I’m looking at a word scratched in lime green on our office white board:
I had written it earlier in the day after feeling closed in by conventions and “shoulds.”
- You should get your book back in print.
- You should have a 3-day event.
- You should create a new class.
- You should offer workshops again.
You know how it happens.
It starts with a voice that comes from a position of authority – a coach, mentor, author, or blogger.
Suddenly, you think you have to drop everything and tackle the latest should-bomb hurled at you. (scene: violent internal struggle)
The biggest should on my list every week is to write this newsletter. I am proud that I’ve written and sent it every week, without fail, since March 30, 2002.
But there’s no heart in it if I’m just doing it because I don’t want to break a streak. I’m more interested in sharing juicy material when I have it than in maintaining a record.
Someday soon you won’t get this email in your inbox on a Thursday. You may not get it at all one week. I’ll still be here, but I will be trying on a new story to see if it fits.
What’s Your Should Story?
What are you doing only because you’ve felt that you should do it?
Maybe you saw other artists doing it and thought you should do it. Or perhaps you read the advice on one of those authority sites – maybe even this one.
The “s” word may have never been used, but it doesn’t matter. You now feel guilty because you’re not doing it.
As an artist, the only thing you should be doing is making art.
If you want to sell that work, it’s a different story. There are other things that you must do.
For example, you have to tell people that your art exists and that it’s for sale. How you do that is up to you. Do you send emails? Post to social media? Mail postcards? Organize open studios? It’s your call.
Okay, one additional should for you: You should also be disrupting the status quo. That’s why artists are on this planet, and the rest of us need you to fill this role.
Help us see the world differently.
Force us to question our values.
Carry us on a journey that we could never imagine.
You’re unable to live your purpose when you’re wrapped up in shoulds, musts, and need-tos – when you’re following others without (eventually) forging your own path.
I’m not suggesting you ignore advice or instruction from others. I’m saying that a better approach than swallowing it whole would be to make it your own – just as you would a composition. Put your own spin on it.
What’s a different way to use the knowledge so that it feels right for you?
And perhaps a better question to ask yourself than “What should I be doing?” is “How do I want to be?”
Being yourself might be the peak of performance art. The ultimate disruption.