From the archives, 2018.
The best piece of advice I ever got was from my short story professor. He told me my writing was stiff and unemotional, like I was trying to hide behind it. He was right. I was. If I wanted to connect with people, I had to write like how I spoke. With emotion.
It was this advice to essentially “be more real” that convinced me to take the leap to focus on my creative career more intensely. I consider myself a creative entrepreneur, but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. Who does? There’s no rules in this field, and that’s the beauty of it.
To make creative entrepreneurship less daunting, I wanted to share some advice I’ve learned so far for anyone pursuing or thinking about pursuing their creative dreams seriously.
I wanted to make a cheat sheet for what qualifies as advice versus criticism, but the difference isn’t black and white. There’s good advice and bad advice, just as there’s constructive criticism and plain old criticism. In my experience, anything that makes you see things in a new perspective is worth exploring. But if it makes you feel defensive, personally attacked, or confused, don’t listen. A lot of people don’t know what they’re talking about.
Write down everything that’s in your head.
There's a lot of bedrock to mine before you get to the gems.
Nobody criticizes you more than yourself.
Why are artists notoriously hard on themselves? Because our success is dependent on our ability, our will, and our hearts and souls — that’s a scary, fragile thing to carry.
Learn to manage your anxiety and stress.
This is key. Do whatever you have to do, because it will never go away if you don't.
Follow your ideas through.
Talk about them, record them, write them down — anything to get them out of your head into a physical form. Now you have a rough draft you can work with.
Share your content.
Even if you think it sucks or isn’t perfect. Remember, you can’t be afraid of failing if you don’t give yourself the chance to fail.
Treat it like a job.
That is, if it isn’t your job already. Putting in the time will make you feel more disciplined and accomplished.
Be a nerd.
People appreciate someone who is passionate about something they know well. If you’re a nerd, you’ll meet other nerds who are nerdy about the same things. Now you have friends — or a network, as fancy, official people like to call it.
Disconnect yourself from your work.
In creative fields, the artist is the product, because art is the extension of the artist. I can be a terribly shy person, so I have to think of my work as separate from me. I tell myself it’s a business I just happen to be running. If I didn’t, nothing would ever get posted.
You can’t care about what people think of you personally.
This is why making that disconnect is important. Let people say what they will about your work, but you can’t let if feel like they’re saying it about you. This is a tricky one, since our work is our art and our art is ourselves. I wish I could say I truly don’t care what people think about me, but I’ve got a lot of heavy meditating to do until I reach that level of freedom.
Recognize your accomplishments.
They may not be monetary. That’s okay. They might just be you completed a to-do list, or posted something, or overcame any of the personal dilemmas listed above. That’s an accomplishment. Recognize it.
Accept the struggle, and love it.
This whole creative hustle is one vague, agonizing process. It’s hard not knowing if all the time you put into your projects will ever be worth it. It’s hard not knowing when, how, or if you’ll ever get paid. But you have to love it because it’s you doing what you love. Love it because it’s you being you. And if you create work that you like, chances are other people will like it too. They’ll recognize that it’s “real.”