Monday, 24 November 2014

Create an Artistic Life - Part 2 - Want to be a pro?

When I was young, I received the following bits of advice:

"Hang out with those you want to be like the most." and it's corollary, "Whoever you hang out with, that's who you'll become."

I also received, "Act as if you are already where you want to be."

When I was young, I was also stupid and didn't fully understand these pearls of wisdom for what they truly were. Fortunately, I have gained some wisdom as I age. (Man, why didn't anyone tell me [convincingly] how stupid I was how not to be stupid when I was younger?)1

So how does this relate to being a professional artist?

It's all about the mindset.

Professional isn't about what you do or where you are, it's all about how you act regarding your craft.

I only truly figured out professionalism about five years ago when I realised I needed to take my craft seriously. Until then I had dreams of being a pro author, but I had the habits and attitude of a hobbyist.
Serious cat is serious.
So here I was, watching my fellow OWW peeps' careers practically skyrocketing while I was lucky to get a handful of short story sales here and there. I sat around with my thumb in my mouth wondering what was going on.

What was going on was they were focused, dedicated and serious about their craft. It really meant something to them.

1. It's not a game. It's real. You gotta ask yourself: do you really want to be an artist, or are you just playing? If you're just playing, then don't be surprised at the tepid little results.

2. Your Art is a priority. You've got stuff you need. Sleep. Food. Supportive human relationships. You do what you gotta do to ensure you have the needful stuff. Your Art should also be a priority, if you want it bad enough. Don't try to fit Art in around the other stuff you have to do. Do your Art first, and fit in other stuff around it.

3. What would a professional artist do? Sit down, make a list, put some thought into this, ask a pro. Know what they actually do, because you need to be doing it as well.

4. Have a plan. Pros always have a plan. Spontaneity, good vibes, sheer dumb luck and "I'll get around to it" are not good plans. "Being published in five years time" is also not a good plan.  "Finish a novel, crit a novel, pitch an agent, write another novel" -- that's a plan.

Her Grace regrets the time she wasted not being serious about the craft.

1There is a difference between saying "Hey, you're stupid!" and "Here's how not to be stupid." At least I had enough sense in my youth to recognise the difference and listen to the latter. It's a shame their advice was few and far between.

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