Being an artist isn’t always easy. For one thing, people tend to assume they know your true identity based on your work (as if you were trying to hide it from them!) It’s an easy mistake to make, but the fact is, we are so much more than our personalities, our history, our knowledge, or even our experiences. If you allow yourself to experience the process and practice of making art, in whatever form it appeals to you, you are really being a kind of channel.
This channeling is available to everyone, anytime, and anywhere. It is a fact of being human. We make things. As the great but totally goofy George Clinton said at Voodoo Fest one year, “This is what we do.”
The marvelous Keri Smith posted a wonderful list of things that would make an artist miserable. Chris Roberts-Antieau wrote an artist’s statement on “Trusting Direction.” I thought I might make a list that I will call “Artist’s Rights.”
1. You have the right to not care about what other people think. These days, it seems like criticism is both endemic and a market for those who don’t/won’t think for themselves. Spending too much time trying to please everyone results in pleasing no one and will make you inefficient and unhappy. Bottom line? Screw ’em if they don’t get it.
2. You have the right to require time alone. Much of the work that creative people do is done alone. Allowing yourself precious private time is essential, as is keeping people who are full of shit out of your circle and your headspace.
3. You have the right to take your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Some books/films/paintings take years. Art that is personally authentic and substantial is worth waiting for, and you have the right to insist on taking the time you need to make something beautiful.
4. You have the right to claim some authority over what you’ve spent time doing. You are allowed to insist you know what you’re talking about based on your considered experience with, and practice in, your art. You don’t have to have a phD to get people to listen to you if you have clearly devoted yourself to a practice.
5. You have the right to grow and change artistically. People often tend to categorize an artist based on the first successful thing they did. If Ron Howard was expected to be Opie on “Happy Days” the rest of his life, what a disservice that would be to the incredible filmmaking he has accomplished as an adult. People will continue to pigeonhole you. Change anyway.
6. You have the right to NOT talk about your work. Art can make some people uncomfortable. Intellectualizing art is a great way to avoid feeling the emotions that can come up when experiencing it. When someone insists you explain your story/song/picture you are not obligated to tell them. Really. Allowing yourself some secrets will preserve you as a creative person.
7. You have the right to not market your work. Not everything worth making must be sold. Structuring your work for the biggest dollar can put instant limitations on work that could otherwise be groundbreaking. Similarly, you have the right to not “follow the rules.” It can help to know the rules, but it really isn’t a requirement.
8. You have the right to not be a role model. Making art that puts you in the public eye should not also demand that you become a saint. The best work is often made by people who have explored all the vagaries of the human condition. Give yourself a break.
9. You have the right to be passionate. Some artists can get consumed by their work. These moments are like an illness that overtakes them for a time. If this happens, try and allow yourself the experience. Censoring your passion so that others will feel more comfortable doesn’t do you, them, or the art any good.
10. You have the right to keep your own hours. The muse strikes when she is good and ready, and often it is in the middle of the night. If you tell her, “Come back after I’ve had a cup of coffee,” she probably won’t. Don’t let other people give you a hard time about WHEN you need to write, edit, practice, draw, or compose. If you don’t listen when the call comes, who will?
Wishing you a joyous, liberating, delicious, frustrating, indecent, fascinating, immersing, trippy experience with whatever art calls to you!