You have so many ideas. You’re full of creativity and ready to apply it to any material you come across.
You paint for the pleasure, you paint commissioned work, you make jewelry, you snap photos, and you teach. You know who you are. You’re going 90 miles an hour in every direction with your hair on fire.
People say you should focus – pick one thing and get on with it.
There’s that “s” word again: should. Beware of this word. I’ve been guilty of using it a lot myself, but I’m becoming increasingly aware of how dangerous it is.
The only thing you should do is to be in integrity with your goals, your purpose, and your vision. How this manifests itself in your life is a delicate negotiation between you and the Universe.
There is, however, a reasonable argument to be made for concentrating your creative energy in one area.
The Case for Focusing Your Art
When your work is moving in multiple directions simultaneously, at least four problems arise.
1. It’s harder to master any one thing.
Racking up those 10,000 hours of expertise takes much longer when you’re working on 10,000 hours in two or three separate areas.
2. You struggle with setting priorities.
How do you know what to work on each day?
Note that there is a difference between making art and marketing it. If you decide to focus in a specific area, it doesn’t mean you can’t make other art. It might mean that you don’t promote the other work.
3. You confuse your audience – or so they say.
Marketing wisdom says that a confused buyer doesn’t buy. So, if you’re all over the map, the buyer can’t grasp what you’re all about.
I can’t help but wonder about this in the age where we market art directly to consumers. Do they care that an artist isn’t slick and branded?
It’s certainly true that artists seeking galleries and museums need to appear focused, but is it as necessary for everyone else as we think? I’m still pondering this question.
4. It’s just plain exhausting.
When you dabble in numerous things, you multiply your effort.
Different styles/products = Different audiences = Different marketing
The people looking for wedding photography might not be too interested in your ceramic sculpture and vice versa. You have to market to them separately, which means double the work.
It should be noted that just because you use different media doesn’t mean you have different styles. Style has little to do with media. Picasso applied Cubism to paintings, collages, sculpture, and ceramics. We know a Picasso when we see one – regardless of what it’s made of.
Artists aren’t the only ones to struggle with this.
In the first decade of my business, I threw everything out there to see if it would stick. I produced e-books, teleseminars, online classes, private coaching, group coaching, live workshops, special reports, and hard books.
I’ve tried it all and, although my audience is pretty cohesive, I know from experience how tiring it is to juggle so many products. I also believe it added to the confusion of my site visitors.
If You’re Pooped From Going In Different Directions
While I laid out a case for focusing your art above, I don’t believe in advising that you have to pick one thing and get on with it. If I tell you what art to focus on, you might rebel. You’re going to have to figure this out on your own, which you undoubtedly know.
If you’re an artist who struggles with lack of focus, just keep working. Work through all of the tests, trials, and uglies. Make tons of art, teach tons of classes, or write tons of books and then decide.
If that sounds like too much effort, perhaps evaluate your predicament analytically rather than emotionally.
What are your values and what are your needs?
Do you prize recognition by the art world or your community above all else? Some art can be considered legacy art, while other art might be seen as more commercial.
There is nothing wrong with either, but you need to understand the difference in order to find clarity around your work.
Is money a motivator?
If finances are a concern, other considerations will come into play.
What has the best potential for a high financial payoff over time? You intuitively understand that selling $3,000 original pieces (when you can get that kind of money for your art) is going to be a better market to focus on than the market for $50 miniatures. In the latter, you’d have to produce and sell 60 pieces to equal one $3,000 sale.
What could bring the fastest payoff? Sometimes life circumstances dictate that you have to bring in money quickly. What could you make or are you making that is easiest to find buyers for?
Finally, the big questions: What do you want to be known for? What will be written on your tombstone? What will your legacy be?
Words of wisdom that I picked up from Britt Greenland, one of my Inner Circle members: Be careful of trying to be the artist that others think you should be – doing what you think is expected of you rather than what you want.
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This is your one precious life to live as only you can.