Welcome to day #10 of the 30 Day “One Question” Series. If you want to learn more about the series, be sure to check out the first interview.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to ask you to participate in the series because from the first post I ever read of yours (earlier last year as you worked to write a post a day), I really admired your spunk and persistence.
I’m around a lot of creative types every day… The one thing I’ve noticed is that many creatives get online and seem to believe that the internet is going to magically launch their careers. When that doesn’t happen, I’ve seen many turn away from their gifts, too discouraged to think that success could be around the corner if they persisted.
I’m also a woman and a mother, and in my women circles, I still see too many women who seem to believe their talent isn’t as valuable as their significant other’s talent, their kids’ talents, or even their best friends’ talent. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve advised a female creative to CHOOSE to see her creativity as a priority in her life, the same as soccer practice or golfing… well, I’d be closer to retiring in the Bahamas!
And this is why I love reading your blog so much. You’ve been through the fire, struggled, and, like a phoenix, risen from the ash certain of at least this much… that your creativity is core to your life and not something you’ll freely or easily give up. That’s such amazing wisdom to have at your age (which, I’d hazard to guess, is at least 10 years younger than me!).
Su is the young creative woman I wish I could have been… and the young creative woman I hope that my daughter will be. Her story isn’t an easy, overnight success story… the fact is, she’s still working each day to achieve her success story… and that’s what makes me admire her so much.
I’ll tell you, as I told her, that my one question to her was really a request for her to write her a manifesto… even though I worded it like this:
Based on your experiences in learning to give yourself the support you need to continue to persistence in pursuing your creative dreams, regardless of what others think or what challenges may arrive in your daily life, what advice or tips would you share with others in learning to be strong in that way for themselves?
And I could not be more impressed or inspired by her response:
To really answer this question for me, I almost have to do the old “If I was to be able to go back in time and talk to myself five years ago I would say….” exercise. Because I think that it’s only been in the last year of my twenty-five year life I’ve been able to look back and say “Hey, good job, Su.” and really feel proud of myself.
I’ve never been able to say anything good about myself until now… and I think that most creative people, under it all, are the same way.
We beat ourselves up by having these amazing minds that imagine things beyond our ability to create, and it’s frustrating…And no matter what we do or make, it hardly ever lives up to what we imagine, and so we just find no satisfaction in ourselves or our work. (Or is that just me?) People always tell me I’m a perfectionist, but to be honest, I’m nothing of the sort…I just keep telling them “You like this? Well you should see what’s in my head that my hands just can’t seem to create!“
I think it’s like that for so many artists who give up.
It’s not because they are lazy, or untalented at all…It’s because they perhaps went to another artist’s show and saw the things they were doing and had a sinking feeling in their gut that they aren’t good enough…Or they read the most amazing novel, poem, prose, and said to themselves “How did they do that? I’ll never be able to do this.“
We destroy ourselves whenever we stop believing in our talents and abilities.
We tell ourselves we aren’t good enough. We start off life with fire and somehow, after some event happens that convinces us we’re mediocre…we end up being mediocre…We think ourselves into most of the time…A horrible reality that was never our plan, our intention, or our desire. It’s terrifying to me to think of where I’d be today If I had listened to all the people who told me I was “artsy fartsy weirdo, freak, abnormal, annoying, strange, mediocre…etc.“
But I was like most creative souls, I believed that lie at one point, I stopped making art for three years of my life…I was severely depressed, I tell everyone now that it was the time in my life whenever I was dead. Being dead for a creative person, is not creating anything. So, I think everyone who is pursuing something in their life has to sit back at one point and really imagine what it would be like to not accomplish what you want to do with yourself. For me, it was only a few years ago, when I looked around at my life and couldn’t see one piece of who I really was on the inside. I realized at that moment, I am going in the wrong direction…
I remember standing in my kitchen, telling my mother very clearly: “Mom, If I don’t make some type of art, i’m going to die. I’m just going to bury myself. Because I can’t live this nine to five nightmare. I’ll just completely die inside and you won’t recognize your daughter.”
