Here’s what I’ve learned by this point in midlife, for what it’s worth:
1.) Surround yourself with creative people who say yes first and work out the details later. Learn to do the same.
2.) Seek critique from people whose work you respect — and know the difference between your ego and your art.
3.) Try anything, even if it’s doomed to failure, then learn from your results.
4.) Experiment in areas in which you have no skill. Try unfamiliar media, challenge your comfort zone.
5.) Resist the temptation to “plead artist” and surrender when it comes to the business, math, marketing and accounting aspects of your studio. It’s never too late to challenge self imposed limits.
6.) Process matters more than product. Evolve. Give it hours, days, months, years of practice: there are no shortcuts.
7.) Nothing is a waste of time for an artist. Everything you love will feed your work: the shape of an eggplant in your garden, a bit of history trivia, the art of others, your own struggles, are all fuel for your work and will feed it in ways you never planned. Don’t force or overthink it — it just happens.
8.) Make what people will buy if you have to pay the bills, but also make what you love with no thought for the market. Having one deeply personal line of inquiry keeps us centered, sane, and moving forward, even if nobody “gets it”.
9.) Poet Nikki Giovanni once told me that learning to write well is only one small piece of the process: good writing comes from life experience, not from workshops. I find this to be true in any creative pursuit. Have adventures. Create a rich and interesting life for yourself and your work will reflect it.
10.) There is no substitute for time spent making. No tutorial, teacher, technique or tool will move you forward more than time spent at work. Not planning, discussing, list making, or waiting for inspiration: actual work. Learn while doing. Go.