My friend Nathalie and I had some very long heart-to-hearts about our art careers while I was in Germany. We're both in a very similar place. We left our jobs last year to pursue this art thing full time and we're trying to figure out how to make it work. We spent a lot of time discussing issues like payment, teaching, doing free work, blogging, time management, organizing supplies, toxic people, and valuing yourself. We chatted about our goals and dreamed out loud about the things we hoped would come to be. And we realized something really important. Really important.
We both felt lucky to be busy. But scared that all that busy-ness was stunting our growth.
Let me explain.
It's magical and amazing when people start asking you to teach. It's so flattering when an editor gives you an assignment. It's thrilling when you make it on to that design team. It's unbelievably cool when you get an opportunity to design product. It's silly-grin-all-day happy when you get asked to be a guest designer.
So, of course, you say yes to everything!
And before you know it, you are busy. Busy, busy, busy. And then it starts to feel a little like your career is a strong river current carrying you along. At first, that's great. But as the current picks up, it starts to feel dangerous and you start to wonder if you might get pulled under. At the same time, it's so hard to find the strength to get out of that current because you're filled with fear. What if this is your one chance to be successful and you walk away? What if no one ever asks you do anything again? What if they all figure out you're a big fraud and know nothing? So now you're super stuck because you're scared you're going to drown and you're scared of getting out.
Nevertheless, back in November, I declared my intention to climb out of that river.
I no longer wanted to be swept along. I was spending so much time and energy getting work done (class samples, instructions, assignments from manufacturers or magazines, etc.) that I hadn't been taking the time to experiment and play and fail. And I was scared that I was getting stuck in an artistic rut doing the same old things over and over because I knew they would work.
I happen to be a great believer that all success rises from the ashes of failure. Mediocrity is all you get if you never fail. And yet it would be irresponsible of me to push myself to the point where something might fail when I'm working on an assignment or a class sample. Failure requires freedom and I knew I needed to set aside some free time.
Nat and I talked for hours and hours about the need to find the time to fail. We were certain that it was the only way to the next level. We promised that we would nag each other about making time for experimentation.
At the recent Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) show, we ran into a lot of our internet friends and as we chatted with them late into the night, we discovered that we were not alone. Many, many, many people were in the same position -- afraid to do something different, unsure how to stop the ride they were on, scared of failure.
Well, this set off a whole new round of discussions between Nat & me. Here was our conundrum:
We wanted to encourage everyone to push themselves to get to the next level -- to carve out that time for failure. But we knew that part of what was working for us was keeping things private. Neither of us was excited by the prospect of failing publicly.
Then we started chatting about the fact that maybe that was the problem. If nobody ever talks about failing then it becomes this scary thing. If nobody ever shares a piece where they tried something that didn't work, then it starts to seem as if messing up is bad. I would argue that messing up is AWESOME!
And being two brave girls we decided to take a deep breath and let the sun shine on our fumblings and failures.
Second Floor is a challenge that Nat & I are issuing to each other, and to anyone else who wants to participate. If you are interested in taking your art to the next level (to the second floor), this challenge is for you. Here's the deal:
- Nat & I have made a one-year commitment to each other and our "Second Floor" project.
- Every few weeks we will issue a challenge (just something to spark some creativity - sometimes starting without a prompt can be very intimidating).
- Your assignment is to take that challenge and make some art.
- Here's the most important part: at some point you need to "take it to the second floor." What does that mean? It means trying something vastly out of your comfort zone. Doing something that might not work. Experimenting with a crazy idea. It's all about pushing yourself. If it works, awesome. If it doesn't work, awesome!
- If you want to participate publicly, we'll have a linky list for each challenge. If you don't want to participate publicly, that's cool too. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself - not necessarily at your best - out there.
I believe that in one year, we'll all be better artists with a whole bag of new tricks. As the old saying goes, a year from now you'll wish you had started today. I'm hopeful that this project will inspire lots of people to take the time to experiment and push themselves a little further.
The first Second Floor challenge will go live tomorrow.
P.S. The winner of the $10 gift certificate to Cocoa Daisy is...
Congrats Debbie! E-mail me (balzerdesigns AT gmail DOT com) and I'll have Christine get your prize out to you!