Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Support Networks and Goals

Sigh. I’ve fallen behind in my posts on my progress in the Right Brain Business Plan. Oh well. All I can do is pick up where I left off.

The Right Brain Business Plan (RBBP) e-course ended last week. It was both sad and uplifting. Sad because I’ll miss the weekly emails from Jen with our assignments and her mid-week and end of week check-in. It was uplifting because I finally feel like I’ve got a much better handle on the direction of my business. It was also uplifting to see how far my online classmates have come in developing and growing their businesses.

Support Networks

A major part of any business venture is the support network. This can include people you look up to (as in mentors), your closest buddies, people you go to for advice (advisors), coaches, art reps, and so forth. This network can also include assistants, VA’s, accountants, bookkeepers, your web designer, and more.

Of course, one of the hard parts about forming your support network is asking for help. What? Me? Need help? I’m superwoman (or superman), I can do it all. You’ve heard the excuses, you’ve used them yourself I’m sure. My favorite “I’ll just do it because then I know it will get done.” Been there, done that control dance. It can be a lonely dance.

So how does one go about identifying and growing your support network? First, think about what your role is in your business. What do you WANT your role to be in your business? Consider the usual roles people assume in small businesses, like production work, bookkeeping, and marketing. Are there areas in your business that you aren’t good at or don’t like doing?

Be honest.

Bruce Baker once said when you are an artist (or any soloprenuer), you either assume all those roles (bookkeeping, marketing, etc), partner with someone who will assume some of those roles, or marry someone who will help with some of those roles.

Yeesh!

Granted all of us try to do it all at the start. And that works for a while. But then you realize your role is to make the art, not spend hours on the marketing or once-a-month bookkeeping. Then it is time to think about hiring an assistant in the studio, the bookkeeper, the marketing guru.

And this doesn’t mean you have to pay all these people. Perhaps you barter for services, trade artwork, take someone to dinner. Remember, you’re creative. All exchange of help and assistance does not necessarily require an outflow of money.

As part of this assignment, Jen posed several questions that helped us look at our roles in our businesses and our network. I admit to falling under what I call the superwoman category. I wasn’t totally surprised by this. But it also pointed out in black and white where I have some gaps in my support network.

Because this class uses our right brain creative skills, I created a simple mobile to acknowledge my support network. Each card is labeled with the particular support group and on the back I listed who I would turn to in each group. The cards are attached to each other with silk ribbon. This gives me the flexibility to hang the mobile in my studio or to fold it and carry it in my business plan vision book.

Support Network Mobile

Setting Goals

Once we developed our support networks, it was time to focus on setting some goals.

Yes, I hear you moaning. Goals. Ick.

After working as a Speech-Language Pathologist for several years, I had a very hard time writing simply stated goals. I had been trained to write detailed measurable goals in language that just seemed absurd for my business goals. However, business goals and therapy goals do have some things in common:

  1. You need to define the goal
  2. You need to figure out all the little steps you’ll take to achieve the goal
  3. You need to set an end-date for reaching the little steps and, subsequently, the big goal

I know lots of people don’t like setting let alone writing goals. I’ve learned over the years that I need the structure that goals provide. And I also need the support of other people to help keep me in line in achieving my goals.

(Psst, if goals aren’t your thing, check out Jen Louden’s “Satisfaction Finder” which helps us lovelies define the standards by which we’ll be satisfied; what some folks refer to as “enoughness.” This item comes recommended to me by a friend. I’ve not tried it myself nor have any affiliation with the product.)

I’m fortunate that I have two accountability partners to help me reach my goals: Sarah Marie Lacey, a wonderful painter, who I approached at the beginning of the year via our acquaintance on Twitter. We check in with each other every week, exchanging our goals for the week, and updating each other on how we did the previous week.

My other accountability partner is in the RBBP class. I sent a shout-out, asking if anyone wanted to work as partners and Beth responded. In this accountability partner relationship, I send Beth very specific goals with end dates (eg: Review 6 month revenue goals by 7/9/10.) And she is very good about checking in with me and asking my status on getting those goals done.

I typically write my daily priorities and to-do’s in a notebook that stays on my desk (just below my computer monitor so I always see it.) With the RBBP course, I was motivated to reuse an old white board and convert it into my Goal Board.

