October 04, 2011
Lately a number of people have asked me for advice on everything from applying to grad school to updating their website. I’ve talked to them about the importance of documenting work and keeping a current resume on file. I’ve also stressed the importance of networking and strengthening their online presence. You have to get out there and meet people, and you have to be visible for when they come looking. I’ve told people to mine the contacts that they have, and that most opportunities come from the people that you know. I’ve also advised them to maintain a personal website or blog and update it often and with current information.
So why have I slacked on heeding my own advice? Partly because it’s a lot of work, and it’s not as fun as working in the studio. It’s also because I’ve failed to make it a priority, and I’ve simply found ways to justify avoiding it. I’ve realized that I can be my biggest enemy at times, and quite often I have to remind myself to get out of my own way.
It’s hard for me to simply let go of my own expectations. I start a website or a blog and I want it to be something grandiose and bigger than what it is. I imagine the audience and I try to craft content that is directed towards them, and usually things come to a halt because I wind up editing myself and not allowing my own voice or interests to shine through. I become fixated on tiny details and postpone things until I’ve got them worked out. I can be a perfectionist and that impulse can derail my projects before they get off of the ground.
I have to remind myself that the quality of the content will improve as I get acclimated to the medium. I’ve felt a bit discouraged because things have felt a bit rocky, but that’s something that occurs any time you start a new endeavor. Just like with painting, I can’t help but write like me or post the way I do. I can look at the way other people market themselves or maintain their blogs and websites, and I can gleam ideas and inspiration from them for how I’d like to build my own sites. But in terms of content and how I choose to present it, well that has to be entirely up to me. Will I make mistakes? Certainly. However, making mistakes is part of the game, and it’s better to do that rather than do nothing. I constantly remind my students that every decision they make is probably wrong, and not to worry about making mistakes. I encourage them to embrace their mistakes because they reveal the areas that need improvement. I also remind them that they are their biggest critics, and that they should learn to shut down that little voice inside of their heads.
My problem is that months of inactivity will go by between updates. I’ll have an idea in the back of my mind, but the longer I wait, the more difficult it is to act on it. I have a couple of websites that I’ve wanted to update since May, but each time I went to do something about it, I found myself falling into the “I want it to be perfect” trap. Instead of making the small changes that I needed to make, I got distracted by the larger expectations of what I wanted it to be. So here I am five months later, and I’m basically in the same spot I was a year ago. The only thing that’s changed now is I’ve decided to put in the work and make this networking and marketing thing a higher priority.
Truth be told, I want to make my living as an artist, and I don’t want to have to rely on a day job. The only way that can happen is by putting in the time to make it happen. I’ve got to do the groundwork to gain exposure and generate interest in my art. I’ve heard from some of the older artists on the scene that in order to succeed, you have to put your work in front of as many sets of eyeballs that you can. If you show five-thousand people your work, then at least a couple of people will like it. I guess I could use the excuse that the economy is in shambles, but that only means that I have to be a bit more creative and resourceful. Times are hard, but instead of viewing these circumstances as obstacles, I have to see them as opportunities.
I’ve begun to reconnect with my network and update my websites, portfolios and other support materials. It can be a dull and daunting task, but I have to continually remind myself of the benefits. Having a current resume and portfolio makes it more convenient to apply to shows and follow up on opportunities. I find that I am less likely to explore an opportunity if I know that I have to put in several hours work updating my packet. That usually means that I deem some opportunities more worthy than others, and I wind up not exploring every option. Doing the work in advance means it requires little effort to apply to things on a whim; the materials are already on hand and all I have to do is drop them into email attachments.
In conclusion, I’ve realized that it is never too late to start. No matter what the scope of the project is, I have to be content with tackling small tasks, and not worrying about the larger picture, that will become much clearer once I do the work I’m avoiding. I simply identify one task, complete it, and then move on to the next one. These little things provide me with a sense of accomplishment, and they give me the confidence to tackle the next problem. Also, I’ve learned to do it at my own pace and not rushing it. I’ve got my entire life to accomplish my goals, so there’s no reason to be in such a hurry. Most importantly I remind myself to loosen up and have fun.