The Duty of an Artist

America Martin, artist, duty, create, hope, light, art, dream

The life of an artist is often romanticized but the truth is that it’s full of uncertainties and doubts.  Sometimes we wonder about purpose.  Sometimes we doubt the direction the creative path is taking.  Sometimes we ask, “What’s the point?”  Sometimes we wonder if it’s worth it or if anyone cares.

While reading the autumn addition of Where Women Create (a beautiful magazine about and for artists), I read a quote by artist America Martin that struck me with such truth that I had to read it again and again.  And I wanted to share it with you.

She said,

Being able to live as a working artist is my most significant personal achievement, but “success” and “disappointment” are what I call “outside terms,” which cannot be let into the arena of being an artist. Those words represent intentions that mar and are counter to the true purpose of being an artist. For any true love there is neither success nor disappointment.  When you really love something, I believe there is only duty.  The artist’s duty is to make his or her art, to do it any way he or she can, small or large scale.  When you do what you love most, it is like a small light of hope for other hearts; it creates encouragement.  It creates a community, a tribe of others who dare to dream.

Wow.  The truth in those words took my breath away.

Your art matters.  It matters to you first, but it matters to those around you who have a dream, even if you don’t know it.  They have a passion.  They have a desire.  They have a longing that is yet unfulfilled.  And they see you doing what you love.  You are an artist because you create art.  Without art, the light of who you are fades.  The artist is nothing without her art.

Your art is beautiful.  But what’s more beautiful is the beauty of a realized artist.  You have no idea who you are inspiring.  No matter what your perceived level of success is in the business of art, you have a duty to continue.  Full time, part time.  Large scale, small scale.  You and your art, your persistence and your perseverance may be the thread of hope on which someone else’s dream hangs.  You become his or her motivation and inspiration.  You. The artist.

Don’t stop.  Don’t waver.  Don’t doubt.  You have a duty to create.

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Take Yourself On An Artist’s Date

art, create, creative, artist, date, introvert, ideas, inspiration

art, create, creative, artist, date, introvert, ideas, inspirationThis past week has been super busy with lots of travel and events.  We took the kids to two agricultural fairs, went on a whale watching tour, spent a whole day sewing with my daughter on her birthday, enjoyed a production at the theater, watched the kids in a parade and re-designed a bedroom.  Wow. What a week.

Although it was crazy busy and exhausting, I’m so excited for this week.  I’m fairly busting at the seams with new ideas and can’t wait to get started. Every part of last week was perfect for feeding a creative mind.  Maybe even a bit much to take in all at once.  I feel like I gorged myself on filet mignon, cheesecake, and fine wine.  (All of which is a metaphor since I don’t consume any of it. But you get the picture.)

The fairs were full of vendors selling things they love to make.  There were all kinds or artists selling their pieces; garments, pottery, hand-bound books, paintings, carvings, wool, yarns, bags and purses, furniture and toys.  It was amazing to see all the beautifully creative things that were there and refreshing to see artists doing what artists love.

The whale watching tour was a great way to connect with nature.  To enjoy the ocean air, the wind, the salty waves, the birds and the marine life.  Apart from the absence of whales and the seasick passengers, the trip was incredible.  Porpoise and dolphins.  Tuna and jellyfish.  Puffins and Gannets.  For a few hours, I was part of the vast expanse of the ocean and nothing else mattered.

The day spent sewing for my daughter’s birthday was so much fun.  It’s been forever since I spent an entire day doing something crafty.  We invited a friend over who showed us how to make some little sewing projects like a small zippered travel case, felted mittens, and pillowcases.  I was left with tons of ideas for Christmas gifts and projects for my Etsy store.

Perhaps my favorite creative time this week, though, was spent re-decorating my daughter’s bedroom.  She just turned 11 and has found a passion in doing hairstyles.  A few months ago we gave her a mannequin head to style.  Now she has an Instagram account where she shows off her styles and some tricks she’s learned.  I wanted her to have a nice place to take her pictures.  (Background is everything.) So I found some inspiration from Pinterest, got clear on the needs of the space, set a budget, and went shopping.  By myself.