On my Goal Board, I drew a 6 by 5 grid. The first column (far left) is for my goals. Each goal is written on a separate sticky note. The other columns are for the to-do’s, folks I can turn to for support, target dates and actual completion dates.

Goal Board

What I love about this Goal Board is that it hangs on the wall directly across from my work table, so I see it everyday. With it being so visible, I can check it once a week, pull off stickies and update them or write a new one. I also love how colorful it is (love those brilliant colored sticky notes). That means I CAN’T miss it. It’s really in my face.


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Standing at Water’s Edge-Chapter 10 (Final)

Coping With Disengagement and Reentry

In this final chapter, Dr. Paris explains the causes of disengagement and moving through disengagement. You’ll recall that disengagement is what happens when we come to the end of creative immersion. It can be a positive or negative experience.

Causes of Disengagement

Dr. Paris describes seven factors that cause disengagement: external interruptions, running out of energy, problems or stumbling blocks, emotionally threatening artistic content, waiting, feeling overexposed, and criticism.

External Interruptions

External interruptions are those breaks that result from demands of time on your schedule. This basically refers to those demands known as family, grocery shopping, laundry, caring for our parents, taking pets to the vet, parent-teacher conferences, and so on. You know, that thing called life that demands your time and that puts an artificial end to your immersive experience.

These interruptions are frustrating. We’ve all experienced them. We’ve all complained about them. And one of the best ways to work with these interruptions is to set boundaries when possible, set a schedule when possible, and accept that life happens.

Running Out of Energy

Another factor that causes disengagement is simply running out of energy. While creative immersion is energizing, it can also be emotionally and physically tiring. How often have you found yourself working in a creative flurry, losing track of time, and eventually realizing that you haven’t eaten all day. Or maybe you’re functioning on just a few hours of sleep.

When your physical and psychic energy runs out, disengagement is forced upon you. You.simply.must.stop.

How can you keep from running out of energy?  You can stop at a point in the day where you are clear about the next step and can reenter the immersive phase with anticipation rather than apprehension.

Problems or Stumbling Blocks

Disengagement also happens when you run into a problem or hit a block in the artistic process. Have you experienced this? You’re working along, in the flow, and then you run into a problem. The once fluid relationship suddenly becomes frustrating. Maybe the problem causes you to feel inadequate or that you’ve lost control.

This is a defensive engagement, according to Dr. Paris, because we fear that our underlying fears of inadequacy will be confirmed if we continue to struggle with the project. It is during this type of disengagement that alternative forms of support (relationships, spirituality, etc) are essential.

Emotionally Threatening Artistic Content

Sometimes, disengagement happens when “the content of the artistic piece becomes too threatening.” That is, creating art may raise fears because the piece is an expression of deep emotions. When the artist fears becoming overtaken by his/her emotions, fears humiliation due to exposure, or needs to integrate this experience, the artist may need to disengage from the creative process.

Often an artist emerges from this experience transformed, but the breakthrough can be disturbing and frightening.

Waiting

Waiting; waiting for feedback, waiting for an answer. Whatever we may be waiting for, it leaves us in a vulnerable state. When we’re waiting, support from others again is critical. It is essential not to withdraw from others during this form of disengagement.

Feeling Overexposed

This form of disengagement results when creative types suddenly realize that they have “opened and revealed their core self to others” in their art. In this situation, you suddenly realize that you’ve let down your “self-protective shields.” And then we may panic because we feel helpless to protect ourselves from the audience.

Our relationship with our audience and our past experiences with our audience will directly influence how we react in this situation.

Criticism

This final cause of disengagement is a biggie. Negative feedback and criticism can cause an immediate end to creative immersion.

In an immersive experience, we feel connection to the artwork, we feel perfection. And then someone interrupts that connection with a negative comment and our “perfect union” with the art is shattered. We ask ourselves “Is what they said true?” “Is there something wrong with what I’ve done?” We may begin to doubt ourselves, lose trust in ourselves, and doubt our work.

Though Dr. Paris did not address the handling of criticism, I’m sure she would stress, once again, the importance of having a support network during this time.

