Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. —Pablo Picasso
Oh, the fundamental crises in developing a professional career as an artist:
The business of art eclipses the pure bliss you used to feel just by creating.
Instead of doing the work that makes you happy, you scrounge to make a living and pay the bills, and when you do make, you feel the pressure to create something new, something that has never been thought of by anyone else.
You think you don’t have the time to commit to creativity, because there are too many other things to do. “Life” takes over.
The list goes on.
After finishing grad school last spring, I found myself wallowing in a spiral of debt, self-doubt, and a nasty creative block. By the time summer was over, I had produced no new work, quit the one job I had, and was marinating in the sludge of self-pity I’d been lowering myself into for months.
It wasn’t until my husband openly told me that I was failing myself—and our marriage—that I snapped out of it. I had been unsure of myself, my goals, and my abilities, that I had cornered myself into believing that I was only capable of exactly what was written on my CV: the things I had already tried. For weeks he tried to convince me that I was capable of so much more.
Finally, after I swallowed the gargantuan lump of pride that was keeping me from believing in my own value, I picked myself up and started making a change.
Here are the four steps to living creatively:
1. Make time every single day to be creative in a judgment-free environment.
Even if it’s as simple as journaling your day-to-day thoughts and ideas, do it. Every day. If you prefer doodles, keep a sketchbook. Just do something creative. When you’re actively building your skills and ideas, the creative genius you’ve been burying deep gets a chance to breathe. Soon you’ll itch to make. It will be the highlight of every single day.
2. Immerse yourself in works you admire.
The best way to develop yourself as an artist is to know what you like in other people’s work. Study the techniques of artists who are successful in their craft. Be floored by the beauty other people are capable of making. Aspire to their level of creativity.
Some of the best work I have ever made was born while listening to a mesmerizing album. When I see the finished piece, I still hear that music.
3. Surround yourself with people who fuel you.
If the people in your life don’t inspire you, reconsider why you let them stay at all. Get out there and find different people with similar interests. Take a class in something that intrigues you. Go to a gallery opening on a Friday night, instead of hiding in your house with a bottle of whiskey.
By not sharing your knowledge and skills with others, and learning from them in return, you are missing out on the potential for exponential growth.
Network. Use social media to your advantage!
4. The internet. Use it.
It’s your greatest asset. I have sold most of my work through social media. It’s the perfect opportunity to share your work with people you would most likely never meet otherwise. In today’s digital world, you have to get on board if you want to be noticed.
Create a stunning website (buy yourself a domain!), and publicize it in your networks. Learn to photograph or record your work beautifully, or else find someone you trust who can capture your work in its best light for you, because your work deserves to look incredible online.
And brand yourself. I can’t say that enough, so I’ll say it again: brand yourself. Give yourself an identity that people can associate with you when they see it. Determine what you want them to get out of your work, and what you want people to see in you, and then make sure that every professional and personal thing you do fits into it. When people Google your name, they’ll want cohesion.
The more these four steps become habit, the more you will find that they infiltrate and enhance every aspect of your world.
Never stop nurturing your creativity.
Being an artist takes dedication and persistence. But if you are like me, and honesty and sincerity come most easily through making, then it will be a worthy labor of love.
Caroline Baker Mazure is a fine artist based in the Detroit area. She has her Bachelor’s in art from the University of Dallas, and her Master of Fine Art from Cranbrook Academy of Art. She has shown her work in galleries and establishments all over the United States, and is currently teaching elementary level art through a nonprofit that brings art classes back to low-income schools. She can usually be found covered in paint and drinking whiskey in her studio. You can check out her work here.