The following are ten ways that creative and performing artists give away their freedom with respect to the art marketplace and with respect to their career.
1. By hiding out. We are free to show up places, learn from people, see what’s going on – but out of anxiety or pride we may give away this freedom. You are also free not to hide out – that is your choice.
2. By demonizing marketplace players. It is easy and even comforting to turn marketplace players into the enemy. But we are also free not to take that easy route. It is our choice whether to lead with disdain and wounded pride or to freely admit that we need advocates, want them, and will do whatever we can to bring them over to our side. To repeat, we are free not to demonize marketplace players.
3. By over-investing in one plan or tactic. We are free to step back and look at our plans and tactics objectively rather than to keep obsessing about the one plan or the one tactic in which we’ve invested everything. If you are obsessing about whether your headshots work and are paralyzed by those doubts, then obsessing in that way is preventing you from doing other things that would much better support your career. You are free not to obsess in such ways.
4. By taking silence personally. We send things out into the world and then we wait. While we wait, all we hear is silence. We are free not to take that silence personally or to construe it as impending criticism or rejection. We are free not to turn silence into a problem.
5. By turning problem people who do not really matter to us into too much of a problem. We are free not to care too much about or become too affected by difficult folks in the marketplace who do not directly matter to us. If some fellow performer is a drama queen or king, we are free not to get embroiled in that person’s dramas. We are free not to care about people about whom we don’t actually care.
6. By failing to notice—and to seize—opportunity. We are free not to ignore the fact that someone we know knows someone who might be of use to us. Too often we feel embarrassed about reaching out to people who might be of use to us and we get in the habit of not even noticing their existence. You are free not to miss noticing the opportunities that arise and seizing them.
7. By not persisting. We are free to keep trying a given contact a dozen times or we can give away that freedom by stopping the first time we are met with a lukewarm or negative response. If you improve a project, you are free to get back to anyone who passed on it the time before. If you receive a bit of attention, you are free to tell folks who passed on you previously that you are better known now. You are free to persist and even pester – unless you decide that you are not that free.
8. By saying yes when it doesn’t serve us or when we don’t mean it. We are free to say no to a time-consuming, low-paying gig or we can give away that freedom and say yes just because we want to be seen as nice or helpful. We are free to say no to helping out with a labor-intensive project that provides us with next to nothing or we can give away that freedom. We are free to think about whether a project really serves us – or we can give away that freedom.
9. By taking long vacations from trying to move our career forward. You are free to decide that you will not skip days and avoid the work necessary to give yourself a chance at a career. Taking days off is the same as giving away your freedom – your freedom to try, your freedom to make an effort, your freedom to give yourself a chance. You are free not to take extensive vacations from building your career.
10. By throwing up our hands and exclaiming that we don’t know what to do to move our career forward, that there are too many things to do to move our career forward, that we are too much of an outsider to move our career forward, that there are too few opportunities to move our career forward, and so on. In fact, you are free not to throw up your hands at marketplace difficulties. And that’s exactly what you need to do: not throw up your hands at those difficulties.
1. Identify the ways that you currently “give away your freedom” with respect to the marketplace.
2. What changes would you like to make so that you don’t give away that precious freedom?