Something important I thought I’d write about is having an artistic support group. I mean whether you’re a writer, a painter, a performer, or what have you, I think that it’s important you find a group of people whom you can count on. They’ve got to be honest but supportive of your art. Having that support is important no matter what your profession or life calling, but I feel it’s especially important for those who go against the societal norm and particularly for artists (we’re such sensitive creatures ha).
When art is created it isn’t just paint slapped on a canvas, or words scattered on a page. It’s so much more than that. And if that was all you did then you didn’t create true art. How could it be? Art is a form of expression and it requires a bit of your soul as payment. A touch of your emotion, a pinch of your past, a dash of your thoughts…a piece of your essence is extrapolated during the creation process whether you give it willingly or not and that is what sets artists apart from others.
When you present a data report sure it’ll somewhat reflect your character and how much dedication you have to your job by how well you wrote it/present it but it doesn’t truly cost you anything. If they don’t like the report well that’s not your fault, it’s just numbers and facts. Don’t shoot the messenger! But when an artist creates something and an audience jeers or dismisses it, they not only turned their noses at the medium of art (clay, novel, play, etc.) but at the artist. An artist doesn’t just report or reflect, they imagine and create.
Of course sometimes it’s not really you they didn’t like, perhaps they simply don’t enjoy opera so no matter how well you performed you’d never win them over, maybe they see pottery and would simply rather pay less for a factory produced equivalent, or maybe they thought your writing was excellent but they simply have no taste for the fantasy genre. It’s not really you they didn’t like. But as an artist it can be hard to remember this and that’s because our art contains a piece of us. By putting it out in the world for all the people to judge we by default put our heart on the line. Because sometimes you create something you worked so hard on, felt so inspired by, and feel so proud of…and it won’t be enough. There will always be naysayers (some kind, some horrible) and although they may only mean to critique the work, by default they are also critiquing you (and gosh this only becomes a more disgusting swamp to deal with when social media and anonymity comes into play). And that hurts. Which is why I feel having a support group is so important.
It could be a club, a class, or even simply a group of good friends with whom you meet for coffee once a month to discuss your project. Maybe they’re also artists or maybe they know nothing about art except that they enjoy it. It’s important to have people who will support you but also be honest with you and therefore aid in improving your craft. I also think it’s important to have a bit of diversity in your support group. As a writer it’s important I connect with other writers, but it’s equally important that I have other artists and non-artists on my team. The only thing it will do is provide me with more perspective, more insight, and more support.
I see things a certain way, writers see things a certain way, everyone sees things their own way. So it’s important that you gather those varied viewpoints and opinions and use them to make your work better. However I am not saying that you have to take every opinion as law and make every change they suggest. Listen to their thoughts and reasoning, then decide for yourself what changes you should make and what you believe should remain untouched. You decide.
But it’s important not to create art alone. Sure maybe you’d prefer writing the first draft in solitude (me!), in fact that’s probably a good idea so you don’t get too overwhelmed by people’s opinions before your project can even breathe (talk about giving it an identity crisis!), but somewhere between inception and presentation it’s an extremely good idea to get a few opinions on it so you can tweak it if needed simply because art isn’t meant to be hidden and alone. Art isn’t meant to be kept in the dark for no one to see. Art is meant to connect with people. Not a person, people. It’s part of the magic.
Being connected with these people will also help you truly understand how everyone sees things differently. Not everyone will share or understand your vision and it’s your job to do your best to reach them but to be content with the knowledge that you can’t force your art on everyone. And honestly it’s a good thing. Painful and disappointing? Yes. But good. Because that’s the beauty of humanity, of life. We’re all unique.
But as I said it can be painful and downright difficult to accept this fact. And when you receive any sort of negative or lackluster feedback you may be tempted to give up and believe them. Sometimes they may be right (Did you have too many typos or tropes in your story? etc.) but sometimes you have to realize it’s just an opinion and brush it aside.
If you write (or produce any form of art) for anyone but yourself (as selfish as that sounds) then you can never rest in satisfaction. By this I mean that first and foremost you have to love your art. Because if you don’t, who will? Maybe others will and you’ll receive that external satisfaction (praise, a paycheck, whatever). But if they don’t and you don’t then what was it for? Was it even truly art if it expressed nothing? But if you love your art then no matter if you’re the only one it will have meant something, it will have been worth the effort of creating, and it will allow you to remain strong and proud and inspired to continue.
I’ve been hoarding my novels for years because I’ve been too afraid to let the world judge them (and to be honest some of them simply weren’t at a level worth being published). The world is often not a very kind place (I admit I can be one of those tough not-so-kind people at times). But I really love the books I’ve chosen to publish and I feel as if I’m cheating myself, hiding myself, if I don’t share them. I’ve spent a lot of time with myself and with my small but feisty support group and I’ve finally grown the headspace to accept that not everyone will love what I write. It probably won’t be the next Harry Potter, it won’t be the first book on Goodreads to receive 5-stars from every reader who picks it up, and it won’t launch me into Cinderella-esque stardom. And I. Am. Okay.
It was like shackles had fallen from my chest when I finally accepted that (although I still sometimes need reminders from my kickass friends). I can breathe. I’m going to get some good reviews that will make me dance on the ceiling and I’m going to get some bad reviews by readers who were simply bored out of their mind or woefully disappointed and I’ll be tempted to cry in a closet. I want only good reviews and I will certainly continue working day and night to hone my craft so that every book I write gets better and better, but I’m not living terrified that anything less than perfection will crush me (this is seriously saying something because I’m one of those notorious perfectionists everyone loved/hated in group projects in school). It won’t because I won’t let it. All I can do is try my damn well hardest and be firstly proud of myself for even trying.
I’m a writer who is publishing not one but many novels and honestly, how many people can say the same? (Okay fine with digital publishing turning into a booming market the answer is a lot of people but it’s still a tiny percentage of the human population!)
So no matter what type of artist you are or what your medium is, find yourself a support group of comrades and allow yourself to wade the waters of uncomfortable truth armed by your own love for what you do. If you don’t love it then don’t do it. Simple as that. You’ve got to love it or you’ll hate it and yourself in the process.
Find your squad/tribe/team/board/band/club/gang/family and create. You’re going to hear the word ‘No’ but don’t you for one second listen (unless it’s genuinely good advice like don’t murder someone to win. That’s a bad bad idea. Don’t do that. Keep an eye on those method actors 😜)
Until next time…
P.S. Oh! And if you’d like to join my tribe then by all means welcome! Follow my social media but best of all join my Facebook group Talismonium and become an official Talismanian Devil 😜 I’d love to have you and feel free to post and connect with fellow readers as much as you’d like!