Process of Becoming (Part 4)
The further we get into the “how” of marketing and selling our products the cheaper they will feel. We will realize inevitably it is the same exact process of selling no matter what kind of product. We will also realize that ultimately we have a “product.”
That feels cheap for some artists. Others have no problem insisting on the valuation of their art being high, advocating for their work against ignorance. “Does art have a value?” They insist on that question. If so, charge like it. When it comes to music in our culture it has little valuation. People love it. There is no doubt about that. But people are generally unwilling to pay for it, or to only pay a small amount. It has no scarcity so it ultimately gets valued as something abundant.
How with music, as an example, do we counter-culture to bring a valuation that makes sense? How do we align closer to people’s great love for it with a price that seems to suggest or honor that? Maybe that is where the live ticket price comes in. Any such methodology discussions are essential, but so completely relative to time and situation that they do very little good here, save to remind the artist of the importance of his time and team. Both are essential to keeping focus on the prize. This is where DIY has served artists horribly. Artists tend to control, manage carefully details, etc. When it comes to the business aspects of art there are simply too many things to manage with that sort of precision. It will drive a wedge between art and artist. Very soon the artist will feel more like a salesman. Suffice it to say that there is a reason artists do not go into sales. Most are simply horrible at it. And it might be the last thing they should do if they actually want to make a career of their art.
You will need a team. Sounds ridiculous to even think of with limited budgets and constrained time already. “It’s easier to learn and do it myself.” At this point, maybe. But what is at stake ultimately is the very art you are here to make, sell, etc. You will jeopardize your art without a team. That includes marketing, business, etc, but it also includes other creatives weighing in on who you are. We all need support. We all need encouragement. We all need people who know what it’s like.
A team of like-minded creatives keeps us moving forward. They in no way reduce or supplant our need to be alone, to write in isolation. But they can inspire the very act of doing so with faith and gusto. We can face isolation with hope. Somehow being a part of a creative collaborative of sorts pulls out of us a sense of responsibility to our gifts. It reminds us that our gifts bear the weight of eternity, that we are not without a commission. The gifts themselves are that commission. It is so easy to lose track of those creative gifts though. Prevailing culture and life itself will quickly swallow them back. We must learn to protect and wield them with grace. This almost necessitates having friends with similar pursuits.
As the inner creative life is protected and given the freedom to be pursued there is a sense that our life is not our own. We begin to sense that pulling or compelling to go into new areas. This takes focus and great courage. With like-minded creatives this shared fear can almost lessen its impact. We are moving forward into the unknown together. We will all be going different ways for different pursuits but all in some way have shared a similar journey. We have learned together the joys of creative process, birthing something out of nothing. We have also all shared the burden of seeing that thing born raised into a little person. We collectively have felt the sting of failure to launch.
Together we empower each-other to fail. Failure gets put in its proper place, not as something to be utterly avoided but something to be celebrated, learned from, grown into. Failure can never stop us from becoming who are meant to be! Failure can wear many faces. And just as we seldom define clearly what success looks like we give our potent ability at self sabotage ammo when we allow failure to be defined by our inner critic. Failure is simply the refusal to try. There are times when it becomes much easier to believe lies that make it convenient for us to not try. We get seduced into believing all sorts of things about the condition of our efforts (“this was failed from the start,” “you should have never started”). Believing means trusting in what we have been entrusted with. In other words, if we can start with the assumption that we did not ask for our gifts, they were already there we can remove so many of the pride issues and other lies. If the gifts are honestly there then a failure to believe in them is simply a lie based on fear. We did not decide their existence. We did not conjure them up in our brains. We simply discovered them and in some way are held accountable for their realization.
That discovery may be one of the most important for the artist or creative. We do not ultimately create. We mine or excavate what is deeply written innate in our capacity. We become guides of the interior. We work from the inside out. This could be in some ways the job description of the artist: interior excavator. One who digs into the human heart (earth) to discover what latent realities are already there. One who interprets the data and reconstructs the pieces to the public.
This again must be a fearless process. Fear can only interfere with such work. The artist therefore must be fearlessly honest with the process. Again, their job is not to create, but to articulate their discoveries of what is already there. They must enter this work with the sort of passion of a potent archaeological dig. We are onto something big here. What we discover can change the world, or at least the way people understand the world. Inner realities are worth (or worthy of) the process.
Often we get going on a project and we get hung up on the obstacles being outside us. We assume sort of a halt. This thing or that thing isn’t lining up. Until we get that thing resolved outside we can’t really get things moving inside. This is most certainly not true. Our job is to keep focus on what it is we do. We focus on the “what,” over and over and over. As we articulate the “what,” dream about the what, sing and paint about the what. That is our primary role.
Many a great artist have been pulled into the “how,” some to the point of making a career of it. They eventually become “how to” experts to other artist types. They are worn out by the inward task of staying focused on the “what.” There is nothing wrong or less than about the “how,” it is just not the most important place. An artist gifts dictate for him what thing she can pursue. The gift itself is the guide. Though entrepreneurism is required, it is done on our terms.
We don’t limit the scope of our work by being stubbornly anti-capital. We don’t harbor a sense of guilt for making a profit on our work so that we can actually sustain it. But we also aren’t necessarily involved in the exploitation of that work. Somebody will have to be. That is the reality. Exploit is such a pornographic term, but ultimately the point. There is a necessary process of taking your project from inside you to outside, and then from your living room or basement to the community.
How far beyond the local community you as an artist want to take your work is a matter of conscience and sometimes economics. Can the local community sustain your project? In NYC, most likely yes. In a tiny town, probably not.
Again, the point here is do NOT get caught up. Don’t get stuck in this area trying to “figure it out on your own.” If you do, slowly but surely you will loose your grip on what is most important: your creative process. That is your untouchable!