In our everyday creative lives, we come into contact with video after video, song after song, graphic after graphic... you get the idea. Media is more available to us now that any previous point in history. This also means that there is a whole lot more of the stuff being thrown into our daily periphery, as well.
This can be a huge distraction from our creative lives, sure. But something almost more insidious begins to creep in. Unintentional imitation. Let's face it. We all do it to some extent. It could just be our influences working together to give a certain flavor to our work, or it might be an all out rip off (you know who you are). The point is, when creation becomes more like imitation, we aren't really talking about being creative anymore. We're talking karaoke masquerading as the original.
So, assuming that we want to act as truly creative individuals, we need to find a way to free ourselves from our standards for ourself.
Think about your standards for a completed work. Chances are, you developed those standards through one of two ways. One, you had a teacher who dictated to you what a completed work was and what it wasn't. Or two, the people that you admired when getting into your art somehow left an impression on you as to what a complete and quality piece of work really is. Either one is perfectly functional and useful in our work.
But I want you to ask yourself, have you ever tried to create something without giving a thought to what other artists (teachers, inspirations, heroes) would have done? Have you ever let the work be true to it's self, let it speak in it's own voice and sing until the last note is finished? Have you let it have it's own inherent quirkiness and flaws?
It takes skill to let a true work go from inspiration to creation. That's what the fundamentals are for. Then, forget everything. Let the idea sing. Go right when it says to go right. Hold the chord when everyone else might change it, because that's what the song says to do.
Open your heart, your mind and your eyes to what is being presented to you in the form of inspiration. Then create that. You'll never need to "play karaoke" again.
3 A.M. found me standing in front of the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The strip was bustling and moving, a flip book of colorful cartoon characters. But, for all the bright lights and revelry, the feeling in the air was hard, mechanical and gritty. Some of the most beautiful architecture in the world can seem pretty soulless in the midst of blind hedonism and consumerism.
But then, to my right, just below the sounds of the strip, a solitary guitar started playing. A street performer, sitting against the Bellagio fountain retaining wall, slowly began performing a cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” by Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole. It was the small voice in the madness. David vs. the Goliath of casinos with a construction budget higher than the GDP of many countries.
I turned to listen. In the space of a moment, the atmosphere began to transform. A crowd began to gather around this musician, standing in utter silence as Las Vegas raged around us. It was if the small spark of humanity had been forgotten and we were just then being reminded of it.
With us musicians, it gets easy to think about music as one would talk about sports teams. “They’re good”, “Meh..” or “They suck...hard.” We get caught in the triviality of who can play what, how fast and who we’re playing with. We get caught up in what celebrities we can call “good buddies” around town and get inwardly focused on getting as many people attracted to us as possible. We even might spend our time trying to emulate other musicians.. (All of which you deserve a smack for...)
As musicians, we can’t forget why we play, even though it’s easy to. It’s not about the guitar or the drums. It’s not about who will hear you or how hot they are.
What any musician knows, once we silence everything and really feel it, is that music isn’t really even the goal. The goal is in the unblocked opening of the spirit and in bringing it’s contents into the physical world through the creation and manipulation of sound waves. We are artists of the spirit and heart, music is just the medium. When that musician performed on the Las Vegas strip, he was connecting everyone on a higher level, using music. But it wasn’t the music that he was communicating. It was the emotion and the idea.
As a true artist, a real musician, this is what we do. This is our calling. Fu*k off with your ridiculous guitar solo. Stop talking about "rocking out" or "melting faces". Music isn't a joke, even if it is meant as one. What are you saying with it? What is it communicating? Where is the honesty in it?
Look at any artist. You can tell the ones who are truly authentic to who they are and what they are communicating, can’t you? It is not only your duty, but your purpose as a musician to open and cultivate the spirit and the heart to strengthen and connect the clarity of your honest and unique message to the world.
If you do this, I promise you, people will listen. It may be David vs. Goliath. It might be hard to be heard. But once your music reaches the ears and then the heart of someone else, they will start listening. Then there is connection. Then there is communication. Music is only truly played in the energy between the performer and an audience. Now, you have your reminder. Get out there and change the atmosphere.
How To Live From Your Creative Source No Matter Where Life Takes You
By Michael Amidei
Artists are the echoes of God.
We are the resounding of creation, now manifesting in perpetuation.
We take what is and infuse it with what might be.
We can take simple ink, or paint and canvas or paper and shape the world with it.
We can cause riots (Salmon Rushdie). We can influence nations (Uncle Tom's Cabin).
We can shift the very consciousness of our existence.
Have you ever heard a musician play?
Or a singer sing, quietly and slowly, majestically breaking the hanging silence?
Is there any doubt that that is not only the sound of the spirit,
but the common shock wave of humanity, resonating throughout our collective unconscious?
Is there any doubt that what a blues man plays in New Orleans does not,
in some way, reverberate in the spirit of a young boy, waking in the early
morning inside an orphanage in Nepal?
As men and women, as people, we know that the arts are who we are.
They are our highest aspirations. They are what we wish that we could become.
To create art? What could be more noble than that? What could be more
worthwhile than that?
In the future, most of our names will be forgotten.
