What will help you prove the exception and up your chances of succeeding in the arts? Here are three tips:
1. Understand why “proving the exception” is vital
First, understand this point. There are many places in life where you might want to “prove the rule” and not the exception. In a certain kind of salaried government job where your main task is not to rock the boat, then not rocking the boat is exactly what you would want to do if you hoped to get along and succeed. There are many times and places in life where you want to do exactly what everyone else is doing: for example, driving on the correct side of the road for the safety of everyone. In the arts, however, you do not want to be doing what everyone else is doing: you want to be doing both more and different. Is that point clear to you?
2. Understand how “most artists” operate
If you intend to prove the exception, you will need to learn what is average or typical. Use the evidence of your eyes to distinguish between what most artists are doing and what successful artists are doing. What concrete differences do you notice between the one group and the other? Are the successes of successful artists more about their subject matter choices, their technical merit, their marketing efforts, the stunts they pull, their assertiveness or their sociability? What do you see? If you don’t know how to gather this information, think about how you might gather it. If you can’t gather it, then just use your common sense to answer the following basic, pivotal question: what helps a person succeed?
3. Articulate the difference(s) between “the normal way” and “the exceptional way”
As you begin to understand what amounts to an average effort and what amounts to an exceptional effort, articulate what you are learning. Write out your own “ten tips” for proving the exception. Be able to say in a clear sentence how you mean to distinguish your efforts from customary efforts. This might sound like, “I am spending the next six months creating a powerful body of work and then I am completely turning myself over to marketing that work with as much passion, pride, and smarts as I created the work.” Create your own plan for “proving the exception.” Clearly identify what you will need to do in order to make your plan work.