This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
People who successfully stick with an exercise program for any length of time know this one:
Eyes on the prize.
Keep your mind everywhere except on how hard you’re sweating.
This is important in martial arts, and it’s something I struggle with in all my endeavors, even today.
It’s easy to get distracted while working out: “I suck at this!” “My kicks have no power!” “Everyone else is doing better than I am!!” “I can’t do anything right!!!” “I forgot to feed the cat!” “I’m so mad at so-and-do!”
Nothing saps your will and your workout quicker than second-guessing your performance, overlooking your intention and side-stepping your focus.
I constantly remind myself to focus on a) the moment and b) the end game. Oh, and remembering to c) try to have fun.
When I focus on the moment, I line up my stance. I make sure my guard is up. Whoops, forgot to pivot my feet! Get that down on the next shot. Breathe. Breathe!!
I lose myself in the process and forget about all the work piled up on my desk at home, at the orders I have to get out, the kitchen sink full of dishes I didn’t get to. I try to blank out what the guy on my right me is doing, and how many more push-ups than me the woman on my left is squeezing out.
My only competition is me. I’m just trying to do a little better than I did yesterday.
When I focus on the end game, I forget about working toward my black belt (or how I’m NOT working toward my black belt….) I focus on the fact that as long as I show up and keep trying, and simply try to do a little bit better each time, eventually I’ll be at least better than I am today. Maybe someday, even pretty good.
When I whine, “I’m not gonna qualify for a black belt until I’m 60!”, my heart answers, “You’ll be 60 anyway. Won’t it be cool if you are even CLOSE to getting a black belt?” And if I never get a black belt, well, at least I’ll be in pretty good shape. (Update: Now I’m 66! Never made it to black belt, though I was this far away. Too many injuries. So what? I did my best until I couldn’t anymore. And I still have a pretty good right jab! I regret nothing.)
And if I can’t enjoy the workout while I’m doing it (“OHMIGOD!!! THIS HURTS!!!”), at least I can feel virtuous AFTER the workout.
Same with my art. (You knew this was coming, right?)
Keep your eyes on the prize.
If I let myself flail, then when I’m doing bookwork, I feel guilty I’m not putting a fiber piece together. And when I’m sewing, I feel guilty I’m not getting that jewelry order together. And when I’m packing that jewelry order, I’m frantic because I’m not working on that writing assignment.
What do I accomplish?
A huge guilt complex and no joy.
That’s gotta go. I want to let go and be in the moment, enjoying just what I’m doing RIGHT NOW. Then let go and be in the NEXT moment.
The long-term goal? The right—the privilege–to say, “I’m an artist.” Maybe someday, “I’m a financially successful artist!” Or maybe even “I’m an internationally acclaimed artist!” (Update: Still not happening, but I’ve accepted that not all careers and choices make us wealthy. And that’s not a bad thing, either.)
Eventually, it simply becomes, “I love what I do. And I wouldn’t trade what I do for ANYTHING.”
If we learn to do what we can, if we can let go of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s”, if we can leave our studio at the end of each day with the satisfaction of work well done and know we’ve done the best we can, if we can lose ourselves in the moment of the pure joy of making something W*O*N*D*E*R*F*U*L, what more could we ask from our avocation?
And if in the ‘making’, we find ourselves, if we restore ourselves to our highest self, if we heal, and grow, how cool is that?!
And when we get our art our into the world, if our art makes the world a little more beautiful, a little more interesting, a little more delightful, a little brighter, that’s even cooler.
If it speaks to someone else, if it inspires THEM to do the work of THEIR heart, if it lifts THEIR heart and heals THEM, the circle keeps on growing.
Art is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
And if we make some money doing that, yippee!! (Just did my banking this morning. Feeling better.)
Eyes on the prize.
P.S. My words are working for ME! Mondays are very full of “to-do’s”. So I wasn’t going to go to the gym today. But I put on my gym shoes anyway. And here I go!