It’s scary to step up – to think bigger about what you’re capable of.
There’s very little motivation in the daily grind: check Facebook, post to Instagram, send a newsletter, write a blog post, work in studio. If you’re not careful, you’ll continue to go through the motions of life without doing something extraordinary for your art and for yourself.
Give yourself a challenge that motivates you to get out of bed and into the studio every day. Take on a quest.
Anatomy of a Quest (with Examples)
According to Chris Guillebeau, author of The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, a quest has the following elements.
1. A clear goal and specific end point.
Chris’s personal quest, which he accomplished in 2013, was to visit every country in the world by the time he was 35. A woman in his book that couldn’t travel as much as she’d like, cooks a meal from a different country every week to teach her children about other cultures.
2. Presents a clear challenge.
You can’t complete a quest in a week or even a month. Make something every day for 30 days? Most artists could do this. What about doing it for 1 year? Or a lifetime?
A quest would be along the line of what artist Kirsty Hall did for The Diary Project. For one year (2007), she drew on one envelope every day, inserted something secret inside, and mailed it to herself. All 365 envelopes remain sealed until they can be exhibited as a whole artwork.
In 2011, Kirsty filled a new jar every day with drawings, objects, and tiny pieces of art before going on a walk to “release an art jar into the wild.” She then kept track of who found which jar.
Kirsty, who calls herself a purveyor of mad obsessive projects, says, “I have discovered that I will do pretty much anything as long as it’s for an art project.”
3. Requires sacrifice of some kind.
Chris writes, “To pursue a big dream, you must give something up along the way.”
It’s impossible to have it all. We can build a little balance into our lives, but when your goal is quest-sized, you must make hard choices about what is important to you.
Photographer Thomas Hawk, featured in The Happiness of Pursuit, defines his quest like this:
I’m trying to publish a library of 1,000,000 hand crafted, lovingly created, individually finished and processed photographs before I die.
This big goal means he has to forego other activities. “It’s a constant tug-of-war between competing interests in my life. I deal with it the best I can and try to roll with the tension as best I can.”
4. Is driven by a calling or sense of mission.
“It is often expressed simply as a deep sense of internal purpose,” as Chris says. The people in the book are deeply committed to their quests.
You can’t begin a quest without being pumped to get going. You can certainly change the quest, but your chances of success are slim if you’re not excited about it, and if it’s not a little scary.
Chris cautioned us in his author talk: “The goal is to find meaning in the quest, not to succeed at any cost. If it sucks, give up.”
5. Requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward the goal.
The tracking of numbers seems to be a valuable aspect of successful quests since numbers show progress.
For years Elise Blaha Cripe wrote on her blog e v e r y s i n g l e d a y – sharing her art and creative business. She writes:
I love this entrepreneur life. I've signed on to it because it's inspiring to be working towards a finish line that moves. If that finish line stops moving, I'll know it's time to pack up my desk and find a new career path.
So, what’s it going to be? Where is your next finish line?
As you go through your week, pay attention to what motivates you, especially if a few butterflies land in your tummy. Yep, it’s scary, so it must be worth doing.
I've helped many artists forge their paths and find clarity about their direction at our live workshops and I'd love to help you!