It's all in the approach

I’ve been working more or less flat-out for the past several weeks and have discovered how intensely exhausting and gratifying that can be. I’ve also figured out that the key to overcoming the mental anguish involved in creating artwork for public consumption is indeed found in the following quote from Charles Kettering;

“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.”

There’s more to it than that, though. You have to simply develop the mental fortitude to shut out of your mind the potential for failure, to the point of changing your entire definition of failure and its purpose. Failure cannot just mean not selling something, it has to mean not making something worth of being purchased and not placing it in such a position as to be viewed by potential purchasers.

If, as Henry Ford tells us, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently,” then failure is not to be feared, but used as a way of honing one’s actions to finer purpose. Intriguingly, both of these quotations focus on action and looking forward. They address the concept of a way of doing something and an assumption that, if you hit upon the right combination of actions and labour, success will result.

Lately I’ve been reading a blog directed at freelance writers who also happen to be work-at-home parents. Diapers to Deadlines is perhaps proving to be useful beyond what its designers intended, as I’m finding that much of what is written there applies to artists who work at home as well. In particular, I really appreciated the post “Taking a Novel Approach”. This post talks about taking a process-driven approach to writing and setting goals that are reasonable and directly within your control. Instead of a “make $XXX this month” goal, they suggest taking a “submit this many proposals and finish this much work” goal. In my case, this would mean a combination of completing gallery pieces, shop pieces and proposals for grants and exhibitions. I can’t control how many are accepted, but I can control the quality of the proposals that I research and put together and I am directly responsible for the work that I turn out of the studio.

So from here on in I’m going to set goals in that fashion, trusting that a certain percentage of what I submit will be acceptable and that laying good foundations will result in solid structures as time passes. Interestingly enough, when I mentioned this approach to John, he found it helpful in the legal world, too. Submitting the statements of claim and doing up claims presentations are his equivalent.


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