March 15, 2018 | Alyson Stanfield

Taking Perfectly Imperfect Action

You know that I’m all about action.

My book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, is broken up into actions rather than chapters.

While I’m a champion of moving forward, I also slow down to read, research, and learn, which is crucial because my superpower is teaching.

©Melanie Ferguson, Breaking Dawn. Oil on panel, 12 x 16 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.
©Melanie Ferguson, Breaking Dawn. Oil on panel, 12 x 16 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.

While I could easily bliss out on months of research, the fact is, at some point (not too late in the process), the learning phase must make room for the action phase. No matter how much you research, it doesn’t do you any good until you put that knowledge to work.

I think we stay in information-gathering mode rather than taking action for one of two reasons:

1. We’re afraid to make a mistake (failing), or …
2. We don’t have enough fire in the belly to get moving. We aren’t hungry enough.

Let’s look at these separately and try to move past them.

Embrace Mistakes

You can’t learn simply by reading books and taking classes. The ultimate test of your knowledge comes when you implement.

The only way to grow is to take what you’ve read/heard/seen and put it into action. When you do this, you find out how it applies to your specific situation.

©Bob Sober, Cicada. Combined photographs. Used with permission.
©Bob Sober, Cicada. Combined photographs. Used with permission.

Yes, you’re going to make mistakes. A lot of them. Mistake-making is part of the process.

But you won’t fail. You’ll only fail if you don’t learn from those mistakes and try again.

Instead of fearing failure, you should reward yourself for every action you take – no matter how small or how uncertain you are of the outcome.

Light The Fire

I can teach strategies for building an art business, but I can’t light the fire within you. That desire to thrive burns inside every successful entrepreneur. If you want to earn money from your art, you must tap into this.

Your fire is your art. It is your raison d’être. Your art is what should snap you out of bed in the morning.

You keep your appointment with your muse in the studio because you have something to contribute to this crazy, wonderful world of ours. You have something to say that can’t be conveyed with words.

I know the fire for your work is inconsistent. Enthusiasm ebbs and flows alongside the rhythms of life. As long as you have a lot more flowing than ebbing, you’ll be rewarded with a long and satisfying career.

©Patty Hankins, Peach Ranunculus. Photograph. Used with permission.
©Patty Hankins, Peach Ranunculus. Photograph. Used with permission.

If you find yourself in need of rekindling that flame, ask yourself these powerful questions:

What if I made all of this art, grew an impressive inventory of work, and no one saw it? Would I be satisfied?

What if I finally attained my heart’s desire and retired from my day job – but then realized I had to start from scratch because I didn’t have anything in place for an art business to flourish? Would I be okay with taking at least three years to get my new career off the ground?

How do I want to be remembered by my family and community? As someone who waited until everything was perfect? Or as someone who took risks and went after her dreams?


What have you been thinking about for too long without taking action on it?

What reasons (or excuses) have you used to justify the inaction? If you’re okay with your reasons, that’s great. If you believe you are hiding behind them out of a fear of failure, perhaps it’s time to move.

Your first step is to decide. Then you can act – and be divinely content with the imperfect process.

It’s gonna get messy, but you’re an artist. You’ve faced bigger messes and made masterpieces out of those.

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