It’s Nicer Together

It started with this:

I Like You, the show that left me tired. {Photo by Megan Mayer}

I started the Artist Series because I was in a serious funk, and I needed to take some kind of action.  I had finished this big project, and it had left me financially and emotionally drained.  Making art wasn’t feeling very *cough* sustainable.  I was getting bitter, and I was feeling really alone.  I felt like there had to be a smarter, more efficient way of being a working artist.

And, I decided that there had to be SOMEONE who had perspective on being an artist-preneur that I couldn’t, at the time, offer myself.  Ben insisted: we know a lot of really smart, successful people who would love to be taken out to lunch!  This thought made me freak out a little, because talking to people that I don’t know well gives me a silly amount of anxiety.  But, one night, I ran into a buddy.  My lovely friend Sarah is a classically trained singer, and we ended up talking for over an hour about our mutual anxieties and frustrations over art-making.  It felt really good to share them!  Our conversation solidified my desire to help working artists find ways of working more sustainably; it made me realize that I wanted to develop community around this.

So, I kept talking to people, in search of new resources and perspectives.  I did the ultimate scary thing (for me at the time) and invited a stranger to lunch.  I sat with publicist Kate O’Reilly (who was SO generous with her time, and so fabulous), and she talked about starting her business.  She told me about volunteering to help a friend sell her art at a gallery opening.  Kate was in charge of selling the art, and her friend got to be, well, the artist, and they ended up selling a pretty amazing amount of work that night.  Kate was able to market and promote her friend in ways that her friend couldn’t; she had an outside perspective on her friend’s brilliance and what made her work unique.

This made perfect sense to me.  I’ve always had a hard time articulating what my work is and promoting it, because it’s hard to be objective: it feels incredibly personal.  An outsider can see it in a whole different light.  It’s just like when I tell a buddy something I think is totally incredible about them, and they can’t see it the way I can from the outside.

I went on to talk to Jen, Alan, and Emma.  And, each time I came away with some nugget of insight that, although possibly banal to them, felt revolutionary to me.

 All of this has made me aware of a few things:

1.  Action is magical.

I was feeling stuck.  Every time I took some kind of action (talked to someone, found a new resource, started to actively change something in my life) about 10 wonderful things that I couldn’t have predicted happened as a result.  Sitting still is torture.  Taking action is so freeing (even when it’s terrifying).  Suddenly you have momentum.

 2.  So is sharing.

I started this blog because I’m a proponent for sharing resources and ideas, and even frustrations.  Creating a small business or creative work can be so lonely, and Sarah and I talked a lot about this when we ran into one another.  Community can be pretty magical, because between us we all have a lot of knowledge and experience.  The community is best used when it promotes action, though, rather than just continual discussion, like Alan talked about.

3.  Other people can help us get out of our own way.

Jen talked about resistance (essentially, self-sabotage), which is discussed at length in Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.  Basically, we can all over-think, which prevents us from acting.  I can get a good idea, think about it, and convince myself that it’s an awful one, all within the span of an hour.  Talking to other people has helped me get out of my own head and get some perspective (although, in the end, I’m the one who needs to act).  When Kate talked about why she became a publicist, it made perfect sense: she helps people see what’s working in their idea, and where the gaps are.  Sometimes it’s essential to get help seeing the bigger picture.

What about you?  Do you work with a collaborator? A life coach?  An accountability buddy?  How do you get out of your own way? 


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