Dr. Sergey Zagraevsky
How to conquer the world
(advices for young creators)
Published in Russian: Çàãðàåâñêèé Ñ.Â. Êàê çàâîåâàòü ìèð (ñîâåòû ìîëîäûì òâîðöàì). In journal «Õóäîæåñòâåííûé ñîâåò», ¹ 3 (79), 2011, p. 20-22.
Are you a painter, graphic artist, sculptor? Or a writer-novelist, poet, playwright? Or a photographer? Or an architect? Or a composer? Or you create works of art in any other field? Or are you only going to become a creator? Do you expect fame, popularity and all life benefits associated with these words? Or maybe the grateful memory of the posterity is more important for you? Or maybe you just want to do your favorite work – art, even if it will bring you nothing but moral satisfaction?
If you can answer positively at least one of these questions, then let me give you some advices. We are colleagues if not by profession, then by spirit. And no matter how old you are – entering the mysterious world of art, you go with me on the same path. So it's my duty to share my experience with you.
1. Remember the simple thing: all creators in all times had hard lives.
2. Make a logical conclusion from this truism: if you decide to engage in creativity seriously and professionally, you must be ready for difficulties and not be surprised when meeting with them. Easy life isn't waiting for you.
3. Let's be honest with each other and ourselves: although creativity is not an enterprise, we are still creating a "product" – works of art, and we want this "product" to find a response and demand in the world. Maybe we will be reproached for this desire by Pushkin's words:
Those are blessed, who hided in themselves
The highest creatures of their souls
From other peoples, as from graves,
And were not anxious of glory!
Those are blessed, who were inside them mute,
And did not wear thorny wreaths on heads,
Forgotten by the peoples rude,
Without any name forever left!
But we will remember Pushkin's answer to these words:
Lord Byron had the same opinion;
Zhukovsky said such words a lot;
But world has learned them quiet quickly,
And their sweety works were sold.
So let's be honest: our main task is to make the world "learn and buy" our works, even after our death. And a frankly and openly formulated task can be solved much easier than a veiled one.
4. You want to create, but don't feel inspired? I'm sorry, but this is illogical. Maybe you don't want to create? If you really want, the inspiration will come sooner or later. So do not worry about that and remember that you are neither the first, nor the last who faces such problems. Pushkin wrote also about this situation:
While the poet is not required
For holy sacrifice unto Apollo,
Within the bustling worldly cares
He is faint-heartedly immersed…
Listen to the classic and immerse yourself in everyday cares. You probably have enough of them. But do not forget to listen to yourself all the time: aren’t you required by Apollo?..
5. You're not sure if you have any talent? Then first of all, try to look at your works impartially (and if they do not exist yet, then on projects and plans) and ask yourself: are they original? Did someone do that before you or not? If in our time, when it is very difficult to create something new, you have succeeded – then everything is in order.
6. Talent is only a good starting position, originality is only a necessary minimum. Professionalism is needed, too. Personally, I like mostly such definition of it: the ability to use the necessary tools to achieve a creative goal. Someone will tell you that special education is required, and will be in his own right. Someone will say that there are talented self-taughts, and will also be in his own right. Someone will say that creative skills are most effectively transferred in personal training from some famous master, and will also be right in its own way. Someone will say that professionalism comes with experience, and will also be right in its own way. There are many options, choose any.
7. Your works of art are talented, original and professional, but only you and a few friends know about it? Then it's time to start expanding the circle of acquaintances among colleagues. Listen to everything they say to you (not only good, but also bad), but with an eye: aren’t they led by envy? Aren’t they led by ideological rejection of your works? For example, at all times, "academicians" and "modernists" (and not only they) criticized each other very harshly, up to complete rejection. But, fortunately, in our time, art is infinitely diverse, and in the end, all the "isms" find their connoisseurs. So just get information from others, and make your own conclusions.
8. Remember that one of the most difficult stages that you have to overcome when choosing a creative profession is when people around you say something like: "Why do you need it?", "You can't do it", "It's not yours"… If you can overcome this stage – it will be easier to continue at least morally.
9. If you are praised – it is better to treat it with indifference, but if you are pleased by the praise, nothing wrong with that, it is only a pardonable weakness. If you are scold – remember the words of Dale Carnegie: no one beats a dead dog. The main thing: always pay attention to what you are praised or scolded for, and draw conclusions not from emotions, but from the essence. Let praise and cursing help you to form an opinion on your works.
10. Remember that the main measure of your creativity is your own opinion about it. Again, I refer to the authority of the classic:
A poet! Do not prize the love of people around,
It soon will pass – the glorifying hum –
And come a court of fools and laughing of cold crowd –
But you must always stay firm, morose and calm.
You're king: live lonesome. Along the freedom's road,
Stride there, to where just shows your free mind,
While modernizing fruits of thoughts, beloved,
And not demanding you to be awarded.
Awards inside of you. You are your highest court;
Severely then all, you value your effort…
But remember that excessive self-confidence also hurts, especially if it turns into shamelessness and arrogance. May I remember again the words of a classic – this time not of Pushkin, but of Ryleev?
Ah! It’s better to hide oneself in simple obscurity,
Than, with low passions of and dastardly soul,
For the strict gaze of the fellow citizens,
To present oneself on their court, as if for shame!
In short, everything needs a "Golden mean", and your self-esteem is no exception.
11. So, you personally are sure that your "product" is original, professional, talented – in general, good. Then it is time for you to ask yourself: how to convince other people, this huge and endless world? You may put the question straight: how to conquer this world? Do not be shy of this question and ask it constantly, at every step.
