Five Ways to Greet the New Year… As an ARTIST

“New Year, New You…”

“Update yourself….

“Resolve to be a better you…”

Opening my inbox lately sometimes makes me want to gag. It seems as if every time I check my email, I’m inundated by a plethora of platitudes that make me feel as though somehow I don’t measure up to the ideal “me” simply because the calendar is about to roll over. I don’t buy it. And neither should you. I’m here to say that each of us, as creative professionals, has something valid to offer. We have to believe that simply by constantly working towards improving our creative offering as professionals, we don’t need to completely reevaluate our existence or our career choices every time January comes around.

Why do we even feel the need to give in to these personal overhauls anyway? Well for starters, a self imposed new beginning gives us the freedom to allow ourselves to try new things we might not normally feel comfortable indulging. However, new things shouldn’t come at the expense of changing your core values as an artist or your aesthetic. New things should help to reinforce what makes your art stand out and to help you find those who are looking to connect with the talent you possess.

So instead of a list of things we WON’T be doing in the New Year that reinforces a negative self image, how about a list of things to do that WILL help reinforce how awesome it is to be a working artist in Atlanta?

Does your planner look like this? If so, you might need to try an editorial calendar. Image by Steve Mather.
Does your planner look like this? If so, you might need to try an editorial calendar. Image by Steve Mather.

1. Organize: 

Most of the people I know who are making a living off of their art are 1) good artists who are constantly looking for ways to get better and 2) good at follow through. It feels so overwhelming when that kind of detail oriented organization isn’t your forté, making it really easy to ignore long term planning. For those of you who fit into this category, let me introduce you to your new friend: the editorial calendar.

The editorial calendar is a kind of high level, backwards plan that can really help when you need to get your stuff together. It works like this: You keep a list of projects that you know are on the horizon, and their important dates. You plot those dates in your calendar, and then you backwards engineer all of the things you need to do to complete the tasks on time, complete with deadlines for getting each step accomplished. If you’re really tech saavy, you can can plot it all in something like a Google calendar, complete with alarms and notifications if you have ADHD like me and need that kind of thing. It works best if you do this on a big monthly or weekly calendar. It’s also good to do this on the 1st of each month, and it only takes about an hour or less to get the entire month plotted out. From there, it’s just a matter of adding small day-to-day changes as they come and checking in each day as you make your checklist of work tasks. But you don’t have to try to remember all of the parts and pieces that need to be completed in order for you to make your work happen.

Writing down important goals, visions and values on stickie notes is a great way to start your planning process. Image by woodleywonerworks.
Writing down important goals, visions and values on stickie notes is a great way to start your planning process. Image by woodleywonerworks.

2. #Makeaplan:

Do you have a strategic plan? If so, now would be a good time to give it a little look over and see if there is anything that needs tweaking. Individual business plans can be completely overhauled every 3-5 years, but it’s a good idea to dust it off every so often to make sure that you are holding your feet to the fire with the plans that you’ve made. The top of the year is a great time to create a structure for your artistic career and do some serious organizational scheming. With a strategic plan in place, you have an outline for decision-making when it comes to your career. A plan will provide a structure for figuring out what fits in with your ideal lifestyle and goals. And when someone says, ” You know what you outta do…” followed up by sometime that doesn’t fit your goals or core values, you can proudly announce to them, ” That might work for someone else, but honestly, it’s not part of my strategic plan.”

3. Tell everyone how awesome you are:

Yes, everyone. If you aren’t comfortable with that, have a friend tell you what’s fantastic about your work and to help identify your strengths as an artist. Then, together, workshop a couple of bullet points that you can feel comfortable highlighting whenever you describe what you do. Having a little go-to already worked up makes it a little easier if being social isn’t your usual thing. Networking doesn’t only occur at art shows, concerts or work socials, but can be talking to ANYONE anytime about your work. Maybe your accountant neighbor doesn’t know anyone who can hang your work in a gallery or get you a gig. But maybe she can tell you who can help you make the most of your tax deductions. Relationships help get business and help make business easier. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked by colleagues or friends for my opinion of other artists or for hiring suggestions in casual conversation, even as a student, and I’ve never directly hired anyone.

Factor in time in your schedule to recharge your "personal" batteries. Image by Luke.
Factor in time in your schedule to recharge your “personal” batteries. Image by Luke.

4. Give yourself some time to chill out

Americans in particular are bad about over programming our lives with the shoulda, coulda, wouldas, because we think it makes us seem productive. Creatives, however, NEED downtime to think, to be inspired and to recharge our batteries. Being creative takes a lot of thought and energy, so self care is EXTREMELY important to maintain your ability to have a good creative flow when you are working. Self care isn’t always green smoothies and yoga. It can be allowing yourself time in the day to just daydream or doodle, if that helps you to stay sane or focused when you need to be. It can also be having others check in on you when you know things are going to be rough, especially if . Maybe it’s as simple as making sure you go out once a week with some friends for a drink just so you get out of your head for a while. Whatever you need, plan for it, and do it.

5. Try new creative processes

But not as in “because they might might make you money”. Because you genuinely need to exercise your creativity in order to keep it firing on all cylinders. Just small exercises to spark new thoughts are great for sparking new ideas. Need some ideas?  Here are some thoughts to help keep your creative flow fresh. And learning new skills all together can be really helpful so that you have an expressive outlet that isn’t “work.”

Image by Steve Mather

Image by woodleywonderworks

Image by Luke

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