A bit over a year ago, I was feeling disheartened. Not about external events, but because I had been working really hard, and very consistently, but it didn’t feel like I was making meaningful progress.
I made a list of all the things I was trying to do, so I could prioritize them. I had done this before, of course, but this time, as I tried to come up with yet another plan of attack, it finally occurred to me to ask:
Do I really have to do all of these things right now? Who says?
I took a hard look at that list, and for the first time ever, I decided to put all the other work to the side while I got the artwork itself straight.
That includes this blog, of course, but also things like my coding work on my website, my sending work out for exhibitions, other promotional activities, getting a new lighting rig for photographing work, etc. It would also include most of my art viewing and art-related socializing.
I would allow myself to focus completely on the artwork.
This sounds simple, and pretty obvious, but I wasn’t going to just do it for a month or two. I was going to give myself a long time, around a year, with my birthday this year as the end date. For someone at my stage of career, that is not common and definitely not widely recommended.
But almost immediately, it was wonderful.
I went from feeling like I was working constantly and getting nowhere to finally feeling like I had real traction.
And although I had the same challenges with the work as before, now I felt the luxury of time to explore new ways to work them out, instead of feeling pressured to fix them immediately.
I now have more work in its final stages in the studio than I’ve ever had before. I have twelve new paintings and over sixty works on paper.
It will still be a little while before it’s all ready – especially the works on paper, because they involve a final laser cutting phase – but I can’t wait for you to see them.
What you can see now are a few of the things I’ve been able to accomplish since hitting my birthday deadline and adding back some of my other “jobs.”
I’ve resolved my website coding issues and enjoyed being able to add more work to the site every day, which you can see on my new Gallery page.
I’ve added a page, Never Shown, that includes pieces I sold before getting to exhibit them, like this one:
I also added a number of new chapters to my Bio.
As you can tell, I’ve also gotten back to blogging! I will now be posting on the first of each month.
And I have my new lighting rig set up, so I will be ready to photograph all that new work once it’s done.
When you’re doing anything creative, asking “Who says?” is often an integral part of the process. I would say it’s even a core component of finding your own voice distinct from whatever is popular or just accepted. But my recent experience has been a reminder that it’s equally valuable in the rest of life.
So, if you hit a time when you’re feeling stuck, you might want to try applying a little “Who says?” to see if you have any sneaky assumptions operating somewhere, weighing you down.
The types of assumptions I mean often camouflage themselves as part of your identity. For example: “Doing anything less than everything at once is failure,” or “Suffering through difficulties makes my life more important,” or “It is a good idea to stay up just a little bit later, even though I will regret it in the morning.” Yeah, that last one creeps up on me every time.
But you get the idea: sometimes when you look more closely, something you thought was valuable or even virtuous is, actually, just not necessary.
And even if it turns out you don’t have any of these assumptions on board, you’ll be reassured you’re on the right track, and that’s a pretty great feeling too.