Are you waiting to be ready before you share what you know? We humans often think that we’re not ready to share what we know or what we do, because someone else does it better and, well, we’re not quite good enough “yet.” That kind of thinking is the result of comparing yourself to others. And since thoughts are what create beliefs, if you think you’re not good enough yet, well then you don’t believe that you are.
I’m a student in a studio class that’s offered by a man who routinely gets paid $15,000, and often more, for his paintings. He does beautiful work. He’s also a great teacher, and every week he shares his expertise with me and his other students. I will never paint like my teacher paints, because I’m me. I’m different. My hand is different. I hold my brushes different. My brush strokes are different. My eyes see color differently. I choose different subjects to paint. It’s my very differences that make me uniquely different from my teacher.
You’re unique, too. So don’t compare. Share. Share what’s unique about you, because you’re the expert. Never mind what you are not. Decide on what you want and stay focused there on yourself and your flow.
The success of any creative effort depends on your expectations and how ready you are to do what you want to do.
What are your expectations for yourself? For the outcome of your effort? How prepared are you to meet your expectations?
There’s often a gap between where you are and where you want to be, what you can do and what you want to do. In other words, you may not be ready to do what you want to do. But don’t let that gap stop you. Just start where you are now. Ready, set, go!
I joined artist Mary Glikerson’s 5-day challenge last week, and finished five quick studies (see here) for the challenge. The challenge was to paint for a set amount of time—20 to 40 minutes—and to stop when time was up. The intention: start a daily practice. All my studies took 40 minutes, but I plan to keep trying to get closer to 20 minutes.
It was a fun challenge, and it caused me to remember things I’d learned before and discover new things, combine objects in different ways to solve problems, test my skills with mixing and placement of color, and so much more. The work strengthened my creativity muscles, too.
“Hope” 8×6″ oil on linen panel.
Updated January 10, 2018. Last year began well, but health problems surfaced in April that caused me to put painting and many other things on the back burner for the rest of the year. I’m just now starting to engage in many things I had to set aside during those months.
The painting “Hope” (above) was part of a personal challenge I started on January 1, 2017. I planned to finish 30 small plein air (painting on location) paintings in 30 days. The temperature that day was 35 degrees and it was sunny. But the highs in the near-future forecast were closer to 5 degrees. Burr! I started anyway, because I had set a goal and I felt hopeful about the future. I did adjust my plan a bit (because of cold weather) and worked on some paintings in my studio.
I might not have finished the challenge without a strategy that included asking my friend Karen, who is a personal coach, to help me be accountable. I arranged to send her a photo of each day’s painting, and I agreed that unless I broke a leg (or something equally awful happened), I would schedule a coaching session to talk about “why I was slacking off” if I missed more than two days in a row. Having that accountability helped me finish the challenge.
Think about what you want to accomplish this year. Then create a plan that includes a strategy for how you will be accountable, because these two things will help you reach you goals.
Paintings I completed for the January 2017 challenge can be seen here.
A blank canvas IS uncertainty. I feel it every time I set up to paint. But the only way to move from uncertainty to less uncertainty is to try (and maybe fail). And that’s the beauty of deliberate practice—it’s intentional practice. There is no expectation to complete work, only to practice.
We can work with a coach or teacher, who will assign things to practice doing. Or we can design our own deliberate practice. Each session is an opportunity to practice doing what is difficult and finding answers to overcome limitations.
Red Onion study on 8 x 6 inch linen panel.
This little study happened because I needed to get my daily practice done and it was already dark outside. Instead of looking for an interesting tree to paint, I looked through the cupboard and found a lovely red onion and a faded green dish rag. I haven’t tried a still life painting in a while, so I had to think about different things — how to paint a sphere and folds in a cloth and the texture of the basket. Changing things up a bit can be fun (or not). This was a fun study to do.
Painting every day is both hard and easy. It’s hard because there are days I don’t want to go out, or my schedule is tight and adding more to it feels like more work. It’s easy because I paint without any expectation for how a piece should turn out and I can quit when the time (60 minutes) is up. Sometimes, if a piece is going well, I’ll stick with it for a few more minutes, adding the tree branches or touching up a shadow or adding a highlight. Overall, though, I take whatever I have at the end of practice and call it good. I could, for example, go back in and touch up the “too dark” spot by the onion stem, but so far I’ve left it alone.
We need a strategy if we have goals, and I do have goals. The strategy is the road map that provides direction and milestones. I set a goal to paint 50 studies in 50 days. I did #23 yesterday. I’ll be honest, I hear lots of excuses in my thoughts throughout the day and I feel resistant to going outdoors under a very gray skies. Yesterday was one of those days. But my beautiful onion ended up on the cutting board over the weekend and the yam I do have wasn’t that interesting, so I got my practice in between rainstorms.
When I set this goal, I foresaw that I would have days when I didn’t want to paint, so I asked a friend if she would provide accountability for me. I send her a photo of whatever I’ve painted every day. If I miss 2 days in a row, I will pay her for a coaching session (she’s also a life coach). She’s ready to be my “repair shop” if I lose momentum and need a tune up.
Then yesterday, I had a different thought of a more serious nature. I thought that I should quit painting. I was surprised when that idea popped up, because painting is what I want to do. It’s a goal. It’s connected to other important goals, and quitting has not been one of my options — until yesterday. Maybe what I felt was like a Check Engine light that I need to pay attention to. I need to think more about what all this practice has uncovered.