You can see the original article here at Fine Art Views.
You can see the original article here at Fine Art Views.
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?
How do I know?
That person was me.
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.
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!
by Luann Udell
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.
Learning how to say “no” can help you say “yes” to your art.
(5 minute read) (I had to put this in because someone complained repeatedly that my columns are way too long. So, you’ve been warned!) :^D
Inspired by Lorie Parch’s article “Secrets of Thin People”. It’s been years, but the secrets still apply.
So here we are, Thin Secret No. 1:
Thin people can put themselves first.
People who have a hard time losing weight often put other people first. Then they find they have no time to exercise, no time eat right, or to prevent stress–which causes them to gain weight.
And people who want a successful business, have to do the same: They have to put their business first, and learn to say “no” to the demands of others.
It’s the same with the business side of our art.
When I start to feel like I have no time, all it takes is a quick look at my calendar to see where I’m “spending” it. A volunteer commitment here, board service there, a school project here, family commitment there. And sometimes a little “trim” is in order.
I’m not speaking about the delicate balance of having a rich family, social and professional life. I’m talking about the commitments we take on, with good intent, that end up be a distraction.
How do we know when that delicate balance is tipped? Simple. You don’t have time to make art or grow your business.
Is that always a bad thing? No. As human beings, we enter and leave different phases of our lives that call for constantly changing balance. Very young children and teens need a lot of time–the former because they keep trying to explore electrical sockets, the latter because they do the same with the “electrical sockets” of adult life. Other life demands intervene, and sometimes art and business have to take a back burner for awhile.
But when you constantly find yourself responding to everyone else’s crisis, and your own business suffers, it’s time to find a different fulcrum. (Aha! I KNEW physics would come in handy someday!) We once invited a couple we really liked for dinner. But they couldn’t come, because their cousin’s husband’s mother’s brother (or something like that) was having a birthday party.
Either it was one hell of an excuse to get out of having dinner with us, or they needed a new fulcrum, and fast.
When I was an at-home mom, I had many requests for my time. Possibly people perceived me as having “tons of time”–because I wasn’t really working, right?
But as my business grew, the requests continued. I was perceived as having tons of time because I worked out of my home. That seemingly infinite flexibility was interpreted as constant availability. (By me, too, I should hasten to add. I still find it hard to say no.)
Then when my business was more established, I still received many requests on my time–because I was perceived as “knowing how to be successful” and “having figured it all out”–and everyone wanted a piece of that.
And even now, as I reboot my biz and grow my audience on the West Coast, I still get such requests. I’m now part of an art community (loosely) and I’m (somewhat understandably) expected to support that community, often. (I actually did take on a huge project a couple years ago to do just that. After spending weeks on the project, a technical glitch made it all blow up in my face. And rather than saying ‘thank you’, many people made it clear they found it amusing to see yet another “naïve newcomer” take on such a project, and fail. (To the few people who were thankful, I am so grateful!)
What makes it hard to say no is, many of these requests are made by worthy people for perfectly worthy causes. And it’s not wrong for them to ask.
But I have to be responsible about saying YES. Or NO.
Also, people have been very generous to me in this industry. It seems only fair to “give back”.
But ultimately, I have to come first.
Only I can make the work I do, to tell the story that’s my story. The art that’s in ME, I’m the only one that can let ‘er rip.
I’m learning to limit the one-on-one “giving back”. I now try to keep it to “one-to-many” model. That’s one reason I started a blog.
And why I joined the Arts Business Institute faculty for a year. And why I write a column for (the former) CraftsBusiness magazine, and now, the Fine Art Views newsletter. These are all ways of “giving back” to my community without feeling I have to constantly respond to requests for free consultation sessions. (It’s no coincidence that they also serve my desire to write, too!)
And as for larger commitments, well, sometimes before another door opens, a window has to close. Another commitment has to draw to a close before I take on another one.
But there’s another, less obvious corollary to this “put yourself first” secret. And that is: Only YOU can do what it takes to make yourself successful.
Parch quotes Anne Fletcher, a registered dietitian who wrote the book THIN FOR LIFE (2003) which Parch based her article on. Fletcher says, “When people take the reins (responsibility for their own weight loss), they realize that the solution to weight control is inside them, not in some magic potion or fad diet that their mother or sister is on.”
hmmmmmm……The secret of a successful diet. Doesn’t this sound like what I wrote last week?