This excursion had two objectives.  One: find the perfect items for the bedroom makeover and Two: take myself on a date.  

It’s so important for creatives to spend some time alone.  To think, create, read, shop, or whatever you enjoy and fills your creativity tank.  We need time to fill up on the things that inspire us and make us think deeper.

The “artist’s date” does just that. 

Many artists are introverts.  They have no problem with going out alone and immediately see the benefits of taking herself out on a date.  Others may find this awkward and be tempted to take someone else along.  The problem with that is your focus is moved to your company.  Conversation is led in other directions.  Whims of someone else may steer the course.  The time to mull over ideas and take things in is rushed.  The creative mind needs its own space to play.

Many times, plain old guilt will keep you from taking yourself out.  You might feel like you’re leaving someone out, shirking your duties, or being selfish.  Of course, it’s not, but that doesn’t always make a difference in how you feel.  So let me give you some advice on taking yourself out on an artist’s date.

  1. Put it on the calendar.  – You decide how often feels right.  Some can go out every week.  Some once a month.  I suggest you don’t let it be longer than a month between dates.
  2. Do something that only interests you. – I went shopping.  And since my daughter happened to be visiting with friends and my guys (son and husband) don’t really enjoy the process, I was free for a few hours to wander as many stores as I wanted.
  3. If you can’t physically go out, go out in your mind. – Read a book, listen to a podcast, watch a tutorial, scroll through Pinterest.  This might be helpful for moms with little children at home.  These don’t require a lot of time and some can be done while folding laundry or washing dishes.
  4. Take a small notebook with you. – Write down all the ideas you have while you’re out.  Whatever inspires you and what you’d like to do with that inspiration.
  5. Be consistent.  – You may not be able to go on an artist’s date every week, but don’t let it go too long.  You must keep your creative tank full.  You do that by having a regular flow of ideas and inspiration coming in.  Otherwise, you’ll dry up and become blocked.

Creative minds need a little extra care.  It can’t be left idle or under stimulated for too long.  I suggest you put your next artist’s date on your calendar right now.  It doesn’t have to take hours and it doesn’t have to cost anything.  It’s the quickest and easiest way to fill up.  Be good to your creative self.

If your interested in some more inspiration and perhaps a peek at the tween bedroom makeover, join my email list and I’ll send you a little something every month!

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10 Ways to Spot a Creative Person

creatives, loners, craft fairs, museums, galleries, coupons,

creatives, loners, craft fairs, museums, galleries, coupons, So, I’m crazy busy this week with homeschooling field trips and fairs, but I wanted to write a little something to let you know you’re not forgotten.  Thanks for understanding.  You’re all so awesome!

 

Creatives are often loners.  You’re content to do your own thing because being creative gives you true joy and an inner peace that can’t be manufactured by someone else. The process is the best part.  But after it’s finished, you just want to share it with someone who will appreciate it.

So how do you find other creatives?  Try these hints.

  1. They are addicted to Pinterest and Instagram (Boards include: patterns, color inspiration, book quotes, dream house and tasty treats)
  2. Has a stash of art supplies (It’s like a goldfish, the bigger a space you give it, the bigger it grows.)
  3. Buys books to feel normal. (And may die someday under an avalanche of unread books by the bed.)
  4. Goes to craft fairs and galleries to get inspiration for the next project. (Not to buy.)
  5. A delightful evening includes walking the aisles of craft stores and browsing creative books in the bookstore.
  6. Keeps a running list of art supplies in Amazon cart.
  7. Knows exactly what they will use that 50% off coupon on  at Joann or Hobby Lobby, no hesitation.
  8. Snowed in? Canceled plans? Great! Now to finish that quilt.
  9. Enjoys talking about the creative endeavors of others almost as much as their own.
  10. Often gives away their finished work as gifts, because they can’t see the real value of it.