Moving Through Disengagement

Our experience during disengagement and our ability to reengage with our artistic work depends on several factors:

Understanding How We Lost the Connection

When disengagement happens, we need to understand how we lost the connection with our artistic work. Here Dr. Paris refers back to the causes of disengagement described above and provides a detailed explanation of what an artist can do once we understand what caused the lost connection.

Understanding and Empathic Others

As creative types, we understand that aloneness is a great barrier to creativity. Dr. Paris defines “aloneness” as “aloneness in one’s inner world; that world where we experience breaks or fractures in our sense of self.” As she has reiterated throughout this book, it is essential that creative types have support networks where we can share our experiences with others. This support can come from loved ones, close friends, peer groups, online communities, and therapy.

Availability of Other Immersive Realms

When we experience disengagement, turning to other immersive experiences can be beneficial in restoring our energy and courage. As Dr. Paris explains: “Sustaining the creative process involves a continuous movement in and out of immersive states and realms. When disengagement occurs in one realm, immersion into a different realm can restore and strengthen the artist so he can reenter.”

Understand Your Underlying State of Self

There are two schools of thought on the “nature of the state of self.” One says that our experiences in childhood determine our strengths and weaknesses and that this is fixed and static. The other says a person’s self-state is determined by the current context of relationships.

Either way, artists bring a certain set of fears and coping responses to every artistic endeavor.

Acceptance

In a nutshell, experienced artists recognize and accept their individual tendencies and patterns. Recognizing and accepting these tendencies when it comes to immersion helps us accept times of disengagement.

Conclusion and Guides

Final disengagement comes at the moment of artistic completion. Here the gratification of perfect expression, reflected in the artwork, is the artist’s barometer of success. Following the experience of gratification, we begin to disengage from the artwork. The final disengagement is what allows us to sell our artwork and move on to our next creation.

If we experience a good relationship with our artwork, disengaging from it when it is completed is often easier. However, if our relationship with the artwork was difficult, disengagement from the artwork may be painful or avoided completely.

Dr. Paris offers two final guides:

1. Understand the type of disengagement you are experiencing, and

2. Stop pressuring yourself to reengage. Understand the reason for disengagement first.

At the end of the book, Dr. Paris includes an appendix of sentence prompts that focus on fantasies, self-perception, fears, and support structures. These prompts may be used to help creative types understand these areas on a deeper, more meaningful level.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 3

StandWatersEdgeCover

The Need for Others

The third chapter in Standing at Water’s Edge is a preface to Dr. Paris’s discussion on relationships and the importance of relationships in the creative process. She begins with an interview with Loren Long, a book illustrator. In a nutshell, Mr. Long has an ideal situation: he has a strong connection to his family and his art. His family is a strong support network for him and his art. At the end of the interview, Dr. Paris tells Mr. Long: “I view your lifestyle as a sign of your strength, and I believe that your relationships with your wife and children support and enrich your ongoing capacity to create.”

Not that Mr. Long doesn’t have self-doubt. He does say in the interview “I guess that, in general, I always need someone to like my work. If they don’t, my self-doubt comes to the surface. You know, like I’m not living up to the grand fantasies I have about myself or about what my work should look like.”

I remember feeling that when I first started working as an artist full-time. I wanted everyone to like my art. The reality is not everyone will like your art. And I’ve come to accept that because I certainly know that I don’t like every piece of art I see either. However, as creative types, we all need someone (or several someones) to support us. The support we receive from relationships helps to keep us productive, happy, and energetic.

Dr. Paris sums this up nicely:

Positive relationships help to move us forward and help us to grow. Positive relationships also help the artist along in his creative process. Good relationships can bolster our courage to take the plunge into creativity. And likewise, not-so-good relationships, or a lack of relationships, can inhibit our dive.

I know from personal experience that I excel in the company of community. The year I participated in an art salon, I believe my business excelled because I was making and keeping goals and those in the group kept me on track. Since then I feel like I haven’t done quite as well, nor have I found quite the same support network.

Dr. Paris makes this additional point:

Although most people will agree that relationships are an important part of their life and that relationships help them to feel strong and capable, many people have a difficult time developing and sustaining these supports.

BINGO!

