It is common practice to take an overview of the year during the month of December. For artists and creatives, the math of faith over facts yields varying results. While others experience tangible metrics of success, others may find themselves navigating a run of bad luck—as a good portion may still find themselves awaiting a breakthrough moment in their careers, reminiscent of the George Bailey narrative of the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, where hopes and promise are saddled with delays and setbacks. In a marketplace and culture where worth is measured by hard sales and engagement across social media platforms, how can artists and creatives maintain the worth of what they create, against the dollars and cents of unrealized expectations?
For many artists and creatives, having advocates and associates who are supportive can prove helpful towards retaining an optimistic perspective and sense of worth of what they create. Regardless of the level or absence of support from an artist’s network, however, self-encouragement is key. The following tips can prove helpful in fostering an optimistic perspective and encouragement from within:
Take Inventory: A line-up of projects and deliverables completed over the course of the year against the cons of circumstance can provide a reality check against a failure perspective. In the process, each project can be valued properly with respect to its purpose, with a renewed appreciation for its place and timing within the arc of an artist’s career. Upon review, the worth of each project can become more visible, as either a stepping stone in the honing of craft or a unique deliverable—the potential of which is specific to a certain market or timing that has yet to arrive.
Within scripture, the Apostle Paul provides the following metaphor to his protégé Timothy, describing the levels of relationship between humanity and the Creator—which runs parallel to the creative process for artists:
“In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from all those evil things, will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.”
Under review, at the close of the year, some deliverables and projects will have specific uses, purposes and release dates while others are merely incremental to an artist’s growth. Not every project is meant for immediate financial return, but every project holds its individual value towards an artist’s overall success—as in turn, every human life has a specific purpose towards the Creator’s use.
Make Room For Faith to Take Shape: Although faith is crucial in overcoming career obstacles and achieving creative goals, it is also important to leave room for faith to take shape and produce according to the scope of the Creator’s imagination and his intent for individual talents—which may or may not be in sync with an artist’s idealized plan for the expression of their gifts.
As illustrated through the angel Gabriel’s message to Mary, announcing the birth of Christ, all things are possible beyond human perspective of what is plausible or convenient to individual needs, expectations or desires.
“Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. For there is nothing that God cannot do.”
Meal Prep: “Human beings cannot live on bread alone.” It is a difficult precept to live by, much less remember as an artist or creative, in the face of real-life facts and obligations in the form of food, housing, medical bills, child-care or overall financial welfare—but it is a proverbial theme that is emphasized throughout Christ’s teachings. When another year is approaching on the horizon, and material needs and concerns have not been resolved, it can be difficult to find the worth in creative that is seemingly being produced at the expense of individual need or desire for security.
After his well-known encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, where Christ revealed himself as the source of eternal life and truth, his disciples gathered around him, worried, begging him to eat, after his long journey—to which he countered:
“My food is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do.”
In adhering to the call to create, artists and creatives can effectively meal prep their way towards acquiring the sustenance and satisfaction needed to buoy them through seasons of challenge and lack by remaining active in their creative endeavors.
Ultimately, the worth of an artist’s work is determined by their faith and commitment to the cultivation and shepherding of their gifts through seasons of gain or obscurity.