Monday, January 16, 2017

My Problem: Doing The Thing

What my actual problem was, was finally realized after years of not understanding the source. I realized it while decluttering and doing home organization, perhaps ten years ago. Before I explain my problem, I will lead you through some other problems.

I used to thing the problem was not having enough time. In American culture we have accepted the notion that there is never enough time in the day to do all we want to do. This is solved by one of two approaches, which are told to us in many self-help books. So many books repeat the same message. Free of charge I will summarize this for you:

If you become more organized you will find more time in the day. Specifically if you use a planner and plot out a schedule you will suddenly find more time. This is not necessarily true if you don't stick to the calendar strictly.

If you learn to prioritize your tasks and duties you will put the time to what is most important to you. (This is somewhat flawed because some of us with certain life obligations and responsibilities do spend time appropriately reacting to things that happen during a day, instead of always having full control of every single thing we have to spend time doing.)

We must learn to learn to say no when people ask us to do things that are not our own priority, to take items off your priority list if they are not "good enough" or are not in alignment with you goals and priorities.

We need to learn to do less in order to try to do more of what we want to do.  Along with this, one must learn to redefine success and to learn to be content with getting done what you defined you wanted to get done. You have to let go and accept that you are really not going to do all that you wish you could because, well, there is just not enough time in the day. Meaning, if you have stated your goal is to get better at photography, and you are choosing to let go of learning to sew clothes with a machine, that when you do have success at photography (whatever success means to you that you must define) then you can't sit and stew about not having mastered sewing. You have to discipline yourself to measure contentment (a better word than happiness) -- to measure contentment in alignment with your intentional goal. You have to keep your overachiever self in check. 

So in my life I have already gone through all the above thought processes many times, readjusting my life goals and priorities on an almost constant basis throughout the year. I am not into New Year's resolutions. But I still had some issues and did not know what my problem was.

Basically my problem was discovered while decluttering. I am a pack rat and have been actively trying to not be a packrat for perhaps 15 years. I have come a long way. But I keep repeating certain behaviors and winding up feeling unfulfilled. This is the flawed cycle I go through:

1. Get curious and learn about something. This means prior projects I am capable to doing are pushed to the back burner. 

2. Gather materials and buy things to learn and then to do the thing. Example: how to sew, buy a sewing machine, buy fabric, buy thread. The shopping becomes a hunter and gatherer type activity. More time can be spent if trying to bargain hunt.

3. Feel stuck due to not owning necessary things, so buy more of #2. This is a trap in books when they list necessary materials but in reality only 1/3 of those items are truly needed for beginner projects. 

4. Feel tempted by optional extra things, as the more difficult or more involved projects seem better to aim for, so buy more accessories and extra things before I sometimes even try the basic project.

5. Don't start doing the project but keep learning more beyond the basic by reading or watching videos. 

6. After #5 repeat #2 and #4. 

7. Never start the project. Keep the stuff. Or try it once, abandon it, but keep the stuff. 

If I don't buy the items I think I need I can get stuck in a negative thinking cycle being angry that I cannot afford what I need to do it. I can get on this bad track which ruins my muse and then I don't do any of the creative projects that I already own the things for and that I already know how to do.

***Then when I am ready to start I don't actually start but get curious about something else. This may have its root in perfectionism.**

Big Revelation

Another major issue is the time it takes to master a skill is plodding work, repetitive work, or involves multiple or many attempts with imperfection so it can be discouraging to face that daily or time after time, so the project is either never started or given up on.Then I move not I thinking about some new thing that maybe will be better for me. But with many art endeavors the sill needs practice to get better. So the base problem is still there. Most endeavors need lots of failed attempts to learn and grow, not all are fast learns. Or easy. 

So my main problem with self-directed autodidact projects is that I get stuck in the gathering of supplies and learning stage then never do the thing or give up too quickly. 

It is easy to let basic real life take over my time and not dedicate time in my daily schedule to do the self-directed projects that don't have deadlines. This is why taking college classes has helped me both learn and produce. I wake up early to get to class even when I want to sleep, I go to class even when sick. I make art when sick.I push away house cleaning and cooking in order to meet a deadline. I don't do any of those things with self-directed deadlines. 