I suggest you gather as many creatives into your circle of friends as possible.  Although we often like to create solo, we all need encouragement and validation from other creatives. We’re an eager and friendly group of people who want to encourage everyone to find their inner artist.

So, keep your eyes open and pictures of your current project handy.  Maybe you’ll find me!

 

Thanks for being a part of my creative community! If you are looking for even more inspiration, join my email list and I’ll send you a note every month!

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How To Be a Perfect Artist

perfectionism, artist, creative, stagnate, procrastinate,

perfectionism, artist, creative, stagnate, procrastinate, You might be a perfectionist if you clicked on this article because of the title.

While loss of interest is one major reason for procrastination, perfectionism is also a huge show stopper for many creatives.  You feel like anything less than the best is not worthy of being displayed.  Nothing short of the finished products will be accepted by the public.

Perfectionism is a cruel enemy of the creative mind.  It says, “You will never be good enough.  Keep trying.  No one will like it.  Are you sure you want to be known for that??  It’s too rough.”

What ends up happening to you because of a perfectionist mindset, is you polish and polish and polish until there is only a vague idea of what the original looked like.  Like rubbing the face off a penny.  For the perfectionist, there are no rough drafts, no version 1.0, no rough sketch, no outlines, no doodles or ditties. There are only masterpieces, number 1 hits, and best-sellers.

Except there aren’t.  

Because a perfectionist doesn’t stop editing long enough to publish.  Or they procrastinate or lose interest in a project because they can’t get it perfect.  Or they never start in the first place for fear of not being able to conquer the task in its entirety.

Or, if by chance if they’ve finally polished enough, there’s nothing left of the art to resonate with an audience and the work flops.

Some creatives hold on to perfectionism as if it’s a heavy cross to bear.  They appear humble and contrite and want others to believe it’s a burden to be a perfectionist.  But, perfectionism isn’t a sign of humility.  It’s a sign of egotism.

You’re worried about what others will think of you.  How it will affect their view of you.  You’re concerned about your reputation as a painter, singer, writer, playwright, dancer.  You don’t want to look like you’re still learning.  You worry someone will find your work mediocre and dismiss you as an artist.  It’s all about you.

The wonderful thing about art is that it stands alone.  It is a free expression of things that can’t be expressed otherwise.  There are no right or wrong ways to create art.  There may be techniques and styles, but there are no laws in art.

Your art may not appeal to everyone.  That’s good.  If you create something for everyone, then it’s really for no one.  People are different.  They have different backgrounds, different dreams, different struggles.  Your art will resonate with those who believe, feel, and dream like you. If you let it.

If you struggle with perfectionism, you have to do something to break that habit or it will stagnate your creative mind.  What are some things that you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t for fear of not doing it right or well initially?  What about karaoke?  Periscope? Online teaching? Acting?  You’ll never know if you’re could be good at it if you don’t try.

Nothing is perfect.  And art should never be perfect. It should be real.  Why not let the brush take the next stroke and stop trying to force your ideas onto the canvas?

Try these exercises to overcome perfectionism.  Some are not permanent and so there is no pressure to perform.  Others, consider publishing somewhere as rough drafts and get some feedback on it. You’ll be surprised.

  • Abstract art
  • Free form poetry
  • Random photography
  • Doodle
  • Draw in the sand
  • Record a demo
  • Film your first Scope
  • Publish the outline of your next book
  • Create a collage from pictures clipped from magazines
  • Decorate a cake

In what ways has perfectionism held you back or stagnated your creativity?  What are 3 things you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t because of your perfectionism?  I’d love to hear your comments!  I’ll go first.

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Beat Procrastination with Work That Matters – Words of Wisdom

work that matters, procrastination, motivation, complete, finish

work that matters, procrastination, motivation, complete, finish

Unfinished projects. It’s a common theme among creatives.  You have grand ideas, longing desires, spikes of energy, but often fail to finish.  Something comes up.  Doubt creeps in.  The enthusiasm leaves.  The project is left hanging in a state of limbo like so many others in your past.

