If there is one lesson in life I have to learn over and over, it is to be prepared. Generally, I pride myself on at least having a decent plan for events that are coming up. And if I’m lacking something, I am very good at rolling with the punches and figuring something out. But one thought trap I keep falling into is that if I’m not prepared and I miss an opportunity because of it, I think I am totally out of luck. My brain really appears to like the “all or nothing” mentality.
There are so many different jobs that would love to do and be great for. And every job I’ve taken, I have hit the ground running and done really well because I am adaptable and a fast learner. The problem is, a lot of people say they are adaptable fast learners, so when someone is looking to hire you, they can’t just take your word for it. I can think of three or four times where I could have been much better prepared for a job or just to make a connection with someone who does work I am interested in. And then I get a bit upset and down on myself. Instead of taking it as a learning opportunity, I think all good chances are gone and don’t step up. Since this lesson is finally sinking in and my word for this year is progress, I wanted to share with you a few lessons I have learned on preparation.
1. Opportunities really do appear out of nowhere. I am not saying a job or a spot in a gallery are just going to drop into your lap. That’s a bit more improbable. But you can meet someone and make a connection at any second of the day that you are awake. Last year, when I was still working at the paper, I had a standing coffee date with my desk mate. Same day, about the same time every week. One day at the coffee shop, I may have been watching a video on someone’s iPad over his shoulder (from a few feet back, I’m not a total creep). But he could totally sense it and turned around. He was happy to share what he was watching and we chatted a bit. Turns out, he is a local jeweler, and an insanely talented one at that. Jewelry was one of me degrees in school so I was thrilled when he asked to see my work. I did email him samples and have stayed in contact with him since then. The problem is, my work is not even remotely on par with his. I play with copper and enamels while his work is out of platinum and sapphires. Thank god my husband actually pushed me into maintaining contact with him.
The point is, in the eight years since I have graduated, I could have worked a lot harder on my jewelry. I have a bench, and as of four years ago, I have a space I can really (safely) work in. So what was stopping me? Excuses. If I had been working really hard these last four years, my work would be a million times better and I would have better work to show. I suuuuucks to say it out loud, but I kind of dropped the ball there. Am I going to get upset? Well, I was kicking myself for quite a while. But am I going to stop trying? No. I will be more than ready for my next chance meeting.
2. Are your reasons for waiting real? My jewelry bench is located in our attached garage. I have a really basic setup because I haven’t been dedicating myself to jewelry as much as I should. But besides that, I am a professional excuse maker. There is always something supposedly better or more important for me to take care of. You probably have those excuses as well, but sometimes they aren’t good enough to distract you from doing what you love. Yes, chores need to be done and bills need to be paid. But maybe you can ignore the current load of towels for one more day because there are extras in the closet anyway. And maybe your family doesn’t need a special new meal cooked when scrambled eggs, frozen waffles and fruit make a fine dinner. The next time you have the nagging voice in your head, take a step back. Are there things that really need to get done, or is it just fear disguised as responsibility?
3. Your ideal self may be smothering your real self. The whole time I was at my desk job, I was daydreaming about being an artist. I imagined days spent painting, sewing and making jewelry. Occasionally, I would leave the house for coffee or lunch with friends. Then I would have dinner at home and work until three or four in the morning. I would get up at ten and do it all over again. Most important, my whole professional life would be on my terms. I would create beautiful things, find people who like them and make enough money to justify it.
Reality check time. I have two kids, and if I stay up one minute past 10:30, the little man will want to get up at midnight to feed. Every single time. Getting coffee or lunch with friends happens soooo rarely. And I still haven’t made a single sale in my Etsy shop. I don’t have to explain to you which is the ideal self and which is the real self. There is a time I would have found this incredibly upsetting. But now, I really don’t. I love having kids, so I am willing to adjust my time frames. My Etsy shop is only two months old, so a sale may happen later. Nothing in life will click together as easy as it does in your head. If it does, you are either very lucky or have a ton of money. Good for you. For most people, getting to a version of that ideal takes work and sacrifice and changing your plans. Lofty goals are good, but they are more likely work in your favor when tempered with an understanding of your real self.
4. Ten minutes are better than no minutes. This one pretty much explains itself. Until very recently, I thought I had to dedicate hours on end to really create. If I couldn’t enter and stay in a flow state for a nice, long amount of time, why even bother? Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Fifteen minutes stolen Monday morning and an hour on Tuesday and two half-hour sessions on Thursday all add up. Even if you only have ten minutes everyday — a quick sketch, a layer of glaze on a canvas — that adds up to just over an hour of work in a week. That is a million times better than giving up entirely. And five years later, you won’t look back on wasted time, just tiny slivers of beautiful things being made.
As far as lessons in creativity go, being prepared ranks right up there. How to prepare a resume and portfolio, dressing for an interview and how to apply to galleries are all good skills to have. But being self-directed and constantly dedicated is one of the best things you can do to make sure when your dream opportunity comes along, you will be ready to take the leap.
Happy Friday everyone. Now go make something!