Monday, April 05, 2010

myth of the lone artist

This is my last installment on five things that I think artists need in order to run a successful art-based business. If you haven't read the five things yet, read them right here. Today I'm writing about point #4: the importance of building a support network of colleagues.

My friends love to laugh at me when I say that deep down, I'm kinda shy. When I was a kid, I could only manage one friend at a time, and that didn't change until I became a teenager and more comfortable with myself in groups of people. What I discovered as a teenager is that having good friends who are going through what you are going through can get you through anything, including being a teenager.

A lot of people rely on their families for support-- spouse, siblings, parents-- and I think families are good for a certain kind of support, the unconditional "you-are-so-talented-everything-you-make-is-beautiful" kind. And that's great, we all need some of that. But colleagues who share your field understand on a deeper level what you are experiencing, and can give you more specific support. This is essential in order to not lose your freaking mind when you are trying to run your art-based business.

Forget the myth of the lone artist. The truth is, we all need lots of support from various sources on a steady and ongoing basis. Every artist should have a go-to person for:
That's just the beginning. All of the issues above are problems you have probably already had and will have again. My husband will usually offer a hug, and when things are really bad, a stiff cocktail. He's like a general practitioner. My colleagues, however, are specialists. They usually know exactly what remedy is needed. And talking to someone who knows exactly what you are going through is a huge comfort. Most things cannot be solved instantly, but being put back on the right path can bring much needed relief from the nasty voices in your head, telling you what a screw-up and failure you are.

If you don't have a network in place already, get it in place. When I moved to the Bay Area, I started an art group of people who wanted to become professional artists, and I made great connections that way. If a shy person like me can do that, you can too.