On Being an Artist, Taking Risks, Making an Impact, and Creating Connections

“We are flying to low. We built this universe, this technology, these connections, this society, and all we can do with it is make junk? Make stupid entertainment?” – Seth Godin

The holiday season is all about listening to Christmas music on the radio.

Rick 360 / 12

The other day, I was listening to not Christmas songs, but a radio show by Krista Tipett with Seth Godin.

I think listening to this radio show changed my life. This radio show was everything I wanted to be, and everything I was already trying to accomplish.

Godin made 4 very specific points that I believed encompassed his entire radio show:

  1. Take Risks
  2. Connect
  3. Be an artist
  4. Make an impact

As a baker, I’m an artist. I have my own techniques, my own designs. Heck, a cake can practically tell as many stories as a photograph or painting, right?

I take a lot of criticism as a baker, and as a person It’s hard to accept that you’re not going to please everybody all the time. And there is this paradox between pleasing the people that are going to be eating your cakes, and between yourself and what you want to create. Godin mentions that doing what you’re supposed to do is safe. Being risky…now that is art. Artists are risk takers.

I think that putting yourself out in the world and selling your thoughts and emotions is the definition of risk. You’re so vulnerable up on that scaffold while you’re waiting for people to consume your product. Writers, for example, are the biggest risk takers. In my English class, we write a different essay every week. Though sometimes, it’s not always a new essay, it’s at least a new revision of a previous one.

I hate those writing days and I love them at the same time.

For me, I express my thoughts through writing; my essays are very personal. So each week, I’m opening up my soul to a different person to attack. I always feel so nervous whenever someone reads my essay. I feel like they’re sitting there with their red pens, waiting to slash at me with their pen-swords.

Godin mentions a “temporary fear,” that comes along with getting feedback and I think that fear is so real. Sometimes, I don’t even think it’s temporary. I am naturally inclined to become this perfect robot in everything I do. And I’m so imperfect and raw in that first draft of an essay I turn in. I’m scared of failing. I’m terribly afraid of my peers telling me that what I’ve written and poured my heart into is absolute crap. Godin says that fleeing from failure makes us alive.

But the thing I realized is that feedback and that criticism is more important than the content of the essay.

It’s what you do what that feedback that matters. And honestly, I’ve failed and succeeded at this part. I hate receiving criticism, especially to art that I’ve put out. I mean, if you think about it, my essay is hours of my thought and emotion mapped out on a page. Why would I want anyone to tell me that my feelings are wrong and I should construct them another way? But I still take it. I take the criticism, and I think about it. 100% of the time the criticism is legitimate and completely valid for my writing. I take that criticism and I do all my best to shape my essay to be pliable for the next round of revisions and criticisms.  On my publishing house blog, I constantly reflect on my writing and my struggles with it. I’m more open to criticism now then I was back then. I got my first B+ on an essay in this class. And I was shocked. But reading through my teacher’s comments, I realized how true they were and I mentally slapped myself for not seeing it when I initially wrote the essay. I struggle so much with straying away from the most elementary form of writing: narration. And I’ve written about the comments that my copy-editors made to my essay and I really thought about how I can take their comments and improve what I’ve done.

But it’s still hard to accept feedback. I think that we’re all born with a natural sense of ego and pride. I need to be more open to change about my work. I need to accept that it’s not perfect the first time at all.

One of biggest ideas from Godin’s podcast is that everyone on this planet can be an artist. Art can be done by groups of people who count on each other to do something that’s bigger than themself.

“Artists are people who are not following a map, but people who are following a compass and understanding true north and are willing to solve a problem in an interesting way.”

We’re all taught from a young age to be obedient and to follow what people tell us to do. That’s not the case. As an artist, you dance to the beat of your own drum.

Doing art in groups is a better and riskier way to do art. I’m creating this huge art project this year for my English class, we’re writing a book. The book will be a collection of essays based on a central idea: food. This book is still a pending piece, but you can check our progress here. For me, I’m not following a map. I’m simply steering my own ship through the English class sea. I try to step away from creating things that have already been done. I try to come up with original ideas about, say, a paragraph in a novel or about an essential question that is asked about a novel. (An essential question is a question that is asked before a novel is read in my English class. As we read the novel, we explore the essential question and try to come up with our own answer.) On my post about individualism and community, I didn’t write my post about the most obvious answer: a person’s individualism is taken away in a community. In fact, I believe in the opposite.

The essays I create aren’t about superficial things, like a new iPhone that I recieved, or a television show. The essays I create are twisted strings of my hopes, dreams, and beliefs combined into one paper. I’ve written about my grandmother’s death, my kitchen, cupcakes, and my confidence that I found as a baker. Now, these aren’t typical things a high schooler usually writes about. I could’ve written about Taylor Swift, or Harry Potter, but I didn’t. I tapped my emotions as an artist.

tumblr_md8rjkKxZg1qkdght tumblr_m1qgybUFyT1qe55xl

Most of the pictures on my blog are all taken by me. If I use a Creative Commons image, I make sure to modify it to make it my own.

As an artist, I make original work.

IMG_4239

As we create art, we must share it. I found that to be one of the biggest things I agreed with Godin. People belong in tribes. We naturally come into tribes of the same people who have the same interests as us. My publishing house group, for example, is a tribe of food-lovers. I share my art all the time. Every time I publish a blog post (which is not often anymore, unfortunately) I share it on Twitter and on Facebook. I tage the post itself like crazy, and I get dozens of readers who are connecting with what I wrote. Connecting is the most important thing about being an artist. If you don’t get your work out there, who is going to know about it?

