Making Time For You: Why Artist Dates Apply to All Creatives

Making Time For You, Why Artist Dates Apply to All CreativesA few years ago, I had the pleasure of working my way through The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path for Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. I say work because The Artist’s Way is hardly a simple, leisurely read — despite the joy you might find in soaking it in. Instead, it’s set up as more of a course, with ideas to try and tasks to complete along the way.

One of my favorite notions from The Artist’s Way is that of the Artist Date. As the author describes it:

“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.”

Festive expeditions filled with mischief that spark whimsy and encourage play? If that doesn’t sound like heaven for the creative, I’m not sure what does. But what I love most about The Artist Date is its focus on using play to replenish our inner well.

Play as replenishment

As an artist, but more particularly as a creative, I’ve realized the importance of play more and more with each year that goes by. Our creativity simply cannot be fully cultivated in front of a screen or constantly focused on a canvas. Yet in a get-stuff-done society, play often gets neglected due to the invisible obligation we creatives seem to have to that which doesn’t stoke our fire: screens, emails, and other distractions.

Play, in its simplest form, is defined as “activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation.”

And the good news is, while the sandboxes and swingsets may have evolved into long nature hikes or robust novels, play is hardly reserved just for children.

Play is the fuel for when your tank is running on empty. It’s the invitation extended to external influences that bring our inner most creativity out. It’s the proactive approach to keeping our wells filled.

The Artist Date: Your recurring appointment for play

As last year came to a close and a new year started, I went on a bit of a personal mission. The objective: Inspiring as many of my clients, colleagues, and friends to make the appreciation of time a priority, and to make the most of every minute we’re given.

This comes in many forms: Presence in the company of others, courage and braveness in our own work, and, perhaps most urgently, vigorous insistence on incorporating play into every day.

I want to encourage you, my fellow creative, to make time for yourself by adopting your own weekly Artist Date. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant affair — for me, my Artist Dates might include going to the museum, visiting galleries, taking nature walks, getting out on the ski slopes, browsing an antique shop, or taking a couple hours to walk through the library.

The most important thing is that you’re taking time for you.

Selfish? Hardly. When we take time for ourselves — time to play and enjoy the wonders of the world around us — we are able to be more present, courage, and brave in our relationships and in our work.

After all, I’m much better equipped to create inspiring designs for the travel and tourism entities I work with when I’ve actually explored their towns, dipped a toe into their lakes, and had conversations with their community members as I dine in their restaurants. Likewise, I can take on the Bristol Mountain Ski Resort brand in an amplified way when I’ve actually got out and experienced that downhill thrill, the lights that brighten the path at night, the piercing cold hitting your face, and the purity and freshness of the air as the chairlift climbs.

Call it play. Call it an Artist Date. Call it a mind break. No matter what verbiage you choose, I urge you to put an appointment on your calendar for each week, making time for yourself.

Your creativity is counting on it.

What will your first (or next!) Artist Date include?

Your First Step in Planning For the New Year

Your first step in planning for the new year

The end of the year brings about a lot of feelings: excitement, nostalgia, anticipation…and, oftentimes, panic.

But before you give that a chance to set in, I highly advise trying something else that will help you process all of these feelings and build a plan from them: Reflection.

Reflecting on business and brand goals before the new year

The idea of planning for an entire year ahead can be supremely overwhelming, and like anything overwhelming, the hardest part can be getting started.

The solution: Start by looking back. After all, hindsight is 20/20, and we can learn a lot from reflecting upon what’s already happened.

Right around this time two years ago, I wrote a post about reflecting and planning for your business. I was excited about the leap into the new year, and doing a bit of reflecting myself over the questions I shared there:

  1. Have I reached the goals I set out for myself this year?
  2. If there was one thing, and one thing only, that I could accomplish with the remaining days of this year, what would it be?
  3. How has my business — and brand — grown over the year?
  4. What am I most looking forward to next year?

These are all very important questions to ask for your brand and business — both to handle the panic you might be feeling now, and to start your planning for the future. But, there was one thing that was missing in this questioning — the thing that makes this entrepreneurship thing possible: a sense of self, and self-reflection.

Turning inward: Self-reflection

Work-life balance as a business owner can remain elusive, and in my opinion, that’s natural — because as a business owner, it’s my mission to make work and life support each other, not work separately from one another.

To make that possible, I have to understand the impact my personal life, health, and feelings have on my business. In other words, I need to self-reflect.

