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.
Hiatus hurts, for awhile.
Getting back in the saddle again hurts, for awhile.
But never going back to what you love, hurts forever.
When we work out, despite our best efforts, we run the risk of injury. Injuries can range from annoying to debilitating. And they can derail your fitness program faster than you can say billy blue blazes.
Nothing is sadder than someone who’s grown dependent on their workouts for their good mood, their steady frame of mind and their focus. When my DH had a serious foot injury a few years into our relationship, I didn’t know who would lose their mind first–him or me.
And when I was first majorly injured in martial arts, it took me almost ten years to work up the courage–and physical ability–to return.
But the second time I injured myself two years ago, it took me only a few months to get back out there. And a year later, when I tore my hamstring, it took only weeks to get back on my feet again.
Not at the same level of intensity and skill, to be sure. At first all I could do was show up. I would do my physical therapy while everyone else practiced their spinning back kicks.
But I’ve learned to show up. And to always do what I can. Because I learned my lesson in that ten years of relative inactivity.
For one thing, studies show that injuries heal faster and better when we use our bodies. (Being mindful of moving in therapeutic ways, of course.) In fact, our bodies are so dependent on movement for our well-being, muscles will start to atrophy after only days of idleness. I’ve been told that the weakness we experience after a rough bout of flu actually has less to do with the illness, and more to do with our immobility as the disease runs its course.
For another, the less we move, the less we CAN move. “Use or lose it” is vital to our physical, mental–and artistic–health.
It’s the same with our art.
I will now tell you the saddest story in the world.
It’s the person who says, “I entered an art exhibit once, and didn’t get in. So I never tried again.”
Or “I got into an art exhibit once, but I didn’t sell anything. So I don’t even try to sell my work anymore.”
Or “I used to paint but I couldn’t sell my work. So I quit painting.”
Or “This show used to work for me but now it doesn’t. I don’t know what else to do.”
Or “I just love to (whatever) but I can never find the time to (whatever).”
As my mom used to say, people who say they love to read but they don’t have time, don’t really love to read. Because if you do, you know you can ALWAYS sneak in a book somewhere.
Experiencing failure with our art is daunting. But it’s simply part of the process of making art. Making art means learning how to make art, and learning how market our art. And learning how to sell our art. AND learning how to make better art.
The people who are successful making art and marketing their art and selling their art, aren’t people who have never failed.
They are simply people who didn’t quit just because they failed.
They keep at it, doing what they can and figuring things out as they go.
If their early work didn’t sell, or later work quit selling, they either changed their style, changed their marketing or changed their venues. If shows started to fail them, they tried something else.
Not all of us will be world-class artists, or hugely successful artists, or even very good artists. But if you love it, and it’s important to you, you must find a way to keep doing it.
It’s as important to your creative nature as moving is to our physical bodies.
Whatever your art means to you–whether you intend to support yourself, or make a name for yourself, or whether it’s something you do part-time or something you do to amuse yourself–find a way to do it.
Even if, somedays, that means just showing up.
At my last open studio, one of my customers recommended an affordable place to ride a horse. I haven’t ridden in five years! But I went yesterday for a lesson. Nothing spectacular, and I was never a “spectacular” rider to begin with. (I am the eternal “adult beginner”.) But I scheduled a lesson with the instructor (who is delightful) at the ranch (which is beautiful, and takes great care of its horses.) I rode around the ring on a gentle little guy for an hour, and it was wonderful.
Today, I hurt all over. My back hurts, my hips hurt, my knees are killing me. I’m exhausted, too. I didn’t do much at all, but that’s what it feels like the first time you get back to something after a long hiatus.
And yet….I am soooooo happy!
This is what it feels like to be doing what you love. Especially after setting it aside for way too long.
But not nearly as much as not doing it.
Whatever has taken you away from your creative work, find a way back. For your sake. For our sake!
Flex your creative muscles. Start slow, but go steady, and work your way back to your happy place.