What does it mean to be a multi-passionate artist?
Many creative people have a wide range of interests and don’t want to box themselves into a niche. They are excited and inspired by having a wealth of ideas, materials and passions to explore.
But to be multi-passionate can also be overwhelming and come with feelings of shame, indecision or procrastination. If you feel halted or scattered by your options or pressured to pick one thing this article is for you.
Is it ok to have lots of creative interests?
Firstly, it is ok to have lots of interests and projects on the go. Some people need this creative freedom to thrive and sticking to one thing would restrict their creative work rather than support it.
Meanwhile the obstacles for multi-passionate people are real. Having many ideas can be freeing but our creative goals can seem impossible if we get stuck in a cycle of procrastination, anxiety and self doubt.
You don’t have to minimise your interests but there are things you can do to get the most out of your creative time.
The pressure to niche
You might feel pressure from others or social media to choose one thing, forever. Marketing experts in particular use the power of a niche.
While there are benefits to having a single focus when presenting your art there are also benefits to having many interests.
Am I sabotaging myself?
There are certainly some creative people that need a single-minded, one-track approach to their art. It works for them and they make great progress. If that sounds restrictive or impossible to stick to then try something else.
I have found I need many projects on the go. It keeps my creativity flowing and my motivation up. Sometimes I’m working on paintings that need drying time and I want to work on something else. At other times my energy, work space or capacity allow me to try out another project. This is supportive use of my time and energy.
Should I just stay in my lane?
There are times that it feels self indulgent to shift to a project that I’m suddenly inspired by. I used to feel ashamed of my inability to just stick to one thing but I have since found it to be a great source of abundance in my creative practice.
This doesn’t mean I lack discipline or focus when its needed. It means I’m using my energy and attention where I can use it best at that time. Swimming against the current is exhausting and unhelpful.
I might have a main project and cycle back to others when it feels right. You might flip between projects daily depending on your capacity, making progress in small increments. Sometimes I’m using my physical energy on one project while spending my mental focus at other times on researching another.
Staying in your lane, means knowing your self, what works for you and doing that.
Sharing your art
A niche makes it easy for customers and audience to know who we are, what we do and if we are the right fit for them.
Whatever your interests are, your audience will be delighted that you are sharing more of yourself. Let them see your creations and hear about your ideas. If you have a trusted group they can also offer their feedback on your latest spark.
Do what works for you
Keeping a record of ideas
Have a place to keep note of all your ideas, inspirations and projects. This could be a sketchbook, an app on your phone, voice notes, post its, a spreadsheet, the possibilities are endless. Find a way that feels convenient and accessible for you and note everything from small inspirations to big business ideas. Make it easy.
I keep a notebook where I write my ideas down. Mind maps and lists work well for me and I date everything. Some of these ideas are ridiculous but I write them down anyway. Like the tiny art “sweet” shop!
Managing your time
I like flexibility but I need a (loose) schedule if I’m going to stay on track with anything. Without it I can float aimlessly and happily but go nowhere. This can be a good way to come up with new ideas but it doesn’t get the work done.
Breaking projects down into manageable chunks is really helpful. Sometimes these are really small steps.
How to keep a schedule and flexibility
I use the Trello app to list my monthly and weekly goals as well as my current projects and ideas. It’s easy to move things around and works better for me than a calendar with fixed deadlines.
I use a timer for tasks. Set the timer for a short time, maybe 15 minutes to an hour, and make a start. If I’m enjoying the task or seeing progress that feels good I have permission to keep going. If not, I can move onto something else. Unless I have a deadline, then it’s head down with regular breaks.
The great things about being multi-passionate
Love what you do
There is no doubt in my mind that artists and makers who love their work, make better work. If you are someone that needs many projects and ideas to stay motivated, inspired and happy, you will create better art if you let yourself explore many things.
Let your passions inspire each other and energise you. If something starts to feel off, know that it’s ok to let it go. Take what you need and move on.
Different interests feed the creative work
Something that seems overlooked by those who would like us to niche down, is that creative work should evolve and develop and gather from many sources. Creative work by definition is making new connections and responding in new ways.
Artists require input and sometimes that means new skills, knowledge and new genres of art. Creative projects feed and inspire each other. This is so valuable and is a part of how we find our own unique voice, by combining these personal elements together.
Experimentation and the freedom to try new things are so important and much of our audience likes to see this too.
Creating multiple income streams
Many working artists have multiple income streams and create many kinds of work. No longer are professional artists boxed into a corner by gatekeepers if they want to make money from their creative skills.
Allow yourself to play with all the tools and platforms that are available to you and that light you up. Use your passions in interesting and creative ways.
Personal creative projects
I’ve come to realise that not every idea I have needs to be created. There is no need to start every project, finish everything I start or share everything I create.
I have a secret project that nobody knows about but me. This was an idea that grew into lists in a notebook and that slowly became something more. It’s exciting to see it growing. Yes I sometimes think how great it would be for it to be public, to see what the response would be. Sometimes I even think I could add it to my income streams and see if it sticks. But for now, it’s just for me.
Personal projects also plant seeds, inspire new directions and are free of pressure. These creations are made for ourselves and not for others, for likes, followers or sales.
How to get things done as a multi-passionate artist
Choosing a project and keeping focused
Even multi-passionate artists need priorities and things that quietly sit in the background. Some people keep calendars of goals, vision boards or journals. Artist Alice Sheridan talks about a Someday Maybe list.
Use Trello or Excel, post it notes or scraps of paper on the fridge but find a place to track your ideas and move them around to find your priorities. Let them shift as you need, but be specific about what you want to do now.
This is what works for me:
- Keep a notebook of all the inspirations, ideas and project goals.
- List my current main ideas and projects right now (I like Trello for this).
- In a new list write down my top priorities, three or four is my maximum. Are they related to deadlines, income or other people.
- Each one gets a list of its own of next steps.
- In Trello I add a “done” list where I can dump the tasks as they are achieved. This shows me my progress if I start to feel stuck.
- Having a clear To-Do List helps me to do something rather than just thinking about what a great idea it is!
- Stick to the plan unless it’s very clear it’s not working, try a month at a time.
- New ideas or inspirations are added to the notebook.
I keep this in my line of sight and come back to it until I’m finished or until I’m absolutely clear it’s not what I want anymore.
Be discerning but curious and focused.
If you have a lot of ideas things can get a bit out of hand, very quickly. It’s helpful to get comfortable with having a lot of ideas and knowing that not all of them will be good or worth following. I write them down anyway.
Lots of these ideas never come to anything but some spark something else further down the line. Or a tiny part of an idea is useful somewhere else.
It’s like a huge jigsaw puzzle of interlocking pieces, you just can’t see how they go together yet.
I believe that having multiple interests is not just enjoyable but necessary for the expansion and development of our art. The key is to use them to fuel each other rather than skimming the surface of each and never making progress.
If this article feels like you, you might want to look at Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. I used to give myself such a hard time for not sticking to one thing. This book, showed me another way and I recommend it.