Not to long ago I had had enough of running across artistic failure. I got tired of hearing about it or seeing it and feeling like there was nothing I could do to help.
I can not even fathom trying to remember the number of times I have met someone who was ‘once upon a time’ an artist of some one form or another. Singers, actors, musicians, painters, sculptors, etc.
“I used to sing.”
“I used to play guitar.”
“When I was a kid I wanted to be a [insert artistic form here]”.
But they gave up. For one reason or another, they gave up. Every single reason was as unique as the individual, yet eerily similar.
So I came up when 8 rules for Artists. I turned it into meme and posted it up on the Singing From Scratch Facebook page. for all my students or whoever. But I’m going to expand on the rules so they can really be duplicated. So it can really sink in. So any artists can form a protective wall around themselves with these rules and insulate themselves from anything that would keep them from giving up. To keep them creating and being and artist.
Here they are.
Rule #1 – You’re The Boss. Period.
I put the word ‘period’ there at the end for a reason. There should be no wiggle room there. End of discussion. When it comes to your art and your artistic creations, that is the #1 Rule. That’s it. It is too easy to be influenced when you don’t hold to this rule. If you don’t grab on to the rule and hold on for dear life, not only will it render the remaining rules meaningless and ineffectual, it will stop you dead in your tracks as an artist. You are the one who initiates your creativity. It starts and ends with you.
It is also too easy to be influenced by the your own desire to please someone else with your creations. That leads me to Rule #2.
Rule #2 – Don’t desire recognition. It’s a trap of your own making.
The moment you desire recognition you are violating rule #1. You are instantly putting the power of decision over your creations into the hands of someone else. If you are desiring recognition or approval of your art from someone else, you are asking THEM what THEY think YOU should create. You are putting them in control. You are making them the boss.
This is a hard one, I know. Ultimately our role as an artist is to improve others lives with our art and to collectively create a better culture and society. It is actually our responsibility. The first thing anyone does when trying to help another is to ask them what they need in order to help them. This is fine if you are an EMT (ambulance driver) or doctor or parent. But it is the exact opposite of what we should do as artists. We are supposed to help through inspiration. We are supposed to lead not follow. We help by showing people the beauty of what life could and should be.
Therefore, the only thing you should concern yourself with as an artist is if your message is being received. Which leads me to Rule #3.
Rule #3 – Desire only to create. If your creations communicate, you will be acknowledged.
Again, we are the boss of our own art. Again, we don’t ask for approval. We are not asking our audience for their input or opinion. Regardless of what anyone says, that is the truth. Anyone who tries to argue this point has already given up as an artist and is already going down the path of artistic self-destruction. Your job as an artist is to communicate your creation. Full Stop. Period. End of discussion.
If your art communicates, it will be received and you will be acknowledged. Not everyone is going to duplicate your message. Not everyone is going like what you create. There are a myriad of reasons why that is, and warrants a an entire discussion in itself. But for now, just know that some will get it and some won’t. You don’t care about that. Just communicate. Those who get it will acknowledge you for it. Those who don’t will try to change it to something that they can accept. Write them off. Send them on their way and continue to create and communicate to those who simply acknowledge your art and accept it for what it is.
Otherwise you are asking your audience what they think. And that leads me to Rule #4.
Rule #4 – Don’t ask others what you should create. They are not you. See Rule #1.
I know it seems I’ve already said this. And I have. But there is an aspect that goes deeper than what I have said in the other rules before. The aspect that needs to be duplicated here is ‘They are not you.’
There is no way that anyone can know everything there is to know about you, who you are, and what makes up ‘you’. Your art is communicative product of EVERYTHING that is you. Your experiences. Your dreams. Your desires. Your fears. Everything that is you. There is not one single person on this planet that has an exact duplicate of your life experiences and memories. There is not one single person on this planet that has an exact duplication of your influences artistic or otherwise. No one is burdened by your exact problems. No one is motivated by your exact goals, purposes, needs, wants, or dreams.
Therefore, there is NO WAY that any other person on this planet is going to know exactly how to create what you would or should create. Anyone else’s input can and will delude, mutate, and alter what would natively come from you. Which leads us to Rule #5.
Rule #5 – Anyone who tells you what you should create is full of crap. They are not you. See Rule #1.
