FEEL THE FEAR (And Do It Anyway)*

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.

FEEL THE FEAR (And Do It Anyway)*

Share your work, your thoughts, yourself on social media, and own it!

(5 minute read)

There’s a hidden underbelly to using social media to promote our creative work. We don’t talk about it much, it’s quite prevalent, and it can’t really be fixed.

There will always be someone who’s happy to tell you what’s wrong with it: Your style, your subject, your technique, your skill level, your choice of color, theme, title, etc. And also what’s wrong with Y*O*U.

If this happens to you, here are some words of comfort and encouragement.

In 1948, Shirley Jackson’s most famous short story, often included in high school reading/literature classes, “The Lottery” was published in the New Yorker magazine. It generated a (quote) “deluge of complaints” to the editor, and a substantial number of cancelled subscriptions. (Just FYI, the new movie about Jackson is not based on her actual life, according to her son, and contains incredible untruths, as does the book it’s based on. The author says it’s fiction, though it can ‘read’ like a true bio. Although I also hear Elizabeth Moss’s performance is amazing!

One of my all-time favorite mystery writers, Sue Grafton, died before completing her famous “alphabet series” (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc. and her last one was Y is for Yesterday. No Z.) She’s won almost every mystery award you can think of, multiple times.) Critics have called her one of the top mystery writers in every category, especially her series. I’ve read them all multiple times.

Out of curiosity, I checked some reviews and ratings on Amazon, while buying her last book. I was shocked to see how many 3-stars and below ratings her books got, usually between 17-19%. One longtime reader gave her 1-star and a terrible review, because she “wrote too much”. (Remember “Too many notes” in the movie Amadeus?)

One of my top three favorite advice-givers, Captain Awkward, is hugely popular, known for her wit, in-depth analysis of what’s going on, her insights, etc. She is an advocate for kinds of good causes and movements, all people, all genders, etc. She has thousands, tens of thousands, of followers, maybe more, including thousands of paying supporters on Patreon.

And yet, she has created a special folder for the deluge of hateful, angry, highly-critical comments she receives on a daily basis, which she doesn’t even read. (She also deletes their comments and blocks them forever after their first rant.)

And we wonder why people hesitate to post their thoughts, their writing, their artwork, their stories online….

I actually wrote a series a while back called “Haters Gonna Hate”, about how we can’t focus on who hates us/our work, we just have to get it out there. I received quite a bit of blowback about using the word “hate”. (Can you spell “irony”?) And another series, Mean People Suck, has truly stood the test of time.

We know that Shirley Jackson persisted and began a highly-popular and highly-respected author (faux movie dialog notwithstanding), as did Sue Grafton. Captain Awkward (aka “Jennifer Peepas”) does not let the haters slow her down for a minute.

Neither should YOU let these people slow YOU down.

I used to engage with nay-sayers, until my team/partner/wise people in my life encouraged me not to even try. I still struggled, hoping to convince those toxic people to simply skip over or delete my posts/emails/columns/articles.

Now,in the movements for justice and equality today, people deep in those movements advise the same: Don’t waste time or energy trying to change someone’s mind. Instead, find ways to support the people/communities/organizations who are already working to change the world for the good.

You could do the same. Delete, mute, block. Move on. And get back to your happy place so you can make your art, and get it out into the world.

It took courage to see the artist in yourself. It took courage to take up brush/pencil/clay/a camera/a microphone/dancing shoes and pursue the work you care about.

It will also take courage to put it out into the world.

I’m reminded of this today from another source: Ginger Davis Allman’s email newsletter The Muse. Allman works in polymer clay, but her wisdom and insights apply to almost any creative endeavor. In today’s article, she concludes, “Best is subjective. Because each of us is different, things resonate with us differently and hit us in different ways. So we each have our own idea of “best” or “favorite”. There IS no best.” Yes, in certain instances, the opinions of others are relevant. But in the end, “the only idea of “best” that matters is your own.”

I get it. I dread reading comments. I’ve gotten some doozies, and it can be daunting. But I’ve worked too hard to get where I am today, and I’ll be darned if I let someone who’s having a bad day/hair day/time/life take me down to their level.

Do your work. Do it for yourself. Take a deep breath and share it with the world, however you can. Be proud of where you are, and be excited about where you’re going.

I wrote some of my best articles when I had no audience. Because, I learned even before my favorite “Sally Forth” comic was published, that it’s not about having an audience….

It’s about having a voice.

It’s not about having an audience, it’s about having a voice.

