Showing up is so important. Do you know that quote by a famous film director (whose name I won’t mention) about how 80% of success in life is just showing up? It’s so true. I’ve seen it over and over again. Someone got an opportunity not because they were the best but because they were there. Someone proved their worth by enduring an event they really didn’t want to be at. And the examples go on.
My husband I have taught that lesson to our kids their entire lives. When you show up, even if you don’t want to take that test or go to camp with that annoying kid or babysit your sister, you send a message that you care, that you’re willing to try, that you’re able to suffer through the painful parts of life.
In some ways, I can’t think of a more important lesson in life. Kindness, persistence, honesty. Those are all important too. But showing up bonds you to others in good times and bad. It shows serious character.
Showing up as an Introvert Artist
So as artists, how do we show up? The first way of course is to show up to our desk, our easel, our counter, whatever, and create art. But afterward, when we’ve made the art, what do we do?
Well, we can show up to performances or gatherings or meetings. And showing up socially often goes against our introverted instincts. Artists tend to be shy. Not always, but often. A lot of artists are artists because we enjoy solitude, right? Because interacting with people makes us nervous or self-conscious or plain exhausted. We like to live inside the imagination, not necessarily in harsh or dull reality.
But in today’s internet-connected world, we have an advantage. We can show up online. Join groups, discuss ideas via social media or post about what excites us via a blog or website. We don’t have to shower and dress well and put on our more patient, happy public face. We can share ideas and inspiration from the comfort of a couch. Not a bad compromise.
What Venue Is Right For You?
In terms of social media, I’ve always been partial to Twitter. I like it for two reasons: a) I learn stuff and b) I laugh. There’s information on there that educates me and witty or sarcastic commentary. Also, I have attracted real-life friends on Twitter. Those friendships have blossomed based on shared interests, not some sense of us being friends because we once worked or went to school together (though that has a worthy bond too), but because we share a passion or interest.
This is why Facebook and Instagram don’t charge my battery like Twitter. Those platforms are more about social causes, random memes, and personal photos. My husband calls it a glorified address book — which is fine, that can be useful too. Instagram, of course, is the glam version of Facebook, with an expected polished presentation of users’ kids, vacations, sunsets, and milestones. Shrug. I don’t have the energy to constantly present my most glossy perfect self.
Also, the company that owns those two platforms has refused to curb false political propaganda. Twitter is at least making an attempt. So while I still use those last two platforms, they don’t spark joy for me at all.
What If You’re Not Into Social Media?
What if, like many authors I know, you aren’t interested in posting about your life or sharing content? Well, this brings me to what I think is the most important way to show up as an artist: on your website.
When you create an online home base, you’re opening yourself professionally to the world. People know where to find you. You’re offering up your art and perhaps the inspiration behind that art. If visitors like it, great, if not, they can click away. But I think a website, and more potently, blogging, brings about connection. It brings the artist and those who like the art closer. It’s virtually showing up for whoever would like to engage.
The Seth Godin Philosophy
Marketing guru Seth Godin talk a lot about this. He thinks the most important thing an artist can do to promote their work is to “show up with generosity and intent.” In other words, he says, if you’re an artist, don’t just show up online shouting about your book or movie, show up as a real person and give us a glimpse of who you are.
Even more importantly, be prepared to be generous, intentional. How can you help others? Why are you there? Know what your mission online is about. If you do, I believe you’ll find at least some like-minds who will be interested in your work.
If You Have Ideas About This Blog, Let Me Know!
And so, for me, I’ll be blogging more often. I’ll be showing up. If you don’t want to show up, you can always unsubscribe from my blog, I won’t be hurt. But for those who are interested, or even want to have a conversation, I’ll be showing up at this website almost every day, on my couch, ready to help those in whatever way I can.
With that in mind, if you have ideas about what I should write about, please let me know in the comments!! My areas of expertise and passion are writing, books, gardening, plants, inspiration, France and Europe, music, motherhood, and the environment. I’ll be writing about those unless I hear otherwise from you! Cheers.
Photo by Arnal Hasanovic.
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Any artist has experienced this: you finally get an afternoon to yourself where life is free of distractions, kids, responsibilities, chores, etc. You have a long stretch of time to create something new. It’s a time where you can relax and enter a silent space to produce a work of art, whether it be painting, knitting, jewelry, etc. The idea of it is exciting. You may even look forward to it, can’t wait for it, in fact. But then, when the time comes, you’re not in the mood.
