learn like an artist

How do gamers learn? They try things out and usually fail: lots of times. They learn from these mistakes and look for patterns. If they get stuck, they check out what others have shared, in online forums. They may ask a friend for help. Sometimes they will look for a ‘hack’, or a way around an impasse. Once they learn something, they might record it and share it, so others can learn. What they do not do is look for the rule book.

Artists are like gamers as they too have to fail many times as they master their craft. Today, we all need to think like gamers and artists. But being an artist is not easy. Scott Berkun says that, “it’s a discovery all artists make: the most interesting and bravest work is likely the hardest to make a living from.” There are no simple recipes to become an artist.

The artistic mindset is essential to help navigate the complex relationships of the network era. Artists understand media. The age of print promoted linear thinking but digital media require more divergent thinking. Marshall McLuhan observed that, “Print centralizes socially and fragments psychically, whereas the electric media bring man together in a tribal village that is a rich and creative mix, where there is actually more room for creative diversity than within the homogenized mass urban society of Western man.” Today, the world needs more people with an artist’s perception.

“Because inherent in the artist’s creative inspiration is the process of subliminally sniffing out environmental change. It’s always been the artist who perceives the alterations in man caused by a new medium, who recognizes that the future is the present, and uses his work to prepare the ground for it. But most people, from truck drivers to the literary Brahmins, are still blissfully ignorant of what the media do to them; unaware that because of their pervasive effects on man, it is the medium itself that is the message, not the content, and unaware that the medium is also the massage — that, all puns aside, it literally works over and saturates and molds and transforms every sense ratio. The content or message of any particular medium has about as much importance as the stenciling on the casing of an atomic bomb. But the ability to perceive media-induced extensions of man, once the province of the artist, is now being expanded as the new environment of electric information makes possible a new degree of perception and critical awareness by nonartists.” – Marshall McLuhan

One challenge with thinking, acting, and working like an artist is that the mind-set is not suitable for traditional salaried employment. Most self-employed people would not return to salaried work, knowing the lifestyle would be too constraining. But the lack of constraints also means a lack of stability. Living off of your intellectual property is a challenge.

“Now that we have established that it is difficult if not impossible to make money on intellectual property, unless you can afford a fleet of lawyers, how can we, the artists make enough money to spend adequate time on doing our work? Is it even possible to be a professional in the arts anymore? Let’s look at some of the possibilities:
1. Make our prices so low …
2. Find independent financial backing …
3. Do it in your spare time …
4. Be independently wealthy …
5. Academia …
6. Niche Markets …” – Randy Hoexter

The artist and writer, Nina Paley thinks it is possible to make a living through sharing openly, and is proving it through her actions.

“When an artist is broke, you start thinking that it has to do with the value of their work, which it doesn’t. I have also seen artists who refused to create unless they got paid … I’ve never had more money coming at me than when I started using Creative Commons BY-SA. I have a higher profile. I don’t spend anything on promotion. My fans are doing it for me and buying merchandise. Sharing put me on the map.”

Finally, if you are considering an artistic approach to life and work, look for other artists. It is from them that you will learn the most. Find a loose-knit community of practice.

“[Professor Katherine Giuffre] concludes – It was not when the artists were alone … that they were most creative, but when they were attached to others in a more moderate way and when those others were close to each other, although, again, not so close as to form one cohesive group. (p. 836)” – via Keith Sawyer

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