How many wonderfully beautiful ideas do you conjure up while dreaming about the next art piece you are going to start? I have notebooks full of ideas as I'm sure many artists do.
Now how many of those ideas actually turned into tangible art objects? And how many got left behind to suffocate in a closed notebook?
Not every idea is a winner, but as we ponder our next move there is always that one idea that sticks. It's the one that we just can't seem to get out of our heads. If you have an idea that really lights you up then of course you would run full force at it, right? We are artists and that's what we do so there would be nothing stopping us from making that idea come to life. That's what one would logically think anyways. But oh how logic can allude us creatives. There are so many times when those amazing ideas that fuel our hearts and souls don't ever see the light of day. They are left to die slow sad deaths in our minds or notebooks while we get distracted, discouraged, tired, or whatever and talk ourselves out of it before it they even have a chance to begin.
How tragic is that?
From talking to other artists and knowing my own history I've come to the conclusion that this is far too common. I have a lot of bodies of work that in my mind are not as finished as they could have been. The what-ifs tend to haunt us and make us wonder what we were doing at that time that caused us to veer off track (again?). But instead of sitting around feeling sorry for my slacker self I would rather embrace the day and figure out how to start putting myself and my art on the road to the finish line.
The key is sticking with something even when we come down from our new idea adrenaline rush and realize the road ahead may have some bumps. Anything worth pursuing is going to require some work, so roll up your sleeves and jump down into the pit. Keep digging and eventually you will come out the other side! It's not all going to be smooth sailing but let's be honest most things in life are not.
So this is obviously easier said then done or none of us would be in this boat in the first place. As a mother of two young children I've recently been feeling like it's either sink or swim (to stick with the water analogies!) in many areas of my life. I am trying to device a plan to take action and make things happen in my artistic career and in all other areas of my life simultaneously. The first thing I am going to share with you that I love and have put into practice is what is called an Action List.
Action List. Nothing new, really just a ramped up "to do" list. But in my mind and perhaps in yours it sounds much more productive than your average list. In order to get things done you have to Do. Something. Yes, it's really as simple as that. Now how to get started and keep going without losing momentum. Ideas and intentions are great but as an artist I tend to take a meandering path, if I'm not conscious about it, and wind up not taking many concrete actions along my creative journey at times. I might surf the internet for ideas, read for inspiration, talk to others about plans, but take forever to actually get to the part where I make the art.
Now with that said, over the last year I've felt the two kid crunch, and I've decided that if I am going to get anything done ever again as an artist I must take control and take action during the windows of time I have available to me. I know we are all busy and even if small children don't fit into your equation I'm sure the busy part factors in. So make an action list and put it into place. See how this changes your game - it's definitely changing mine.
To take action I start by starting each day intentionally. If I have projects I am working on I know that there is an order of operations that I need to be aware of. Sometimes, and this may sound silly but it's true, that involves cleaning the dishes, straightening the computer desk, or throwing in some laundry before I sit down to work. This way I can feel in control of my work environment and am off to a productive start which leads to a action oriented mindset. Roll your eyes if you will but try it first before you call me crazy!
Being good to yourself can also help set things off to a good start. Do you enjoy coffee? Grab some and set off to work. Need to take a quick walk to get some fresh air. Do it and then get to work. You get the idea. Be good to yourself and then the positive vibes will spill over into your art. (Here's hoping....).
Find concrete action items that will allow you to make progress on your current art project. For example, yesterday I had a window of about two hours to work. I sat down and called the printer to discuss print options and prices (check), I double checked size requirements for the art opportunity I am applying for (check), and then I set up a template in Photoshop to start creating the work (check). I felt good when I started searching for inspiration and tossing ideas around because I had already checked off concrete items on my action list. That way I give myself permission to get lost in the creative process for a bit knowing that all my time will not get lost in the idea phase.
Other steps that I've found to be important in following through with something (anything art related or not) are focus, setting deadlines, not being a perfectionist, not letting others affect your mood, and being confident and not ambiguous in your decision making.
All of these things will help you feel more in control of your time and that is something I think we'd all appreciate. Again, I'm no expert here but just wanted to share what I have learned that is working for me. I think motherhood has kicked me into high gear in terms of planning and doing versus waiting and thinking. I can't say what will do it for each individual but I do think everyone reaches a turning point eventually, something that makes them want to change their ways. So if you are lacking follow through in your artistic career then I'd start asking yourself why and what it might take to make a change. Don't get stuck in the beginning or the middle - see it through to the very end. While the journey is where the fun is, the end result is a sweet reminder that the whole is often greater than the sum of it's parts.
So don't just sit there thinking about the next great thing you are going to do