How to begin an artistic career and learn from failure
Do you find yourself stuck with this desire to build your artistic career but do not know where to start, what to do and what to learn from what you may consider “failures”?
This phase of your life is actually a founding moment that should be valued as such and that may help you develop into what you really want for the future.
*Little disclaimer: we are aware that the advices that we give may come from a place of privileges. We would advise you to try to adapt depending on your financial, emotional, familial, social, geographical, ethnical, sexual, etc. stability and privileges. However, this does not exempt you not to give all the best and try pushing further.
Now, let’s go back to our business: How can you begin an artistic career and learn from failure?
1. STOP WAITING, START NOW, REFLECT AFTER, REPEAT
The huge problem you may have is not the desire to start, but actually starting. Do you have a job aside? Do you feel there is too much to learn or that the chances you succeed are too thin? Those are not good reasons not to start.
Yes you may not be able to quit your job right now – because of financial instability amongst other things – and yes you may be tired at the end of your day. But this is not a good reason for not starting. When you begin to do what you want, you will be able to fail and see how to adjust, what to learn, find another way to do what you want…
A common quote that informaticians learn very early on is “Fail Faster”. For failing faster, you actually need to start doing.
Let us take the example of a person who would like to become a photographer. By just going out with the new camera, in manual mode, this person will succeed in taking some photos but may face some difficulties: “mmh… How can I focus on something else?”, “How to know which parameter should increase or decrease first? And what does that imply to the other parameters?”, “Why am I not in focus?”, “How can I take this scene the best way?”, “How can I deal with shadows and lights?”, “How can I have bokeh?”, etc. When we face the problem by ourselves, we will learn better than if we just attend an online class without practice. By seeing the difficulties first hand, we then are able to learn from where we are, to where we want to be.
It is like learning a new language: speaking another language with another person, if you try to speak without any mistakes, you may end up cutting your sentences, forgetting what you want to say and disturbing the communication between you and the person in front of you. Yes it is important to improve and perform well so you have a high value. However, we are here speaking about the beginning. You should not be afraid and therefore be blocked by the idea of making mistakes. The best way forward is to: STOP WAITING, START DOING. Then, only after, REFLECT ON WHAT YOU DID, either you do it by yourself, with a teacher or by asking feedback. At this stage, try to tell yourself what would have been better to do, learn your lessons, understand what you could do differently. Finally, you need to go back out there and REPEAT.
2. FIND WAYS TO LEARN
Once you have started, the next thing is to be able to grow and reflect, knowing where to find the information. Books, audio books, youtube videos, Tik-Toks, friends, facebook groups, teachers, events, environments, conferences or online courses are just some examples of where to find information.
The best procedure is to choose several platforms. Moreover, in order to make learning easy and find some time to learn during your day, while still having a full time job for example, you can plan to do those activities during your commuting time, cleaning your apartment, doing your dishes, cleaning your teeth, etc. For activities where you do need your full concentration, you can plan a chosen amount of time each day. Indeed, reading 15 min each day will always bring you way further than reading only 1 hour one random day every month. Doing small actions consistently is really the way to go if you aim for a long term change.
"We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year."
- Bill Gates
This is really true. Once you have a dream, try to cut it into quantitative goals for the +1, +3, +5 or +10 years. Then cut these goals into smaller steps, until you have small, easy and doable tasks each day. We also recommend that you check each week where you are, what has gone well, what did not, etc. This way, you reflect each week on the previous week and try to improve your routine for the next one.
3. Failures? No: Opportunities!
For the following part, we will take an example to help us describe how to see failures.
If we now imagine that you have started your career as a photographer. You have done your first shootings and you suddenly realize that you are taking too many photos and find yourself overloaded with pictures that you cannot really choose from and with pictures to retouch. Instead of being afraid about not being able to deliver in time, try to think about what you could do to improve this next time. As an example, you could try doing shorter shootings for now. Try also exercising your choosing muscle, first you may need help and then you may reduce this help more and more. Asking for help or finding yourself in an uncomfortable position where you need to find another strategy does not have to be seen as a failure. Instead you can find enjoyment in these steps because, by facing them now, it means both that you started going to your goals, AND that you will perform even better in the end.
The same is true for the following story:
Let us imagine that you are still a beginner at photography and that you want to collaborate with someone in order to learn a certain technique. Now, we are after the shooting and you spent a lot of time retouching a lot of photos for free (collaboration). The model receiving the photos, before even thanking you, criticizes non-constructively your work. What do you do? Well you may take it as good news! Why? Well, for next time, you know that, you can select way less photos and spend only a certain amount of time on the pictures. Why do more if you may probably get the same reaction? Even if you do collaborate with someone else and this person is really nice to you. By remembering this time, you will train to give better but less and this is not taking all your precious time.
Indeed, you need time to learn new things, improve, and communicate about your activities. Therefore, learning how to optimize your time is the key you need to start and succeed!
Furthermore, we would advise you to always take into account feedback. A seemingly non-constructive critic may indeed unblock your work. However, this point is to be nuanced because, while taking all feedback possible, you should still be able to see it as something that will not undermine your value, self-love or self-worth. Moreover when critics are sometimes not relevant. It is up to you to understand if feedback is or not relevant, being open to improve and seeing this as a way to grow.
Finally, do not be afraid if the same mistake comes back sometimes, as we already said in a previous blog, a child learning to walk will not fail only one time and then walk. The same is true for speaking. And, therefore, the same is true for mastering something.
Of course this feeling may not be pleasant, but be open to recognize your mistakes and learn from them. You will both learn faster but also develop a self-improving muscle that will help you even in other areas of your life.