To begin, I want to point out I am using a wide definition when referring to the arts here, including writing, music, visual arts, performance, culinary and more. Whatever you do that involves the creative process qualifies in my world.
To be deeply engaged in the arts is a labor of love. Being rich and famous doesn’t really matter to a person working on their craft. They want it to be absolutely stunning in its beauty or its uniqueness or its inspirational quality. I’m sure most of us do enjoy it when our work receives praise. It validates our belief in the quality of our work and it does stroke our ego a bit, but the basic impulse to create doesn’t arise from a wish to be placed on a pedestal. The sculptor wants the sculpture to be placed on the pedestal. First and foremost, the envisioned completed piece is its own reward. That is where the true satisfaction lies.
In order to achieve this undertaking, we can’t allow ourselves to fall into a rut. Once our skills have been developed to the point where there is some quality in what we produce, we may inadvertently allow our work to become stale. Perhaps the longer we practice it, the more we are subject to having this happen. Many musicians’ songs fall into sounding like the ones that were written earlier. A painter’s style is prone to becoming routine. An author’s stories can fit into one niche until the end of that writer’s life. Success can breed complacency. Failure or at least lack of acceptance may be the best outcome for the artist dedicated to honing his craft. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be like that. I can think of certain musicians, authors, filmmakers and performers who have reinvented themselves consistently and who have become icons of their particular artistic persuasions. Let’s take a look now at how to keep it fresh.
- With each project, look for a new approach. A fantasy writer does this by creating a new “universe.” A painter could try new color schemes or move from watercolor to acrylic, for instance. Robert Plant was the lead singer of the hard rock band Led Zeppelin. When they broke up, he went to a soft, smooth style. Later, he even teamed up with Bluegrass/Country icon Alison Krauss for an album of Americana music. It was met with acclaim and popularity.
- Dare to be different. When I was writing comedy screenplays, my partner and I came up with a type of visual and verbal comedy–beyond slapstick and vaudeville shtick–that we fell into naturally. It was different than anything we had seen before, with word play and sight gags that twist perception of reality in a way that was hilarious in our estimation. After completing scripts for one short and one feature with far too little promotion of them, we saw a new hit movie that beat us to the marketplace–Airplane! The groundbreaking comedy style of that movie was something we were already doing. We dared write and present a mode of humor that was outlandish. Be outlandish, a la Picasso and Seinfeld and Mozart.
- Reach down deep to find the most meaningful way of expressing yourself. If you’re a good dancer or chef or writer, you have trusted methods that work for you. You know how to construct your art form in a way that pleases those who partake of your creations. But deeper can be found a concept that conveys what it is you truly want to show and all you have to do is intuitively find it. It’s waiting to be found. I believe you know where it is and if you but search, you will find. It could be huge, but it may just be the perfect word for the sentence you’re writing. It could be a slight change of a melody to make it truly special. A stroke of the brush, an unexpected ingredient for your recipe. When you get in touch with these expressions, you’re practically walking on holy ground.
- Strive for a higher level of excellence with each piece. If we don’t try to improve on our previous best, we may as well be cranking out molds on a production line where every piece we make is standard–like every other one manufactured. At the core of the artist’s being is the intention to create the most magnificent work of art she has ever done. Enjoy that with no pressure. Do it with joy.
- Create with a servant’s heart. We do what we do in the arts to have a positive effect on those around us. Let us humbly serve others with the gifts we bring into this world.