As a lover of traditional paper planning, I start my self-reflection by looking back through my planner from the last year. Here are the types of things I pull out, beyond just the projects I’ve worked on:

Starting with the reflection that extends beyond the projects completed and clients satisfied is important. It’s easy to be reminded that we chose the hard path in pursuing our freedom and choice when we’re in the day-to-day, wearing 15 hats and managing it all, but when we stop to reflect on what we’ve been able to make possible only because we’ve made this hard choice, it makes it all worthwhile.

Having reflected upon all that being a business owner has allowed me to do, I then look at the full picture that includes those projects and clients and ask myself the following:

What didn’t I do, and why? Having celebrated all that I did do, I then take time to look at the things that I didn’t do — whether I said ‘no’ or simply didn’t make the space or time. A lot of information can be found in the reasons why something didn’t get done. Did I not make the time it needed — and if not, what can I do differently to make space for it? Did I not prioritize it — and if not, does it really need to be a priority or does it just feel like a should?

What felt good, and what do I want to do more of? While finishing projects, satisfying clients, and taking time off to travel can give a strong feeling of accomplishment and is well worth celebrating, it’s also worth taking a look at whether that felt right and good. Was that project in line with the work I want to be doing? Was that client a pleasure to work with? Was that travel rewarding? Beyond money and external recognition, it’s doing what feels good that makes the effort worth it — and it’s knowing what feels right that helps me decide what I want to make room for more of in the new year.

What do I want next year to look and feel like? This is where I can get into the real planning. With a solid sense of self in everything I’ve done and say I want to do, I can:

  • Choose my word of the year: What word encompasses the direction I want the year to go in?
  • Create my vision board: What’s included in this year, from work to family and personal development to experiences — and how will it make me feel?
  • Set goals: What are the actionable steps that’ll break down these high-level feelings and dreams into achievable tasks?
  • Prioritize the right education: What do I need — and want — to learn, that’ll help me to feel the way I want, more often?
  • Plan my calendar: When will I make these things happen in the new year?

Self-reflection and the new year

As business owners, we build our businesses to support the life we want to live. We need not forget that fact while we’re experiencing the excitement, nostalgia, anticipation, and panic that inevitably comes as the year comes to a close and a new one begins.

Before you plan, reflect. And above all, practice gratitude for all that has happened and has undoubtedly led you to where you are now. After all, where there’s gratitude, there’s abundance. And where there’s abundance, there’s light.

And if we all enter the new year from a place of light, we stand to make this world a better place.

Time Flies — Here’s How to Make the Most of It

Time Flies -- Here's How to Make the Most of It

Sometimes, it seems all we have to do is blink and a whole month has passed. This feeling is especially strong when we turn the calendar to August, and the countdown to fall begins. Back-to-school sales and pumpkin spice lattes complement the earlier sunsets to make us feel like yet another summer has passed us by without notice.

I’ve been feeling it lately, no doubt. The thought that’s consistently finding its way into my mind is this: “So little time, so much to do.”

It can be said of my work. Of my painting. And of my play.

But I’m also a firm believer in the idea that thoughts become things — and this is one thought I’m not willing to let become reality.

The intersection of structure and flexibility

In order to get everything done, I need a schedule. But…I also need to be able to live in the spur of the moment.

Possible? Yes. Easy? No.

One of the big keys to my flexible structure is setting up a weekly agenda, including all of the projects I have to do, appointments I need to keep, painting time, and time for fun. I carve out a few hours for most tasks or events.

Seeing it all laid out eliminates my overwhelm at housing it all in my head, and also serves as the first red flag if there’s more than I can possibly do in the time I’ve given myself.

The truth is that you can’t always predict what might come up — and it’s often the “quick” tasks that end up taking longer than I anticipate. Don’t book up every minute. The calendar will fluctuate. It’s that flexibility that allows for spontaneity.

And when there’s just too much to do? That’s when prioritization takes center stage.

The power of prioritization

Let me start with a quick story here. A few weeks ago, my lavender bushes were in full bloom. I quickly ran out and picked one bunch, put them in a vase to let them dry, and told myself I’d go out later to pick the rest.

Well, I sat back down at my desk to get back to work, and work led to the next thing, which led to the next thing. I’m sure you can see how this ends: I never picked the rest, and now I’ve missed their prime.

Had I prioritized my to-do list that day and in the days that followed, I would’ve realized that picking the lavender for a few hours was more pressing than laying out design concepts for an October project.

We often talk about productivity when it comes to work, but many of the same problems and principles apply equally to our work, our passions, and our play. (Some of us are lucky in that in many ways, those three things overlap daily.)

