Elizabeth Gilbert said in an interview with Oprah recently that all the questions she gets asked by artists come down to some form of fear. I found these six things helped me move through my own fear and get on with the creating and promoting of my own work. May you find something that helps you manage your fear too.
I reflected on this short conversation later in the day. His words were a double-edged sword. On one hand, most people would agree that it is good to do new things, to challenge yourself, and to forge onwards. On the other, it is also the kind of thing you say about poorly behaved children, “Oh my, they have a lot of energy, don’t they?”
There is only a limited time in each day. I want to get the most out of it. Focusing my attention on what is truly important is hard. There is a constant barrage of interruptions: the phone keeps ringing, the emails keep coming, and the to-do screams my name. The interruptions can be managed but I also struggle because my energy fluctuates during the day. Sometimes I feel really energetic and maybe even able to leap tall buildings and other times I feel foggy and drained and not even able to remember something I just read. This is where energy journaling comes in.
There are times of the day that my energy is naturally higher. I am a morning person and I have all sorts of electric vibes from 6am-11am. At around 3pm I am not much good for anything but a quiet coffee. I pick up again around 7:30pm but it is short lived and at 8:30pm I might as well call it a day. But these are not the only energy fluctuations.
My energy can be affected by who I spend time with. Some people get me excited and help build my confidence and other people diminish my resources and leave me empty. Places can do that too. I love a warm coffee shop to boost my mood but stuffy office cubicles make it really hard for me to tap into my enthusiasm. And finally there are tasks or activities that can leave me bolstered or blue. Surfing Facebook is a sure trip to the doldrums but listening to my music or doing some yoga lifts me up and renews me.
I had to keep an energy journal for a while to get clear on all of this...activities, times of day, people and places. It is simple enough. Check out an Energy Journal template here.
If we can not only tap into our naturally energetic times of the day but also shift our energy through our activities, company, or location, we can make more of our moments. I want to make the most of mine and I want that for you too.
I get a terrible feeling when I think about debates. Fear doesn’t describe it well enough. It is more like the feeling you have when you are investigating an odd noise coming from the basement. It is the tingle that runs up your spine coupled with intense curiosity and heightened awareness. You head down the stairs and flick on the light and you just don’t know what to prepare for.
From a young age I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. You probably were too. It is the easiest way we label people in our society. He is a teacher, she is a lawyer, they are baristas, bus drivers, salespeople, and astronauts. It is clear; the contribution I make to the world is through my title.
But what happens when you don’t have a specific title? What happens if the work you are doing does not fit into the defined pigeon holes of our culture? Are you not making a contribution? Are you unrecognizable?
I’ve made up a title or two for myself (Opportunity Cultivator was one) and this only leaves people scratching their heads. I don’t fit into a box for them. They are unclear about what I do. My work seems inexplicable and irrelevant.
When you are working on a few projects, that are nothing alike, how do you craft a neat little title that encompasses them? Or do you have to choose only one traditional title, one facet of who you are, to placate the asker and shrink into a single piece of who you are?
I am a dabbler who follows many paths of curiosity at a time and this leaves me struggling with my contribution. It is as though I am walking through a library and reading only the first chapter of every book. I don’t want to finish each book; I want to see the context and connection between the books. How do the first chapters compare? What is the same? What is different?
The world does not welcome dabblers as contributors. I have no specialization they can point to for my years on earth. I have fallen short of the 10000 hour rule in countless disciplines. Does this mean I have not made a contribution?
No. It means I must find my validation internally. The world cannot be my yardstick. It will never understand my need to peek inside the cover and then move on to the next book. It will never recognize the many contributions I have made and how the collective of these gives me a unique viewpoint on the world. The world cannot define me in a pigeon hole.
I am not a pigeon. No loss there. I don’t want to be a caged bird anyway.
The mosaics were as different as the lives of the women who sat in the studio: a variety of colours and patterns, diverse ways of laying the tiles, and mixed shapes and sizes of tiles. As unique as they all were, there were two things that remained constant; the piece had evolved as it was created and the woman had also.
Art is a process. Rarely does the artist create exactly what they originally set out to create. The art itself, as it is forming, sparks new ideas and suggests new directions. The artist’s vision shifts and there is a dance between the piece and the artist, both taking turns leading each other.
The journey from starting the piece to finishing transforms the artist. Her hands act as a conduit between her mind’s eye and the tangible. She is changed a little bit by the placement of each tile: her heart strings are strummed, her patience and concentration are challenged, and her grip on control is necessarily loosened. To create art, she has to let go, and in letting go, she is altered.
Each one of the women presented their piece to the group. She did so with both shyness and delight. The others couldn’t help but see into each artist’s mind and the artist knew it. It was thrilling to be so raw and yet difficult to be so vulnerable. A group of strangers connecting in a profound way and altered by the exchange.