This post was written as part of a gift from wishstudio founder, Mindy Tsonas, to a young artist friend, M. Mindy asked a group of artists and writers to write letters to M, which Mindy compiled into a book for her. Below is my contribution:
Dear M,My main advice for you, as you begin your adult life as an artist (so exciting!), is to be like a stream: flow within a structure.
As artists, we're often most comfortable living in the flow, and following our creative curiosities as they arise. We resist limits and structure, and yet according to a study reported in The New York Times article, Route to Creativity: Following Bliss or Dots?, "the real source of productive creativity may lie in art's supposed bugaboos: rules, structure, even the occasional editor or two."
On the other hand, we live in particularly uncertain times. Your creative goals and plans may be crystal clear and mapped out, but any number of challenges (e.g. money, relationships, time, illness, natural disaster) could change your goals and direction, which is when you'll need to be able to flow around the obstacles, and shift your path.
Life as a creative person is a constant dance between structure and flow. Keep listening to when the music changes, and you'll be just fine.
Photo of stream by me.