How far are you willing to believe in what your imagination can do for you and your future as an artist?
The truth of the matter is that as much as I LOVE all of you artists and your creativity, TOO MANY of you have no idea how to use the resources of your POWERFUL imaginations to help transform your life into whatever you wish it to be. As a result, I see too many of you wondering why you can never get ahead and witness far too often your goals and hopes and dreams slipping through your fingers. Like smoke from the lamp becoming the genie, artists need to learn to recognize a tiny little smoke stream as opportunity. And opportunity, like smoke, evaporates quickly if you don’t know how to transform it into the genie. I think there might be a lot to learn here from the smoke….
Look, our imaginations are NOT intangible and elusive resources that we can access only when the spirit stirs us or swirls around us. Our imagination is NOT like smoke from the genie bottle-only good for creativity and artistry, but actually an ESSENTIAL set of tools that can lift, launch or transform our careers, as well as add to our pocket book, if we are willing to leverage, in new ways, all it offers.
Let me explain.
One of the common barriers for artists in being readily able to building creative ventures lies in their ability to apply the same principals of imagination they bring to their artistry to the real world. The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, in our presentation What is Your Imagination Worth? A New Kind of ROI looks at 5 essential tools of imagination that are invaluable to creating future creative prosperity. Here are the five tools and why they are so important for you to learn how to use in new ways:
A Willingness to Fail
Jane has played the piano and written music since she was a kid. She attended Berkley College and has made a modest living as a gigging musician ever since. In her 40’s, Jane decided she wanted to try and finally improve her life by being able to actually afford to buy a house. She really wanted to move out of the basement apartment she has been renting for the last ten years and have a place of her own she could call home. So Jane decided that her best asset to try and sell would be her music to high school and college jazz bands. She decided she really wanted to finally try and see if she could actually sell a few of the literally hundred of charts she had written over the past twenty-five years. Jane picked up the phone and started calling every musician she knew ( and she knows a lot of them!) asking for more names of directors in the area she could contact about selling her music. She then proceeded to start compiling email lists from those contacts, created a website as well as her first newsletter about her music and background. Sounds like Jane was off to a really good start right? Yeah, except for one thing. After three months of sending out her newsletter and writing personal emails to directors only a few people had expressed interest in knowing more about her music and no one had yet placed an order. Seems like a lot of work for nothing, right? So what did Jane do? She complained that her music was not for everyone and repeated over and over to her friends that ” she knew there was a reason why she never had bothered to try and sell it in the first place” and then she gave up.
And yet, when Jane was first learning how to write music she wrote all kinds of dreadful stuff. Music that was simply unplayable and not enjoyable or interesting to listen to. Over and over and over again she failed until she got it right. Jane had to work hard at it too. If only Jane was willing to apply one of the most important ingredients of imagination- her willingness to fail- to her emerging music business as she has to her playing and composition that now has lead her to great success as a big band leader. The audience she plays for today loves all of the music she writes as does her musicians. But her success did not come in 5 minutes or 3 months worth of effort. It took years….
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
Do you remember the first time you performed or exhibited your work publicly? Do you remember how you felt? Were you uncomfortable in your own skin? Nervous? Unable to string a coherent sentence together to someone who came up to you after to performance or at the exhibition? Did your stomach do flips and turns you never knew were possible? Did you notice all your mistakes and feel uncomfortable and vulnerable?
And yet if you are here reading this post, clearly you did it again, and again, and again. You were willing to step out of your comfort zone and continue to try because it was worth it to you. It was for you! For the love of your art! Well guess what? Building a creative ventures requires MANY MANY MANY moments of feeling the same way. The same creative passion that flowed from your imagination that lead you to that first public moment, is the same one, if you let it, that can lead you to embrace the same kinds of awkward uncomfortable moments as you learn how to build your first creative venture. Like the same “beginner” on your first appearance, you must be willing to learn and grow as if you were again a beginner. Because for the moment you are a beginner again– in building a creative venture.
Flexibility and Fluency
Every artist I know can bend to the left or right with their artistry. Want to hear me play it faster, louder, more dreamy, more staccato? We are taught how to change styles at the drop of a hat and, in our artistry, are constantly willing to be “open” to new ideas. We listen and accept all the different iterations we can create and appreciate all the new ways we can express who we are with our inflection and style. And yet when confronted with lessons to learn in the business world- like how many different ways you need to be able to communicate to potential clients, how to close a deal with different personality types, why you need to be more agile and adapt to the needs of the audience you wish to serve– seemingly those same principals of flexibility and fluency that are so well known to us in our artistry fly right out the window.
Not every customer is going to like your style of communication. Period. If you want more business you need to be flexible enough to know how to build a relationship the CUSTOMER will value and will appreciate. Not every customer has the same interest level or knowledge about your product or service. As a result, each one needs exactly the right kind of communication and information specific to their needs in the moment. None of this is all that different from how you use your imagination to create a work of art or a performance that effectively communicates to your audience what you are trying to get across. You simply are learning how to tailor it to the needs of your target market. Unfortunately, what I often find in artists is a know it all attitude or the rigid narrow kind of thinking about what they should and shouldn’t do that screams ” I am a beginner at this and need to feel in control”.
Don’t you remember how beginners try and show off what they can do with reckless abandon when they have not yet developed enough skill? Heck, I tried to play the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with orchestra in 8th grade- God help me. Often adult artists act the same way except that it is harder to help change if you do not have the willingness to learn and reflect on what you need to learn. In our art form we are so good at getting it right and learning from criticism to create the flexibility and fluency that our artistry needs- why not bring it with you into other parts of your life and in the building of your creative venture?
Did you always KNOW how to bend and flex your artistry? Were you born like that? Or did you go to a school and learn from a really FINE teacher who showed you how to do it? Building a creative venture requires the exact same tolerance and willingness to learn from and follow someone you respect. It requires a willingness to fail and the ability to get out of your comfort zone and accept that you probably don’t really know what is required to build these skills and likely, as you did with a teacher, must bend and flex the way THAT SPECIFIC TEACHER tells you to until you have all the skills mastered fluently and can decide for yourself. If you are a serious artist, then you know it did not take you 10 minutes to develop your talent- it took years. This is why we are opening a school- The IAE– to teach these skills.
What does it mean to improvise? Do you know what it means to experiment and play with the elements you have in front of you to see what they can create or do for you? How do you improvise with your audience currently? How do these same elements come into play in the creation of a business? Being able to improvise requires that you are willing to fail, can get out of your comfort zone and you have learned how to be flexible and fluent enough to take a risk and try something in the moment. Creating something new requires “live” and ongoing experimentation.
You can experiment with how you communicate to a potential client or with the actual product you deliver. You might experiment by mixing up something in the way you promote yourself or the venue you select to perform. Improvisation is a core tenant to building a business and can take many different shapes and forms. Improvisation is a very necessary tool to learn how to create authenticity and real connectivity between you and your clients or audience What is your imagination worth? Are you really willing to learn what it takes to reach you prospective paying audience with your artistic gifts?
Diverge and Converge
Once you have diverged by mastering how you can utilize all the tools of your imagination in building your creative business, you will be ready to converge them into the realization of a dream. And here is the fun part. This is where- yes you guessed it– that little smoke stream becomes your own personal genie. The genie that can grant you three wishes or fulfill your dream.
The things you want most in life can be yours- in time- if only you are willing to become a beginner again and learn how to apply the most powerful resource as an artist you have to offer your future– Your imagination. Are you ready?