It was 2002. My book, Writing The Artist Statement: Revealing the True Spirit of Your Work had been published and I was flummoxed. How could I get it into your hands?
Websites were just revving up on this new-fangled thing called the Internet, so I headed over to a small college and found some “kids” to create a web page to sell the book directly from my publisher.
Because I thought the new-fangled Internet was taking care of everything, I spent months not paying attention to book sales. One day, an artist’s husband emailed that his wife was having trouble buying the book on my site.
Oh, oops! Guess it’s time to “check in!”
When sales aren’t important you lose sales (duh!)
On the backend, I found a gaggle of artists who hadn’t been able to “fulfill” their orders. Panicked, and with egg all over my face, I raced to figure it out, fix the problem, and email all 18 of my potential customers.
When I emailed the husband that it was good to go, he responded that his wife had already bought it from Amazon… but was there anything else I could help her with?
I lost. Amazon won. Bummer!
Falling Into A Calling
But… could I help artists beyond the book? Curious and curiouser…
Never one to turn down a request, I brainstormed everything I discovered about art careers while researching and writing my book.
I could help her: get into a gallery, organize a professional portfolio, write her AS and bio, articulate her artistic vision, define and understand her artistic fingerprint, learn how to better connect with collectors, grow her confidence…in short… grow her art career.
She and I chatted on the phone (she in VA, me in MA) for 20 minutes and that was it. My first artist signed up for a year of art-career coaching. (And here I’d thought “coaching” was all about Little League.)
A year! The unexpected, marvelous Expert Hat materialized with the wave of a wand.
Only, what started out as a beret morphed into a Texas Stetson that stayed on for eighteen years.
What they don’t tell you
The Expert Hat dominates your life. Even when it temporarily sat on a shelf, I could see that Stetson beckoning me from the corner of my eye, staking claims on my identity.
And I fell for it hook, line, and sinker! (Ever wonder why the last in that trio is “sinker?”)
What am I to you if I’m not an expert?
What am I to me if I’m not an expert?
Once you decide that being an expert is key to how you make a living, it becomes a dominant aspect of your ego-personality. You spend a lot of time grooming the unruly parts of yourself so they fit all nice and tidy under the hat. It may be professionally spic ‘n span, but it stifles the wholeness of who you are.
How will my identity sink (or swim) if I twirl the hat on one finger, and then send it flying across the landscape of my life to land wherever the heck it will?
No more. No more. No more.
As I sat down to write this Reflections blog post for you, a light snow was falling outside my studio window. I nibbled some delicious, nutrition-less cheese puffs and watched flakes floating down until my deck twinkled snow white.
Without warning, my entire body curled into a cold cramp. A resistance cramp.
Keep in mind, I’m no stranger to forcing myself to do what’s necessary. I practiced that twelve hours a day, six days a week, for eight months, for six years to get you the annual, smARTist Telesummit conference.
Resistance is only a matter of closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, imagining the final outcome, opening my eyes and taking that first step.
Only not this time.
This time my very blood drummed against the inside of my marrow: no more, no more, no more. And that was it. I watched in Dorothy-like dismay as my Stetson shriveled into a muddled puddle.
So, you might ask, what about those ruby-red slippers peeking out from under the life-changing weight of a cosmic Aha? Are they all bling and no substance?
Well, shoot, let’s find out because I’m putting them on!
It’s Your Turn
How about this: Instead of me pontificating on this or that, how would you feel about me asking you questions?
What if you and I engaged in much the same way as we did in Blue Stockings…only this time, we do it online?
Keep in mind, this is a work-in-progress. I don’t have all the answers, only a few ideas. I’ll need your input from the get-go!
Unless you suggest otherwise in the comments below, we’ll start it like this:
I’ll send an email with ONE question where you click over to a new, interactive, artist community web page featuring:
CURIOSITY COCKTAILS: Artist-Life Conversations with a kick!
You can then add your answer to whatever your fellow artists also have to say. Together, we can spark more thoughts from each other.
Together we can kick off provocative conversations around Big Themes, like: Creative Process, or Stumbling Blocks.
I want conversations that juice up our creative process, fortify our creative resilience, and are just plain ole fun!
Oh, and you will be able to upload images of your work alongside your answers—video/audio/stills.
What do you think?
For an aperitif, how about giving me some of your ideas for Big Themes?
Your Truth. Your Power. Your Word. Claim it!
P.S. In the comment section below, toss out areas of your artist life that you think would make a great Curiosity Cocktail! You can go hardcore or keep it light and spritzy!