THIN SECRET FOR SUCCESS No. 9: “Too. Many. Notes.”

My latest column at Fine Art Views, an online art marketing newsletter.

by Luann Udell

When you try to do everything, nothing gets done.

(5 min. read) (Quote from the movie AMADEUS)

Thin people limit their options.

This strategy is to avoid eating for excitement and stimulation. The less variety in our diet, the sooner we are sated. More variety, more eating. (Again, with moderation–no one can live forever eating Rice Krispies, bananas and walnuts.)

This concept of limiting our options may seem to contradict Thin Secrets for Success No. 6: Thin People Enjoy Their Food. That principle involves eating foods you enjoy, eating slowly to truly savor each bite and learning to love the foods that are healthy choices.

This is about when you’re full of salad, but you could still go for a piece of cake. Don’t go there, girlfriend. (Er…LUANN!)

For our purposes (i.e., how to healthify our art and craft biz) (Yes, I made that word up!), it’s a remedy for dissipating your creative energy by taking on too many creative outlets and options. We can choose to conserve our creative energy by focusing on a select few goals at a time.

Boy, this tip has got to be the hardest one for artists. We’re creative, dammit! We see the creative potential in everything, and we’re excited by it. We want to do it all, and do it all ourselves. What’s wrong with that?!

Well, just that. If everything has creative potential, and everythingdemands–and gets–our full creative attention and energy, how will any one thing ever get the focus it needs to rise to the top?

And how will you–one person–handle it all?

Even then, it’s not necessarily a bad thing-unless it constantly gets in the way of us moving ahead and achieving our goals. Then we must understand it’s not working for us. Then we can make different choices.

Here are some ways creative people overload and overreach themselves:

The first example is the craftsperson who simply does too many crafts. They do a little knitting, they do a little sewing. They make jewelry. They make polymer clay buttons. They also like to cross-stitch and make dolls. And they want to sell their work, and make some money.

What do you tell this person?

F*O*C*U*S

How do I know?

That person was me.

 

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I LOVE knitting kids’ sweaters and making tiny dolls. But I no longer have any desire to make them for anyone but grandchildren. (If and when I have grandchildren!)

I was lucky. I found a way to combine many of my interests (embroidery, polymer clay, sewing, and dyeing) to create an entirely new “thing”. The different media add interest, but each is subordinate to a cohesive body of work. That gestalt thing.

But the very first thing I had to do was focus on telling the story that would pull it all together, a story that enabled me to create a cohesive body of work.

Not everyone can do this with their interests–and you may not need to if you don’t need to make money or don’t care about a national reputation yet–but it’s a solution.

Artists–especially new artists–have a hard time narrowing down their creative bent to a few strong choices.

At some point, if we’re lucky, we realize that mastering one medium, or subject matter (portraits instead landscapes, collages, still lifes, and drawings) looks much more professional than a booth filled with “a little bit of this, a little bit of that”. That’s all the insight we need to cull our product lines and bring a new coherence to our display.

 

 

I will ALWAYS make time to work on the work of my heart.

I will ALWAYS make time to work on the work of my heart.

But sometimes, even if we see why we should do it, it’s hard for us to figure out how.

Start with a few questions:

Which of these do you like best?

It’s amazing how people hate to admit this. It feels like choosing your favorite child. Trust me, the other media you don’t choose, for now? Their feelings will not be hurt.

Which of these are you best at?

If your heart lies in jewelry-making, but you’re creating mediocre work, or work that is not distinctive, or work that is easily copied, you’re going to have to really dig deep to turn that around.

Which of these do you feel is the most distinctive and unique?

Often there’s something that stands out. It’s unusual, it’s quirky, it’s…distinctively you. And with a little more energy, refinement, and focus, it could be your “big thing.”

Sometimes the person likes them all, but it turns out what they really love is teaching. In which case, they only need to make and sell stuff enough to improve their skills and establish themselves as a working artist. Their real energy will go into marketing themselves as a teacher: Teaching classes, demonstrating, even selling downloadable tutorials online are ways to create an income stream without actually making painting or other art-making your full-time activity.

