The Power Of Yes, The Power of You, Yes, YOU

House23, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal talking about how to be successful as a creative. To some, this might seem a completely out of reach task–earning and making a living doing what you love, and loving what you do, but others make it work. The conclusion of the article was that, like the old sneaker commercials, you should “just do it!”

While this might sound a bit simplistic, it’s probably pretty close to the money (excuse the pun.) There are a lot of people claiming to be “creative types” who don’t produce any work at all. As much as I hate to say it, sometimes even I fall into this category too. People love to sit around and talk about art and photography, music, or the like, but how many actually get out and do it?

If you talk to some musicians (seriously, try this sometime) just once, just for grins ask them something about a song that’s on the top of the charts, right then, just as you are speaking with them. Odds are they won’t know what song you’re talking about. Why? Well, they don’t keep up with charts. They’re (usually) too busy making their own music, working in their own genre to worry about what Britney Spears is doing this week or the latest in Lady Gaga musings. They actually make music, they don’t sit around and talk about it, so they don’t keep up with the trends. Now, play a few notes and ask them what key signature it’s in or how it was recorded/produced? Yeah, you’ll get a different answer then. The same needs to be true for your photography.

There’s nothing more powerful, more influential in your entire span of a career as an artist than you. Yes, you. YOU. There I said it again. YOU are the driving force behind your career. If you are sitting around, waiting to be “discovered,” if you are waiting by the phone for that gallery to call, if you are sitting around thinking, “if only I could get my work into…” you are already a failure. Don’t wait for the phone to ring, go out and, sorry to get all sneaker commercial on you here, but, “JUST DO IT!”

People somehow fall in love with this romantic notion of the “overnight success.” They get visions of bands, rehearsing for years in a garage when, one day, by chance the postman walks by, oh and he happens to have a brother who is some “big record producer” and the rest? Oh yeah, that’s history, right? I got news for you. History is what you make of it. Today’s “in the moment” is tomorrow’s history. History is how you define it, and you and only you can make things happen for yourself as an artist. If you want that gallery show, go out and get it. If the first gallery doesn’t answer, try the second. If you fail, try again, this time, fail better. Eventually, success will taste all that much sweeter. Nobody remembers failures, everybody looks back on success but success comes through failure. You have to hear “no” a thousand times before the sound of “yes” can ring in your ears. That’s just how it works.

Success can only come on your own terms. Only you can define success. What does it mean to you? What do you want? Where do you want to go with it? Nobody else can answer those questions and, if you sit around waiting for something to magically come along and *poof* answer them for you, well, that’s making a choice too-it’s nothing more than artistic cowardice, or letting the world define you. You’re an artist, you’re supposed to be a visionary, no go out and envision your own success, then make it happen.

Too many artists (myself included in this bunch!) talk about making work but don’t produce enough. At the end of the day, it’s all about the work, really. If you make two photos and you’re lucky, well one of them might be nice. If you make two hundred, yeah, there’s probably going to be a good one in that batch, right? Try making two thousand and seeing what happens. If you are a creative, the most powerful tool in your toolbox is the power to create. Use it. Go make stuff. Don’t sit around yapping about it. The enemy of your productivity is the word “if.” If only that gallery would call, “if” only I had more time to…forget “if” and just make. Create. Do what it is you do, each and every day. That, and that alone will make you a successful artist.

Each and every one of us has within us the power to make, the power to change, the power to be, and even the power to talk about it. Which one are you going to use today? Before you answer that question, I honestly hope you’ll consider harnessing the power of YOU for all its worth.

Until next time…


  1. mythopolis
    September 9, 2010 / 6:17 pm

    I've been to many gallery shows, and done some. I think they are fairly boring. Not because of the work, but because the openings seemed to be mostly about people making the scene to be seen. Sipping wine and schmoozing seemed to be the order of the evening.

    The most fun shows are the ones you make. You make the work first, then you make the show. I have asked owners of empty spaces up for sale or rent, if I could use the space for a month to do a show. I offer to clean the place up on entering and upon leaving. Most are agreeable. It's good advertising of their space. Call the local paper, see if I can get a couple of lines on their happenings page. Then I call all my friends, tell them to call their friends, and we have a party. Potluck receptions and byob. Good times had by all. It becomes a real celebration of creative endeavor. You feel affirmed. And if you sell something, that's just gravy on the meatloaf.

  2. Carol
    September 10, 2010 / 2:36 pm

    Mythopolis, some gallery shows can be quite boring too. I've been to some where it's a very dull evening, but also attended others where it was hopping. I think there's a whole art to that sort of "party planning" and getting people all jazzed up for a fun time.

    I think it's not only about making one's own shows but about getting off one's duff to do the actual work. I know I suffer from this problem. I can be very productive at times, it almost seems like sprints, and then I can go long stretches where I don't even pick up a camera. I need to seek more "balance" in my creativity and actually do more. I need to force myself to be more creative and spend less time doing things that don't really help me in the long run. Less socializing on Facebook, more time shooting, that sort of a thing.

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