Yes, there will be many times when life forces us to make different choices, to take on different priorities.
Knowing when—and how—to say “no”, may be the biggest ‘secret’ to creating success for yourself with your art.
(Disclaimer: I’ve used the ideas in the “thin people” article only as a metaphor for other life goals we have, in this case, our art. And not to “lecture” anyone about losing weight. Because, well, look who’s talkin’ here!)
Creativity comes first. Everything else can wait. Really!
Recently I wrote about finding a new source of ideas about creativity. This 3-minute article by Todd Bisson answers 7 Questions Aspiring Writers Ask That Don’t Even Matter a Little Bit. (Short story: Write first. Everything else, later.) (In case you don’t have 3 minutes this morning.) (In which case, you really do need to do something about that to-do list…)
I loved it, because it’s true. So many folks get hung up on figuring everything out first. They spend so much time spinning their wheels, trying to finess all the marketing strategies, they never actually create a body of work to build on. And of course, in the actual doing/making, you’ll probably figure out most of what else you need to do.
I felt pretty smug as I read the list. I’ve got that all figured out already.
Then I got to my studio to work.
And felt totally unmotivated to make anything.
Fortunately, I did what I do whenever I feel stuck. I pulled out my journal (I call it my “blort book”, for…well. blorting.)
Within a paragraph, I knew what I’d done wrong.
I’d followed my to-do list.
Some of it was time-sensitive. I get the
damn boot off next week. I know if I don’t line up my physical therapy appointments now, I could lose another week or two waiting for slots to open up. (Even as I was on the phone with Megan, slots were taken as we spoke.)
But did I really have to catch up on email? Well. There were one or two that needed a quick response. But the others? No. They could have waited.
Did I have to do my volunteer commitment (Instagramming!) for the art group I’m part of? Yes. Did I have to take care of my own IG account right then? No.
Did I have to do the dishes? No. (God, no. There will be more
in a minute tomorrow.)
Did I have to do the laundry? No. Good god, usually I look for excuses NOT to do it. I tend to stock up on the essentials. I can go for weeks without running out of clean underwear. (Too much information?)
But it felt like I was on a roll this morning, and I ran with it. I was pleased with how much I’d accomplished.
Until I got to the studio and realized I was out of oomph.
I can blame the fact that it’s been a long eight weeks of recovery, a long time spent off my feet (and necessarily so.) It was my priority.
But the day that my priority is to do dishes and laundry and check email is the day I officially declare myself housewife of the year. (Please. No. Remember that 50’s TV show, Queen for a Day? Arguably the oddest game show in television history.) (Yes, it was my favorite game show as a very young-ster. There were crowns!)
(Hint: Truly desperate housewives competed for washing machines, so they could do laundry for 13 kids faster.)
So take a good hard look at your to-do list. They can be great for writing down all those big and little tasks, the ones that wear down your brain when you try to carry them all in your head.
There are extenutating circumstances and exceptions, of course. If you are a mom, especially a new mom, yes, young ‘uns are at the top of the list. So does the work that puts food on the table (if that isn’t also your art work.) Partners and friends get top slots, too
But when you can, put your creative work way up at the top. Even a tiny bit of time, and space.
It may seem like a luxury. You may not always be able to put it in the No. 1 slot.
But it is the foundation of everything else you do.
The work of your heart completes the circle of who you are in the world, and from it comes the strength, the clarity, the energy to carry everything else.
Twenty years from now, no one will remember that your laundry basket was always empty, and your sink was never full of dishes. They will remember the powerful energy you got from the work of your heart, and how it influenced everyone you met and everything you touched.
And if, like I did, you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids and/or the other people looking up to you.
How can you want that fundamental wish, the power that comes being in the world with a whole heart… How can you want that for your kids/people, and not for yourself?
And how will they know what that looks like, if you don’t show them?
Go to the studio–NOW!
p.s. I was going to include a photo of my sink. But you don’t need to be exposed to that today.