We often blame our lack of drive on procrastination.  It’s a big word that seems to cover a multitude of inner struggles.  It also lets us off the hook mentally.  After all, some people are just born organized.  Some poor souls are procrastinators by nature.

Procrastination happens due to a variety of factors.  Being “born that way” isn’t one of them.  Most often, it’s a lack of motivation.  The reason to finish isn’t there anymore.  You’ve lost interest.  You don’t care about it as much as you told yourself.

When you don’t have a big enough reason to finish, you won’t.  Now, your reason may be different than someone else’s, but whatever gets you fired up and puts you in motion is reason enough.  Maybe it’s money.  Maybe it’s freedom.  Maybe it’s the thought of making a difference or becoming famous.  There is no right or wrong reason to be creative.  Whatever your motivation is, it’s yours.

However, you may talk yourself into a motivating reason that’s not right for you.  If you’ve tried to convince yourself that money is the reason you must work on a project, but really what you want is fulfilling work, money will never be enough to get you through to the end.

Don’t talk yourself into a reason that doesn’t ring true with you. Stay true to yourself.  No matter what.

We all have a boxes, files, or attics full of unfinished works.  Creative skeletons in our closet.  It wouldn’t hurt to go through them one more time and figure out why you put it down. What was the hang-up?  If you find a project just don’t resonate with you, let it go, find a new home for it, paint over it, or toss it out.

Don’t let unfinished projects make you feel guilty or take up space in your mind or studio anymore.  Work on the things that set you on fire and put you in motion.  Because that’s what you’re supposed to be doing anyway.

What sort of work sets you on fire and gives you enough motivation to finish?  What projects are you going to let go?  I’d love for you to share in the comments.

 

If you want more tips on how to beat procrastination, join my list of email friends!  I’ll share some more insight with you in a monthly letter direct to your inbox.

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Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

creative, create, obey, passion, sacrifice, dreams, goals, fulfillment, life

creative, create, obey, passion, sacrifice, dreams, goals, fulfillment, lifeCreatives are often stuck between a rock and a hard place.  They are pulled between the longing to do something meaningful and enjoy the creative process, and the fear of being called selfish and irresponsible.

I feel like creative people, me included, often sacrifice our creative nature, tendencies, and passions in the name of other people and causes.  We somehow believe that giving into something we find easy and pleasurable is selfish or sinful.

You don’t want to be viewed as selfish or indulgent by giving into your desire to create.  So you trade in your dream for a martyr’s badge and a martyr’s mentality.

Others see you as a saint because you give so much and are so accommodating. When you’re actually in agony and slowly dying inside.  Your inner artist dies a martyr’s death and you become an empty shell of who you were supposed to be.

It’s not for nothing.  Often there are great causes for your sacrifices.  Family, church, charity, school, deadlines.  You’re needed.

John wants to travel to a creative writing seminar, but the flight and admission are costly and the couch the family wants is on sale.  So John gets the couch and stays home. 

Laura has always wanted to open a flower shop but she’s a key player in the children’s ministry at church.  She just doesn’t have time for both. 

Patti loves decorating cakes and dreams of doing it full time but she’s a single parent and needs to bring home a consistent income to provide stability to her 4 children.  She never decorates more than her own children’s birthday cakes. 

This thought process tricks you into thinking that suppression and subjection are the ultimate forms of maturity and spirituality.  That you must sacrifice yourself on the alter of selflessness in order to be worthy of any praise or admiration.  And it works. People think you’re amazing.  Always available.  Incredibly giving.  So thoughtful.

Service is service. 

The problem we have is we somehow build up this hierarchy of service in our minds.  That serving or teaching is more noble than arranging flowers or baking cakes.  And generating reports is more important than writing fiction.

We are all called to serve but not in the same ways.  It’s not more spiritual to be a monk than a merchant.  It’s not more benevolent to sell life insurance than hand-made baby clothes.   There is a need for all of it.