One artist offers dozens of tutorials on polymer clay, from beginner level to expert. She also experiments to find which clays are the strongest, which are best suited for specific uses, which are the most transparent. Then she shares that information with her audience. She excels at the testing/comparison process, and she has saved me hours of doing my own research.

All of this encourages people to purchase and download her tutorials, and that’s how she makes a passive income from her art.

But the most important question is this one:

What do you want to achieve out of all this?

If you’re having fun doing a little bit of everything, and it’s working for you, and you don’t need to get any” bigger”, then “not focusing” is fine.

If you are just figuring out what it is that calls to you, then take time to experiment and to explore, take classes, and play!

If you don’t really care about a career, if money would be nice but isn’t critical, it’s perfectly okay to stay in this stage, until you want to do it differently.

The minute you find you want to go somewhere, and all this baggage is not going to fit in the car, that’s when “focus” will help us through.

This “Thin Secret #9 Part Deux” will be continued next week, so stay tuned. We’ll look at other ways artists lose their way with too many options.

Have you ever gotten lost in the woods, trying to take on too many goals at once? Are you still in those woods? Or did you find your way out? Share in your comments and solutions. Your words may be just what someone needs to hear today!

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

7 thoughts on “THIN SECRET FOR SUCCESS No. 9: “Too. Many. Notes.””

  1. As a jewelry artist I am right where you are speaking of – trying to discover what my style is.

    It’s not an easy thing to do at all. I’ve been trying to discover what stands out in my work. I’ve asked family and friends what they remember most when they think of my jewelry. I’ve had interesting replies that have helped me peer more closely myself at what I do.

    I’m more than guilty of wanting to try everything that interests me and in a way that’s not wrong. It expands your jewelry making talents and you have something to fall back on to when you decide to incorporate different techniques into your style.

    One of these days I’m going to peer into that box and find the answer to my quest. Then – look out!

    Like

    1. First, your actions for discovering your unique vision are spot-on. Some of my deepest understanding of what I bring to the world has been beautifully given to me by what my collectors have to say about it. Good on you! Second, of course your explorations aren’t “wrong”! It’s the process every single creative has to go through, and it doesn’t unfold the same way for anyone. Last, can’t wait to see what’s in that box! :^)

      Like

  2. LOVED your article! It so much describes me–and I’m sure a LOT of other people–to a “T.” And your solution(s) is downright practical. Why didn’t I think of that? When I get to my worktable today, I’m going with the intent that, first, I jut want to have fun, try not to focus on any one thing, and just see where my “play” (and clay) take me. I’m confident that, over time, something will develop that I will have that “aha” moment and know that’s what I then need to focus on IF I want to pursue making money from it. Thank you so much! – Donna

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  3. What about the possibility of getting stuck in a rut. I have a friend who has discovered a formula of design that works for her but she has been doing the same thing for years. Her work receives lots of accolades and her work sells. As her best friend I have seen almost all her versions on a theme and I want to say to her, “I love you, but I think you could be even better, it’s time to challenge yourself again.” This has confused me as I work through my own creative journey.

    Like

    1. Wow. I have to say, this brings up some old issues for me.
      Fifteen years ago, an extremely well-known, popular, and successful artist said the same thing to me. It was extremely hurtful, especially since, for the next 10 years, they never missed an opportunity to dis my work, in so many ways.
      I only grew out of this because of wise words from good friends. Some of the wise words were:
      ***”Are you done telling your story?”***
      No, I was not.
      Eventually, I had another insight:
      ***I DO have a story.***
      And this artist didn’t. Fabulous work, but no personal story driving it.
      ***There’s room for both of us in this field.***
      And the biggest, and last:
      ***Their criticism says more about them than it says about me.***
      So I want to ask you this:
      If this friend enjoys what she’s doing, if it’s earning her money (and that’s important to her), why is that upsetting to you?
      If you feel she could do better, why is that important to you?
      And if you really want to expand her spiritual/artistic horizons, you could simply ask her, in a safe, supportive environment, and WITH HER PERMISSION, these questions. http://jonudell.net/radio-luann/2006/07/31.html
      Consider this: What you see as a “rut” could be a working meditation for her, one that brings her joy and an income.
      It may not be what would bring YOU joy, and that’s okay.

      Like

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