But our music, our words, our films and our art can remain.
And remain they will, in service to others, connecting their time with our time.
And they will know that they aren't alone, just like we know that we aren't alone,
because of the art of those who came before us.
So, in honor or the noble pursuit of the arts. I humbly ask you to continue creating. Don't stop. Do whatever it takes.
The world needs you. It needs us.
Art is important. It really is. In fact, it's so important that if you can do it, you'd better do it and get it out to as many people as possible. Why? Because it makes the world a better place.
It took years for me to come to terms with myself as a truly creative person. I literally thought composing symphonies, doing graphic art, writing books and making films was were things that everyone did. As I grew up, I indulged more than others, in "creative" type pursuits and made a decent living from time to time, but in the end, I was pretending to be what someone else wanted. I wasn't living from my creative source.
Doing what I thought you were supposed to do, I stepped into the world of corporations and allowed myself to work in areas that I simply didn't care about and that didn't require me to do what I do best. Create.
It wasn't until I took an intense silent sabbatical - where I literally looked through every bit of my past and dreamed up what I wanted in my future, that I realized what I had been missing. Creation is a part of me. It is the thing that gets me up in the morning and then thing that keeps me awake at night. I love it. I breathe it. It is part of me, through and through.
We need to face it though. For the majority of us, the dreams of rockstardom, being a megarich painter or being a bestselling author won't be realized. But why do they need to? Ask yourself - was it really being a rockstar that was important to you? Or is doing your music in your way what really mattered? It's really easy to get caught up in chasing some version that others have told us is what we should pursue with our art. Screw that. Strive to create the best you can. - All that stardom stuff, if you really research it, sucked to live through, anyway.
Knowing this still wasn't enough for me. How could I reconcile my desire to create with the real world responsibilities around me? Call me slow, but I didn't have the answer. So, I set out to find it how artists could create, live well and make a real impact on the world around them. My learning came from many sources, from a professional painter/amateur boxer to a poet who works the late nights at an emergency room. The answers, as you would imagine, were as varied as the people who gave them.
(NOTE: This presupposes that your art is already at a professional level, so if you need work, go get it and come back to this. )
Principle #1 - Define Yourself (Niche)
I know that, as artists, we are constantly working to define ourselves. I get it. But what I'm talking about here is that a "niche" can massively help you when it comes to finding a large audience to gift your art to. Are you a painter of macabre images based on fables? Cool. You can build on that. But it becomes really hard to build on that PLUS your penchant of cheery pastel landscapes. Pick something and stick. Just for now...
Or just put the cheery pastels in your closet for when you decide to "go electric" aka Bob Dylan.
Principle #2 - Be Authentically You & Focus On Creating The Best Art Possible
Way too many people get lost in the business side of things. They didn't start out that way, it just became more and more a part of their lives as they tried to "make it" in their particular scene. Lose all that. Make friends and make contacts. Make contacts your friends. But 100% of your energy should really be on making the absolute best art that you can.
Be you. Acting like someone else is, in someway trying to buy their success by emulation. Don't worry about that. Be you. You are enough.
To quote a very successful rock act who finally had a hit after years and years of struggle, "It's funny, but when I finally just focused on making the best music I possibly could, all the business snaps into place on it's own." It's a bit of a simplification, but it's not far off. Take care of the art and build the business as it is needed.
Principle #3 - Treat Your Work As A Business
This is probably the most tired piece of advice I have heard given to artists. It's a cliche. And, like a lot of cliches, it is based on truth. Just as there are a ton of creatives who treat their art as only business, there are a ton that simply create, don't work on the business side at all and then complain when they don't have people beating down their doors.
You have to learn about how to share your work with others. Get educated on marketing, business, etc.
You also need to learn strategies of how to share more of your art with your fans. Would they like a calendar of your work? A vinyl version of your new CD? How can you make both your art and the presentation of your art the best it can possibly be for those who want to experience it?
Believe it or not, that is 98% of all business.
Principle #4 - Stay True To Your Work
As funny as this might sound, some people need to hear it.
"I hereby give you permission to work a day job and also create your art. In no way does that make you a failed artist if you can pay your bills. Just do the best you can making it and getting it out there. You don't have to become famous. You don't have to even make a full living as an artist. Make every effort, but for love of God, don't ever change your art to fit the demands of the industry. That makes you a sellout. Seriously...don't do it. "
Stay true to what you feel called to do. That's the reason you are "qualified" to do that particular work.
By learning and applying what you learn, you can eventually move to making a living at creation. It's very true. There is great information about various forms of how people do this all over the web.
But the pressure is off. It's okay. The fact you create and get it out there is enough.
Principle #5 - Keep Learning
No matter how successful you might become. No matter how good you think you are, you have to keep growing. Do it, not for a competitive edge against your colleagues, but because you are participating in the unfolding an development of the art form in expression through you. It is one of the most noble parts of being a creative artist.
There you have it. They seem simple, but once I got them, it changed my perspective. I didn't have to worry that being a musician was either a full time gig or a failure. Instead, I could technically put out the music I wanted to the people who wanted it and realize that I am doing exactly what my creative source, my spirit dictates. That, in the end, is what creation is all about.