We all grow up with the idea of the ‘true’ artist as the ‘lone wolf’. Someone who’s driven to create even in the face of everyone else’s scorn. While artists of all kinds do tend to be self-reliant and independent once they’re established, this isn’t the whole story.
At the start of their careers, mentoring is essential for artists
Virtually all the artists I’ve ever spoken to had at least one knowledgeable person who recognized their artistry at the start of their careers – often even in the face of the artist concerned’s disbelief. Not many young people have the chutzpah to call themselves an artist without encouragement. Many deny it, or minimise their belief in their talent because what they do feels ‘easy’. They forget that it isn’t easy for others, and that ‘easy’ is the way it’s supposed to feel. Or they may deny because they find their chosen craft difficult or agonizing while they’re still learning. Or because there’s no one who looks like them in their field – especially where the artists getting most of the attention are white, male, mature and able-bodied.
In a way, mentoring is essential for artists because they need to be ‘recognized’
Artists and creative people do not seem to be able to ‘name’ themselves – at least, not initially. This inability is to do with their huge humility and awareness of just how much they have to learn in order to measure up with other artists. Often, it takes the encouragement of another writer, painter, gallerist, producer, manager, dancer or whatever, to make them believe that they have what it takes to work as a creative professional. This recognition process and gentle encouragement is essential, as without it, the nascent artist may simply give up and become something else.
Were you mentored as an artist at the beginning of your creative career?
Chances are, someone helped you – either with just a comment or a great deal of support. Think back to who that was, and how crucial that support was to your growing sense of self as a creative person. Think about whether you’d have taken so many risks or thrown yourself so completely into a creative career without that conviction in your own artistic powers that those people helped you develop? Or whether you’d have taken the right steps at all without their insights and advice?
Mentoring is essential for artists making changes to their careers too
It’s not just new artists and creative people who need support. Artists making any kind of change of direction, either of discipline or change of level also need perspective. The kind of perspective that only a life coach or another experienced creative person can give. In fact, whatever level you’re at, you never grow out of needing perspective and support and advice.
It’s time to pay it back. Mentor the nascent artists you know
Dear reader, it’s time to pay back the kindness that was shown to you. If you have a thriving creative career, think where you might be now without that kindness, recognition and support? Make the effort to help artists at all levels. Be kind, suppress your competitive instincts and nurture the talent around you. In particular, encourage people of real talent to see what they have to give. Especially if they’re having a hard time recognizing it. You’ll be helping another artist to be ‘born’.
If you want to know more about the kind of support you’ll need as a creative person throughout your career, read chapter eight of ‘Organizing for Creative People’. It’ll help you assemble the team you need to make your career thrive.