If there is anything I learned after completing film school - it was leading the lifestyle of calming, the fluff, down. After sleepless nights of burn-out from a certain story, or still wondering if I loved the idea of filmmaking, to having to pick up the extra slack after one of my crew members unexpectedly dropped out, and dealing with judgmental faces and a tone of complete and utter self-indulgence, I wish I knew then to take a step back and relax. Yes, your art is important, but hey - it's not going to get the chance to be shared with the world if you're in the hospital because of spiked cortisol levels and overall, sucky health and spirituality.
So when you're feeling this way, in any situation really, go through these few steps below to keep your clarity and integrity.
WHen the Love Fades - Take a Break
Simple as that. If you feel like you're being forced to do the thing you love to the point you're not sure if you like it anymore, take a breather and step away. I know that's difficult to do in any sort of art school situation where you're being graded on what you do, and your education is what you're paying for - and of course, most of your assignments take up a lot of time, but even if it's just once, put in the minimal you need to, to get it done, then get your mind off of it - even if it's just for the weekend. Go the beach, to the movies to lift your spirits a bit, for a weekend road trip, to see your family, whatever it may be - shake it off for a little while then come back with a fresh mind.
Be Kind, Open Your Mind, and listen!
In school and classes, you're often asked to give constructive criticism, but more often than not, the feedback you receive is more of an opinionated slam rather than a helpful and constructive suggestion. My take on this is that instead of just thinking about what you are going to say in response to your fellow artist's work or performance, allow yourself to actually take in what they've done and how you react to it. Keep and open mind, and get that selfish idea that whatever you may say is what matters most out of your head and into the waste basket. Constructive criticism is about helping your fellow artists strive, not your opportunity to gloat. With this, if anything stands out with their presentation - whether it be negative, positive, or a suggestion, respond with what my dad calls the "Oreo Strategy." What this means, is that you start with something you enjoyed or you thought was well done, why it was well done, then something they can work on, then end with something positive - this way, those receive the feedback respond in a positive way and also understand something they can work on without feeling shut down.
Don't Create For Others - Create for Yourself
So many say, "create for the masses," "make it commercial," "do this,""do that," but if you have no interest in what you're writing, I can assure you it probably won't turn out well. John Carpenter, master of horror and wonders alike, as well as Stephen King, said, "Write what you want to read, write what scares you, and what you have fun within the process of doing." After that, Carpenter mentioned, "if it scares you, chances are, it'll scare someone else too," and that way, your writing is unique, genuine, and probably loads better than what the outcome would be if you made something predictable and that you thought people would like.
Educate Yourself - But Don't leave Your Heart Behind
Learn from experiences, get on set, get behind someone who is doing what you want to be doing as a career and take it all in. Also in classes, participate - figure out what's happening in your industry and what people are into. Is it sci-fi films with aliens? Method acting? Black and white photography? Cubism? Whatever it may be, take it in and use it to your advantage. Along the way though, make it your own. Educate yourself within your world to set you up for the highest amount of success and response as possible, but make the experience come from your heart. Put yourself into everything you do to make your work that much better. For example, if pastels are in style and trendy, and you love bumblebees, add a bumblebee patch to each or some of the pastels you own. This way, your passion is something many can relate to and jive with, but you'll be even more memorable, because you added something new to the scene - you added you to the scene.
Don't Let Anyone tell You what Will and Won't succeed
As far as I know - not everyone is able to tell the future, and even if they can, there's a possibility of them reading it wrong. What I mean by this is that no one can tell you that your work won't be successful. Same goes for the fact that one person can't feel and think the way the other 7.5 billion people on this planet do, so if you feel strongly about sharing your art, you best go and share it, because chances are one of those 7.5 billion people will need it to make their lives better in some shape or form.
Keep your Word
If there's anything that truly grinds one's gears, it's trusting someone to show up in any regard of life, then having that person let them down. I find backing out of things last minute for no true reason at all, not keeping a promise, not delivering what you said you would, not making that call, not reading the fine print - whatever it may be, to be one of the worst forms of betrayal. Integrity is an essential part of living a full life - and if someone is counting on you - you best show up to your best efforts. This will gain you respect, self confidence, and an over-all feeling of well being that will send you much farther, faster.
Nothing is Worth Being a Jerk
It doesn't matter if you have the most experience, if someone made a silly mistake, or if something happens that wasn't according to plan - DON'T BE A JERK. There is no reason to be mean to anyone or make them feel inadequate, regardless of your experience. Take that opportunity to educate without seeming uppity nor making them feel bad. Also, just in general, it's exhausting to go out of your way to make someone feel badly about themselves. It won't make you any friends, people won't want to work with you, and it's just unnecessary. If you have something to say - think about it before it comes out of your mouth. This goes with facial expressions and body language too. There is no hiding that and it makes so many feel uncomfortable. Cut the drama. Also - being passive aggressive is childish. If you have a problem, confront someone with a genuine and mature question, listen, and create a solution in a positive and adult-like manner. Anger is a wasted emotion that takes up too much time and energy otherwise.
Let It Out - It's Necessary to Cry
Sometimes, things just become way too overwhelming and it's hard to get out of bed in the morning. Building up the stress, sadness, anxiety, and anger just leads you into an emotional spiral that can create someone you don't even recognize anymore. It is SO necessary to just cry and scream every once in a while - or dance, take a walk, or do all of these things at the same time. Just let. it. out! Who the fluff cares what anyone has to think about it - especially you. Don't stop yourself. If you want to continue on and be healthy and create your art - get what's bothering you out of your body and into the air, where it can blow away and slowly disappear.
You don't know everything, and if you think you do, that is a problem - because absolutely no one does. This is why you must ask questions. Ask those who are where you want to be how they got to where they're at, and what they advise for you to do moving forward. Ask how something works. How to do a skill. Tricks to create effects. What the business side is - whatever under the sun that comes to your mind that you want to understand further. The questions you ask tell you a lot about yourself, and the people you're asking genuinely find it meaningful that you want to enhance your career or your work- sometimes they'll even take note of it for possible opportunities in the future. Also - be sure to ask people questions about themselves outside of just a career focus too, especially in a more personal setting or a "typical networking event." No one likes to be used, and not everyone always gets to talk about themselves and the things they care about. Make them smile and realize how great they are too. What I mean by this is asking something like, "what kinds of things make you happiest outside of what you do for your job?" or "What's your cat's name? Where did you find her?" things that are genuine and personal. Life is more than just work - and sometimes people need to be refreshed and reminded of that.
Make It. Don't THink. Just do It
If you feel so much passion for something, just go for it. Put the time in, don't think, just create. That's when the best stuff happens. <3
Mary Gabrielle Strause