What’s the Hard Part?
(5 minute read)
I had a problem this week. I didn’t know what to write about for my next column.
Last week, I wrote about how I got through the roadblocks that held me back from a project I dreamed of years ago. When I wrote it, I was at the end of a major first part: Building the wood box shrines that will showcase my handmade artifacts.
Here’s what I wasn’t prepared for: I didn’t know how to solve the next step. And I felt like a loser once again. Overwhelmed, no energy, self-doubt up the wazoo.
In fact, I felt even more pressure on myself! After all, I’d just joyously announced I had plenty of shrines constructed, and now I was ready for the next step. Except now I could see there would be even more trial-and-error aspects ahead. It felt like I’d climbed one mountain, only to see that I was only on the first peak. I still hadn’t actually reached the top. (I looked this up, and yes, a mountain can have several peaks, points that are individually higher than the surrounding/adjacent areas. But only one is the actual summit, the highest peak. Huh.)
So I hit my first peak and was a little dismayed to realize there were more ahead.
Today’s blog post by Seth Godin clarified my dilemma neatly:
“What’s the hard part?”
The title alone helped me move forward. Because getting through the first ‘hard part’ taught me something important:
Trying to solve things in our heads is doing it the hard way.
What we really need first is a foundation to build on.
My husband is a writer/journalist/programmer. Quite a mix, I know! He taught himself coding back in the 1980’s, and though he says he’s not “the best”, he’s mastered it enough to achieve his current career goals.
He’s been working on a project for a year now, and last week, he had a major breakthrough, too, like I had six months ago with my own project.
Today, I asked him what brought about the breakthrough.
He didn’t understand at first, so I asked, “Did you have an inspiration, like a dream (like Elias Howe, sewing machine guy) or while thinking about something else (like Archimedes taking a bath)?
He said, “I had to build the foundation first. Everything I want to do, depends on creating that first.”
Aha! Like a building. The foundation not only holds everything up, but it determines the size, shape, and function of the structure. A skyscraper office building requires a totally different foundation than a house.
He finished the foundation. And then he realized he was ready to start making the functions that depend on that foundation. (He also hit a wall, just like I did with my shrines!) (Yes, we’re both recovering nicely, and moving forward again.)
A foundation means we have a vision of where we want to go, and we have concrete (sorry!) ideas of how to get there, even if we don’t have everything else figured out yet.
Even those famous inventers had a deep understanding of what the problem was, before they could experiment with solutions. They had to know what was missing before they could fill in the blank spaces.
Archimedes’ “Eureka” moment didn’t come out of nowhere. He understood the problem was identifying pure gold from gold-and-silver. His bathtub gave him an insight. In fact, a list of dream-inspired insights show us that all of the inventors/writers/creatives were already working on the problem/mystery they wanted to solve. I love how Wikipedia even has a section on “activation synthesis hypothesis” in the dream-inspired insights article. It acknowledges that our conscious brain plays a huge part in these insights, even when we’re asleep. Even if the dream seems metaphorical, our conscious mind will actively seek and identify that “metaphor”.
In my case, a shrine series started with how to find enough boxes, how to pair up those boxes efficiently, how to distress, paint, and antique those boxes. And the hardest part, how to connect them together in an efficient, strong, aesthetically-pleasing way.
And once I’d made “enough” shrines to get started on actually putting artifacts in them, I stalled a bit. But now I have air beneath my wings again.
What’s the hard part?
The biggest one is setting aside our fears and our self-doubt. Whether our projects involve coming up with a new series, a new process, a new technique, a new approach to our art, even exploring social media marketing, trying to do it in our heads may only take us so far.
At some point, we have to simply try.
And if it matters to us, we have to keep trying.
Hold in your heart my favorite quote by Thomas Edison:
“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Fortunately, getting adept at using social media marketing is not nearly as difficult! It can sound daunting, and it can take time to get there. There are plenty of great resources available to us, including FASO’s own AMP (Art Marketing Playbook) series of recorded Zoom workshops hosted by FASO’s Chief Marketing Officer, Dave Geada. (I did not realize you can try this program free for a month. Nothing stopping you now, right?)
But in order to get results, you simply have to try. When it comes to social media marketing, you have to actually take pics of your creative work (so much easier now!), upload those images, get comfortable talking/sharing/connecting online, and then get better.
Our first foundation is creating those accounts, and getting started. We have to stop worrying about how hard it seems, set aside our worries of being copied, what to share and say, worrying about how to get 10,000 followers, etc.
We have to get over counting the “likes” and focus on simply getting our art out into the world.
It’s not about having an audience. It’s about having a voice.
Seth’s blog talks about “the team”, which through me for a moment. Until I figured that out, too! Stay tuned for next week’s article in this series: What is our team, and what is our team effort?
Your comments are always welcome, often insightful, and sometimes inspirational, too! Shares, the same. You can find more of my articles at Fine Art Views, and/or visit/subscribe to them at my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.
3 thoughts on “PROBLEM-SOLVING FOR CREATIVES #2: What’s the Hard Part?”
I’ve been a consistent reader and fan of yours for a few years. Your last question in this column made me remember why I began my journey as a maker. As a solo worker in glass, my team is me, the glass, the kiln, and the cold working (finishing) equipment. Heat and surface treatments allow me to manipulate the contraining physics of glass into an object from my imagination. Other parts of my life have kept me out of my studio for a long time. It’s starting to feel like this is the right time for re-entry. Thanks for the mental boost!
Risa, apologies for overlooking this beautiful comment. Where is my brain???
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me know my words have encouraged you to return to the creative work you love. That is so powerful, and courageous! And you are proof that when we share our art with the world, it may reach people in wonderful, positive ways we can’t even imagine. I hope YOUR beautiful glassword will do the same!