunting because the ego sees the end goal. So the cure is to quiet the ego by reminding yourself that all you have to do is take the first step. Pick up your art supplies or instrument and do the first lesson or doodle, keep it simple and slow. If you think in terms of laying bricks to build a house, then you know you start by laying the first brick, then all the other bricks fall into place. Every time you accomplish the next step you gain confidence and become less afraid. The trick is to start in the head, learning and side-stepping and outsmarting your ego until your art becomes intuitive and fluid.
- VUlNERABILITY: Being a beginner can make you feel insecure. We all had someone in our lives that cut us down somewhere along the way. This is an opportunity to shut that voice in your head out forever. Also, remember there is no way that you can possibly be good at everything. Just think of all the subjects you could have studied but didn’t. You could live a thousand lifetimes and never know everything. Try to think of learning something new as being given another chance at childhood, only this time you are older and wiser. You should be proud you are trying something that you always wanted to try.
- JUDGEMENT: No one wants to be compared to someone who is more accomplished. Instead of letting this mind trick stop you, remember there is always something you have experience in that you do better than someone else. You have to start somewhere and better now than later. Take that negative energy of feeling judged, and let it motivate you to work hard to reach your goals.
- YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START: Carve out a space for creativity in your home that does not have to be moved. Find the products you need to get started. Take a class, or watch youtube videos in the art form you desire. And remember be patient, there is no pressure to find instant success, just trust and enjoy the process. You may find it beneficial to find a local group of artists and join them, non-profits are great for this and they are located everywhere. It is so much easier to be creative when you have like-minded accomplices. If music is your thing there are always open mic nights where you can meet people who love what you love. For whatever you want to try, glass-blowing, pottery, metal work, whatever it is, trust me, there will always be someone to help you on your journey.
- YOU DON’T HAVE THE TIME: If you want it bad enough you will make the time, try to make the time by cutting something out of your life like an hour or so of TV. Sometimes it’s wise to get into a pattern, a routine of doing things at the same time everyday or on a specific day. If you dedicate 30 minutes to an hour a day studying about your art or practicing it, the time adds up, and you will find that you are getting somewhere.
These are just a few starting points to consider. Was one of them your reason for putting off your desire to be an artist? Can you put that behind you now?
Sometimes the mystery that surrounds artists of all types causes people to think that artists have a secret power that they, the viewer, were simply not born with. I could say the same thing about mathematicians, but the truth is, it’s all about repetition, practice, and of course your DNA can factor in for sure. We all have limitations, so be realistic and happy every time you cross a milestone. You will always get better if you practice. Being creative and practicing art can make you happy, and we all want that. So let me encourage you to start today.
You’ve got this!!! Go for it!!
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The Sarah Hale Folger Project seeks to inspire greatness in humanity by sharing inspiring stories with the world. Please contact me through my website at http://www.SarahHaleFolger.com
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