Ten Habits of Successful Artists

You have probably heard of the concept that says successful people tend to share a selection of habits. Countless articles and books have been written on the topic, helping guide people toward an understanding of how to harness certain behaviors that can improve their own ability to be productive and successful in their daily lives. Often these traits are aimed at helping those in mainstream fields get ahead. The habits of successful business people is a widely discussed theme. But what about those in less traditional disciplines? Are there certain behaviors that can be of use for those treading a path less taken? Research says yes, for those in creative fields there are certain traits and behaviors that tend to be predictors of success. Here are ten habits to consider.

  1. Let go of the pursuit of perfection: life is imperfect. There is virtually no circumstance we experience with perfection in any aspect of our existence. Art is a reflection of life and therefore is in itself inherently imperfect. Striving for flawlessness as an artist is the fastest way to find yourself blocked and unable to move forward. Let go of the need to create something just so and simply create.
  2. Pursue your passion: it’s safe to say no one goes into art for the salary. But having a clear idea of you true artistic passion and sticking firmly to it is critical for anyone wishing to make a career of their art. While you may wonder whether what you truly love to create is something marketable, try to let go of this aspect and boldly pursue the work you love.
  3. Set parameters: just like you ought to work to pursue work that means the most to you, it is wise to narrow your parameters within this scope. Rather than trying to do every sort of artwork that may draw your interest, choose what you do well and strive to be the best at it. This way you are not wasting time and resources on something that, in the end may not be your calling. Listen to your gut. You’ll know what work makes you the most fulfilled.
  4. Visualize success: no one ever got ahead by believing it couldn’t be done. Don’t be afraid to see yourself succeed. That means not only allowing yourself to imagine where you’d like your work to take you, but opening up and letting success in. We humans have a terrible habit of being our own worst enemies and critics at times. Soften a little and accept success when it is presented.
  5. Don’t be afraid to silence your inner critic: while it is important to maintain a good head on your shoulders and not get too big for your britches (as the sayings go) it is also ok (even important) to shut down the little voice that tells you it’s never good enough. Return to the first habit in this list and remind yourself–and that little voice–that perfection is out of the question.
  6. Practice, practice, practice: no matter what else is happening in your life, it is absolutely vital that you as a working artist set aside time every single day for studio practice. No one ever improved or succeeded by not doing. Make your way to the studio daily and when you’re there make sure you are focused on your work.
  7. Don’t let setbacks get you down: no road is without bumps. Along the way, you are going to experience setbacks. You will be rejected and it will be hard to take. Don’t let this knock the wind from your sails. When you receive setbacks, brush yourself off, take a moment to assess what can be learned from the experience, and move forward.
  8. Be professional: this is such an important point that is too easily lost. When you make a career out of something that doesn’t necessarily feel like work, lines can seem a bit blurry. You are a business. Conduct yourself accordingly. Remember that when you attend openings and events, you are there representing your personal brand.
  9. Reach out: everybody has times when they hit a wall. Sometimes things can seem overwhelming or you might experience a slump in your creativity. You may find that you’ve plateaued somehow and are unsure how to proceed. When faced with circumstances like this, seek the guidance of others. Reach out to mentors or colleagues, friends, family, anyone who might offer you some help with your forward momentum. No business–indeed no human–can exist in a vacuum.
  10. Claim your workspace: it may seem like a superficial detail, but having a dedicated workspace for your art is far more important than just having a place to keep your supplies. Find a space and make it yours. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the corner of a room or a broom closet, fill it with things that will inspire you and motivate your journey.

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