Hello Patreon friends,
During a really good conversation at our last patron-only chat Judy asked what it takes to grow as an artist. That is a really big question and, while I was able to rattle off a bunch of ideas, writing them down gives me time to think about it more carefully and to share them more broadly.
I've come up with five broad categories (authenticity/personal growth, courage, exploration, education, practice) and an endnote, each of which has many sub-items, so I'm breaking this post into five sections and posting one or two a week. What's really interesting for me is knowing this is inevitably incomplete, and there are sections I'll disagree with in a week or two. So it goes. We keep learning. Let me know what you think, what I've missed, what resonates with you. I don't recommend reading all of these posts at once. Read one, see what resonates and what you might act on, then come to another in a few days.
- Part one, authenticity
- Part two, exploration
- Part three, education
- Part four, practice and work
- Part five, courage
- Endnote, gratitude, grace, and trust
These posts are subject to change and revision, as my understanding changes. If you have ideas or suggestions please let me know!
Authenticity, personal growth, and self care
This may be the hardest part of growing yourself as an artist, but I'm starting here because storytelling, like most arts, asks that we be authentic to who we are as we dive deeper into the work. When we tell stories authentically we cannot help but grow as people because we learn more about ourselves with every performance and practice. Storytelling asks that we bring our whole selves to the experience. Diving deeply into any art will help us grow as people, and knowing that from the start helps. Finally, self care is essential in general and specifically when you're applying yourself with dedication to an art.
This is a pretty nebulous list–it's not as concrete as read more or go to concerts, but it's important. I don't expect that you have answers or habits for any or all of these items, but consider the questions and be open to changing answers. That's how we grow.
- Be who you are. Because storytelling is such a connected art form–the fourth wall that separates us from our audiences is flimsy at best–being who you are in the moment is the easiest and best way to connect with your audience and your story. Tell the stories that mean something to you and your audience will know they are meaningful. Let your authentic self shine, even knowing that self will change.
- Not about success and failure, but about growth. You will make mistakes, we all do. To grow as an artist look at those successes and failures as growth opportunities, a chance to learn and grow.
- Forgiveness. Those mistakes mean you need to learn to forgive yourself. Part of growing as an artist means forgiving yourself so you can keep going, and learn more. You might also have to forgive yourself for some challenging emotions–envy, jealously, frustration, etc. It's okay to feel what you feel, you are allowed to be human.
- Self care. Being an artist is hard work, so learn how to take care of yourself. What is soothing when you've made that mistake? How to you take care of yourself after a show? What kind self-care works for you? Your self care needs will change with the project and other calls upon your energy.
- Artistic nourishment. What helps you feel more creative? What nourishes you artistically? Explore different things and notice when you feel excited and energized, or drained. To be a growing artist you need to nourish yourself to create art, and we each are nourished in different ways. More about this in exploration.
- Understand why you’re doing this. Ask yourself why you love storytelling and why you tell stories. Expect these answers to change. It's useful to know your current answer because that may help direct you in your education and exploration. It also can buoy you up when you're questioning your own artistry. For example, part of why I tell stories is to help dismantle the systems that drive hatred. Even if I don't do a perfect job, knowing this is part of what drives me helps me return to the work.
- Have fun in ways that are authentic to you. Being an artist is a lot of work and it should also have moments of shimmering fun. Look for ways that your storytelling practice can be fun. We'll look at this more in exploration.
- Understand what you’re working toward this week. I find my goals and drives change frequently. One week I might be trying to change the world, the next I just want to work toward the weekend. When I know what I'm working toward right now I can be more pointed in my efforts and my education. If I'm working on taxes this week then I need to pay attention to tax codes and receipts. Even this can feed artistic growth.
- Be generous toward yourself. Growth takes work. Be generous in your need for rest, for care, for encouragement. Extend the same generosity toward yourself that you would extend to another.
I'll tackle exploration in a few days; it's far more concrete and defined with specific things you can do now.
Thank you for asking the question Judy. There is so much to think about here. I hope this is interesting and useful for each of you.