The Action-Oriented Artist: Part 1

As a boy, I loved action-figures. GI Joe was my hero and if there was one guy I’d ever want in my foxhole, it was him. I had the GI Joe Navy S.E.A.L. Scuba set. The G.I. Joe Egyptian Explorer Jeep set complete with sarcophagus-mummy-winch holder. The G.I. Joe Jungle Python-Slashing set complete with authentic plastic machete. I was all things G.I. Joe. Boy, could I accessorize that man-doll: grenades, ammo, M-16, Howitzer, you name it.

What did I love about G.I. Joe? Popping muscles and cammo aside, G.I. was a man of action. He represented courage, initiative and risk-taking. Every quality one needs to be an action-oriented artist. Though G.I. Joe never practiced “The War of Art,” he has a lot to teach writers, actors, filmmakers, musicians, visual artists–every kind of artist imaginable–about the importance of being an action-oriented artist.

If you’re an artist, you cannot afford NOT to be an action-oriented. Or, if your dream is to use your God-given artistic and creative abilities to become an artist, you must connect that dream to action. You need a G.I. Joe action-orientation to become the artist you really want to be and the artist you are meant to be.

I know many talented and successful artists. People who actually make money pursuing their craft. Artists who created high quality art on a consistent basis. It doesn’t matter what artistic discipline or medium they choose to work with; all of this successful artists have one thing in common: They take A-C-T-I-O-N!

The action-oriented artist is what separates the G.I. Joe’s who advance in their careers and the wannabes who fritter away their days with mediocre effort and navel-gazing passivity expecting the world to come to them. Ain’t gonna happen. I wrote about this in a similar post (Good Advice for Young Artists).

So what qualities characterize an action-oriented artist? Let’s start with three…

      1. Action-Oriented Artists Balance Action and Contemplation:  There is a big difference between contemplation (serious reflection) and paralysis by analysis. Some of the most prolific artists I know (like Wayne Forte) whose art you see on this blog reflects serious contemplation, skill and thoughtfulness. Artists like Wayne think and ponder and swim in the realm of ideas and concepts…then they move to action. Depending on how you’re wired, you may contemplate and work out your ideas as you work or you may need to first contemplate your work, like blocking out Acts 1, 2, and 3 of a play or screenplay, then get to the actual detail work of writing. Action-oriented artists just don’t take action for action sake. They demonstrate a healthy balance of action and contemplation. And a resistance to walking through the minefields of over-analysis. They don’t wait for some fickle, gum-smacking Muse to show up when she feels like it. An action-oriented artist tells the Muse exactly when to show up and she’s fired if she’s late! Who’s in charge around here anyway?
      2. Action-Oriented Artists Keep Risking in Spite of Fear: I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to take my last breath wishing I would have risked more. I want to finish this life completely spent…living in the peace that I did my very best and I didn’t let fear rule the day. Enter risk. There are no promises. No guarantees. Not everyone is going to get a soccer trophy. Failure will happen far more than success and instant success is a spiritual mirage that we best avoid as we walk through the guaranteed deserts in pursuit of the dreams God has seeded in our hearts. I love the verse, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) With God’s love, power, and self-discipline, what do I have to fear? Really?An action-oriented artist steps forward in spite of fear and becomes a better man or woman in the process. It’s bound to show up in their work as well.
      3. Action-Oriented Artists Stay Curious & Keep Learning: One sure way to stagnate in your craft is to become complacent by allowing creative and intellectual curiosity to go by the wayside. The action-oriented oriented artist who keeps writing, producing, painting, sculpting, singing, filming, dancing, and shooting will never be lacking for new ideas and opportunities if part of their action-orientation is a commitment to stay curious by exploring various artistic disciplines that can teach, inform and inspire them in their craft. Where do you mine for new ideas? What do you do to improve your craft? What next step, what action step, do you need to take your work to a next level? Take a class. Find a mentor. Join a small group of peer support. Watch that movie. Buy that book. Download that script. Stay curious and keep learning. It’s an essential part to becoming an action-oriented artist.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s all very simple: The world will never experience the beauty, truth, and goodness of God through your art if you don’t take action. Be an action-figure today. You may never blow things up, but you’ll be in good company with G.I. Joe.

Questions: How would you rate yourself as an action-oriented artist (1-low, 5-fair, 10-great)? What is the single most important thing to do this week to become more action-oriented?

I’d love your thoughts and comments.

If you’ve struggled with resistance in becoming an action-oriented artist, you may like The War of Art by Steven Pressfield on My Bookshelf. Here’s what one Amazon Reviewer had to say about it: “If you have a passion in your life — writing, painting, music, sculpting, dancing, acting — and if this passion is the reason you believe you’re alive, then check out this book.” You can support the Art, Life & Faith blog by purchasing it today on Amazon.

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