How to Gain Freedom to Continue Expressing Yourself
Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in. ~ Amy Lowell
In the previous article in this series, when I talked about mastering your creative skill for the benefit of others, I could just feel people cringe at that thought while others screamed out in protest saying, “No way!!!” “I don’t want to create for people, I want to create for me.”
I totally hear you and you’ll be surprised to know I happen to agree with you too. Yes, I do. Let me explain.
The Secret to Maintaining Your Creative Focus
The secret to maintaining your creative focus, even when you’re doing commercial work, is to create for yourself.
You’ve got to make work that is meaningful to you. Always keeping whatever it is that gets you excited about creating in focus. To do that, you should keep creating for yourself and not for the money.
What do I mean when I say that? Well, let’s dig deeper.
If you’ve decided to monetize your work, then the onus is on you to find out what is commercially viable. Because not everything is. You may have a wide range of skills but not all of them will satisfy a valuable need for others.
Finding what is commercially viable actually helps you to focus on which skills set you want to master. Because skill mastery is important to being able to provide value in the first place.
Not All Art Has Commercial Value, You’ve Got to Find What Does
So now let’s say you’ve mastered your skills and matched them to people who want them. By the way, that’s what the economists call – determining the demand for your skills. Others describe it as “working for the greater good”.
But I digress. However you define it, you’ve arrived at this point. So what do you do to preserve your passion for creating? How can you ensure the parameters within which you’ve got to work to serve this group doesn’t make you lose your creative focus?
Suppose the group you settled on serving is, say, “bird lovers” (that becomes your limitation). You’ve got to create work for this group that excites you.
It’s got to be work that you’ll like to be associated with. Something you’ll hang on your walls if you’re creating wall art. Something you’ll read if you’re a writer, and so on and so forth.
Immediately you start creating what others are creating for “bird lovers”, you lose your personal creative focus.
Working within limitations is a good thing. Limitations help you maintain focus, create mentally stimulating work and deliver value.
So how do you determine which limitations to put on yourself? Which market to serve?Well, this is where sharing your work becomes important.
How to Find What People Value about Your Work
If you spend enough time sharing your work generously and paying attention to the feedback, you will know which parts of your work people really value.
A friend of mine told me a story about an art residency she did a few years ago. She said there was another artist with whom she did the art residency.
This other artist creates elaborate sketches on which she bases her actual work. And anytime she created a sketch, patrons of the art center will purchase the sketch. The sketches were more popular than her original artwork. Go figure!!
You cannot force the market to purchase what you create, the market chooses what they want to use their $$ for.
That’s a great example of discovering how to provide value within the skill set you already have. This artist can choose to find a way of presenting and selling her sketches or ignore the demand for her sketches and just continue to create her originals as usual.
Align Your Skills/Passion to Demand
If she chooses to explore selling her sketches further, she’ll find herself in a sweet spot where she maintains her creative focus; while at the same time her creative skills match the value the market wants from her.
Sharing helps you find what resonates with people. And because you’re sharing things you’re passionate about and skillful in, when you find what resonates with people you have a winning combination – skill, demand/value, and passion.
I find that many people use this argument of losing their creative focus as an excuse for not monetizing their craft.
The Real Reasons Artists Don’t Make Money from Their Work
The real reasons artists don’t try to make money from their craft have to do with far deeper issues than loss of creative focus.
Fear, getting out of their comfort zones and being out of their elements are at the root of artists’ reluctance to monetize their work.
And frankly, it’s ok to be scared. It’s fine to be uncomfortable. Because we all are scared of something.
We all are scared of something whether we choose to admit it or not.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m out of my element when it comes to marketing my work. But I won’t hide behind fear and use the loss of creative focus as an excuse.
Because those who have been successful in blazing this trail will often tell you that more than anything else, the sales of their work give them the freedom to continue creating what they love.
It’s more about the pursuit of freedom – to be able to create what you want – than the pursuit of money itself.
And if it’s truly a fear of losing creative focus, we know what the solution is.
The secret to maintaining your creative focus is to create for yourself while providing value to a group that wants what you create.
Monetizing your art is about the freedom to continue doing what you love.
What can be better than having the freedom to continue expressing yourself and recording your reactions to the world; to people who really want them and are willing to pay for them?
What challenges do you see with maintaining your creative focus? How do you personally maintain your creative focus? Join me in the comments section with your thoughts.
You may also be interested in the other parts in this series
1: Making the Decision to Monetize Your Creative Work
2: The Truth About Art and Creative Passion
3. The Secret to Maintaining Your Creative Focus
4. Seven Practical Ways for Textile Artists to Make Money