Lately I’ve been thinking about some things, talking about them with friends. Friends ask where I find the time, motivation, and inspiration to continue to do what I do and maintain a sustainable practice without losing steam or burning out. As I’ve been out of school for three years now (where did the time go?), I’ve proven to myself that I can do this, and as tough as it is sometimes, I am able to maintain it and keep it up over time. I am committed.
It is all too easy to let life get in the way, taking care of day-to-day business. It is tough to prioritize my practice, when it would be so easy to commit to a full time job somewhere and just forget about it. Or worse, feel guilty about not having the time to devote to it, or the energy, or just “not feeling inspired” to work on it. I know sometimes it seems I have it easy, in not having a constant gig – temping allows me to take the time I need off, but it is unreliable – so I am able to commit to my work. It is a sacrifice, however, in that money is often tight, and that can be quite stressful. You have to be resourceful. (But if art school taught me nothing else, it’s how to be resourceful.) You have to say no to things that aren’t going to be valuable to you. I try to set really specific boundaries and say no to those things that take me away from my work.
I’ve committed to my life as an artist, because, although I do think I could do another career, I don’t think I would be happy. Tough as it is sometimes, being an artist is a constant adventure, and can be really rewarding. In terms of my practice, I am my own boss, which definitely comes with it’s own challenges. I have to keep myself motivated, working, and committed, managing my own moods and problems (such as the 36+ rejections last year), as well as wearing the many hats that are required as a professional artist. I have to not only conceive of and make the work, but source the parts and materials, manage expenses and income, keep track of everything for tax time, keep up my website and newsletter, some marketing and promotion, applications for exhibitions and residencies, write about and photograph my work, organize exhibitions (making sure I am prepared- the work is done as it should be, that I have everything I might possibly need to install, including tools and volunteers if necessary, transporting work, and dealing with the gallery, contracts, providing images, etc.), etc. It’s not an easy gig.
Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s really not. When I was at the Gushul in March, pretty much all I did was work, and happily, too. It didn’t take me long to develop a really good and natural rhythym – up at 8, early, to take advantage of the daylight), work until 2 or 3, with a short lunch in there somewhere, take a break- a nap or read/rest/whatever for an hour or so, and then back at it, until bedtime, most days. I was putting in 12-14 hour work days most of the time. Sometimes I would go to the cafe to write/draw/think if I wanted to, but it wasn’t to escape my work at all. Since I’ve been back, however, it’s been a little tough to get into a routine, but I’m working on it. I realize that my own productivity goes in cycles and is impossible to maintain that way in the long run, but the more I can set myself up for success, the better. The routine made it easy to be productive, less resistance.
I’ve also learned that I need to keep my emotions out of it, as much as possible- to not take those 36+ rejections personally- I could have been rejected for any number of reasons, only a small portion of which likely have anything to do with me. I also need to keep my emotions out of it when it comes down to working- it’s not an “if I feel like it” thing, or an “I need to be inspired to work” thing, it’s a showing up thing. A commitment to doing the work, whether I feel like it or not. A job. Laying track.
What makes it look like a lot is a commitment to doing some every day, or almost every day. To keeping my eye open for opportunities, and being organized enough that I can act on them if they are appropriate. To writing an excellent application, sending it in on time, and then forgetting about it (so that it’s either a nice surprise when the good news shows up or so that the rejection doesn’t sting so much). A little over a long period of time adds up to a lot.
So, today, like every day, I’m “laying track.”