But this is the moment I think we all have to go through as creative people…We have to have that moment where it’s sink or swim. Where we are ready to just throw in the proverbial towel and just forget we ever had that “big idea” for our lives. And I think that at the end of that moment, there is a sliver of hope that someone will say “No, you can’t give up.” And sometimes, it has to be ourselves. That was my story. I had to tell myself “Suzannah, you can’t give up. You absolutely cannot live that life. You have to be true to yourself.”
I remember telling myself this daily. Literally. Telling everyone who would listen: “I can’t live that life, I have to be an artist, a writer, a dreamer. I have to.” And through me saying that over and over out-loud and to myself, I began to believe it.
And I began to see the world like a fighter sees it. I said to myself “Okay, let’s do this.” and “Endure!!”…And I haven’t stopped since that moment.
It’s hard, but we all have to make a decision at some point to invest in ourselves, to believe that we are worth it, to believe that we are going to be great.
So here’s the best advice I think I can give anyone who may be struggling with this same thing…
1. You have to have a plan for your dream.
It’s really important that you not only have a goal, or a dream to accomplish, but that you have some sort of outline of things that you want to do and that you know (learn) how to make it happen. I read a lot on becoming a successful business person, I bought a calendar and a blog on wordpress to keep track of my creative endeavors. I wrote down goals for myself “July 2012 – join a painting class, work in a play, sell a sculpture…etc.” and also big goals: “Get gallery showing” and so on. Having obtainable goals and big dream goals are important. It doesn’t mean you have to hit them, but shoot for the stars and hit the moon
2. Be your own manager.
You have to learn, whether by reading, listening to others, asking, researching, etc. How to best go about managing the type of creative person you are. I hear so many creative people say “If I only had a personal assistant, or manager, I’d be successful.” No, you have to be self motivated. Artistry in all its forms is one of the most self-motivated occupations out there! You have to create, and you have to know your limitations…Then you have to push those limitations!…and endure all your hardships.
3. Cut out the negativity in your life.
This one is really important. I remember reading an anonymous quote that said: “Don’t let the people who gave up on their dreams talk you out of yours.” That is the truth beyond the truth. You have to cut out the people in your life that are not helping you, they are hurting you, they are dragging you down, you know exactly who they are. Learn the difference between constructive critique and biased opinions. You’ll never regret deleting those people off your facebook or changing your phone number. It was honestly one of the best decisions of my life.
4. Be your own best friend.
Not everyone is going to see you for who you are, or understand you. You have to be able to love the artist that you are and very frequently let that artist have their “hey-day” open up and be yourself, however that may be. People are going to judge you, people judge, the point is to not let them label you, you should label yourself, be proud of who you are. You should never once let anyone put you in a box, build your own box and wear it proudly. Love yourself and learn to be happy with who you are as a creative individual. It will be freedom, and you will see slavery all around you suddenly…Your eyes will open to the things that you once let tie you down, and will realize that it can never again touch you.
5. Find your “group” or “creative tribe”
I have about four friends in my life that I feel like are my support, that includes one truly amazing best friend who always has my back and reassures me to keep going. I trust their opinions because they are fellow artists, musicians, writers, etc. I know when I create something under my talent level or I get too egotistical they will call me out on it maturely. I also know that they will stand behind me and my work and will be honest with their praise as well. We all need a support system. If you can’t find it in your life, you need to look for one. Whether it be joining a creative writing class to expand your skills and meet fellow writers in your city…Or by going online and seeking out others like you…There is always someone out there who will “understand” you, don’t give up on finding fellow creative people to share your life with…We need to stick together!
Suzannah (Su to her friends!) is a gifted sculpture, makeup artist, illustrator, and filmmaker whose portfolio can be found at SuzannahDanae.com. You can also keep up with her latest creative adventures by visiting her blog, Suzannah.com or by following her on Instagram. And be sure to visit her etsy shop, where she sells her amazing fantasy polymer sculptures.
My apologies to everyone, especially Su, for the late post today. Gremlins were munching at my internet connection most of the day… but I finally overcame them! Hopefully you agree that this was well worth the wait! :)