I can say that I have been fumbling my way toward living out my creative dreams for quite some time now. I hesitate to create a list like this because I'm not sure I've arrived anywhere, but I do get asked quite a bit about this topic. The journey of learning to confidently sell art and design has taught me a few things along the way about pursuing your passions. Here is a little checklist to refer back to as you reach for your own unique creative pursuits.
1. Call yourself the name God gave you
It took me a long time to realize that it is not the level or proficiency that makes you something but it's your heart's desire for it. The proficiency will come. I used to feel like it was haughty or prideful to say I was an artist if I hadn't arrived at some level of expertise or reached some imaginary level of sales. Now, I understand that I am an artist because that is what I'm passionate about and how I am wired to work. Love playing the cello? You are a cellist! Call yourself what you were born to do -- even if it's not yet your day job.
2. Schedule It
The best advice I can give for making your dreams move forward is to schedule a time to work on that thing you love. I was peddling the same tired pieces of art around for years because I could never seem to sit down to paint something fresh. Once I really took a good, hard look at what I was spending my time doing I was saddened to see how little of it I was spending with the things I loved. I had to start scheduling time to visit my Grandma, garden in the yard and paint. So I made Friday my day to visit my precious, wild Grandma, I made Wednesday my watercolor day and Saturday afternoons are now a time to get outside and turn some dirt. Magic. I found that once I started paintings on Wednesday it was easy to sit down on Sunday afternoons and pick up where I had left off. I have a thing about hating to start projects without having much time to work on them. I needed to break out of that mentality and just schedule a time to sit down and get to work, even if it meant it would only be for an hour or two. I'm not much of a routine type of person, but it certainly is very effective in this capacity. Perhaps I should apply this same method to making out of town phone calls to friends and family. : )
3. Find a venue to experiment with
Partnering with friends some 7 years ago to create RagTag Rubies was one of my best career decisions. Even though I am no longer working directly with these ladies, the experience and confidence I gained watching them work and make decisions was invaluable. It has enabled me to find what I'm strong in and what I'm not. It allowed me to fight through the frustrating moments of comparing and despairing. Now I experiment with art shows and markets on my own, taking the skills I learned from RagTag Rubies with me. There is nothing like hearing first hand people's feedback and comments about your creations. It opens your eyes to what other folks are drawn to, what sells and what doesn't. I'm always creating things that I personally love, but I try to stay open to tweak my classes and art to fit what speaks to other people.
4. Try things that scare you
If I had to pick one verse in the bible that gives me courage it is this one:
1 Chronicles 28:20 tells us to "Be strong and courageous and get to work for the Lord my God is with you. He will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly." Ahhhh… I'm not out here alone and God's got my back. That thought gives me such peace. I know for certain that I would not have had the success that I have if it were not for constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Doing so opens doors you never would have knocked on. I choose to say yes to speaking in public forums, yes to leading and teaching groups and yes to painting in public. Just don't try to do it all in one week … I'm learning.
5. Pace Yourself
I'm speaking to myself here. I'm impatient in many things, but one thing I've learned is to keep moving forward in spite of set backs. The general forward momentum will add up over time! As we all know, Rome wasn't built in a day, and we can't always manage to "carpe-diem." We have tooth aches, work, sick kids, car breakdowns and long to- do lists. We have to give ourselves the grace to sometimes flop on the couch at the end of the day and not have gotten anything remotely creative accomplished. Just keep in mind that some days you'll just have to "carpe-cras" (seize tomorrow) instead.
6. Pray Continually
I'm going to be vulnerable here and just write what I generally pray regarding my career every morning: "Lord, direct me. Let my work glorify you in all that I do. Let me accomplish more by doing less and make good use of my time. Please show me what to say 'yes' and 'no' to. I pray that you would give me the creativity I need to complete … this project or that one (whatever I am working on at the time) May my work refresh and inspire others."
7. Find Rest
Eeek … Now I'm really calling the kettle black. Maybe I should have entitled this, Don't Be A Lunatic. Those close to me can tell you that I struggle with this one the most. I'm learning slowly that rest reconnects us with God, makes us more productive and leads us to inspiration and defining moments. By not over saturating our schedules, we create those blessed open spaces to breathe and reflect. Sometimes this means freeing ourselves from the opinion of others. My husband has been helping me with that one because he wont' be bullied into over scheduling himself -- darn him. See No.2 to make sure that rest happens!
Which of these points is most challenging to you?
