All of this time, I have been posting on Artist Strong about making steps towards realizing your creative dreams. And yet, only until recently have I begun to truly consider my own. What are my goals? What do I want for myself creatively? I can be good at dishing advice, but can I practice what I preach?

How are are you willing to climb? Face those creative fears!

Well, this new year is exactly that opportunity. I’m taking an entire year to dedicate to this blog and my own art. And I’m scared as all hell. You heard me. Scared. Some mornings it is a crippling fear that I’m filled with and I would rather do the laundry or the dishes than face the blank screen or blank canvas waiting for me. And having the time to think about my art and writing, planning and developing both, is an awesome thing. I mean awesome, in the original definition of the word. All of a sudden, the structured art teacher and brief administrator now has all the freedom in the world. Some might find that they burst with creativity when the opportunity arrives. For me, the reality has been a quiet house, with my quiet studio, waiting for me to start my day when I choose. The reality has been committing to 1500 words a day to ensure something gets written. The reality has been outlining long and short term goals for myself and creating tasks that will help me meet them. The reality has been writing and painting, even when I don’t feel like it.

I think we all idealize the freedom that comes with “taking a year” to do something important to us. A friend of mine from several years ago confided in me that she had once taken a year off to write her novel she always dreamed of writing, but instead spent most of it skiing (she lived in New England) and when she realized she wasn’t doing her work, she chose to return to teaching for the structure and security it provided.

I’m scared of exactly that while also at the same time being fearful that my work won’t be good enough. It is a common affliction many face, which is why books like Art and Fear (AL) and The Artists Way (AL) are not just on my bookshelf, but have been best sellers.

Right now, I need to build structure in my life and figure out how to work towards the many goals and creative projects written on post it notes and stuck all over my studio. So, I’m re-reading a gift someone gave me, a wonderful book called The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield (AL). So far, I’ve been through the first big chapter, where it asks to chart out your life. I listed every secret goal and dream I have for myself and then labeled them short term and long term goals. From here, I listed tasks on the short term list that would help me realize long term goals. Now, according to my reading, I’m to put away the long term list and pretend it doesn’t exist. I only look at my short term goals and now I begin looking at my calendar and figuring out the time each goal and its many tasks need and my priority for them.

We are never too old, or young, to begin to face our fears.

The author literally maps her entire year out. For me, right now, I’m going for getting stuff done, then I’ll consider mapping out more than a few days at a time! I have few deadlines except those that I impose on myself. And if you read her book, you will see she has a very complex life that she uses the calendar to simplify. I’m hoping to keep it simple and minimal, period. Inshallah (after living in the Middle East for 6 years it becomes hard NOT to use this phrase). My big deadline is to check in after one year’s time and see what I have accomplished and where I’m at professionally, according to those long term goals I’ve listed.

Why structure? One, I’m a structured person, so this kind of activity and process helps me stay on track and keep focused on my goals (remember, I have been in a classroom for most of my life!). Yet, I would argue this process is extremely important for any creative who has a goal in mind. Saying you want to be a successful artist or writer means nothing, what exactly do you mean by successful?! Now, we are getting somewhere…

It is important to remember that our success is something very individual. Perhaps you love your day job and wish to write or paint on the side because it brings you joy and it is a great stress release for you. You have no intentions of quitting your day job. Then, success may not be about making a living from your creative endeavors. Perhaps you want to supplement your current financial state. Perhaps you have no desire to make money but just want to share your work with a larger audience, or hold a class to share your skills! It doesn’t matter, good for you whatever it is, but it is important you figure out what creative success looks like to you. Once you do, some of the fear dissipates. And I promise, those evil naysaying voices get quieter the more you make, and it is easier to ignore them as you achieve those tasks that are helping you realize your goals.

So, time for me to face those fears. Lately, for me, it’s not about the writing, that comes easily. In fact, I sometimes write to avoid my studio. And that is the problem. It is time to start making art and see where it leads me. It is time to face my fear and start on that task list! Small steps will help me quiet those judgmental thoughts.

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: How do you define success for yourself? This is the perfect time of year to reflect on something like this, so get out that bottle of wine and notepad. Put out some candles and get some mood music going. Time to list out your dreams. Don’t hold back, because you deserve more and so do we! 🙂

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