It takes a tremendous amount of work to get anywhere in an artistic field. Everyone loves to tout the “overnight success” idea, but most overnight successes had years of tweaking and experimenting involved before they had that big break that made everybody look twice.
Fully committing to your craft is a painful process filled with enough emotional turmoil to make “movie of the week.” The internalized hopes and fears swirl together and often land in the pit of your stomach like an anvil.
To fully dedicate yourself, you have to move past the self-doubt, the internal self-loathing that is often the biggest obstacle anyone has to face. (Unless you’re one of those jerks who is way too full of yourself and thinks you’re everyone’s gift to everything, then you have a while other world of setbacks to experience) Every new book, each fresh story I write is better than the last. I continuously work to absorb more tips and tricks to make myself as good as I can be. The ultimate goal shouldn’t be sales or awards; it should always be to make your work the best. Doing that ensures all the rest.
Of course in the publishing industry, being the best also seems impossible because it raises the question of how does one define who is the best? And that differs between opinions and genres. BUT the authors who bust their asses to keep producing work that evolves are the ones who stick around.
Longevity is always more important than the fabled “overnight success” (at least in my book). Longevity means years of practice and discomfort, a lot of self-recognition – which is the opposite of self-doubt. Self-doubt is that bastard voice in your head that tells you that you can’t even do the things you’re already doing. Self-recognition is finding the ability to realize your weaknesses so you can improve while also developing a sense of accomplishment over your strengths.
I am no expert, and each blog is a bit of a realization for me. Sitting here right now, I’ve come to understand that I know very little, but most of what I do know has been fueled by my own little star. My eldest daughter has been dancing ballet for 6 years now. When she started it was just a silly mommy-and-me class to get us out of the house together.
She cried and threw her prop (an adorable teddy bear) across the stage at her first recital and I thought: Okay, this isn’t her thing. But something amazing happened. When I took her out of dance, she missed it. She began to grow into her own little person and realized what she wanted. She went back in, despite my questioning the idea, and not only did she flourish, she began making goals. “I want to be in The Nutcracker. I want to dance as Clara someday. I want to be in the chorus of Sleeping Beauty.”
I am not a dancer. I was a swimmer, who dabbled in a little hip hop, but that’s it. This was a new avenue for me. It’s been a continuous guessing game. Thankfully books like “Apollo’s Angels” and the Misty Copeland autobiography are out there to help.
We’re also not rich. There is only so much one can budget to put into their craft. With writing there are sometimes entry fees for awards, societies, and workshops; in dance there are class fees, costumes fees, photo packages, and required parent volunteer hours. Scrimping and saving and cutting out the extras is the only way some of us are able to make all of this work. Yes I write for a living, but I am not Neil Gaiman. haha
Art is demanding. Writing is mostly mental, but ballet is extremely physical. I often worry about my daughter’s self-image and healthy eating. I have no interest in promoting any activity that may harm her in the long run. So far, her dance studio, St. Louis ballet, has proved to be everything I didn’t expect. They are friendlier than any Gymboree facility, have healthy high protein, high fiber, low carb meal suggestions to help fuel a growing dancer, and most of all they make it fun. It is not a teacher staring the dancers down until they are terrified that they might not get it the first time.
Who you work with matters. Making sure your teachers and mentors are positive influences who will push you forward is highly important. How you get where you’re going is everything.
Today marks a new level in my daughter’s dancing. She has been cast in her first role in The Nutcracker. She now gets to perform onstage with the professional ballet dancers. It will be a while before she can hope to play Clara or a chorus dancer. She may decide she’s done with this and hang up her slippers for something else after this season.
The possibilities are always endless. No matter where you go in your writing, dancing, art, or anything, there are always options – even if you don’t see them. Dedication is all that matters. If you really want something and go after it as best you can, something will open up.