Musicians, painters, dancers, sculptors, and actors know that the artistic process requires you to keep at it—to constantly create and maintain momentum. It’s most difficult when you first begin because there is no sense of progress or forward motion; but once you get started and persist, you can build momentum. That’s what keeps you going through any challenges you encounter. Artistic expression is shaped over time. It’s chiseled and formed with lessons, losses, and successes. Learning to express yourself as an artist means you’re often exploring unknowns and facing doubts. When you keep at it, you build momentum, and then it’s almost impossible to stop.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
~ Mark Twain
Having difficulty getting started? Wondering how to keep going amidst challenges, misfortune, and difficulty? Look at the stories of these artists.
- The Beatles were rejected before becoming widely regarded as the greatest and most influential band of the rock era.
- Jackson Pollock became famous for his drip paintings in the 1940s and ’50s, but as a young boy living in the desert, he lost the end of one of his fingers when his older brother accidently chopped it off. He also struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. Check out one of his works—Shimmering Substance.
- Beethoven’s parents died when he was a child. As teenager he had the responsibility of working at any job he could get to make money to raise his younger brothers and sisters. He began to go deaf at age 40 and eventually become totally deaf. These adverse situations didn’t stop him from becoming one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.
- Elvis Presley was kicked out of the Grand Ole Opry, but he picked himself back up and kept trying, becoming one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century.
- Steven Spielberg’s application to the college of his choice was rejected three times. He later dropped out of another college to become a director.
- Frank Lloyd Wright experienced a number of setbacks and adverse situations in his life. As a child, he had an unhappy family life, and he was responsible as a teenager for the financial wellbeing of his mother and two sisters. Yet in 1914, after a disgruntled employee set a fire at his Taliesin studio (East) and murdered several people close to him, he built a desert masterpiece that brilliantly integrated indoor and outdoor spaces— Taliesin West—and he is still recognized as one of the greatest American architects of all time.
You shouldn’t dream your film, you should make it!
~ Steven Spielberg
Whether creating art, leading an organization, or managing everyday life, we can all choose to get started and keep moving like an artist. When you have the courage to take the first step and keep at it, you will experience the powerful force of momentum. Then it’s easier to stay focused, make continuous progress, and find your way through the obstacles and challenges that inevitably turn up along the way.
- Make mistakes as often as possible, but keep moving.
- Live in a constant state of wonder, and keep learning.
- Don’t let your past dictate your future, but rather keep moving forward.
Successful artists, leaders, individuals, families, schools, communities, and organizations create, move through obstacles, and build momentum. As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”