At the beginning of your career, as an artist, there is an abundance of hope that talent and perseverance will prevail, and shortly afterwards you will net the life and opportunities dreamed of. As time passes, in some cases, that same hope can prove elusive shifting from solid to liquid to vapor, depending on the contrary environment and circumstances you find yourself working through to realize your career goals. In the process, peers within your given field or industry may move on, obtaining the success you visualized for yourself—and the present year may begin to look as though it will mirror the dead air of the last and the one prior. How do you maintain hope—or in the case of lost hope—resurrect the hope for your dream and artistic path, and refine your focus, when your career momentum has seemingly stalled?
In the independent movie classic, “30 Years To Life”, co-produced by legendary hip-hop producer, Timbaland, six friends find themselves at a crossroads, grappling with the dismantling of their individual hopes and life expectations, as they each turn thirty. One of the friends, Troy, an aspiring comedian played by Tracy Morgan, arrives at the doorpost of his thirtieth birthday at the close of the year, battling the reality that he still hasn’t made it and is still waiting for a breakthrough in his career. The scene finds him in the office of his agent of eight years, demanding answers: “You said it was gonna be my year—Every year passes, and it’s never my year! Why do your other clients always get the part… What do your other clients have that I don’t?!” His agent attempts to quell Troy’s fears and anger with a reminder of the inherent achievement in Troy actually living out a dream that most have only fantasized of, but the encouragement falls flat on receipt.
When hope is waning, the necessary, pending work towards the actualization of New Year resolutions and goals can turn the year ahead into an uninviting path of sacrifice and hot coals, without a balanced perspective. The following tips can prove helpful in salvaging hope, to maintain your push forward in the realization of your creative vision and career:
Gratitude: It could always be worse. In taking an opportunity to step out of your frustration for an overview of the growth and evolution achieved from the outset of your artistic pursuit, give yourself some credit for what you have accomplished and for being obedient to your calling to create. Not everyone has the courage to try, and do—but you did. Whether or not your dreams turn out as planned, it is in the practice of your gift that the reciprocal of life experience, knowledge and insight are gained. You have grown by exercising it—and ultimately, your faithfulness to it has been a gift to those you’ve shared it with, as intended when your talent and ability was gifted to you.
Portion control: With ten months of the year ahead staring back at you, it can be daunting with the prospect of trying to make your career happen all at once, before the end of the year. Instead of attempting to swallow the year ahead whole, your overall goal can become more digestible and less impossible when the year is cut up into measurable portions. Try cutting up your year into quarters and divvying up your goal into goalpoints for each quarter.
Stay grounded: Lose the naivete and accept the path of process and responsibility ahead. Regardless of wherever you find yourself in your career, whether you’re still waiting for a breakthrough, or if all systems are a-go professionally, there will always be work to be done. There will never be a coasting period. There will be hills and valleys, unforeseen detours and difficulties in the wings. It is best to accept the reality of your path now, and prepare for it, whether you are formally acknowledged for your gift or not.
Self-care: As an artist, you in essence are your own employee, whether or not you have professional or legal representation. Give yourself breaks and vacation time and kudos for your work performance. Acknowledge your creative contributions to your career and provide yourself performance incentives. Expose yourself to opportunities for personal development. Allow time for meetings with yourself and cultivate quiet and blank creative space for brainstorming new ideas.
Self-perception: Rewriting your career narrative is an important step in refining your hope through the removal of impurities such as self-doubt, self-hatred, fear, frustration, anxiety, blame and anger from the three-sentence summary of your career arc. Hope can also be rediscovered in reviewing the truth of your circumstances, beyond a surface search for the silver lining. It is critical to find something in the story of your artistic path that has value that you can hold on to, and by doing so, you can resurrect your hope towards your continued creativity, without resurrecting the pain of disappointment and disillusionment that buried it.
Purpose: In discovering, rediscovering or redefining the purpose of your creative gift, you provide meaning to what you do—and a reason to show up on your own behalf as an artist to create, with or without audience or critical approval or the approval of peers, family or friends.
The ability to locate value in yourself, your gift and ultimately your life, is a key component in maintaining your hope as you pursue your creative calling, regardless of whatever adverse circumstances you find yourself in—whether you are in the midst of balancing a day-job or three, or battling your belief in yourself to succeed.
Within scripture, there are multiple advisories towards maintaining your hope for your betterment—the following outlines the importance of hope: “Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles and pray at all times.” By holding on to hope, we refine our focus and maintain our joy and love for creating, while living out the fullest version of our creative self, releasing the weight of doubt and negativity.