You can be afraid. You can worry about being judged. You can worry about feeling ‘less than’. It’s human.

We all want our work to be loved, respected, collected, displayed with joy. Once it leaves our hands, it has its own journey. To be loved now, or in a hundred years (like Van Gogh), or in 10,000 years.

Or forgotten, like so many others lost to us in time. No matter. It’s not where it goes that counts.

It’s what it brought YOU, in the making.

Feel the fear (and do it anyway.)

 

*Thanks and a hat-tip to Susan Jeffers for her amazing book, where this title came from!

EXERCISE FOR SUCCESS Tip #3: You have to do it even when you don’t feel like it.

Luann Udell discusses how getting to the studio--is half the battle.
Luann Udell discusses how getting to the studio–is half the battle.

 

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.

Getting to the gym—or the studio—is half the battle. Have your winning arguments ready!

 

I rarely feel like exercising. Given a choice, I can always find a great excuse to skip it.

Not so fast, kiddo! Walking? Studio? Workout? PICK ONE! 

But I use those micro-steps (“I’ll just get into my gym shoes!”) and say I’ll get in the car at the appropriate time. I drive there, I walk in, sign in and get in line. I fight down a few moments of panic–“I can’t do this!”

And then everyone says hello, and the music pops in, and we’re off. For the next hour, I don’t have much time to think.

It’s a full hour of work—warming up, strength work, balance work, stretching, cooling down.

And at the end of the hour, I am always–ALWAYS–glad I came.

The same with my art. Especially the last year or so, as I take my work to the next level, it’s been hard to sit down to work. My head plays every mental game it can, and I’ve got a million excuses why I should work on something else.

So I do the micro-steps and say, “I’m just going to pick out the border pattern” or “I’m just going to mix some clay.”

Or I do it because I know if I can just get out of the house, that’s half the battle. Instead of, “I’ll just do the laundry first”, I promise myself I’ll do it when I get back.

Or I do it because I know once I’m in the studio, I’ll be fine. There will be plenty of little tasks, big projects (with little steps!), and maybe a customer or two will drop in.

Or I do it because….

I know it’s the work of my heart. And I have to do it. Because I LOVE IT. And I’ll be absolutely miserable if I don’t.

It’s like taking vitamins. Or, even more fun, a glass of wine!

I do it because it’s good for me, and I know that. I do it because I will be happier, not only being active, but getting something done. I do it because I can cross those little goals off my checklist, and that feels productive, too.

Before I know it, the time has flown by. Some pretty good work has been accomplished. And I’m feeling pretty good, too.

If you wait until you “feel like it”, you’ll never do it.

Just go to the studio. Don’t worry about how you’ll manage it tomorrow, or whether you have to do it the rest of your life. Just worry about today.

Just do it.

What is YOUR magic step for getting to the studio?

You don’t have one, you say? You’re already so disciplined you don’t have to think about it?

First, good on you!

But I’m guessing if you believe you don’t have one/need one, it’s because you’ve incorporated many small encouragements and good practices so often, your internal process doesn’t even register anymore.

It’s become a good habit, one you don’t even have to think about any longer.

And that’s the perfect place to be!

So share how you got there.

Maybe what worked for YOU, will work for someone else, today.

And maybe that’s just what someone else needs to hear, to get to their studio today.

CLEANING THE ATTIC #9: Call For Backup!

Sometimes, no matter how much progress you’ve made or how strong your intentions are, you get stuck.

That’s happened many, many times throughout this process. Sometimes one thing worked, sometimes another.

This time, I simply needed another set of eyes.

Not just anybody, though. I wanted Carol. Or somebody like Carol.

Carol is an artist, too. She is kind, yet insightful and strong. She understands that some items aren’t really junk (though they might look like it to non-artist types.) She’s a good listener. She’s willing to work, if that’s what is needed.

I told her how far I’d gotten, what my goals were, and where I was stuck. She identified three key areas I could think about and act on.

1) I need work space.

I tend to fill up work space with stuff that isn’t work. Sounds stupid, but that’s what I do.

For example, my desk has all my supply catalogs on it. That makes for easy access. But it also means I can’t use my desk for writing. Was there somewhere else to put those catalogs where they’ll be accessible, but not taking up work space? Yes! I’m going to rearrange some shelves (and yes, move more books upstairs) to find a new spot for them.

Then I talked about other work spaces I’d inadvertently invaded with “stuff”. I set up nice display areas for last year’s open studios. But then I never dismantled them. Some display is desirable–I love it, and it makes the studio interesting. But if that has taken over, then no work can get done.