I think that having the pride and the bravery to step into the world and say, “I made this,” makes someone an automatic artist. (I’m quoting Godin) All the posts I make on this blog are proud creations that I want to share. I’m all about sharing. I share my blog posts on Facebook all the time. In fact, I’ve come to find that Facebook is my biggest audience for the blog posts. I also tweet my posts to my English teacher, who then retweets it to thousands of his followers. The artist world that we live in now is a world of connections.

While we’re connecting, we’re also marketing. Now, Godin makes a point about marketing that I don’t quite agree with. He says that marketing is a service that someone does when they tell a story that resonates with us and relates to the life that we live. I think that marketing is deceiving, and I don’t believe in any advertisements that I see on television. Therefore, I believe that connecting, instead is the ‘marketing’ that Godin is describing. When we are connecting, we do so on a premise to give people a story that we’ve created and that we believe will make a difference in the life that they live.

Not only is making connections online important, but making connections mentally outside of the classroom is so important. It’s crazy how I come up with some of my blog posts and how I relate it to baking, but I do. I related the Scarlet Letter to Taylor Swift, and my bipolar personality. I’ve related apple baking to the first week of class back from vacation.

“Everyone has their own printing press, what will you do with it?”

Like I’ve said before, everyone has the ability to be an artist. I’m an artist. I’ve put stories that resonate with the world and I’ve written stories that hopefully change the mindset of people. Artists are perhaps the most powerful people in the world.

As an artist, I need to innovate. I need to stimulate change and find a solution to a problem. Some of the books that are read in my English class are about prevalent world issues that exist in modern day society. I think that the purpose of the essential question is to try to connect the book with the world and think of ways to fix the problem. And you don’t always have to find a world issue and think of innovation to change it. Merely creating is innovation within itself. If you write an essay about dealing with death, a person who’s lost a loved one will be able to relate. And sometimes, reading that 1 single piece of text will change a person’s life forever. I need to innovate more in this class and use my work, my essays, to make a difference. I have a voice in English class and I need to use it.

Make an impact, in short. How am I impacting the audience of my essay?  How am I impacting, in general, out of an English class?

If you take risks, you’re able to make more mistakes. And when you learn from your mistakes, you’re able to make an impact and take away things that get you to hide. If people give us time to be our best self, we can all truly make a difference.

One of the biggest risks and impacts of all time is asking questions. Godin describes a situation where after one of his speeches, he asks the audience for question. And no one raises their hand. But the second he steps down from the stage, all of a sudden he has a whole line for question. This is because people are scared of being judged when they ask a question. It’s safe to ask a question on the outside. But you’re not taking risks.

I volunteer all the time in class. I think that this is the best way to learn, and it’s the best way to interact and make the best out of my time in school. I’m not afraid of getting my essay read in class (unless it’s anonymous) and I’m not afraid of asking or answering a question. During class discussions, I love to participate. I want to get my words out there and I want to create a conversation.

The fist

I’m not taking huge risks in English class. But my small ones still count. They make me vulnerable. Someone can easily say my argument is stupid and shut me down for the rest of the class.  But I want to put myself on the ledge.

In more ways than one, I think I’ve succeeded in taking risks, connecting, being an artist, and making an impact.

My biggest strengths in the radio show that Godin spoke are connecting and being an artist. I’m constantly asking other peers, outside my copy-editing group to read my essay. (And I’ll read theirs for that matter.) I’m online, and I’m talking with other bakers via comments on WordPress about the recipes they’ve posted and if they could check out mine. As an artist, as I mentioned before, I try to be original in every way I can. There are no boundaries to my mind and I try to reach and relate to subjects outside of English. I take all the pictures on my blogs, and I’m creating new content for them with Creative Commons images.

But what I need to improve on is making an impact, and taking risks. To take risks, I need to believe in myself, open myself up, and be more open. And with taking risks, I can from there, move on to create an impact.

I want to create an impact to show that I’m more than just a student in an English class at school. I’m not involved in Make-A-Wish

My board being ourselves at the Make-A-Wish headquarters
My board being ourselves at the Make-A-Wish headquarters

because I have to fill it in on some college application in the future. I’m not involved in my journalism program

Oh look!  A group of Baron News section editors!
Oh look! A group of Baron News section editors!

because I just need one more extracurricular to fill up my resume. And I’m most certainly not in the Academy of the Performing Arts (APA) because the name sounds cool.

I was in Make-A-Wish because I felt that as a person who was blessed with a healthy life, I should at least give back to those who don’t. Because no one wanted to have a life-threatening medical illness in the first place. I’m involved in journalism because I believe it is essential in a democratic society to have a voice to stimulate change. As for APA? Playing the piano makes me happy, and being in a group with musical nerds is a place where I belong.

You know, Godin said,

“[The] Bravest thing to do is to have free-range kids that are exploring the edges of the universe, but doing it in a way that they’re proud of, not hiding from.”

I’m proud of what I do, but I want to do more.

Godin’s most powerful statement, is, as I quoted in the beginning,

“We are flying too low.”

What is the trail that you are going to leave on society?

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.

-Kristie xx

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