Recently I was talking with Cynthia Morris, when, in response to who-knows-what, she said with a scowl, “Ideas! I’m so tired of hearing about ideas.” Or something like that.
Right then, I knew we had to talk about it. I knew she was on to something.
Listen in to the podcast as Cynthia and I talk about why too many ideas can be a bad thing for artists. This is especially true when you're trying to make a living from your work.
Cynthia gives practical tips on how to choose among your many ideas for your next big project.
Music: Animals by Left Hand Shakes. Used with permission.
This episode is brought to you by the Art Biz Inner Circle, a year-long coaching group where ambitious artists find support, accountability, and strategies for a successful art business.
Show Notes – Authored by Cynthia Morris
Creative people are blessed with an abundance of ideas. New ideas arrive daily, pulsing through our awareness and lighting up our sense of possibility like a scintillating fireworks display.
How fun! We love inhabiting the land of possibility, where our ideas inspire us, energize us and make us feel like omnipotent creators. We could do anything!
The problem is, we can’t do everything.
This abundance of ideas can become painful when we arrive at the crossroads of what to make next. The fireworks we loved so dearly becomes a dissatisfying decision swirl, making us second-guess everything, including our desire to make anything at all.
So, how can we know which projects to work on, and when?
Which of the seductive ideas do we devote ourselves to?
When I help my clients with this common challenge, I use a five-step process, which I have outlined here as writing prompts to help you get clear on your next projects.
Writing your answers will reveal more potent insights than only thinking about them.
Step 1: Remind Yourself of the Big Picture
Perhaps you seek to be an award-winning artist. Or maybe you are trying to increase your art income.
What vision do you have for your art career?
We start with the big picture because it is what drives everything else.
Step 2: Determine Your Focus
What’s your focus for the next 6-12 months?
If you haven’t yet decided that, start now. What do you want this next period in your life to be about? Is this a theme? A big goal?
At the end of this time, what would help you feel deeply satisfied?
With your ultimate focus in mind, consider what you will do this year to bring yourself closer to your art’s purpose.
You might be in the phase of your career where developing your skills and body of work is more important than selling.
You could be at the place where showing your art and gaining a larger renown is your primary focal point. Knowing where you are now will help you decide which projects to take on.
Step 3: Gather Your Ideas
Now it’s time to capture all of your project ideas.
Projects require multiple tasks that must be completed to ensure a successful project. Examples include:
- Organizing an exhibition
- Proposing a class to teach
- Inventorying your artwork
- Updating your mailing list
Write down on one piece of paper or digital document as many ideas as you want.
Step 4: Play Favorites
Now, look at the list. Make a check mark next to the ideas that directly lead to that sense of satisfaction you want to feel in the coming year. (Review step 2.)
Make another mark next to the items that align with your big picture goal.
Any items that do NOT have check marks should be taken off the list for now. Feel free to put them in another document entitled ‘someday’.
Or, if they don’t relate to what you are trying to achieve, perhaps they don’t belong on your list at all. Ask yourself what they are doing in your realm of possibility if they aren’t aligned with what you seek to achieve with your art.
Step 5: Choose One
From your winnowed down list, choose ONE project to focus on in the current quarter.
Depending on the scope of the project, it may take longer than three months to finish. Plan your other obligations around this one project.
By now you should have a clear sense of which project to work on now. Easy peasy, right?
You might not get off so easily. As a seasoned coach for creatives, I know that you may be squirming right about now.
Perhaps you don’t want to choose just ONE project. You lament having to set aside all those sexy ideas. You think you can choose up to THREE projects.
This is where you have to get real with yourself. It is the ‘rubber meets the road’ moment. If you have squirmed at committing to one project, ask these questions:
What is preventing me from focusing on one project? What are my beliefs around this kind of focus?
What do I have to give up in order to choose one main project?
And finally …
What do I really want? What will truly satisfy me in the end? What am I willing to do to get that?
There will come a point when you are less enamored by all of your great ideas and more interested in making things that matter to you both in the moment and in the long-term.
Mentioned in the PodcastMaking Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
Have you ever struggled with having too many ideas or not being able to prioritize them? Tell us about your experience in a comment below.Cynthia Morris is an artist, author, workshop leader, and certified coach. She is a longtime ally of artists and mastermind partner to me.