Personally, I believe some of this difficulty comes when people change, move forward or backward, change their focus, become overwhelmed by other factors in life, etc, etc. I do believe in that saying about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The hard part is maintaining relationships. It takes effort from both persons.  As Dr. Paris points out Rather than striving to become self-sufficient and independent of others, we must seek to become better at creating gratifying relationships.

In this chapter, Dr. Paris talks a bit about psychology and human behavior and changes in this area over the last two decades. At the end of this discussion, she expresses her belief that creativity is more of a psychological state and process. It requires persistence, resilience, and determination (as various sources on creativity like to point out.) However, Dr. Paris believes that these traits are not a static or given ability. That the capacity to be creative emerges when we feel psychologically strong, safe, and understood by others.

But we all know that we are not all fortunate to have supportive friends, families, and others. So what do you do then?

Imagining Connection

Because of the belief that humans have a natural inclination for connection, it is possible that in the absence of real-life supportive relationships (or in addition to these relationships), imagining this kind of support is beneficial. In other words imagining supportive connections provides us the fuel to continue our attempts at creative immersion and sustains us through the various blocks and fears we encounter along the way.

Okay, I understand this point. I’ve done some visualization tasks, such as before heading off to an art show or before entering a gallery to present my work. And yes, it does give me a boost of confidence. This section also made me think a bit about the Law of Attraction and how visualizing can help bring about that which you desire.

Dr. Paris points out that while many artists are socially isolated or withdrawn, internally we are able to experience connections with others. And we often experience that connection with others through our art.

Before moving on to a discussion of three kinds of relationships, Dr. Paris poses two questions to consider:

What kinds of relationships do you need to facilitate your creativity?

What gets in the way of developing these kinds of relationships?

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Support

Earlier this month I joined a coaching training class. Coaching is something I’ve become interested in over the past year. Upon reflection I realized that one thing I’ve always enjoyed is teaching and sharing. That is part of what I hope I do with this blog. When I worked as a speech-language pathologist, the one part of the job I really enjoyed was teaching and training the staff.

The first topic in the coaching class focused on support which naturally made me think about how support is essential to our creativity, to our businesses, and well, just about anything we pursue in life.  This includes not only external support from friends, mentors, coaches, and family, but internal support within ourselves.

I recall when working in healthcare that I often felt minimally supported in my job. This may have been due to the various managers I encountered, some who were better than others. Or the fact that I was often the only speech therapist on the team where it was common to have multiple physical or occupational therapists in the department. Finally, it also could have been due to my own inability to seek out support at various times.

I’ve also realized, as I write this, one other thing that I remember about my days in healthcare that may have influenced the support issue: we did, quite frankly, complain a lot. We commiserated quite a bit and I’m not sure how often we really celebrated our successes. So how can someone feel supported if one of the things that binds us together is complaining?

But I digress.

Support has several definitions: to bear the weight of; to hold in position so as to keep from falling, sinking, or slipping; to be capable of bearing; to keep from failing or yielding during stress; to provide for or maintain by supplying money or necessities; to aid the cause of by approving, favoring, or advocating; to endure, tolerate.

Wow! No wonder we sometimes have difficulty supporting ourselves and one another. Support can be a heavy burden to bear.

Since leaving the structured life of working in a cubicle or office and turning to my art full time I have found more support in this community than I ever thought possible. I know some will debate this opinion, yet overall, I’ve found artists to be a supportive lot. I wonder if this is because many of us work in isolation. So when we gather in small or large groups we want to learn what each other is doing, how someone solved a particular problem, and to share resources.

I find that self-support is sometimes harder because of the negative or ego voice that likes to make itself known. My friends can tell me I’m doing great but if I don’t believe that myself all their support can be for naught (or at least that is what the negative ego voice would like me to believe.) On the other hand, it is those same friends who can kick my butt and, in the words of Mary Englebreit, tell me to “snap out of it.” I love my friends and family who have my back and who don’t let my pity parties turn in to extravagant balls.

So here is one of the questions, slightly paraphrased, for you: What kind of support do you need? Pick one area and think about how you can help yourself and what help others may have to offer. What small thing(s) can you do to better support your creative life?

And enjoy this John Cleese video on creativity.