If you could go back in time, what would you say to your 20-year old self about pursuing a creative career?
Is there anything you could say that would make life a little easier to navigate?
Would you say something you need to hear right now?
I tapped the collective wisdom of my creative community by asking this question.
These creatives have urgent and important answers for anyone on their own creative journey. Here is the wisdom we have earned together.
This was the #1 piece of advice artists wanted their younger selves to know. You can trust yourself – your unique vision and path.
“Do what you feel is right. Don’t just fall in line. Don’t follow the typical advice. Do what you think should be done and make it the best it could be.” -Phil Popham
“Be yourself both as a person and in your work …be weird, quirky, funny, bold, dark, frivolous…whatever is you because that is what your audience will be drawn to. Definitely don’t try to be like everyone else!” -Arhynn Descy
“Your career doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s!” -Cindy O’Connor
After learning to trust yourself, artists wanted their younger selves to know the importance of having a balanced life with fun, family, and friends.
“Don’t put off happiness.”Leah Paul
“Make time for fun and friends, as the relationships you build when you’re young can have lasting impact throughout your life.” -Jennifer Kennard
My personal note falls into this category. I was extremely ambitious and driven and this is what I would say to my younger self:
“Follow your musical pursuits lightly. Don’t hold back with your passion, energy, time, and love but allow it to be something you love to do, not a way to define yourself.”
Many of us would like to have a quick chat with our 20-year old self about how we expect the future to look.
“Don’t worry if the path you thought you’d take changes as you walk it.” -Patrick Fulton
“Act as if you are definitely going to succeed and do all of the things that will make that happen. At the very same time, allow for the possibility that you might change your mind as you mature and that is totally OK.”Mark Carlson
“What we were trained for is not the only path and having a varied career that you love is no less of an achievement.” -Heather Elisabeth Bird
Many of us would like to give our younger selves a shot of encouragement to keep going.
“Keep doing it, man!” -George Clinton
“It’s not expected of you to not fall down. It’s expected of you to get back up when you do fall down.” -Timo Chen
A bit of friendly advice from your older self about finances…
“Pay yourself first.” -Christian Amonson
“Have lots of emergency savings!” -Damon Tedesco
“The common advice is to have at least a 6-month emergency fund. For freelancers, I think that emergency fund should be more like a year’s worth of income.” -Jeremy Borum
BROADEN YOUR SKILLS
A few artists sent a suggestion back in time to broaden their skill set sooner rather than later.
“Get a double degree.” -Erinn Frechette
“Diversify: be a performer, record remotely, produce, production music, score media etc. The more you can do, the easier it is to find work that you enjoy!”Roman Gabriel Soto
Finally a few artists mentioned that understanding their own emotional landscape and being attuned to the needs of others is an essential practice in an arts career.
“Remember that anyone you work with may be your colleague for 40 more years. How do you want them to think of you? I really wish my younger self was kinder to people and I wish I’d done more work on myself earlier.” -Adam Wolf
GET READY FOR A LONG WONDERFUL TRIP
My friend Virginia Figueiredo summed it up well in preparing for a challenging but wonderful career in the arts:
“Harness as many skills as possible, always do your best, and network like a mad person. Something good will surely come out of it.”
THE JOURNEY IS BETTER TOGETHER
We can tap into our own wisdom and experience when we ask ourselves this question – What advice would you give to your younger self? – but there is no substitute for a community of people who share your goals and passion.
written by Sarah Robinson, iCadenza Coach and Recording Artist