The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. – Michelangelo
In the January post – I encouraged you to think of some big, sexy aspirations that you have for your art and your life. I think it’s really important to spend some time really contemplating these things because this kind of visioning and dreaming is often neglected in the busyness and fast pace of our lives. It’s so easy to get caught up in the process of “making a living”, caring for our loved ones, maintaining our health, homes and cars (yes, I am currently writing this post while waiting for my car while it is being serviced) among the myriad of other responsibilities and commitments that we have in life. But while all of these things are important and can bring their own sense of joy and fulfillment, I think it is essential that we take the time to identify and cultivate the aspirations we have for our creativity.
It has been my experience that people burst with new found energy and feel much more enthusiastic about life when they are engaged with their passions, pushing their boundaries, challenging themselves to grow and learn and yes…even taking some creative risks. And this is what I want for you – a life that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and get at it!
So, what kind of big, sexy ideas and challenges did you dream up? Did they send your heart fluttering? Did you write them down? That’s the first step. You want to get clarity around the creative goals you want to achieve before you can start to work on them. Is it your desire to create a unified portfolio of 10 – 16 works that you could use to seek gallery representation? Is this the year you will create an art website? Are you going to start a blog? Learn how to do encaustic painting? Go on a Creative Excursion to Italy with me? Sorry – I had to throw that in there : )
Step 1 Set the Intention
To illustrate this process I am going to use my husband Konrad as an example. He’s a musician and his goal/challenge/intention is to create and record a CD of his music this year. The CD is going to include 8-12 original songs depending on the length (about one hour of music) that have variety within a unified theme. This is a personal project in addition to the music courses that he is taking, maintaining his practice schedule and playing in his band – Blues Hoodoo. As part of this first step, try to be as specific as you can and give yourself a deadline. Use language that is exciting to you and will motivate you to action. Notice with his goal he is very specific about the number of songs, the fact that a CD needs to be produced and the timeline is up to one year. (In a later post I will share with you how he has built in additional accountability into his goal.) Write down your creative aspiration and post it where you can see it daily. Perhaps you could write it on a post it note and stick it on the bathroom mirror, or on your bedside table. Keep it in the forefront of your mind.
Step 2 Break the Large Challenge into Bite Size Pieces
The next step is to break your large goal down into a series of smaller steps. You don’t need to know at the outset how you are going to actually achieve all aspects of your creative aspirations, but it is important to know the first few steps to take and engage in them immediately after establishing your goal. For example, to create the CD of 8-12 songs, Konrad would need to write, rehearse and record about one song a month. He also needs to do research around post-production, publishing, distribution, cover art, written information to accompany the CD, and many other smaller aspects of this project. By writing down a list of all the steps he knows about at the outset he can start to set aside time to work on them. He can pick up his guitar right then and start to play around with some ideas.
Step 3 Schedule Chunks of Time to Work on Your Goal
Another vital step in the process is to review your weekly schedule to see where you can prioritize some chunks of time to work on your goal. For some people this means getting up an hour earlier to work on things before work or when the family gets up. Perhaps your schedule allows you to work on your goals midday or in the early evening. Whatever time will work for you, mark it in your agenda or day timer and protect it like an important appointment – because it is! It’s a good idea at the outset to discuss your new schedule with the people in your life who will be impacted. This might include a partner, spouse or family members. This might mean trading time with a friend or spouse for childminding, establishing “No Interruption Times” and so forth. A wonderful side effect of establishing time to pursue your dreams and aspirations is that is gives the people in your life permission to do the same.
One thing I try to do is ensure that at least twice a week I work on my goals during my best and most productive times of day. For me, that means mornings. For others who are “night owls” it may be between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and midnight. The important thing is to honour your creative goals and your ideal way of working.
Step 4 Establish a Minimum of 15 Minutes a Day to Move Your Project Forward
In addition to the larger chunks of time that you dedicate to pursuing your goals it is a great idea to set aside a minimum of 15 minutes each day to take small actions that can keep the momentum going. For example, this time could be used to do research on your project, brainstorm new ideas, review and reflect on what you have accomplished, plan next steps, make phone calls or connect with people about your goal, build skills that will be important to achieving your goal, and so forth. Daily exposure to your creative aspirations will also ensure that your subconscious mind will continue to churn away on ideas and connections.
Step 5 Celebrate Small Accomplishments Along the Way
Some people get discouraged while working towards their big goals because things always take longer than expected and definitely longer than desired. It’s inevitable. To help with that, think about how you will celebrate your little victories and accomplishments along the way. Rather than just waiting to celebrate at the CD release party Konrad and I are going to mark the completion of each song with a dinner out, a night at the movies and other little treats. We also derive a lot of pleasure by sharing our artistic processes with one another and critiquing each others work. What are some fun ways that you can think of celebrating your small steps and successes along the way? I’d love to hear about them.
Step 6 Focus on the Process Rather than the Product
Finally, while you might eagerly anticipate the achievement of your artistic goals and the products you will create as part of that – I find it is much more enjoyable to focus and derive pleasure from the process. If you can enjoy the hours you spend painting your images, taking the photographs, creating your online store, writing and playing your music, writing powerful phrases…whatever your creative endeavour is…then your days and your life become more joyous, meaningful and rewarding.
Through this creative process you will courageously identify your goals, and discipline yourself to work. You’ll overcome the fears and doubts we all experience in order to pursue your dreams. And that is what is most important!
In my next post I’ll included a printable template that you can use to help you organize your thoughts and goals as you move forward.
I’d love to hear about the goals you are setting for yourself this year, and I will be sharing some of mine as the year unfolds as well. Happy Creating to you!
Let’s get at it! Cheers, Nancy
P.S. Don’t forget…you have until Friday, March 4th to give me some feedback on the blog in order to have your name thrown into the draw for one of 5 encaustic works. You’ll be hearing from me soon.