And I never even put stuff away from last year’s big retail show before I had to start preparing for this year’s show.

To be fair, that was the year o’ surgeries. I couldn’t put all that stuff away. Berating myself for it was unfair, and unhelpful. I was beating myself up emotionally for being messy. For buying art supplies I ended up not using. For giving so much stuff away without trying to recoup my investment.

Which brings me to Carol’s next insight:

2) I need to forgive myself.

Carol’s mantra was simple: “That was then. This is now.”

That’s who I was then. This is who I am now. That’s what I thought would work then. This is what I need to do now. I was doing okay, and now I could do better.

The actual organization of the studio was good. The layers were okay. It was piling on top of the layers that was getting me into trouble.

Guilt wasn’t working. So I set the guilt aside.

It helped. Immensely.

3) Group stuff together.

As I empty storage containers, set them aside in one corner. As I come across items that can go upstairs, group them in a spot for easy transport.

This was so simplistic, I nearly sneered. But it worked.

At first glance, we’d made little progress in our barn attic. (This space is where all my booth stuff is stored, and it’s the final repository for our house stuff, too.)

Actually we’d made huge progress. But all the clear boxes I’d bought/gathered for organizing were scattered throughout the space, making it look as if everything was still strewn around.

Once I’d grouped those in a single pile off to one side, the floor space really opened up. And I could tell I’d made a huge difference up there.

I’m using this same principle on my studio, starting today. Already I feel upbeat and hopeful that this really will get done.

So if you get really stuck, enlist the aid of someone who can get your over the hump. Someone who will not judge, someone with sensitivity and strength. Someone who really wants to see you get to that next step.

Or someone with a truck.

Tomorrow’s post will address why I’ve decided over and over not to sell most of this stuff. It’s a good decision for me, and maybe it will work for you, too.

CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #8: It’s Working!

To date, I’ve only been daydreaming about the mental/emotional benefits of de-junking, hoping all the good reports are true.

Today I can say they are.

We put in a full day yesterday, slowing working on a difficult area: The back hallway. This is where Jon stuffed everything from our living room and dining (except furniture) when he impulsively decided to refinish floors without telling me first. If you need to feel good about your marriage today, you can read about that fiasco here.

It was hard because this wasn’t stuff that had been languishing in an attic for years. This was stuff we’d been living with. Okay, it’s been a year. But still. It was stuff that had been in active use.

But we chipped away at it and made excellent progress. For the first time in a year, we could walk through our back hallway again.

We even found Doug’s potting wheel (from the days when this area had been his pottery studio) which had disappeared. (He’d stowed it in the stairwell at the end of the back hallway. I don’t know why. Ask him. Good luck with that.)

Trips to the library to donate books for their upcoming book sale, boxes set out on the curb for the yard sale elves, trash trash trash. A busy day, with much accomplished.

This morning, while eating breakfast, I had a moment of extreme clarity:

I really, really really want to write another book.

It will be a collection of blog entries from the last six years. I’ve had the idea for that for awhile now, as many regular readers will know.

It seemed overwhelming, and I wasn’t getting much traction with it.

But this time I felt like I could do it. I could see it happening.

De-junk the trunk. It’s working.

CLEANING YOUR ATTIC Tip #1: Freecycle!

I’ve been cleaning and purging not one, not two, but three attic spaces for the last two weeks.  And nibbling away at my studio stuff. I would clean my studio first, except I have to make room in my barn attic for the stuff I want to store in my studio.

My studio is just too full. Partly from months of being unable to even unpack fully from last year’s shows (my Year of Surgeries and Injuries), partly from a kid moving into her own place (and leaving behind almost as much stuff as she took), partly because we realized we still have unpacked boxes from when we moved to Keene 20 years ago. (Oh, my….) When we moved into this house 8 years ago, it was lightening-fast, and I never got to really purge our stuff. I think we even packed and moved dirty laundry, it was that fast.

I’ve read a lot of books on the market about how to clear stuff out, and they are marginally helpful at best.

“If you haven’t used it in a year…” doesn’t take into account the stuff that can happen in a year. Just because I was too injured to decorate our Christmas tree last year doesn’t mean I should get rid of all my tree ornaments.

“Make four piles to keep, give away, to the garbage” blah blah doesn’t help, because if I could decide that easily, I wouldn’t have three attics full of stuff.

The most inspirational one I ever read was CLUTTER’S LAST STAND by Don Aslett. He gives you compelling reasons why you should move that stuff on.

