“Find the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.” Constantin Stanislavski
People often tell me they really want to be an artist and ask me what they should do to become successful. Most of them have stars in their eyes and are looking at me to feed their ego. “Do you think I have talent?” This of course is the wrong question. Without a certain level of commitment, a proven desire to pursue important basic skills, there is no way to know if a person is “talented.”
Some, on the other hand, are actually interested in learning about mine, and others’, creative process. Here’s what I tell them. This is what I’ve found to be the most effective working process for a creative: start at the beginning.
So often it is when we focus on our talent or our goal of being an artist that we fall in our faces. So I’ve found I’m far more effective and successful when I concentrate on what I’m doing, what I’m trying to say, what is burning in my heart, than on being a good artist. My focus is always on the idea itself.
The moment I wonder what people might think of my idea is the moment it dies a silent death. I have found keeping my ideas secret, developing them in private, allows them to grow from the delicate notion they start as to the fully realized work they might become.
How many ideas have you had that were met with luke-warm enthusiasm that never found their way to fruition? There is nothing more debilitating then having a loved one shoot down, or worse, blow smoke up your ass, for an idea you just knew was destined to change the world. The implication is either your ideas are lame or you don’t poses the talent or skill required to pull them off. Time to go out and get a real job!
I find writing or sketching ideas in raw form in a private journal or a sketchbook to be very gratifying and effective. I never judge the idea in this formative stage. I rarely share the idea because I know the moment I do it will somehow magically lose its potency (for the reasons stated above). But if I come back to them later, I can pick and choose which ideas I want to run with, which ideas inspire me. Then I am like a kid in a candy store. At this point, however, it’s a conversation between me and God. Together, we get to decide which ideas inspire me enough to actually work them into a product?
At that point I assess what mode I will use to convey the idea. Is it a film. Is it a painting? Is it a poem? Is it a media I need to invent? Again, the focus must be on the idea itself. The media is only a means to an end. What does the idea require? I never ask “what do I feel like doing?” I place myself always in service to the idea itself.
Then, and only then, do I assess what skill or talent I might need to bring to the project in order to fully realize it. Sometimes at this point I have to commit to learning an entirely new set of skills in order to bring my idea into being. It may take years of practice. So I have to choose whether to move forward with the idea, based on my level of commitment. Again, there is no judgment. There simply is an honest determination of what is or is not necessary to accomplish my task. The only question that matters is this: is the fully realized idea worth the level of commitment required to accomplish it?
This is when most people decide to cut corners or give up. All I can say is, don’t be like most people.