12. If you think the world is hostile to you, you flatter yourself. The world just doesn't care about you. People are so busy with themselves and their own affairs that they do not have time or desire to carefully evaluate the affairs of others. And even when you think that you are surrounded by enemies – in fact, you are surrounded primarily by the indifferent. But this gives you a chance, because it is almost impossible to convince people who have their own opinion, but it is possible to convince those whose opinion has not yet been developed.
13. Do not look up to those who have no other "product", except their own appearance and the ability to use it. The flowering of appearance is usually very short-lived, and this determines the specifics of show business: it makes possible to achieve (or completely lose hope to achieve) popularity very quickly. Our "product" is the works of art. As a rule, they bring less immediate benefits, but can "work" for many centuries, if not forever. Remember this and do not be jealous of bright "one-day butterflies".
14. If you managed to find like-minded people, it is good, but remember that if you shut yourself in their circle, then sooner or later you will have a situation from Krylov's fable: "the Cuckoo praises the Cock because he praises the Cuckoo." In other words, you may loose "feedback" and cease to develop as a person. And not only friends are needed to establish this "feedback". Enemies to struggle with, and indifferent people to convince, are also needed.
15. If you feel the strength to conquer the world alone, without colleagues and associates – do it, but remember that you will have no one to share your problems and difficulties, and your life will be very hard. But you will not have to share the success with anyone. So it's up to you.
16. We do not know, if Boris Pasternak said to Victor Ardov jokingly or seriously: "You could have imposed yourself to the epoch to a much greater extent." But there is something to think about. Apparently, it is really necessary to "impose" oneself to the epoch. Speaking in a modern way, it is necessary to engage in "PR".
17. "Imposing yourself to the epoch", remember that your "creative product" is designed to live hundreds of years, and maybe even eternally. Therefore, let your motto be the words of Joseph Brodsky: "Do not fawn, fear, hurry".
19. Do not entertain the hope that if no one knows you
as a creator in life, then people will stumble upon your works after death and
glorify you as a "genius of all times". In theory, of course, there
is such a chance, but in practice it is negligible. And if you hear a well-known
example of posthumously recognized Van Gogh, then
carefully read his biography: he was a member of
20. Our information epoch provides many opportunities to express yourself. These are media, and the Internet, and public activities, and exhibitions, and concerts, and advertising, and "glamour parties"... In short, the whole set of "PR tools." And the main thing here – not to be lazy and not to be shy. Over the years, you will begin to feel which of these "tools" is more suitable for you and your creativity, which is less, and which is completely unsuitable. But at the beginning of your way grab for all that turns up. If you even make a mistake, it will not be too serious.
22. If you have organizational skills – "impose yourself to the epoch" by yourself, if not – do everything possible to find a manager.
23. Even if you are praised by colleagues, critics, journalists and the public – let the words of Nicholas Dorizo warn you from the "dizziness of success":
Popularity is noisy and changeable,
Such is "her" nature.
Only fame is a reliable woman,
But she's not a wife, but a widow.
However, in our creative field is very difficult to acquire even popularity. Do not expect that the next day after some successful PR-activity a crowd of fans will stand at your door and ask for an autograph. To "impose oneself to the epoch" at least at the level of popularity, many years, even decades of hard work are needed.
24. If you can not earn your living by creativity – earn money besides. It is an individual question, what will be your ability in this earning. Someone works as a boiler operator, someone – as a General Manager, someone – as a housewife. Just remember that creativity is primary for you, and everything else is secondary.
25. Making money "besides" leaves for you no time for creativity? But do a simple calculation: any job –8 hours a day on average. Another hour or two for transport, 8 for sleep, 4 or 5 for all other matters, sport, leisure, etc. You still have at least two hours daily. Plus weekends. With a certain self-discipline, this is enough.
26. Does it make sense to emigrate? Hardly. Even if your "creative product" is not directly related to your native language, you will still lose many years until you learn the language of your new country, get used to it and start to feel like a full-fledged person again. And the older you are at the time of emigration, the shorter will be your new life "there". Will you have "there" time to achieve what could achieve "here"? Will the fate "there" be more favorable for your works? Not sure.
27. There is a famous phrase, attributed to Korney Chukovsky: "It is necessary to live long". If you chose such a long and thorny path as creativity, then this phrase applies to you in the first place. So keep a healthy lifestyle, do not drink, do not smoke, have a good family, spend more time in the fresh air, do sports…
28. Do everything to save your works of art for the posterity. Publish them at any opportunity, place them on all possible sites in the Internet, send your books to libraries, draw your pictures in a durable technique... It will be insulting to disappear from the memory of mankind "for technical reasons".
29. Are you desperate to achieve your goals in art, do you want to quit? Well, this is up to you, but remember that for a real artist it is as difficult to change the profession as to change the soul, and you may face personal self-destruction.
30. Try to consider your creativity as a duty to God, humanity, country, or posterity. This is good because if you still have to suffer and endure adversity, so at least with a sense of duty.
31. If you believe in the eternal value of art – do not hesitate to this faith. And let people call you an idealist and a dreamer – remember that in fact such a belief is quite pragmatic: if a person believes that his life is somehow connected with the highest goals, it is easier for him to endure any adversity.
32. Don't be nervous of failures, don't turn into a deranged psychopath, and don’t be afraid of old age and death. No matter what will be your fate in life, in each case you will leave the works of art to the posterity. That means that you have eternity ahead of you.
© Sergey Zagraevsky