So when it comes to some of my summer play goals that I have yet to make good on — like taking a Learn to Ride wakeboarding class at Roseland Wake Park — or my summer work goals — finishing the winter brochure for Bristol Mountain — I know that I have to pull in the power of prioritization.

The questions I ask myself at this stage are:

  • What’s important to me?
  • What can wait?

When I stop thinking that everything needs to be done yesterday, it becomes incredibly apparent how much room we have where we think we don’t. Picking the lavender on that July afternoon couldn’t wait — timing was everything — but working on the project I have three months to complete could.

(It’s often in prioritization mode that I’m also able to realize what’s not important and what I might be able to cut entirely. Remember this: By saying no to one thing, you’re saying yes to something else.)

Like a good calendar, priorities will shift. Your time is a direct reflection of your priorities — are you spending it in a way that shows your priorities off how you’d like?

Set your intentions + let the universe assist you

It’s much easier to prioritize when you’ve first set your intention(s). At an annual retreat earlier this month, my friends and I each began the weekend trip with an intention. That intention guided everything we did in our short time there, so we could each walk away fulfilled.

Setting an intention is like building a lighthouse. You can see it; sometimes you can feel it — but you know it might take some time to get to. And that’s okay.

I often try to force certain things — a design project, for example. But when I set an intention, prioritize, and give it to the time it needs, I find the universe kicks in to lend a hand.

Suddenly, I have materials, ideas, and time at my disposal that I didn’t have before, and projects, events, or even time off becomes less cumbersome, awkward, and stressful — and whatever I’m up to often ends up better than I could’ve imagined.

Write out your list. Name your intention(s). Prioritize. And most important: Drop your concern over what other people’s expectations of you are. It’s the only way you can truly align your time with your priorities.

The Mentality That’s Holding Us All Back In Our Businesses

The mentality that's holding you back in business

Each year in May, we celebrate a very special day for women: We take a full day to acknowledge and appreciate mothers.

On that one day, moms might get to sleep in, or enjoy a brunch. They might be brought flowers, or given a gift to go to a spa for a day.

And then Monday morning comes, and we go right back to life, as usual. Life where groceries, appointments, cleaning, jobs, and the needs of others overtake everything, and nothing can quite solve a problem like super mom.

The supermom mentality exists in business, too

It’s this “supermom” mentality that creates a lot of stress for mothers, everywhere. And it’s this “supermom” or “super(wo)man” mentality that often plagues small business owners who feel they need to do it all, as well.

When we start our own business, it’s up to us to decide what will be offered, how operations will run, and how the lights will stay on, among many other things. We pour our blood, sweat, and tears (sometimes figuratively; sometimes literally) into making our visions a reality. We might leave our desk at 5 or 6 pm each day, but our minds are in overdrive around the clock, never really shutting down.

And many of us consider our business to be our “baby.” Here’s why that’s a dangerous way to think of it: Because when we consider our business as our “baby,” we lose the ability to detach ourselves from outcomes, to take a significant break, and — most importantly — we fear what outsourcing and delegation might do to this business we’ve built from the ground up.

Supermom mentality takes over our business (and no, this isn’t limited to women, or moms), and our business ends up owning us, instead of the other way around.

The first step in overcoming super(wo)man mentality in your business

It wasn’t until I took a very distinct step that I was able to really put things in perspective in my graphic design business. That first step? I asked for help.

I joined a business mastermind. I hired an accountant. I paired up with an accountability partner. I hired a copywriter. I delegated certain aspects of projects that didn’t need my expertise.

This didn’t happen all at once, of course. It took a few years to even get started. It took a few tries to find the right people. And it took a whole lot of inner wrestling with the part of me that didn’t want to let go of any piece of my business before I was able to truly start seeing the benefits.

And, in my mind, when you ask for help and learn to trust other people in your business, two things happen:

  1. You do more of what you’re meant to do. Until I took the things that weren’t quite lighting me up off my plate, I couldn’t truly focus on the aspects of my business that do. For me, that’s digging through color books to develop potential brand palettes. That’s being on a photo set as art director to make sure my clients get the shots they want. That’s opening my windows at my home office and spending hours finding the layout for that brochure, or visitors guide, or direct mail piece that works just right. With a team of people on my side, I can spend more time doing what I started this business to do.

  2. You allow others to do more of what they’re meant to do. Of course, this goes both ways. What I really love about building a team of people I trust is that I can empower them to do more of what they’re meant to do. I give them the guidelines, then back off and give them the space. In letting them exercise their expertise in the best way they know how, I get to see what lights them up in their businesses, and help them to do more of that.

Focus on your supreme powers

I believe that everyone has supreme powers in this world. And it’s not until I focus on empowering others to use theirs that I can fully use mine.

