Creative Musings Column
by Stephen Zimmer
The Only Path for Creatives is to Keep Moving Forward
Some might choose a more colorful vernacular for the same idea, but the bottom line is that the road of life is often full of setbacks, discouragements, frustrations, disappointments and all manner of things that try to knock you off your path.
For creative types, these kinds of things can be very daunting. Musicians, filmmakers, writers and a great many other kinds of artists find themselves in the midst of a brave new world these days. The accessibility of getting one’s songs, books, or movies into existence might be much better than in past years, with the rise of indie publishing, indie music, and indie filmmaking, but the markets have become extremely difficult to navigate and gain traction in.
The transition from physical mediums to digital mediums, and the ensuing rampant piracy and low price points of digital media, have resulted in a situation where there is real dissonance when it comes to value. A large part of the market now expects a lot for either free or extremely low price points like 99 cents.
Couple this with an ocean of content and content creators, all looking to bring attention to their work, and you have a perfect storm that makes it extremely difficult to make a living from the art that you pursue.
Can it be done? Of course, and I’m not talking about the major success stories. There are many who have, through hard work, diligence and good business sense made it to a point where they can pay their bills from their art.
Yet the road is not easy, and in just the few years that I have had books in print (now just over 7 years) I have seen many who started, went at things with a vengeance, and then pretty much abandoned their path. It always saddens me to see this happen, but it is not uncommon.
I understand the frustration of many of them. Fantastic talents who could not yet gain traction in their sales, reviews, or fan bases becoming deeply discouraged is something that is hard to watch when you see some cases of very derivative projects selling like gangbusters in the market. Talent does not always meet up with sales figures, sadly enough.
Yet there is one fundamental thing that I wish they would have embraced before they threw in the towel. The only way to guarantee failure is to cease to act or move. It is true that no person is guaranteed success, but having the ball in play always gives you a chance to win in the game.
In other words….Keep Moving Forward.
Is this easy? Not by a longshot. Many have to juggle the very difficult challenges of jobs, raising families, and contending with the digital market maelstrom. It takes a thick skin to operate in a world where the things you labor on, love with your heart, and believe in are put up for the darts and arrows from the first day they are made public. When you are still working that day job, dealing with family issues and striving to keep to a rhythm with your art, it can be discouraging to see a bad review on a new release, or see only a handful of units reflected in a sales report, or see a low result from a promotion you had high hopes for..
Yet the bottom line is to keep moving forward. The good news is that, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. In other words, you move forward when you write 100 words on a new book project, or find an hour to refine a couple new riffs on a song you are writing, or you churn out a page or two on that new screenplay. You move forward when you meet a few new fans at an event, or send inquires to a few more possible blog reviewers, or design a new digital flier for a short film screening.
It’s not how much you do at once, but rather that you are always doing, and thereby progressing. You’ll find out that by taking a path of regular forward movement you will feel better mentally and, for those that accept such an idea, spiritually. Each day you will feel like you have made a step, even if the road seems painfully slow at times.
You’ll find yourself finishing projects, building up routines that are healthy, and developing some resilience so that you are able to weather the more difficult periods.
Stay in the game and realize that you’ve always got a chance as long as you are participating. Many of the biggest artists in the world have had to endure before finally breaking through. Take a look at singer Ed Sheeran’s story and pay special attention to the part about his period of homelessness. Take a look at J.K. Rowling’s story, in regard to a multitude of rejections she faced in getting her franchise off the ground. Take a look at Tyler Perry’s story and how he scraped and struggled getting stage projects done well before his wonderful family of characters graced the silver screen.
As you can see, it took a long while before some of the biggest names in the world were recognized or got their breakthrough opportunities. Who knows? You might be the next!
The only way to find out if you are is to keep moving forward. You might surprise yourself! 🙂