Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Risking Something - Sanely

Monkey + Seal are big fans of Seth Godin, a visionary marketer who knows how to be remarkable in a world of mediocrity. A few days ago, he posted this:

The problem with putting it all on the line...

is that it might not work out.

The problem with not putting it all on the line is that it will never (ever) change things for the better.

Not much of a choice, I think. No risk, no art. No art, no reward.

Inspiring and true? We couldn't agree more. Risking something is scary. You could fail, people might make fun of you (although, really?), you might be in debt, there are a lot of things that could go wrong. What we find, however, is that for many artists, this idea needs to be tweaked a bit.

Most of the time, when it comes to take a chance, we think of the worst scenario. What if I use all of my savings to pursue art and no one buys from me? Scary, right? Well, a lot of times, that is what separates the truly legendary from the known, the amazing from the good. If you're at the top of your game and you want to go for it, do it! Risk it all, and change the world.

However, many of us artists who aren't art giants like James Jean or Ryan McGinness, we're just trying to create something that we love and that we might possibly make a living off of. Many of us don't have huge savings to get us by if we don't sell art, or are time strapped since you're working 40-50 hour weeks just to get by. You might be like Monkey and have $200,000 in student loan debt. You might have been told that you would never succeed in art, or in life.

As children, artists are usually not fostered with the love and care that a child who wants to grow up to be a doctor or lawyer or (now) software engineer will be nurtured. Us artists are generally the troublemakers, the ones who think outside the box, who constantly asked "why?" in class, who might not have fit in with society's norms. Thus, many of us grew up with a society that doesn't like us telling us how we should be. We're ingrained with the scarcity mindset of only a few select artists being able to make it. We compare ourselves to giants when we're just setting out to learn how to paint.

It's hard being an artist.

So while I believe that you need to put it all on the line to be a professional artist (emphasis on the professional), it doesn't need to be this sink-or-swim mentality. You don't have to risk your entire savings, or your financial well-being, or your ability to sleep in a warm bed and eat a decent meal, or to be able to afford internet. What you do have to risk, however, is much scarier for most.

You have to risk your pride, your ego, the safety of being unknown, and your life.

You have to constantly put your work out there for judging by the masses (because if they never see it, how can they buy it?), and some people might not be into your stuff, especially if you're showing it to the wrong people.

You have to risk the safety of being unknown. It's a lot easier to lurk in forums and not leave comments on blogs, to scan from the safety of behind a computer screen. It's scary to go out and email art directors and gallery owners, even more scary to go up to them in person and show them a portfolio. But that's the hustle of a professional artist, and even if it's scary, you gotta do it.

And your life? You have to risk your life in this profession. Not in the "if you don't become a professional artist you'll die" sense, but in that whether or not you know it, you are putting your life on the line by NOT following your dream already.

Think of how many hours you've spend at work, doing something you don't even like, or at best, something you like, but don't love. Risk your lifetime pursuing what you love. Give up countless hours drawing, or painting, or playing music, or dancing. Be willing to spend all those years and years and years of your time pursuing the dream.

I'll let you in on a little secret. Most artists aren't born with some innate ability. Whether they went to art school or not, every huge artist we've ever met has the exact same work ethic: 6-12 hour days painting or drawing. 6-7 days a week, for years and years and years. That's how they got to be where they are. They weren't tapped on the shoulder by the talent fairy and magically elevated to success. They have devoted their life to their craft, and that is how they are where they are. There might be exceptions out there, but to be honest, if you were an exception, you wouldn't be reading this right now.

So take a risk. Make a blog today for your artwork if you haven't already. Post something, if you haven't already. And put it out there, post your link, show us your stuff. No guts, no glory, right?

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