"You can have what you want if you prepare for it." A lovely instructor of design professed this sentiment to our intro class on the very first day. She said this had proved true for her in her life over and over. If she wanted to teach, she had to do the work, apply to graduate school, and so on. She also had us write a resume of our future. Mine is slowly being fulfilled, though it may have taken longer than anticipated.
Often our goals can seem to be blocked by insurmountable hills, so break them up into little tiny leg-strengthening steps. I've never forgotten this and have held to this belief and practice as I have emerged as a creative. I have learned to take small steps and to never ever stop taking them. Often times when I am most ready to retreat, something will happen to encourage me; so hold on and take even the smallest of steps.
Be ferociously, unendingly, tenaciously determined. Take those steps and never stop improving and most importantly, believing in yourself. Is your step to write a paragraph a day? A word a day? A poem a week? To submit? Maybe to stop trying to go somewhere as you work and instead create with full presence? No matter what hills appear, (because obviously life is full of them), don’t forget to stay focused on your goal, even if at times it seems ever so distant.
"It is the successes that matter." This is yet another quote from a brilliant Professor. I have reminded myself of this many times. Those rejection letters got you down? Focus on a small success for encouragement, because that IS what matters. Apply to 50 jobs? The good one you got is what’s important. This is elemental to an artist and writer. Further, I see rejections as an opportunity for improvement. What can we do differently? Or how can we be more confident in our work? Maybe that opportunity wasn’t the correct fit for you.
“Take photographs with the cameras you have.” Yet another quote from a favorite Professor, my take on it is: Do what you can. When I couldn't afford canvas, I painted on cardboard; watercolor, acrylics, gouache. Prior to my dslr I used disposables, a 1970s Nikon, a point and shoot. The work I created with “the cameras that (I) have” has been some of my most cherished. Don't let a limited circumstance, budget, materials, or time stop you. If something is legitimately holding you back? Just do what you can do with what you do have. When my computer isn't working I use a tablet to write, or an old-fashioned pen and pad. As for time, I literally write whenever and wherever I am and can (safely) multitask. I would love all the right circumstances for creation, but sometimes that isn't available and working under challenging conditions will help you improve that much more. Often my work is dependent on my circumstances, and I view that as a positive challenge. If I can’t paint in my new place I can photograph, and if I can’t photograph I can write…
“You have unlimited potential, you need only to be encouraged to go as far as you can.” As you continue on your journey, don’t ever give up and continue to encourage yourself. My all-time favorite Professor wrote this quote on the back of one of my papers. It has meant so much to me to think back on and to have this to remember, even years later. I felt like he really understood me, without having to explain. I think this is a healthy motto to tell yourself, even if you don’t have a magical Professor or mentor or friend speaking these words to you. You can encourage yourself, because you are the one who really has to do it.
Create with wild abandon. Do not seek approval, do not wait; create! I used to think I needed to figure out what someone else wanted and fulfill those desires or standards with my work. Keep working. Develop your own standards, fulfill your own desires and do for you. The more you do this the more you will emerge. You are your own butterfly.
Do for you. Own your life, your career, that calling inside you. Your life is a craft. Go all out 100% and build it. I used to be reticent about claiming myself an artist. Now I do it, and do it at 100%. There will be challenges, roadblocks, ups and downs, sacrifices; life is like that.
It can be hard to stay strong, and I think we need to encourage and embrace one another on this non-linear life path. There have been times I have wondered why I choose to be a creative, and there are people around me that remind me that I didn’t choose- most likely if you are an artist and/or a writer, it is something that lives inside you. This living thing deserves your attention and deserves to emerge; because you do. I hope these thoughts help encourage you to continue to do so.
What quotes, mottos, or lessons have you learned on your path as a creative? What beliefs or messages can you rely on when you need encouragement to carry on?
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