I’ve experienced this. I’ve blocked off time on my calendar and no person or event has gotten in the way of my time. Yet, when I was supposed to sit down and, in my case, write, I got in the way. I felt antsy. I felt social, like I wanted to watch TV or listen to loud music or do all of the laundry that was backed up. It’s a strange process, how our minds work, and it’s sometimes contradictory and inexplicable.
The Satisfaction of Self-sabotage
When I’ve switched plans and done the busier or social or what I’ve come to realize is external, superficial stuff, I’ve always enjoyed it at the moment but regretted it later. Yes, I finally cleaned out the broom closet or caught up by phone with a long-distance friend or even napped on the couch, but in the end, I felt empty and a touch remorseful. Why didn’t I stick to my plan?
New York Times writer Tim Herrera answered this question awhile back. Put simply, we’re procrastinating. And why are we procrastinating? Because we put off big tasks that require deep thinking and intense focus while being ready to conquer all that is small and easy. Of course, knowing that only helps to fix the problem a bit.
So, according to Herrera, we must at least acknowledge our resistance. Once we do that, then we have the opportunity to change it. We don’t have to change, we can plunge forward into doing the laundry but we don’t have to. And sometimes taking a step back and understanding what’s happening leads us to change.
How to Purge Procrastination
So how to change exactly? Well, here are seven ways I’ve come up with to get myself into creative mode when I want to do anything else but be creative.
- Make a deal with myself to work for an hour. This is a good one. I use it for gardening tasks I don’t want to do outside. I check the clock and just start writing. Oftentimes, I write nonsense and stuff that’s not usable later, but more often than not, I descend into that focused space and land on a portion of work that I do use later. What’s more, this trick often leads me into a second or even third hour of deep attention.
- Read a work by a master. I tell myself that I don’t necessarily need to write War and Peace that afternoon, but it counts if I read some of it. So, I do. And reading a master always puts me in the mood to try to become one. I hear a beautiful voice and it inspires me to find my own.
- Reward yourself. I make a cup of tea or put a cookie on a plate or get out a yummy blanket and indulge. I’ve earned it after all, I tell myself, as I settle into my favorite chair. Have I really earned it? Of course not, but that’s the tricking part. My mind believes it at the moment and then, when I begin to sip and type away, I gradually forget about the reward object and start focusing on the art.
- Exercise in a favorite way. I have a stationary bike in my basement. If I’m restless or resistant to creating, I go downstairs and ride the bike for 15 minutes. Or get outside and walk down the street. It’s amazing how a short amount of exercise resets your brain into a clearer, more peaceful, and capable place.
- Aim to accomplish a small goal. This relates to the one-hour approach. In other words, break the task into smaller pieces. If you don’t draw that series of dog portraits that’s been rolling around in your mind, try drawing a sketch of one dog. Or a snout. Make it simple, make it even a list of the dogs you’ll portray. Dive into a piece of the project. Sometimes your heart rate slows and you’ll drop into a focused state that carries you much further creatively than you expected.
- Imagine how you’ll feel later. Take a moment and literally imagine how you’ll feel in a few hours if you don’t do that deep, artistic work but rather superficial, external stuff. Imagine what you’ll think of yourself. Then imagine how you’ll feel if you do engage in the deep, artistic work. Then your logical mind may be able to overrule your impulses and get you behind that table or laptop or into the studio.
- Meditate. A few years ago, I wrote about how directed meditation helps me solve creative issues when I’m stuck. Even if you’re not a writer, the technique can still be fruitful. You basically sit in a chair, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Try not to think any thoughts. If you do have thoughts, breathe them away, unless they’re about the art at hand. Then see where the thoughts lead. You may find you’re eager to open your eyes and get to work.
In the end, we’re only human. There are plenty of times when I’ve succumbed to the external, superficial stuff. It’s just what my brain wanted at the time. Instant gratification. An escape from a more difficult but satisfying experience. Still, over the years, I’ve learned to train myself with these techniques, and with each time I was successful and got into a deep, artistic space, I found the following times were easier to get into. And so, I wish you luck and long stretches of free time.
I’ve always thought keeping a journal meant writing long passages of insight about your life and its meaning, a diary a la Anais Nin or The Artist’s Way that someday after you die would reveal who you secretly were. I’ve tried to do this in the past but it never stuck. But after reading Show Your Work, I’ve realized that keeping a journal is the opposite. It can be disjointed, messy, inspired, and mundane. It’s a reflection of the nonlinear mind, of the creative journey. Like a painting of thoughts, ideas, notes, and even drawings, its bits and pieces coalesce to form its beauty.