Thursday, September 20, 2012
Thoughtful Thursday-New Rules
Last year I marked a zero year—60—with the decision to open myself to whatever experiences came my way and start the new decade with an embrace of openness. Most of year sixty was intensely busy with a lot of different projects. I am happy I did every one of them but as spring ended, I concluded that I need to be more selective and think things through before I get involved.
Two things that contributed to this decision were the calendar book I got to keep track of how I spend my time and cleaning the studio. The calendar book was a real eye-opener. Things that I thought would take, or recollected as taking, an hour or two would turn out be four, or six, or eight. Most of these things were not art-making but related—photographing work, making packaging for the traveling Spirit Books. When I sorted through old files and boxes in the studio, I was surprised by the incredible amount of care and attention I put into every idea I have. If I am going to pour myself into everything I undertake, and I want to keep that, I need to be more selective in what I chose. I want to do the censoring and control on the front end and then let myself immerse fully and freely once I start.
Last May I bought myself a beautiful watch to remind myself of the value of time. The plan was if I were asked to get involved with anything, I would look at my watch and then say no, or I'll get back to you. It seemed to be working. I had a big moment this summer when I said no to the fourth grade teacher about a project for next year's literary festival. Okay, I did offer to talk to her and share any information that would be useful to her but I said no to actually working on something. As summer drew to a close, I found myself initiating projects on my own that I then determined I needed to withdraw from. It was awkward and painful. I realized I needed to be saved not from others but from myself.
Here are my new rules. Everything I undertake must do at least one of the following four things, and more than one would be great.
1. Help my work to grow and develop
This one is about saying yes rather than no, giving myself the time and permission to do whatever I need, including reading, walking, just being. I need to respect the time that feeds the mind and soul as well as the studio time.
2. Advance my career
If I am going to care about how my work gets out into the world, and I find that I do, I need to be more practical. I need to analyze the possibilities and set some goals. My message to myself: either stop worrying about it, or do something about it.
3. Make money
I want to be paid well for the work I do. I am not concerned about making money from my art. My income has always come from other sources. For over twenty years, it was teaching bookmaking workshops in schools. I continue to work to share my passion for making books through teaching and speaking but it is harder to do without the captive audience that exists in schools. My husband is supportive in all ways but I am not comfortable being as minor a contributor to the family income as I have become.
4. Bring me joy
This seems pretty obvious but what I have realized is that I need to think whatever the idea or project is completely through and determine how much of it is joyful and how much is not. Initial appearances can be deceptive.
As I contemplate year 61, I want it to be a year of focus and balance, to stay open but be discriminating, to look widely but with intention. Wish me luck.