Instead of being stuck in the mindset of sacrifice, experiment with being obedient to the true calling in your life.  When something ignites a passion within you, that’s a clear sign of the direction you need to walk in. 

Some people are passionate about finding a cure for cancer.  Some people are passionate about gardening.  If we could kick the idea that one thing is better than another and just obey the call we have in our own lives, we’d have the right people in the right jobs and life would be more efficient and people would be happier, content and fulfilled.

Sacrifice is not better than obedience.  You can only sacrifice so much of yourself until you’re all burnt up with nothing left to offer and no hope for a brighter future.

But when you obey your calling and follow your passions, you get to take all of you for the ride.  Your heart, mind, body, and soul can engage and enjoy this wonderful, creative journey of life.  Not only that, but you have more to offer and share with others in a meaningful way.

Save your inner artist from a martyr’s death.  Obey rather than sacrifice.

What are you sacrificing for the fear of being labeled selfish?  What direction are your passions telling you to take?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts here.

If you’d like to get some more creative encouragement, join my list of email friends.  You’ll get an inspirational letter from me once a month.

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Celebrate Today Because You Can

9/11, September 11, twin towers, New York City, Celebrate, Remember, Reflect

9/11, September 11, twin towers, New York City, Celebrate, Remember, ReflectToday is a day to reflect, remember, and celebrate.

Remember

14 years ago, cowards flew planes into the twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon in D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania, killing thousands of people and changing millions of lives forever.

It was a day that caused everyone in the nation to stop and take inventory of their lives.  We rallied together to search, support, and pray.  Most of us will never forget.  We won’t forget where we were when we heard the news.  We won’t forget the images of desperate jumpers, crumbling towers, and ashen faces.  We won’t forget the fear, anger, and confusion.

My children won’t remember, though.  I was 6 months pregnant with my oldest child when the towers fell.  I wondered what kind of world I was bringing him into.  If our nation would recover.  What the future would look like.

My kids have no memories of a calamity before their time.  But it’s important to them to know the history, that seems like yesterday to some of us.

We teach our children about 9/11.  We have remembrance books, newspaper clippings, and they’ve seen video clips.  We teach them that lives matter. We must pray for those who hate, help those who hurt, and support those who protect.  It’s not the color of the skin that divides, but the condition of the heart.

Reflect

In light of the solemnity of the anniversary of 9/11, this day also marks the 100th post on Coffee & Confidence.  It’s a small achievement but a reason to celebrate nonetheless. It will only happen once and never be repeated again.

When you’re headed toward a big goal, it’s important to celebrate every little step along the way.  It helps you to make landmarks along the way that you can look back and measure how far you’ve come.

Sometimes the weight of a big goal keeps you bogged down.  You’ve got your chin down and your shoulder to the wheel, grinding away and working hard.   One foot in front of the other is all you focus on.  Often, you don’t realize just how far you’ve come until you look up and see the starting line getting farther away and the dream getting closer.

Take time regularly to look back and see how far you’ve come.  Take all the experiences you’ve had and invest them into your future.

Celebrate

Today is also my husband’s birthday.  We will celebrate with some cards, gifts, and going to dinner with family.  Birthdays are great times for celebration.  So is every other day.

I want to appreciate and celebrate the people who make my life so great everyday.  I want to remember all the good times we’ve had, reflect on the hard times, and celebrate the possibilities ahead.  I want to be thankful for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself.  Like my family, my community, my country.

Every day you have is full of possibilities, wonders, and treasures. Don’t miss them.

Make every day a celebration.

A celebration of lives.  A celebration of memories.  A celebration of little victories and milestones.  While you’re hustling on your dreams, look up and appreciate what you have and how far you’ve come.  Take time to be thankful for the opportunities you have and the people you share them with.

Every day you’re still breathing is a gift. 

What are you celebrating now?  Are you surprised by how far you’ve come without realizing it?  I’d love for you to share your little victories in the comments


Interested in some more encouragement and inspiration? Join my email list and get a letter from me every month!

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