I don’t know about you, but right now, I’m running around like a crazed monkey in a giant puzzle box, trying to figure out what to do next.
I’m getting ready for the 80th League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craft Fair. It’s where I see most of my collectors and patrons for the year. It’s where I introduce new work. In my booth, I create the most beautiful displays for my jewelry, sculpture and wall hangings. This year, it’s where I’ll introduce my new presentation of my artifacts in restored vintage and antique wood boxes.
It’s also where I’ll struggle to put up my booth on a ski slope, stand for nine days in 95 degree weather, and wonder if I’ll make enough money to get me through to next year’s show.
Joy and anguish, laughter and tears, exhilaration and exhaustion, uplifted spirit and aching body. Yes, welcome to the Fair!
I’m getting too old for this.
But I digress. This is about preparing for the Fair: Creating new work (which always seems to happen as the deadlines approach). Creating and mailing a postcard to my customer list (over 1,000, and I’m very picky about who gets on my mailing list nowadays). Rebuilding inventory. Trying to remember where I packed my display stands and signs two years ago. (I took a “sabbatical” last year for knee replacement surgery.)
There are two techniques I use to get everything done. And asking a question is the key to both.
The first is productive procrastination. I’ve written about this before, so briefly… If you procrastinate (come on, ‘fess up! No one can see you while you’re reading this!) then, when faced with a task you don’t want to do, ask yourself:
What else can I do instead?
This technique is powerful, because you can get so much done! Just not the one thing you really need to do.
The second just came to me this morning. (I am the slow learner. That’s why I still write about this stuff.) Today, for example, I have about a bajillion things to do. (Yes, the procrastination technique backfired.) So the last few days I’ve been frantic–absolutely frantic–(hence the monkey metephor) about how much I have to do, and how much has gone wrong, resulting in even less time to finish this. So this morning, I ask myself:
What has to be done next?
And the answer (today–finish my postcard mailing!) gives clarity. And relief. And peace.
It’s not my fault the mailing is running late. I gave the order to the printer in plenty of time to make my deadline. (I have learned the printing lesson the hard way, and almost always allow 3x the time needed for a print job.) But despite my best efforts, the print job is late, my new label making program is overwhelming complicated, and everything that could have gone wrong, did.
The fact remains, however… What I need to do right now is label, stamp and mail these postcards.
That clarity is enough to slow my heart rate and soothe my frazzled brain.
By the way, if you don’t get a postcard from me in the next few days (and you usually do), blame my mailing list/label high-tech woes. In the meantime, here’s all you need to know:
LUANN UDELL http://www.LuannUdell.com
271 Roxbury ST Keene NH 03431
I’m all better! I’m back!!! YES, I’ll be at the
80th League of NH Craftsman’s Annual Fair
Mt. Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH
Saturday Aug. 3 thru Sunday Aug. 11
10-5 daily rain or shine
Tent 2 Booth 203
NEW! My work displayed in restored &
refinished antique shadow boxes. They are
beautiful!! Create your own display!
(You can also scold me for not being here
last August….IF you bring chocolate.)
Photography by Roma Dee Holmes
And here’s the pic for the postcard:
Months ago I told you about Lyedie Geer’s extraordinary presentation on time and time management for creative people.
Well, now you can experience it for yourself! I’m goin’, and I hope you’ll join me!
A WORKSHOP ON MANAGING TIME TO SUPPORT CREATIVITY
FRIDAY, JANUARY 25TH 2013
HANNAH GRIMES CENTER, 25 ROXBURY STREET, KEENE NH
9AM TO 4PM
Call to Artists and Entrepreneurs: Invest a day in learning some resourceful and “out of the box” ways to approach managing your time and energy from an Integral Coach™ who specializes in advancing the capacity of artists and creative entrepreneurs.
• Learn the secrets of generating creative states more consciously and within time frames
• Get to know your relationship with time and how to work with it instead of against it.
• Come away with new methods for managing your energy so that you can make the very best use of time.
Lyedie Geer is a Certified Integral Coach™ who brings twenty-five years of experience in the areas of leadership, artistry and entrepreneurship along with a Masters Degree in Management & Leadership to her coaching practice. Lyedie has managed a number of artists over the years and is currently devoting herself to coaching. Her professional experience ranges from philanthropic roles in education and the arts to small business ownership. She was the Founding Director of The Moving Company Dance Center
(Now known as MOCO) and is currently serving as Vice President of the Board at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.
