Always outspoken and poignant, designer and educator James Victore typically ends his talks and video ravings with this simple triptych:
“Have an opinion, make work that matters, and love something other than yourself.”
These three components form the basis for a happier, more fulfilled life in the creative arts. Let’s brake them down individually.
1. Have an opinion.
As an artist of any type or medium, it is important that we develop a strong point of view and personal voice. Not a loud speaking voice, but an internal voice—as in “Here’s me and this is what I have to say to the world.”
We need to find our ground and then make a stand on it. And that starts with being honest and true with ourselves. Saying, “This speaks to me, I want to pursue it further.” And also recognizing what is no longer speaking to us and doing away with it.
Our opinions should be our own. Not our parents or our peers or society or our industry. They should be strong and unflinching and unrepentant. A line in the sand.
This doesn’t mean we need to become prima donnas or be difficult to work with. You can have an opinion and a point of view and still be pleasant.
2. Make work that matters.
Do work that feeds your soul, not just your belly. Yes, we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed. But where possible, earn your living doing work that speaks to you. Make work that makes the world a better place. Or a more beautiful place. Or a happier place.
Too many creatives spend their waking hours and creative energies doing shoddy, uninspired work that does nothing but help line the pockets of corporate fat cats.
Search out the studios, agencies, and companies that are in line with your values. They’re not always easy to find, but they’re out there. And if one is not available, start your own.
3. Love something other than yourself.
Victore is fond of saying that your work is a gift. To the world, to others, even to yourself. But a gift nonetheless. When you share your work—your gift—with the world, in essence you are saying, “I love you.”
Give. Be generous. Contribute to something grander than just the small microcosm that is your life.
When we are in the thick of life, it is so easy to become bogged down in the day-to-day that we lose sight of the bigger picture. There is a big huge world outside our window. Be in it. Add to it. Share the love.
I’ve been working as a designer professionally for over 20 years now. And I’ve heard a lot of recipes for living a fulfilling life in the arts. But Victore’s simple formula may be the best yet.
NOTE: And for a weekly dose of inspiration, be sure to check out Burning Questions on James’ YouTube channel. He sometimes swears like a sailor, but it’s awesome.