It’s that time of year for reflection and plans for the next year. I’ve been contemplating my plans, or lack thereof, for a while though. Life is pretty good. I’m OK referring to myself as middle-aged (although if 30 is the new 20, then is 43 really middle-aged?). I live in Hawaii and I have a devoted husband and two kids who so far seem to be pretty well balanced, nice little people. They’re cute too. 😉 We have a roof over our head, a gorgeous house that we are renting, and hubby’s got job security and a steady paycheck that provides us a comfortable lifestyle. I’m happy with our place in the world.
But I’ve been thinking about my own ambitions lately. My accomplishments are essentially in the same place they were five years ago. I have no plans for where I want to be in another five years, let alone ten, and not much of an idea of what I want to do with my art (or career if you want to call it that).
The part of me that needs validation really, really wants something invitational. It’s great to be accepted into a show or publication one has applied to, but for me it would be particularly validating to be invited to be part of something. Of course, I would need to have some sort of presence for the right people to know of my existence in order to then invite me to be a part of their show or a feature in their magazine. And I readily admit that I have done next to nothing in the last year to promote myself or my art.
“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Although I’ve been a lifetime crafter and I have a degree in graphic design, about five years ago I discovered that I loved to sew art. Over the next few years, I had a show (right place, right time), I had a web site and blog created, and I began to share my art by teaching locally. I was “emerging.” Today I still feel like I am in that same place on the edge of something. I’d like to say that I’m completely satisfied making what I want to make, when and how I want to make it purely for the joy of making it, but there’s that nagging part of me that still wants outside accomplishment.
Blogging has been good for me in that respect — I get feedback on what I post and that, in it’s confined way, validates what I do. I can also feed off what others are doing. That is a double edged sword though. For all the inspiration I gather, I also find myself comparing, as a wise friend once said, “My insides to other people’s outsides.” I see so many shows I coulda, woulda, shoulda entered, so many peers getting work published and I wonder why no one is knocking on my door. Of the 37 blogs on my sidebar, 21 have been published and there’s ten blogs not listed that I read regularly all of which have been published recently too. Some bloggers have been at their craft a lot longer than I. I look up to the maturity of their vision. I hope that I can be like them when I grow up. Others I consider to be my peers, and I wonder what makes them more appealing than me. I debate, “Should I be writing proposals to magazines and publishers, entering shows, participating in swaps, and maximizing my Flickr account so that people actually know I’m out there?” Yes, there’s a bit of jealousy there, I won’t deny it, but mostly it’s kick in the pants to me that says, “look, if they can do it, so should you — so get in your sewing room and do it!
Now, I know that there isn’t one answer to success or validation and I know that whatever today’s answer will be, it will likely change tomorrow or next week and continue to evolve for the rest of my life. I also know that I need to define what success is for me and not worry about anyone else’s definition. I wonder though, at 43 shouldn’t I be “grown up?” Where’s my maturity of vision? Perhaps I need to learn to make better use of my time to work on those fine art quilts that should be filling my online gallery and eventually a brick and mortar one. I’d love to make a body of work worthy of Quilt National or Visions. That takes time and sweat equity and I know it. So why do I splatter my attention elsewhere? Do I use my status of a nomadic, oft geographicaly single, mother of youngish children as a way to subconsciously hamper my opportunities to be more? If so, that’s lame because there’s no shortage of single mothers with major accomplishments.
I worry that my schizophrenic interests might be hindering my impression as either an artist or entrepreneur: too many mushroom pincushions and tales of shave ice taste-testing do not a serious artist make. On the other hand, my lack of monthly how-tos or a robin’s egg blue studio (we’ll call mine “gallery white” instead of “it’s-a-rental-white, OK) keeps me from being noticed in the crafty circles. That’s who I am though and I don’t want to change it just to be a popular blogger or respected artist. I like the conversations about local foods and travel and cute things to make as well as beautiful quilt art that we’ve been having since I started blogging.
So that’s where my head is at right now: half of me wanting to keep it “pure” and just do what inspires me, be it cutesy crafting, quilting with a deeper message, or just sharing our adventures; and the other half of me thinking I should change my on- and off-line presence so I can be seen as a contender.
As I’ve been writing this post over the last few weeks, I’ve contemplated changing my blog, but I like it as-is. It reflects well who I am (or at least the cheery side of me — I rant more in the privacy of my own home than I do here, though the occasional deep thought or laundry tantrum does sneak in from time to time!). I thought maybe I could use my web site to focus on the art (and hope to have more to add in the next year). Then, as it seems that Flickr is a gateway to other projects, I could use it more. Photography is not my focus or goal, but it seems to be increasingly important as a self promotion tool. I wanted to put my crafty stuff there and not on the blog, but obviously that hasn’t worked since my last few posts have been of craft projects and not art quilts (I won’t link yet to my Flickr site as there’s some stuff there that needs to stay secret from a regular reader for a little longer). I probably also need to do more of the obvious — write proposals and apply for things (I actually did write two proposals in November). Sure, some of the people I admire have been invited to be published, but I’m confident the majority have submitted a request or 500 of some sort. The teacher doesn’t know you have the answer unless you raise your hand.
OK, I’ve said it out loud. It looks like this could be the year I start raising my hand again (oh, and I need to get studying so I actually have an answer to give).