What Do You Want as an Artist?

by Carolyn Edlund

Accomplishing what you want as an artist means you have to embrace the pain of getting there.


What are you willing to struggle for? Reaching your goals as an artist. Read about it at www.ArtsyShark.com


Recently I read an amazing blog post by Mark Manson about getting what you want that really reverberated with me, and has been on my mind ever since.

He turned the question “What do you want out of life?” around to ask “What are you willing to struggle for?” This insight has direct application for many of the artists I meet, because I hear so much about their goals and plans and ambitions.

The easy part is the wanting, and creating the vision of what your life will be like when you are living the dream after reaching your goals. The reality is that making it happen involves endless hours performing tasks and taking risks that may not appeal to you.

People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it. ~ Mark Manson

Are you willing to spend the money to get incredible shots of your portfolio, spend the time to write your artist statement, put together a website that presents it all professionally, research and prospect, meet the right people, seek press and publicity, market yourself and your work, negotiate and close sales? Are you willing to put up with all the hassle and the inevitable pain involved in getting what you want, over and over again? And can you embrace that?

There is suffering in the quest to accomplish anything worth having. Suffering is something that artists understand well. You will be rejected. You will miss opportunities, agonize over wrong decisions, and wonder whether you will ever make it. And sometimes, it turns out that maybe you didn’t really want it after all.

You don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not. ~ Mark Manson

Wanting isn’t enough. The attitude you need to succeed is not only determination and relentless commitment, but the willingness to endure a journey that involves inevitable struggle. Manson asks “What is the pain you want to sustain?” because the answer to that is what will change your life. “Our struggles determine our successes,” he says, and that makes a lot of sense to me.

At times I work with new entrepreneurs who are willing to plan, set long and short-term goals, create checklists and work hard to complete them, without wavering. They come back for more, knowing they are on an uphill climb, and see the gain. I know they are serious and that given enough time, they will get traction and move forward. Those small victories add up and give them a chance – a chance –  to live the vision they have of their life as an artist.

Would you agree? What is the biggest struggle you face as an artist?


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  1. Thank you for this, at times it is good to hear when you need some more”push” to keep going. My struggle is “time”. I need more of it. I am so very fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to work full time as an artist from my home studio for several years. It enables me to complete my daily duties in, around and after I work on my craft. My day starts at about 6am and I usually finish up around midnight. I wear many hats from PR, accounting, social media, all round business woman, wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, packer, shipping, receiving and painter and those are just some of them. But… I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    • Rachel, I often ask artists how much time they have to devote to their art business, and when I hear that they are able to work full-time, it’s always a benefit to them. You have that advantage. Even though your biggest struggle is time, it sounds as though you can give a lot of each day to being an artist.

  2. Was quite a struggle for awhile starving artist here so I got a job outside the home. Work outside the home 3 days a week gives me time to work on my art, take care of my home & take care of my elderly parents. Long hours juggling everything, have been extending my art in different forms and it is slowly starting to take off thank-god… For me it is all about having a schedule to stick by as close as possible and to not let up, get it all done .I will get there, this is my year!

    • Thanks for your comment, Linda. By working an outside job, you have bought yourself security to build your art business carefully and without making decisions based on the stress of having to pay the bills through sales of your art. I think that’s a good plan. It’s often slow, but of course no one really gets successful overnight. Stay consistent and you will make progress!

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