Again it may seem like I am being redundant, but the point here is that they are full of crap FROM YOUR VIEWPOINT. They’re viewpoint isn’t full of crap from where they stand. It is valid. From their viewpoint. Well that would be their create, not yours. Right? They have taken your create, absorbed it and made it their own But it is no longer yours then. From YOUR viewpoint, it is now muddied, deluded and altered. It is like a clean glass of water that dirt clod has been tossed into. It is now full of crap. Remember, above all else, You Are The Boss.
But how clean is your ‘glass of water’? On to Rule #6.
Rule #6 – Create good things, including yourself.
If it is your desire to help the your audience live better lives through your art, then keep reading. Otherwise, stop reading and move along. I have no interest in helping those who wish to degrade the culture and society with their ‘art’. Anyone who is doing that is minimally creating for their own self interest and ultimately desires the destruction of the culture and society at large.
So if you are one of those, buh-bye.
Otherwise, understand that if you do not cultivate goodness in yourself, you are to that degree the poisoned well from which your audience drinks. Your art is a product of who you are. But your art includes your audiences perception of you. It isn’t only your art that influences the culture. Those who duplicate your art and your communication have to one degree or another HAVE to agree with who you are personally.
Think I’m wrong? When is the last time you listened to and agreed with someone who you didn’t like personally and shared absolutely no personality traits or values with? Sure, there are times when someone you don’t like does or says something that you do agree with. But I guarantee you were forced to listen to them in the first place and are not likely to do so again regardless.
Your art gets them on board, but your life is what they will try to replicate. That’s how art changes the world. The art says this is the way things should be and your life says this is the proof.
So if you are creating a good ‘You’, your art will be positive and constructive. Because remember, your art is a product of who you are and where you come from. If you are muddied, insane, destructive and degraded, so will be your art.
So, if you wish to help others create as positive and good of a ‘self’ as you can. You don’t have to be perfect. That is impossible. Which ties into Rule #7.
Rule #7 – Perfection is impossible. Stop fixing it. Communicate it. That’s goal.
I don’t use text acronyms very often, but if there was ever a time to insert an OMG, this would be it.
When you are creating art, it is doing nothing but spinning in place for your own personal pleasure until you communicate it. And if you keep spinning it around and around sooner or later it stops being fun and creative and becomes a monster that breeds a perpetual trap of indecision, doubt, anxiety, and neurosis. In fact, what is happening is you are violating all 6 of the previous rules. Go ahead. Go back and look at them. Why are you trying to perfect it? What criteria and yardstick are you measuring it against? What other people think? What you think other people want or are going to like? Are you worried that your your art won’t be accepted or recognized? Are you really helping yourself by doing that? Is it good enough?
The only thing that matters is that is communicates, as close to your original concept as possible, the message you want delivered. Period.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing in this know universe that is perfect. Nothing. You can try to prove me wrong, but let me save you some time. You will lose that debate.
The only time your art ever was or ever will be perfect is in your original concept in your mind. As soon as you try to replicate that thought and introduce it into reality as we know it, it ceases to be perfect due the very nature of of this known universe. If nothing is perfect in it, how can you expect you art violate every known law of physics and be perfect?
So create it. Stop fixing it and communicate it.You’re the only one who will know at what point that is. You’re the only one who can make that determination. Only when you make that decision can you move on. Which brings us to the final rule, Rule # 8.
Rule #8 – You’re still the boss.Create some more.
After you have let go of your communication and have released it to the audience for their acceptance or rejection (of which you do not care. Remember Rules 2-5), create something else. This is very very important. It is key. Your art, once introduced to reality, is something you MUST relinquish to the past. Otherwise a part of you, big or small, remains in the past with it, which will hinder you, to a greater or lesser degree, incapable of your full creative potential. Remember, we as artists create the future. How can you do that if you are stuck in the past?
Years ago I went to a Jimmy Buffett concert. And of course the audience was singing along to every song and every word. Jimmy said “These are your songs. They stop being my songs when I finish writing them. I’m just singing your songs for you.” He nailed it on the head with that comment.
I created these rules. And yes I know, in their own right, they are a form of art. However, I’m not giving them to you. I need them too.
I will share them with you though.