I was going to say, you can’t go in the same river twice and that rereading such a book never works for me. But then I read all the reviews and I’ve decided I will read it again NOW.

Caveat: As I read the reviews at Amazon. I realized what I loved–and hated–about this book. I love that he shows how destructive clutter can be physically and emotionally. I HATED his derogatory comments about “people of size”, and cats! He is opinionated, thoughtless and ruthless. But what he says about C*L*U*T*T*E*R is gold. So read it with a thick skin and a grain of salt, and take what works for you.

Before I do, let me share another strategy with you.

I’ve got something I want to move on, but for whatever reason I don’t want to just throw it in the trash. Maybe it’s not worth the time and effort to sell it. (Honey, remember the dresser we kept taking to consignment shops and bringing it back home when it didn’t sell?) I don’t want to drive around with it trying to find which thrift shop will take it this week. (Sometimes they’re full, sometimes they won’t take out-of-season items, and sometimes they’re just really picky about what they accept.)

Renting a dumpster is expensive though it’s great for getting rid of a lot of stuff fast. But unless you’re sure everything is pure de junk, it makes it worse when you have to throw away perfectly useful items you spent good money on. Or maybe you don’t have a bunch of people with a full day or two free to go through this process. (In my case, I have to triage the process.)

Even if you throw the item away, you may get charged extra by your garbage company if you leave out too much stuff at a time, or ask them to take big items like furniture and appliances.

What’s the solution?

Let me introduce you to FREECYCLE. Freecyle can be a nice intermediary step between driving around town with bags o’ stuff in your car, and simply throwing everything out to the curb on garbage day.

My local chapter of Freecycle is Monadnock Freecycle. Here’s how it works:

I go to my Freecycle group online and post an “offer”. This is a post with the word “OFFER” in the subject line with a short description of the item. (“OFFER: 12 back issues of Bead & Button magazine”)

I can add more details in the actual message: “This is a mixed lot of back issues, in good shape, no torn articles, etc.” I can add any other information, too, such as my general location (“In Keene”) and any conditions for pick-up (“These need to be out of here within a day.”) I’ve been adding, “Please let me know when you could pick these up, as this will help determine who gets these…”

I post the offer to the group. Depending on whether people have opted to receive offers as they come in, or in the form of a daily digest, the takers start to email me.

We arrange for a pick-up time, I give them directions to my house, and voila! Soon the item is gone to a new home where it may finally be put to good use.

Advantages: I don’t have to clean or repair the item before it finds a new home, as long as I accurately describe its condition.

I don’t have to load it up on my car and then drive around for days because I forgot the Salvation Army isn’t open on Sundays, or before 10 a.m., or after 5 p.m.

In fact, sometimes I post, someone answers–and picks it up within the hour.

And sometimes I find out my item has gone to a really good cause, or to a person or family who desperately needed it.

Best of all, a still-usable item has not gone into the landfill.

Disadvantages: The no-shows: The people who swear they are coming by at 9 a.m. Tuesday–and you never hear from them again.

Or someone says they want it, and then they let you know they can’t pick it up for a week. Well, half the fun of clearing stuff out is having it GONE. So when you have to stash it in your mudroom or garage for another week, it can be disappointing.

You need a computer, though you can always use one at a library if you don’t have your own.

You also may not like strange people coming to your house, in which case you can always make different arrangements–leaving it somewhere more public, or delivering it to them, or arrange for times when you are not alone in your house.

Not everything flies out the door. I’m always amazed at what gets taken and what gets ignored. Sometimes you post the stupidest thing and you get six people begging to take it off your hands. Other times a perfectly nice item languishes. You just have to hope the right person sees it at the right time. Some days, the group doesn’t seem too active–your offer gets no response. Other times, it’s really hoppin’, and your items get dibs on them almost as fast as you can post. I’ve learned to simply wait a few days and repost with an item that didn’t go. More than that, it goes to a thrift shop–or the dump.

Oh, and another great feature of Freecycle–you can ask for things, too. I actually asked for–and got–a number of nice baby items for a friend who was expecting: A baby backpack carrier, a bouncy chair, etc. People were happy to pass these on to a new family. A couple years ago, I asked for a used bike for my son, and got two nice ones. Some people get carried away and ask for stuff like cars and houses. Good luck with that!

Anyway, it’s fun, it’s easy, and you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas. Give it a whirl! If your area doesn’t have a Freecycle chapter, maybe you can start one.

Please feel free to share your strategies for moving stuff on to other people, too.