Tips for creative longevity and avoiding artistic burnout
Making art is an emotionally and physically challenging process by itself and even more so when you are pushing on a deadline. If you have decided to make a living by selling your art and your are lucky to have regular sales already you have probably toppled with some of these problems in your everyday work. There is a fine line to be threaded between following your inspiration and meeting your obligations on a daily basis. Avoiding turning creation into a chore is not only important, but indispensable for maintaining the consistent quality and artistic value of your work.
Here are a few mistakes we all fall victim to when trying to create purposefully and how to avoid them.
Mistake # 1:
Be unprepared. To this day my heart cringes a little when I meet one of them, the unprepared artists. They pile their social media with pictures of their process, they hog you every time they meet you about their latest piece, they complain about how hard it is to sustain themselves on art and art only, yet the day you ask them to make a piece for you because you need it for a client, they never know how long it would take, how much it would cost or if they can pull it off altogether with the specifications you just gave them.
Prepare. Research. Know your stuff. Knowing exactly how much your art costs and how long your artistic process takes is essential to marketing the value you offer properly. Don´t wait for somebody to be interested in what you do to start calculating, do the research beforehand. Make a list as you go with the materials you use for each single project. Write down the hours invested and how long it took you to get to the finished product. Next, make a realistic estimate for how much you would want to sell that piece if it is offered retail or wholesale. Consider a special discount for family or friends, they are excellent ambassadors for your business especially when you are starting out. Giving a well-considered price on the spot in any situation makes you sound professional and people will know you have given it some thought and you take what you do seriously.
Mistake # 2:
Wait for the inspiration to strike. Inspiration can be tricky. It comes in the shower, it comes in your sleep, it comes in the middle of your accounting class. It excites you and lights up your brain and just when you reach to grab it, it slips away like a wet jellyfish. It is here, yet always just slightly out of reach, it comes and goes and it inevitably disappears without a trace when you really need to start your next project in order to deliver on time.
Don´t wait around. Create a routine. Even if you don´t feel especially inspired, do something. Doodle a drawing, watch a video of a new technique, visit a gallery for inspiration, prep a canvas, clean your instruments, work on an old piece you have had since the dawn of time, get on the internet and shop for supplies. Alloting time to your art process triggers your brain to get into a creative mode, even if you are not doing anything that creative.
Mistake # 3:
Wait until the last moment to start. You have a new custom order, yey!, you have done it before, you feel pretty confident you can deliver on the ask and deadline, yet you can´t get quite to it. And then, why hurry? You still have 4 days, five weeks or _ (fill in the blank) months to deliver the prodct. Why worry?
Start immediately. Procrastinating is well established in the time-management literature to be a trigger for anxiety and nervousness hardly breeds creativity. Start immediately after you get the assignment. And it doesn´t have to be in the literal sense of the word getting your hands dirty and diving into it. Instead give yourself time to think about what you want to do, make a list of the necessary materials you will need, check out availability and delivery terms, trace out the composition or simply browse other artists for ideas and inspiration. Do a little bit of that each day and you will feel on track and moving forward on your project and you will not find yourself overwhelmed when new orders or other obligations arrive unexpectedly.
Mistake # 4:
Only work and no play. Like any new enterpreneur artists can feel pressed to be working on selling and marketing their art at all times. That can be excited and productive in the beginning, while the adrenaline abounds and the high of having your art out there for the world to see overrides tiredness and trivialities like a good meal or a workout. Days turn into weeks and slowly the euphoria wears off, leaving numerous chores to do on a daily basis that have little to do with art: maintaining web pages and blogs, updating social media, cold-calling potential clients or hassling with the transport agencies over incidents with the shipping.
Learn to switch off early on. We all need time to relax and disconnect even from what we love doing. Give yourself time and space regularly to celebrate the little victories of the day. As cliche as it sounds it is the journey that counts not the destination. Stop and enjoy every little bit of your current situation, as you grow you will appreciate those early moments when everything was so new, scary and exciting at the same time. Don´t wait until you make X thousand dollars or euros to feel successful and accomplished. The mere fact that you are pursuing what you love doing places you among the few 5 % or so in the world who are actually happy and successful. You are one of them. Enjoy the ride!