As artists, we have to be cautious not to spread ourselves out too thinly.
We risk loss of content if we try to do too much. When you spill a glass of milk, it sort of just goes everywhere and lacks depth and dimensionality.
Sure, it is good practice to constantly challenge yourself and try new things, but when the new things start taking time away from your work, then you have to step back and analyze where to trim the fat.
Like the milk analogy, I was spilled everywhere, spread too thinly to provide anything substantial.
That is how I feel about my work, and about how differently from my plans 2014 turned out.
Sometime between Christmas and the New Year, in the time spent with my family, some of whom I see once or twice a year, my mind had enough time to wander and feel the old familiarities of setting my own schedule, pouring heart and soul into a tactile and promising painting, times I felt more rewarded for the hard work and love I put into a thing.
Since taking on a volunteer opportunity last April with a local artists organization (which crept over and consumed me like an amoeba of excitement), I have sidelined my own business plans, lost contact with potential clients, missed deadlines of ongoing projects, and finished only 2 very small paintings. On top of that, I was so busy rushing off here, planning a class there, and fixing or updating the website, that the apartment transformed into a place not very pleasing or conducive to productivity, which is a huge problem, because our 1 bedroom apartment has to fulfill many functions despite it’s generous-yet-limited space.
I am not shifting blame. I appreciate every ounce of experience I gained, and supportive, loyal trust that I never would have gotten the chance to access elsewhere.
I could have said “no,” or stayed aloof and allowed myself only very minimal involvement. I know my faults and the role they played in how I ended up in this frame of mind.
In the time that has passed, I have learned many things about instruction, planning classes and workshops, how to run a program, how not to run a program, what board meetings are all about and why you should avoid them if possible, what artists can achieve when they get along, how an organization can suffer and stagnate when they butt heads all the time, and when to just say, “no.”
Oh dear, I do not mean to complain so much. It is a really great program for the community and for the organization. The experience I’ve gained has been invaluable. To instruct workshops and classes was something I always wanted to try, had no prior experience in doing so, and was embraced and encouraged by the board members, who are all passionately dedicated to the arts and the organization.
The thing is though, this particular organization, like so many others, is in dire need of volunteer help. When I see something that needs fixing, and I know how to make it better, I do what I can within my power to help out. And it turns out, I was very capable of helping out with oh-so-many things.
But it’s not all bad. I’ve had some personal triumphs.
I went from being a shy, fearful prospective instructor in May of 2014, to attending board meetings and presenting on the program by August, and eventually to something resembling the near-soul-crushing-role of Program Coordinator by October. The important thing is, I felt pretty confident about it all.
I made a new schedule for myself, one which I am hoping I can adhere to.
There are only 7 days in the week, so I am only allowing myself to maintain 7 different activities on a day-to-day basis. Technically I have less, as one day is a designated personal day, and four days may or may not be used for the same 2 projects.
But, the important thing is, that for the sake of personal progress, I am throwing myself a metaphoric life preserver. I am cutting down immensely on my involvement with the above voluntary effort, so that I can get some consistency back in my life, and so that I can have the time to improve upon and build up a larger body of work, answer some calls for art, make some new gallery contacts, make better progress on my business plans than I did last year, and have something to really show for my time in the home studio.
Don’t worry, that unnamed voluntary program I’m involved with still gets at least one day of my time each week. I spent the past year pouring heart and soul into it, and at this point, it’s so well organized that I think one day per week is plenty to sustain its functionality.
Besides, maybe on that one day, I can be more assertive and start bugging the other members, most of whom are retired and have already had careers of their own, to try to recruit more help for the program.
All in all, 2014 was for me, a year poised in equilibrium between the strongly polarized feelings of apprehension and indulgence. I loved and hated everything equally, which was a new and interesting experience for me, but not one that I’d like to repeat.
So, with a stout in hand and an affirming nod, here’s to 2015: to overcoming challenges, working much harder toward personal growth, and to the hope for success in all our endeavors.