Friday, November 09, 2012
What to do if your kid wants to be an artist
Those of you who follow my other blogs know that I've been writing a lot, lately, about what sort of career advice parents should give children. Specifically, what should you do if your child wants to pursue a creative career? (see my post at CBS MoneyWatch, and over at LauraVanderkam.com). I've been writing about this question after reading a guest post at the Motherlode NY Times blog from Dan Fleshler. His nearly grown-up daughter wants to make documentary movies. He debates what to tell her, with the shadow of his own career hanging over the discussion. He wanted to write novels; he wound up doing public relations. This question gets at one of the fundamental tensions at the heart of parenting. You want to prepare your child for the world. The world of creative careers is not known for being easy (and to a degree, these days, the academic careers that young mathematicians and historians and the like might pursue are not that straightforward either). On the other hand, you also want to encourage your child. The world is full of people who will stomp on his or her dreams. Why should you do that too? Parents of gifted children face particular challenges in this regard in that sometimes children show prodigious talent in certain fields, or have very ambitious goals. Should one spend 18 years encouraging a child to be creative, and then zoom in with the practicalities? Should one encourage practicalities all along -- but hopefully delivered in a "this is possible" tone of voice? My vote is for the latter. Musicianship, artistry, or research on the cutting edge of a field often involves years of practice and a discipline aimed at getting better. Hopefully as a child is working on the discipline of a creative calling, he or she is also meeting people who are pursuing this field, or have pursued this field, professionally. These people can show and tell what is involved, and explain the role of luck, timing, and being entrepreneurial. If you want to be a choreographer, it's important to know that there are very few organizations hiring people as full-time choreographers out of college just because they have a degree in dance. You'll need to be producing a portfolio, and being entrepreneurial about getting people to perform your works in visible places. What advice would you give a child who wanted to pursue an artistic career? In other news: I just read Practice Perfect, by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi. The book consists of 42 strategies for "getting better at getting better" and has a lot of interesting ideas on how to practice one's craft. While the authors primarily train teachers, you can apply the strategies to just about anything. I'm also going to two of my three kids' parent-teacher conferences this week and am mulling the concept of silly mistakes on assessments. Lots to unpack there, so look for that next week.