This is an interesting proposition. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to get my children to love work and to have the tenacity of character that it takes to push on when things get hard. I've tried different charts and set goals -- the usual things we parents try to do to motivate our kids. None of those attempts really seemed to have much long term stick-to-it-ive-ness. The most successful motivator for hard work that I have found doesn't require dolling out stickers for charts but does require some effort on the part of parents. Ready for this? Pay them for it (and let them see you getting paid for your work as well.) I'll break it down for you …
1. Don't buy them anything new unless it is their birthday or Christmas
Other than clothes and shoes, my household rule is that the kids have to save their money to buy any extra items they want. Introducing this principle has taught all 3 of my kids some unexpected lessons. Not only have they learned how to work hard for their treasures, but also what it's like to experience buyer's remorse. When they are spending their own money it becomes much more precious! They have also experienced the joy of seeing their money grow slowly over time, how to borrow from one another (and pay back their loans) and how to write up a contract with each other to make sure that they get paid back : )
Living in a somewhat affluent suburb, I can't stress enough how many times I hear people complain to me that their kids are lazy and don't want to take them up on their offers to pay them for yard work or washing the car. My response is, "Why would they when everything they want is given to them?"
As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. I've watched my 14-year-old plan how many times he will have to mow our lawn, identify chores around the house that need care that nobody can get to, and wake up at 5:30 am to help me at art shows. All of this, just so he could buy a GoPro extreme sports camera. Not buying it was the best thing I could have done! Deprivation of non-necessity items is the No. 1 way to have kids feel the joy and rewards that come from hard work!
2. Let them see you earning money
Here is where it gets a little more challenging. Over the past 5 years I have taken my children with me to countless art shows and markets. They have watched me host open houses for classes I teach and looked over my shoulder at my computer while I worked on designs for clients. They have moved my art supplies off the dining room table so that we could sit down for dinner. They have at times asked potentially back-handed questions like, "Someone is paying you to make that?" and "Why don't they just do it themselves?" which spur on conversations. Conversations about why someone might pay for a service they don't want to (or can't do) themselves. We've talked about how to price things, how to market things, what the value of time is worth and of course how to present your work. They have gradually learned to give invaluable feedback on my art and design in a kind and constructive way. They have seen me be teachable and willing to take suggestions when appropriate. Most importantly, they have watched and smiled when I get a check in the mail, land a big job or get tuition payments from students.
I know that not everyone has the luxury of working from home, but that does not entitle families who work outside the home to have a free pass on No. 2. You just may have to get a little more creative on this one to help them make the connection. When payday comes around for my husband, we thank God for a full fridge of groceries that were bought because of his job. My husbands talks at dinner with us about his work challenges and successes. The kids ask questions about his job and his co-workers. They are genuinely curious about these dynamics. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 says, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies." Love that one!
Not only should kids see us earning money, but understand how we spend money. My parents were very private about their finances and while I'm not suggesting telling your kids what your household income is, I do think there is something to be said for a little more transparency than perhaps our parents had. Why should we always hide what things cost or what expenses we have from our kids? I think that the more we can connect the dots for them between hard work and what it buys us, the better! It is important for kids to learn about the costs of living, to see us waiting on certain purchases, celebrating paying off debt and not going out to eat when our entertainment budgets have been spent. Proverbs 13:4 tells us that, "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied."
3. Let them help you with your work and share in the profits
Lastly, whatever your job is, share it with your kids and pay them a small wage for their help. This has probably been the most rewarding aspect of my work. My kids know that I will pay them 10 percent of whatever I earn at an art show if they work hard setting up, restocking and selling. When one of them needs money, they come to me and ask if I need help with anything because they are saving toward this or that.
If given a little thought, every legitimate profession has something that can be shared. If you are a realtor, let them put stamps on your mailouts. A salesman? Take your child to a business meeting and get their read on your client afterward. A postal worker? Show them your route and see if they could think of a faster way. If you are a police officer, teach them to identify suspicious behavior and let you know if they see anything shady in your neighborhood. My father was a cop and I loved when he would have us write down license plates numbers on cars he noticed around town that looked suspicious! That little bit of involvement opened the door to conversations and I was always excited at dinnertime to learn details about what he did when he left each morning!
How do you share your life's work with your children? Comment below:
Some additional great bible verses to share with your family:
Proverbs 14:23 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Whether I am painting custom artwork, creating a water colored logo for a client, or teaching art students, I hope to refresh and inspire others with my work. Read more ...