Perfectionism can also be a stumbling block. It is easier for me to finish a school assignment on time that's less than perfect but with a self-directed project I can be mad it's not perfect and just procrastinate on fixing it and get stuck in a rut as I contemplate getting back to it again. And I'm not starting anything else in the meantime. 

Over winter break I was reorganizing my art and craft studio. I had to face all the supplies stored for never tried projects or things I wish I could do that I own the supplies but never put the time to doing.  

I have set my priotrities but I'm frugal and have not let go of the supplies for projects I have not put any effort toward doing for years. I still own fabric intended for pajama pants for my son. I think he was six when I bought that fabric and made three pairs. That was ten years ago. I hated the he process  so why am I keeping in the fabric? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Everyone's In On Business Promotion

I am seeing it everywhere and it is driving me bananas.

I taught myself to make soap from books. Back then there was no such thing as online video tutorials. There were no chat groups that I could find. I wanted to know a thing so I got a book from the library and taught myself. Multiple books actually. I also bought some books. It was a solo pursuit done under my own motivation and with my own drive. I made soap on and off for seven years, for my personal use and giving as gifts. Local friends began pushing me to sell it. Then I found online chat groups and found lots of videos on YouTube from smart informed people and from ignorant stupid people. I was then bombarded with a lot of propaganda telling me I would make money at selling soap. I fell for it line and sinker. I opened a solo prop business. This meant I had to learn about small business law, sales tax, and lots of stuff legal and beaurocratic in nature. I realized selling soap needed more time promoting and marketing my soap and selling it at shows than the making or inventing of new designs or formulas. For me the fun was in the making and I wanted to be a maker. I don't enjoy selling and marketing.

Shift gears, I always thought I wanted to draw and paint. I figured this was a creative hobby. I discovered lots of videos on YouTube, everything from how to draw and how to paint to a day in the life of an artist and art history documentaries by professionals and by amateur YouTubers. Happy times, watching lot of stuff. I then noticed that some of those sharing free information were nudging us viewers to buy their stuff.  They were not just artists making art they were using YouTube to sell their product, their art supply, their classes, their online school or their in person workshops. I then began to realize that these professional artists were not making their income from their art but from related businesses getting amateur artists to think they can become a hobbyist artist or a professional artist. Here we go again. Then in my feed began appearing suggestions to watch videos about how to make money selling our art. A large number of ot hese how to videos which I then started watching was the same exact information that is general and applicable to all businesses. How to use YouTube to promote your business, how to use Instagram, Facebook, make your own website, etc.

It is everywhere. The people promoting that you can make a living wage doing a creative thing you enjoy. For most people, they will need a day job and creative pursuits will have to be a hobby done on nights or weekends.

Even if you can make a living wage off of painting or drawing, they say the same thing as the other areas, that 50% at least, will be the business side of your time. One video I saw said 80% business to 20% painting. He also said anyone who just paints and does not sell is a collector of one's own work.

One more thought: to get really good at art making it takes a lot of time doing the thing. It is hard to live a life plus put 30-ish hours into art making every week, in my opinion. This is because real life takes time and energy and making art is energy sapping. You cannot make art if your creative muse is not with you and most of us are not in that right state of mind every single day of the week. If you make art or any thing like knitting or soap making, when you are sick or feeling off, you can make mistakes. My errors have ruined batches of soap from mis-weighing ingredients due to a headache or fuzzy thinking on brain fog days (eating certain foods give me brain fog). I have had to rip back two knitted hats in the last couple of weeks which resulted in me not restarting that darned hat, I'm discouraged now.

Anyhow if you think you are going to simultaneously learn, make, and sell, it's a bad idea. A certain amount of production has to be done to learn the process. I am thinking of some new resin painting artists using a new to them material from the hardware store who do not yet know how the resin will hold up over time, if it will yellow. In soap making we need to test recipes and see how they do when used. I never sell a soap before personally testing it even when I think the batch came out perfectly.

