Four Paths to Artistic Success

by Jeffrey P. Fisher




Many of us try to do too many things at one time. It's a plague that affects many creative people. I feel it's the side-effect of the creative spirit -- helpful when you require the muse and destructive because you never finish anything (or burn out trying). Here's a suggestion.


Divide your creative life into four distinct parts. Make sure you pursue these four paths with confidence and passion. Set specific goals within these paths and update your choices as you accomplish goals and/or decide to take new directions.


(1) Choose a main or core goal for your creative career and devote most of your time, money, and general resources to reaching that goal. This objective should be the dominant work that brings you the most satisfaction. Put simply: go make your art.


(2) Choose a secondary ambition that quenches your creative thirst. Make this more of a long-term project that you devote some attention toward finishing. Think of this as your lofty want-to-do or need-to-accomplish life goal. Don't neglect it, but don't let it greatly interfere with your main objectives.


(3) Obviously, spend energy toward those tasks that finance your lifestyle (e.g. day job, etc.). Hopefully, your core path will supply most or all of your income. If not, this other activity may be necessary. Put simply: sometimes commerce comes before your art.


(4) Find a passion outside your work for balance. This can be another creative outlet, but whatever you choose, keep it TOTALLY unrelated to the other three paths. Exercise travel, volunteering, school -- these are all fine choices.


Having trouble deciding the right paths? Try these two exercises.


First, write the story of your life. Your past may predict your future.  Writing your biography, your life's story, is usually quite revealing. Find some quiet time, grab some paper, a pen, and begin at the beginning. To keep your catharsis on track, focus on key factors that brought you to where you are today.


Second, write about your future dreams.

1) What are your have-tos? These are all the things you must do to simply survive.

2) What are your like-tos? These are your fantasies; something you'd like to do someday, but don't necessarily need to do them. 

3) What are your real want-tos? These are those experiences you wish (and desperately need) to bring into your life.


Once you've taken care of the first two (have-tos and like-tos) you can really buckle down and address real goals. When you complete this exercise, you'll have a clearer picture of where you want to go with your life and career. Congratulations. You are far ahead of the majority of people who ignore their need to make plans. Now comes the next hard part. How do you plan to reach all these goals and when?