Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

An Artist’s Manifesto

A number of years ago, I sat down in my son’s bedroom late at night after he fell asleep. I was in my mid-30’s and intensely discouraged.

As I began to pour out my thoughts, they took shape as a manifesto. I included this “Artist’s Manifesto” at the end of my book The Artist’s Suitcase because it represents the core of what I believe about artists. I’m also sharing it here because it never hurts to get back to the basics.

Whether or not you’ve read it before, I hope it encourages you to stand up and embrace your creative destiny.

Yesterday

Yesterday I was on top of the world.

I was young and full of fire. I had my whole life ahead of me.

I stood on stage and basked in the attention. “You’re great!” they said. “You have such a bright future ahead of you!” The sound of applause roared in my ears. I even won a contest or two.

They loved me! I was a success!

I was somebody.

Yesterday I was going to conquer the world with my art. I was talented, gifted, amazing. At least, that’s what everyone told me.

Then something happened.

Call it reality, call it discouragement, call it disappointment. Call it whatever you wish. If life is the school of hard knocks, I graduated Summa Cum Laude.

The flames of creative passion that once consumed me were little more than a wisp of smoke. My fresh ideas weren’t so fresh anymore. The roar of the crowd became a deafening silence.

No more applause. No more medals or ribbons. No more approval.

I felt like a failure. A fraud. A ghost haunted by his own mediocrity.

How did things change so quickly? How did I go from being the young hotshot in the spotlight to the middle-aged guy watching from the sidelines?

Somewhere along the way I stopped dreaming about the future and became content with recounting yesterday’s triumphs. And the tales grew more stale with every telling.

My “Someday I’m going to . . .” turned into “When I was your age . . .”

Life became safe. Comfortable. Predictable.

Boring.

Yesterday I was a success.

But yesterday didn’t last forever.

Today

Today I carry the weight of the world.

Mostly it’s the weight of disappointment—disappointment at unfulfilled dreams, unmet expectations, and unreleased potential.

But it’s more than that. To tell you the truth, I’m afraid.

Afraid? Really, at my age? Shouldn’t I have moved past that by now?

Not a chance.

So what am I afraid of?

I’m afraid that I won’t be successful again. I’m afraid that I don’t have what it takes. I’m afraid that yesterday’s success was just dumb luck. I’m afraid that I’m worse than a has-been . . . I’m a never-once-was.

Most of all, I’m afraid that everyone will wake up and realize what I’ve known all along: I’m way in over my head and don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

That leaves me with two choices:

1. Stay where I am, paralyzed with fear.

2. Move.

Even though I’m afraid—terrified, really—I must move. Every bone in my body screams, “Why risk it? You’ll just be disappointed again! You’re past your prime. Your best days are behind you. Just settle in and stay comfortable where it’s safe.”

But in the deepest recesses of my heart, I know the truth: comfort is never safe. In fact, comfort is the most dangerous place to live.

So today, I choose to move.

Today I will press on. Today I will rouse myself and give it my best shot. Not because I don’t fear the future, but because I fear the present if it remains unchanged.

Today I choose to believe the best about myself while acknowledging the failures of the past and learning from them.

Today I ignore the voice of fear telling me that I’m a failure, that I’ll never amount to anything, that my best days are behind me, that no one cares about my work and my art.

Today I will take good care of my body, mind and soul because I can’t give what I don’t have. I’m not much use to anyone if I’m always sick, negative, and depressed.

Today I abandon my regrets and stop flogging myself for my mistakes. I release my grip on the baggage that has crushed my spirit for too long.

Today I push aside my doubts and face the future with faith—faith in myself, faith in my calling, and most important, faith in my God who has brought me this far.

Today I am secure in my purpose. I know who I am, and who I’m not. I accept my limitations—no, I embrace them. Because my limitations are just signposts pointing to new horizons.

Today I am thankful for all that has gone before, both good and bad. Because yesterday’s rain brings forth tomorrow’s flowers.

Today there is fear, discouragement, doubt, uncertainty.

But today won’t last forever.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will face the world.

I will face the world, not with the frown of a critic or the smirk of a cynic, but with the smile of a friend.

Because it’s not just the world. It’s my world.

It’s my world because God put me here for a reason. I was born into this time, this place, to step into the unique purpose God has for me.

And if I don’t do it, who will?

This is a long journey, and I’m unsure of what lies ahead. The question is not whether I will take the journey—everyone is taking a journey. The question is what kind of journey it will be.

Will it be joyful? Productive? Discouraging? Hopeful? Lonely? Full of worry and anxiety? Or full of hope and encouragement and community?

It’s whatever I want it to be. It’s all up to me.

So I’m ready to take this step forward with a new sense of purpose. I don’t know my destination, but I know my direction. And for the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful and content.

Some say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I say it begins with just finding your shoes.

So tomorrow I will not only find them, I will tie my shoelaces and plant my feet on the edge of tomorrow. One step will become two, then ten, then hundreds, then thousands. And what is a successful journey except thousands of steps in the right direction?

Tomorrow I will head into the future knowing who I am and what I must do.

I’m an artist.

An artist!

I will create with passion … because I can’t not create.

I will lead by example… because my life speaks louder than my words.

I will serve with humility… because important-sounding titles don’t mean much and we’re all just kids trying to do God’s will.

I will reach for excellence… because a mediocre artist makes a mediocre difference.

I will join in community … because the journey is so much better with friends.

I will focus on the positive … because we don’t need another jaded artist.

I will believe the best about others … because everyone is desperate for an encouraging word.

Yesterday my success gave way to failure.

Today my failure is giving birth to purpose.

And tomorrow … tomorrow my purpose helps give hope to the world.

Tomorrow there is joy. There is hope. There is encouragement. There is the kind of success that truly matters.

And tomorrow will last forever.

What have you learned from your failures? How have they helped prepare you for today and tomorrow?

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.