At this point I wanted to hone my painting skills for my own self  and I don't plan to try to sell my art, because I want to make art not to work 50-80% of my time on the business side of things. Although paintings don't spoil overtime like bath and skin care products do so there is less risk if the artwork doesn't  sell immediately.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Muse & Real Life

The time between semesters was to be for getting some household projects done as well as, of course, preparing for and celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve. I had a backlog of tasks due to busyness during the fall semester. I really am surprised at how many hours it takes to do two college studio art classes when you are really giving the learning your all. I wanted to do the projects but also that thought was in my mind that I wanted to do creative things, paint just for me, etc. I also surprised myself by spending quite a lot of time working with my soap business, reassessing things, taking inventory, cycling out old soap, and thinking about where I wanted the business to go.

A major project has been to deal with my fourth bedroom which is supposed to be an art and craft studio and storage area for my finished soap that is listed for sale and which also holds bins of supplies such as the display pieces for when I do my home shows and holiday fair markets. The room has the bones and it has my supplies but it also was a place to stash boxes of crap. I unearthed this stuff and discovered a few boxes of old favorite childhood books of one son's, a couple of boxes of Cub and Boy Scout stuff for both kids, a box of a Yu-Gi-Oh! Card collection, 22 boxes of homeschool records, a box of my own childhood art, and a handful of boxes of antique photos and saved important and possibly important papers from my great grandmother and grandmother. The goal was to get the room to a point where I could walk in and use the surface spaces and my easel when my muse was with me. I also need to be able to not feel suffocated when walking in there, by seeing 30+ moving boxes stacked lining one wall and protruding into half of the floor space.

So I have stifled my muse since mid-December in order to do regularly daily living tasks (cooking, laundry, pet care) as well as having quality time with my son who is home from college, with my two weeks with my son who was on break from high school and spending time with my husband, of course. I have shoved in the grind of the projects but they are not finished yet. I have kept diligent and increased my gym workouts. However one back weightlifting session gave me a muscle spasm in the middle of the class and I hobbled out unable to walk or descent stairs, and needed to get a ride home from my husband as I could not drive. This put me on rest and icing regimens for almost a week and was such bad pain that normal sleep was not had for 14 nights. My project cramming was slowed considerably during the injury (which is at 95% recovery as I write this). I also had peppered in visits to the chiropractor and the sports massage therapist.

All this to say that I am back to the same old struggle that probably every other creative person and artists has. That sometimes when your muse is with you, you are tied up doing important tasks. Other times when the muse is with you, you are able to put aside the lower priority tasks to make time for art making. But sometimes real life is so tedious or frustrating or stressful that it ruins the creative drive and even if you have free time your mojo is not with you. Although I have not gotten sick, when you are hit by a head cold or the flu or a stomach bug that physically is such a drain that the mental energy is not there to create.

I am in a weird place as I start this week. It's my last week off before the next semester and a new routine starts. My back feels pretty good but I'm afraid to add back in weightlifting and cardio workouts lest I injure myself again and maybe worse. I want to go make art upstairs but the box clutter shoved to the walls is stifling me. Also the hallway is lined with boxes half sorted that need to go to the attic or to be moved out to donate away the good stuff. I was unable to lift those boxes so the project was kind of halfway done only. And the Christmas tree still needs to be taken down (I do this alone).

The discipline of attending college classes is really good for me. It took wasted time away so I was online web surfing less and spending less time on chat list  and on social media (which also kills my mojo most days). The classes help me do things not just sit and  think about how I want to do them, or sit and chat at a keyboard saying I want to do things.

I am so tempted to add in a second class to take Painting II but it would again cause me to not have time to take care of my body, I need yoga to stretch my tight muscles but class time conflicts with yoga. If my muscles get too tight it pulls my sprine and hips out of alignment and causes limited mobility and real pain. Then I have to start cycling chiro and massage to try to fix it. I need to work out to keep my core strong to hold my spine and hips up or else I get pain and strain from my weak muscles. If I work out too hard without stretching I injury myself. So it is a crazy cycle I am in, it is hard to find a balance between the right type and amount of exercise then time to stretch out too (with yoga).

I have also finished five weeks of using a bullet journal for the first time and that is helping me stay focused on my goals and to not forget to do certain tasks and errands. It is funny how being accountable to a little bullet journal helps me discipline to stay on track. Technically it's not the journal, it's the mental exercise of refreshing you mind with what is important and what is needed to do, when you see it in your face all day it is. Hard to make a conscious choice to ditch the important stuff to do time suck activities like spending an hour Facebook