What is a Creative Coach? What do Creative Coaches do? And why do we need them?
“Support is often in terribly short supply in a creative person’s life. There is no one to talk to about the work. There is no one to talk to about the struggle. There is no one to talk to about the enormous gap between the dream the person had and the reality the person is living. Indeed, many creative people have been looking their whole life for one single advocate, for one person who will say, ‘You have it in you and I will help.’” – Eric Maisel
Artist Coaches or Creative Coaches are simply mentors that help us grow as creators of art, or of whatever it is that we want to get good at creating. It used to be that someone who had the creative itch would find a master, or mentor, and study under them for a number of years, doing their grunt work and working closely with them with whatever they needed in order to learn their skills and process. That custom still exists today but is no longer so common.
The Flawed Art College Model
More commonly we see the art college model, where we pay, or our parents pay, enormous sums of money and we go to an art school and learn from paid teachers who may or may not be qualified to teach us what we think we want to be taught. I have personally found that college instructors are often artists who have struggled a lot and finally found some stability with a university or college teaching gig. Teaching positions are often filled by people who lack real world knowledge about the art world and about how to keep going as an artist – how to fight the good fight and how to maintain a daily practice. They also often lack experience in selling their work and in getting their work seen by potential patrons or buyers.
This, in my opinion (having been a college student multiple times), is a failure of the modern university system. It is a system that is run by the top-down model, where academic distinction often outweighs substance and hard work; where the intellectual and conceptual so often takes precedence over feeling and being, which are indispensable to self exploration and creating art that helps to evolve a culture as well as an individual artist.
So those of us who come out of the art college or university are subject to this flawed (IMHO) didactic model. They often appear to have no direction, because the college doesn’t teach direction. They appear to have no real world skills, because the college doesn’t teach those either.
The good thing about most Art schools is that, given the right instructors, you can learn how to precisely and passionately spread paint on a canvas, or how to achieve highly technical body movements in dance – in other words, how to immerse yourself in your desired medium. Of course, that is what you want out of a higher education Art institution, right?. But that is usually the extent of it. You are normally not taught how to stay in your Flow when you’re not in the studio, and when you’re not selling work. You are not taught how to maintain your mental and physical well-being while trying to keep a job waiting tables for pocket change and starving while all of your hd-earned tips to the landlord. You are not taught how to find and approach potential patrons, and which work to show them, and how to talk about yourself, and how to ask for money or write a grant for an upcoming show.
You are simply not taught most of the essentials you need to survive and eventually thrive as an artist. But why? From my own experience with Art colleges and friends who have attended them over the years, my guess is that the instructors teaching you do not know, and they’re not being paid to find out.
The Creative Coach
Enter the novel descriptor, ‘Coaching for Creatives,’ a.k.a. Creative Coaching or Creativity Coaching – a profession that serves much the same purpose as the now archaic ‘Artist Mentor.’ Creative Coaches are the ones who have suffered the tribulations of being an on-the-ground artist. They are the ones who have slept on floors next to their work, who have squatted in cubby holes in boarded up buildings, or on couches in musty basements, because they cared so much about doing their real work and little about earning a living. They are the ones who had exhibitions and shows that people didn’t show up to, but kept doing their work anyway. And they’re the ones that kept a daily routine, and didn’t mind having few friends, and didn’t mind not going to all the great parties. They are the hardened, battle-worn troops who kept at their passion, and so have some real knowledge about what it takes to be a successful working artist.
Creative Coaches are the people who know where you are in your struggle, and they know how to get you to where you want to be. Even if they don’t have experience in your exact medium, they have all the principles of inner and outer success down pat, and as such they’re an invaluable source of information and inspiration to any budding artist or creative.