Friday, June 19, 2009

On Seeking Advice

I have written a lot of advice on my blog about various topics, including dealing with rejection, taking care of yourself, self-motivation, professionalism and more. Today, I am going to touch on the subject of seeking advice once more, after reading Aunia Kahn's recent post I Love Your Work, I Have a Question. (Jeane Vogel had touched on this topic earlier as well.)

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and uncertain when you are just starting out. Often, it's hard to discern where to go and what to do. So a lot of emerging artists turn to those whom they see as professional, successful and/or approachable for answers. However, it can be difficult to ask for advice. I am not overly forward and thus have never really known how to go about this myself, but here are some things worth keeping in mind.

- Be courteous but be honest. It doesn't behoove you to compliment another artist's work solely to connect with that artist, so any compliments you offer should be genuine. Don't get me wrong, compliments are great, but they shouldn't be offered as a means of sugar coating your real intent because they will seem less genuine and thus lose much of their meaning.

- Be professional. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and explain what you are doing and where you want to go with your work. Do the leg work first, before asking, so you appear committed to yourself and don't seem to be just wasting someone's time.

- Remember, nobody has to respond to you and time is precious, so keep it short, sweet and to the point. Don't forget that whomever you are asking has likely heard it all before and that you're not the only one seeking their advice. If you want to build a rapport with an artist and are looking for a mentor figure then you need to be willing to invest the time to do so (and it will take up a lot more of your time than the person with whom you would like to connect). Don't expect a total stranger to feel obligated to help you out or offer you advice.

- Think about the context of what you are doing. I've found that unsolicited advice can often be misinterpreted (both in regards to seeking advice and giving it) so be aware that you may be stepping on someone's toes, especially if you seek answers from a complete stranger. Try to picture yourself on the other side of that question and think about whether or not you would be offended.

- Don't forget that many established artists have struggled to get where they are and respect that. No one is going to give you a free ride after they worked hard to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

- Attitude makes all the difference. Try to be positive and upbeat. Nobody wants unsolicited complaints thrown their way. Be aware that you may not like the answers and responses given and be courteous and thankful for whatever responses you do receive.

No comments: