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In the last few posts, we’ve looked at ways to improve our skills as artists. I call these methods “pillars of improvement”, and there’s four of them. So far, we’ve covered the importance of gaining knowledge, getting an instructor, and taking action. Getting feedback is the final stage. So let’s look at that now.
We can attain immense knowledge, seek out good instruction, and perform daily action. But without feedback, we won’t know how well we are progressing.
Feedback can either be constructive or destructive, i.e. person can praise your work or criticize it. You and I can learn and grow from both kinds of criticism.
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This is the third instalment of a series called: the Four Pillars of Improvement. In the first two posts of this series on how to improve your skills, we’ve learned two lessons: get knowledge and get an instructor. If you’ve taken this advice seriously, you’re ready to deeply study your craft. You’re ready to find an instructor and have them guide and train you.
Once you get into the habit of doing these things—studying your craft often and learning from a mentor—it’s time to do.
The first two stages are thinking stages. This is the doing stage.
Taking action involves applying what you’ve learned through your study, through your coaching. Try to write a song from scratch. Try to paint something worthy of recognition. Try your hand at writing a short story.
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This is the second instalment of a series called: the Four Pillars of Improvement. There are four ingredients that can help any creative or artist get better at what they do. They may seem obvious to some, they sure do to me, but either way they work. By enhancing each “pillar,” we will undoubtedly sharpen our skills, broaden our creative potential. The first article was about the importance of acquiring knowledge. You may want to read it before moving to today’s article, which is about the importance of getting a mentor.
I’ll admit: many artists/ writers/ musicians/ photographers were self-taught. They didn’t have mentors. They ignored what others told them to do, how others told them to create, and instead radiated their own unique style.
I respect that independent path to success, that self-reliant spirit, but I don’t necessarily recommend following it. The reason is because many self-taught artists were also inherently talented, or gifted. I’m not talented, nor am I gifted. So I need lots of outside help and direction to get smarter, to get better at my craft.
For those of us who aren’t geniuses, what we need is an instructor. An expert instructor—who’s more skilled than you and I—can teach us so many things that we can’t teach ourselves. They can help bring us to that next skill level. They can tell us what we’re doing wrong. They can see certain bright spots and advantages that we can’t see, because we’re too close to the work.
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Real artists live constructively. And they work constructively. They’ve learned to do their work despite flitting feelings. They’ve learned to be consistent, persistent, and professional. They’ve learned to get things done, and ship their babies out into the harsh, judgmental world.
Real artists know something pseudo artists don’t.
If pseudo artists knew this, they wouldn’t be what they are—a shadow of their real selves, a glint of their real potential. They wouldn’t do what they do—procrastinate, loaf, and let their emotions control their actions.
What Pseudo Artist’s Don’t Know
What pseudo artists don’t know is that in each moment of the day, they are in charge of their behaviour. They’re in charge, despite how they’re feeling at the time.
Time and time again, pseudo artists drop the ball, bail on responsibilities and fail in endeavours because of how they’re “feeling.”
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You and I have our creative dreams, our desires, our passions. Some of us were lucky to be born with an artistic talent. Some of us found our calling later in life. Either way, there’s something we are meant to do with ourselves, with our one shot at life.
Believe me, you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have that something inside you, bustling to break free—a talent, a perspective, a story.
The very fact that you’re reading these words means that you have creative energy—whatever shape or form or colour that creativity may come in.
Only you know what you’re meant to do in life. Only I know what I’m meant to do. We each have our little patch of grass to water and fertilize with care and tenderness, to defend with all our grit.
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Have you ever wondered whether you lack what it takes to become excellent at what you do? Have you ever doubted your potential for greatness?
I doubt my skills all the time. I’m a writer. But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be an exceptional writer. Regardless, I still want to do everything I can to get better.
If you’re like me and from time to time you doubt your abilities, doubt what you have to offer, no need to worry. Regardless of how unskilled you are right now, there’s a realistic way to undeniably refine your skills.
There’s a formula that you and I can follow.
And it has four key pillars. Here it is:
Knowledge + expert instruction + dogged action + feedback = improvement.
I know, sounds pretty obvious. And it is. But who cares. Even your loftiest of dreams can be accomplished if you diligently and persistently follow this formula.