If there's one thing I've learned over the past three years of being self-employed and working as an artist, it's that the process can be a rollercoaster of emotion. You'll have days or weeks when you feel unstoppable and filled with inspiration, yet there will always be moments when you question everything and wonder if it's all worth it.
I came into this week fresh off my first climbing competition, which was supposed to be just for fun. But after feeling like I was flailing (creatively and professionally), the last thing I needed was to feel that way on the rock, too.
The climbs were hard. I fell into the comparison trap. And I snapped on a friend.
Not a shining moment.
After putting some warm food in my belly, unwinding with a cup of tea, and getting a good, long sleep, I wrote this down in a journal on Monday morning.
Goal for this week: Care less. How can I care less???
Maybe you read that and wonder, "Why would you want to care less?" Seems kind of depressing, so let me try to explain.
After years of investing in my creative business, I care a whole damn lot, which can translate into seeking control. Control over people's reactions to my work. Control over sales. Control over likes and follows and analytics. Control over outcomes. Which, of course, is not only impossible, but also exhausting and fairly pointless.
So when I say I want to care less, it really means I want to find an ease and lightness of being, the kind we have as children or when we are beginners. We don't have so much invested, and that frees us to enjoy whatever may happen without the need to control.
A partial answer to this question came on Saturday morning at a coffee shop in downtown Denver, where a group of local and visiting artists met to exchange stories and sketchbooks.
We sat at a large table with coffee cups as big as our faces, and each person pulled out a worn, clearly-loved sketchbook filled with vibrant watercolored mountains and scribbled-notes about grocery items and dreamy road trips. Holding those papers in hand, seeing the artists' observations and ideas tangibly in front of me, I found myself desiring a sketchbook of my own.
I haven't had a sketchbook in over a year. Part of the reason why is because I've been so focused on the business-side of things. There is a delicate balance that all working artists must strike -- being business-minded (caring about outcomes) while maintaining a sense of play (enjoying the process).
To me, that's what a sketchbook represents: play; process; ideation.
That's why I've decided to pick up a sketchbook practice again. Perhaps my new goal isn't to care less, but to spend more time and energy embracing, being in, and enjoying the process.
“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”
Do you have a sketchbook? Are you considering starting a sketchbook practice? I would love to hear your thoughts on what that might look like for you. And if you'd like to share any work from your sketchbook, please feel free to post images!