Let go of the super(wo)man mentality in your business. Leverage the power of others. And watch your own shine through.

What could you make room for if you began to leverage the power of other people’s talents and focus on your own?

PS – Case in point: Until I learned to delegate certain portions of my business, I was not able to make nearly enough time in my life for painting. That has changed — and over the last few months, I’ve been blending my talents with that of a web designer and copywriter to bring my new painting site to life.

Creatives: Start Giving Your Work the Value It Deserves

Creatives: Start Giving Your Work the Value It Deserves

There’s a hot button issue trending in the news right now: Five prominent players on the U.S. women’s soccer team are filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body, demanding gender equality when it comes to pay. Their argument is sound — the U.S. women’s soccer team brought in $20 million more in revenue than its male counterpart in 2015, and have been wildly successful in recent history, with three World Cups and four Olympic golds — yet the ladies make just around 25% of what the men do.

Not that they should even need those trophies, medals, and ticket sales to demand what they deserve. They kick the same ball; they play on the same regulation field; the clock keeps the same time.

This both heats me right up (as most instances of gender equality rightly do) and makes me incredibly happy. (That they’re finally demanding the pay parity they’ve deserved all along.) Yet, I’d still like to point out a lesser talked about issue that hits close to home each and every day as an artist, designer, and entrepreneur: inequities in the valuing of creatives’ work.

Stop giving your talents away

Let me back up a bit and explain why the story of the U.S. women’s soccer team made me even more compelled to write this post…

A few weeks ago, I was made aware of a competition. The organization sponsoring the competition was putting out a call for a new logo. Artists could submit designs, and the winning design would be used in the rebrand, with the artist also taking home a prize.

This struck a few major chords for me. First, the organization was advertising this competition as if it was an incredible opportunity for designers. Second, the criteria for winning? Entirely subjective. And finally, the prize for the winning design, while a fun prize, is valued incredibly low. (I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t even hit triple digits.)

The thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about a competition like this, nor will it be the last time. Artists and designers are consistently asked to give their work away for free in contests or for auctions of all different sorts. And while I do believe there is a time and place for giving your skills and time away (I’ll cover that in a bit), there are also a few major issues with it being the “norm.”

The first: When we, creatives, consistently give our work away, we lower our perceived level of value.

Second: We give others the right to find creative businesses less professional.

Third: We lessen our chances of ever getting the level of pay or respect which we deserve.

Remember what your work is worth

Pretend with me for a moment. You walk into your doctor’s office for a consultation, where they’re detailing out what your surgery will cost. They say it’s a $4,500 procedure. You offer $1,000. They laugh.

Let’s try your accounting firm. You head in there for your year-end tax appointment, where your accountant is preparing your taxes for submission. She prints out your bill for her time. It’s $499. You offer $50. She laughs.

Would they really laugh? Maybe not. But bargaining with doctors, accountants, lawyers, and other, typically non-creative professionals simply isn’t even something we think to do. Nor do we ask them to submit their work for competitions, where others decide on their merits, or give away their work for a silent auction, where it might sell for ¼ of what it’s worth.

Yet there’s hardly a second thought when it comes to bargaining with creatives or asking them for free work.

So please, remember this: Your work is worth more. As creatives, we give our heart to our work. We give our soul to our creations. We lend each and every one of our talents to each and every client piece so that no two are the same. We don’t learn our trades in a textbook. We learn it by practicing it every day; by experimenting with different techniques; by finding our style.

And while we might not be directly saving lives or keeping businesses from being audited by the IRS, we are positively impacting brands, extending businesses’ influence, and increasing bottom lines.

When it’s okay to give your work away

There are always two sides to every argument, of course. And I do believe that there is a time and place to give your work away. College students looking to build their portfolios might give their time away in exchange for feedback. Professionals looking to develop a new skill might give their time away in return for the learning opportunity. Artists, like myself, might find that the best way to support a cause they care about is to give of their time and skill. These are all valid reasons to give your time and work away — but be mindful of the frequency and be intentional in your choices.

Let’s not be okay with the status quo

Pay parity between genders is incredibly important — and it’s finally getting the attention it rightly deserves. I give applause to the ladies willing to shun the status quo and be bold in coming forward.

Let’s do the same, creatives. Let’s not be okay with the inequity of value when it comes to our work. Let’s make it clear how important what we do is. Most of all? Let’s start walking our talk and giving our work the respect it deserves, ourselves.

If you’re on board, I’d love if you’d click the handy link below to tweet this post. Have more to add? Tell me in the comments!