($50 DISCOUNT TO Creative Professionals Guild MEMBERS WHO SIGN UP BY JAN. 11TH)
LYEDIE GEER – INTEGRAL COACH™ AND COUNSEL
L. Lyedecker Geer, MS ICC “Lyedie”
Integral Coach™ and Counsel
Leadership, Artistry, Entrepreneurship
Walpole, New Hampshire 03608
“Advancing my clients’ capacity in the fields that deeply matter to them.”
What with the big show I do in August (9 days, people–please remember that when I’m slow with your special orders!), and getting my daughter off to graduate school (first time she’s been too far away to visit) and then vacation (I did nothing for six whole days), I fear I’ve sadly neglected my blog.
I felt it, too. The guilt. Heck, I didn’t even do my morning pages. Didn’t keep up on Facebook, either.
This morning, I had an extra fifteen minutes, and pondered what to do with it. Check my email? Sure!
But then I realized I miss writing. I may drag my feet about it, but it’s like fun exercise–I always feel better after I do it.
So rather than waste time looking for my current journal, I simply started another one. (Because of this coping strategy, I often have three or four journals kicking around at any given point in time.)
And of course, I started off pissing and moaning about what an awful person I was for not writing for the past five weeks.
And then I stopped. I looked at what I’d written:
I haven’t written in…months.
And then I wrote:
I’d made a choice, every day. Write….or go to the beach. Write….or go out to breakfast with my husband. Write…or sleep in. Write…or pick up Meg and go ride horses.
I did not choose to write, every day, for five weeks. That’s all.
Do I regret any of those choices? Not a bit.
Eventually, I miss writing. I restructure my day to allow time to do it. Or I suddenly have something to say, and drop everything to get it down before I forget. (Dear readers, you have no idea how much wisdom I’ve had that has simply blown away in the wind of my busy-ness like so much lint.)
What helped me get here today was this post on time management (NOT) by Danielle LaPorte, whose blog WHITE HOT TRUTH is one of my favorite reads. I’d long given up trying to be super-productive–lost my mojo a few years ago–but I hadn’t given myself permission to not feel guilty about it. When I read her post, I laughed out loud in relief.
Most of our choices are simply that….choices. Yes, there are good choices and bad choices. But it’s not always so clear which are which.
Work in the studio, or blow it off to have lunch with a friend? If you are honoring your art, and fiercely protecting your creative time, then perhaps the former is the right choice for you today. And maybe that friend is annoying, and always leaves you feeling vaguely unsettled.
But perhaps something says you need to honor your friendship today. Maybe your friend needs some love and support. Maybe it’s you who needs the love and support. (And hey, maybe, like me, you’re the annoying friend.)
Different times, different goals, different stages of life call for different choices. The sooner we allow ourselves to simply be who we are, today, the happier we can be.
So instead of a to-do list today, I simply set some priorities. I had three pages of writing with a great idea for an article. Done. I thought of all the ‘have-to’s’ I have to today, and picked the one that keeps coming back–the new design that’s just right for a store that’s waiting on some new work from me. There’s a friend who’s special order just keeps popping into my mind. I’ll work on her piece today. And I’ll make the phone call to another friend whose need is greatest, and make time for her.
But the first thing I did this morning, after my morning pages, was my favorite.
I went riding.
The first frost of the season killed off most of the annoying bugs. The sun was brilliant, but the morning was cool, perfect riding weather. I had unexpected (and welcome) company on my ride. My muscles are sore–I’m finally healing after a back injury last fall, and foot surgery this spring–and it feels good to be sore from riding. From doing something I love.
My blessing for you today:
May you choose for yourself today, the thing that will make you the happiest.
And may you have many opportunities to do so.
N.B. In the interest of full disclosure, I did write my column for The Crafts Report. And I did my columns for the Fine Art Views newsletter. And I wrote several times to my son, who moved out two months ago (to a house two blocks from here.) And I kept up on some crucial emails.
So, yeah, I wrote. But isn’t the point of this column still a good one?