I had no idea what I was in for when I took on this 365-Day Project of writing a daily blog post as a “Tribute to Artists and the Creative Mind.” We all start these things with the greatest of intentions, fueled by passion and just enough naïveté to convince ourselves that anything is possible and the sky’s the limit. That’s how I always begin my projects because without that, they would never get off the ground. As a friend of mine once told me, “You succeed because you don’t know otherwise.”
Many of you have asked me what I’ve learned and if the time spent on a 365-day project was worth the effort. I’ll let you read this post and you can decide.
First of all, I have a confession to make. The 365-Day project was borne out of a devastating tragedy. A year and a half ago, I had lost eighty percent of my artwork – an inventory that had taken two years to build – during Hurricane Irene, right in the middle of a major launch of a brand-new series which was to bring me to the next level in my career. Instead of a flourishing business, I arrived at the end of the year with an empty studio and a dwindling bank account. I didn’t have time to mourn my loss. I needed to shift gears and look ahead to what I needed to do next to survive.
I first had to rebuild my faith in the value and potential of my life as a professional creative. I had been blogging about travel on Artful Vagabond for two years and felt the strong urge to use my writing to walk me through this transition. I couldn’t even begin to envision what the future might look like so I focused on the only thing that was certain: the present tense. I announced my New Year’s Resolution on my blog:
“Rather than looking at what I’d like to change in my life,
I’m going to take this year to CELEBRATE who I already am.
I’m celebrating my Artist self and I’m going to do it every day for the next 365 days.”
My inspiration was Julie Powell who cooked and blogged her way through 365 Days and 536 recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, landing a book deal and the hit film, Julie & Julia. I saw the film and thought about how powerful a 365-day intention could be, thinking that since I’d only be writing, it would be easy by comparison. It wasn’t.
It did start out easy, though. The blog posts were short and manageable and became powerful affirmations. I invited artists to include an image of their work with these affirmations and realized that although I was doing this for myself, I was also connecting with a larger community of artists who began following the blog. My readership more than doubled overnight and increased exponentially as I continued to write.
Then my I received my first lesson:
Just when you start getting comfortable, things change.
Creativity is never static.
I found that writing a daily blog followed a similar parallel to creating artwork. You start out with an idea, but at some point you have to let go and allow the creation to achieve its full potential. By Day 47, it was no longer about me. From that moment on, I began interviewing other artists from around the world, sharing glimpses into the creative process as well as inspiring stories of the value of art in our lives as artists and how it can positively enhance the lives of others. I put out a Call for Artists and the the blog posts kept getting longer. My initial posts took an hour to create until my writing came more quickly and easily. But as posts became more complex, I started spending two to three hours per day reviewing portfolios, answering emails, curating entries and interviewing artists.
Then an unexpected incident tested my level of dedication.
Three months into the 365 Days, my mother was rushed to the hospital. I considered quitting the project, since family and friends are my first priority. Returning home from the hospital late that first night, I sat at my computer, deciding whether to write my next post or announce that I just wasn’t going to be able to continue with my resolution. I was weighing real life against my virtual one until I realized that this crazy project was also “real life.” It was just as important to me and my future and it was up to me to figure out how to balance it within the context of the rest of my life. So I hauled my laptop to the hospital on my daily visits and blogged while Mom napped. I wrote some of my best posts from that hospital room.
The rewards of discipline.
I’m glad I didn’t quit that day. Thanks to my perseverance, my income stream slowly shifted from artwork sales to writing, curating exhibitions and developing cultural projects and I was invited on a curatorial excursion to the Canadian Yukon in July. I was still creating, although it looked very different from what I was doing a year ago. I was putting to use every single talent I had honed throughout my work life, taking everything I had learned in my previous career in the travel management industry: marketing, event planning and tourism and incorporating it into my second career experience as a professional artist. My bank account was looking healthy again. I could never have devised such a perfect scenario through sheer logic.
The price of success.
I started getting more contracts while the blog posts were becoming increasingly more time-consuming and I soon found that there was little time left over at the end of the day for my personal life. I was blogging into the early morning hours after working on freelance projects and although I loved every second of what I was doing, I was losing my balance. I stopped exercising and saw friends only occasionally. Plans for the future were lost in staying caught up in the present.
Letting go and a surprising reaction.
As I arrived towards the end of the project in mid-December, I thought I’d feel relief. But instead, feelings of anxiety started to surface – the same feelings I would sometimes experience after a major exhibition when I would return to my studio and say, “OK, what’s next?” Facing the blank page, a fresh canvas or a mound of clay after a major effort can sometime bring up doubts and fear about stepping into the unknown. And although I have excellent projects on the books, there was a small part of me that was somehow hoping for The Big Deal that would arrive just in time for the New Year, making the whole thing worthwhile. The logical part of me knows better, of course, but I felt like a marathon runner who spent her last ounce of energy to cross the finish line, only to discover that she still has to walk home.
I looked deeper into Julia Powell’s post-blog story and discovered that her 365-day blog ended in 2003 and it took six years before her book was published and the film came out. Chances are, she was sitting in the same place I am today, wondering what’s next. The only way I’ll know what’s next is if I take what I’ve started and bring it to the next level. I’m realizing that it’s not that easy to get where I want to go – the steps seem to get larger the higher I climb.
But I didn’t do this for the Big Deal. Although I initially did it for me, the 365-Day project ended up becoming much more than that as it evolved. What kept me going throughout those 365 days was you…..all of you who read my posts and shared your thoughts and made all of us feel like a community. I did it for the seasoned artist who told me he started painting again after years of pushing his creativity aside following an illness. I did it for the emerging artist who almost gave up because she felt like no one understood her creative passion. I did it for those who love art and who want to understand more and I did it for those who think they know nothing about art at all.
So what’s next?
Move forward. That’s my mantra for this year. There are three books in the works, two major curatorial projects, several art exhibitions (yes, I’m still creating my art) and a collaboration that could possibly bring Artful Vagabond to cable TV.
I’ll be continuing to write articles on Artful Vagabond, although not with the same frequency, but I’ll be posting more regularly on my Facebook page. There will be more art, more stories and plenty of inspiration to share!
Artists are the most generous, hardest-working people I’ve ever met and it is truly an honor to be part of such an awesome tribe!
I hope you’ll all stay with me as we move forward TOGETHER! Thanks for being there over the past year! You are ALL awesome!
I wish you all an abundant and artful New Year!
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