Ways of BE-ing

Goals are about action and achievement. They’re about DO-ing. Consider these examples:

You identify challenging goals to move closer to the vision you have for your art career (and life).

©Claire Linder, Thy Kingdom Come. Mixed media on canvas, 120 x 165 centimeters. Used with permission.
©Claire Linder, Thy Kingdom Come. Mixed media on canvas, 120 x 165 centimeters. Used with permission.

And … because you don’t want your vision to get lost in the busy-ness of working toward individual goals, it’s important to remember how you want to feel as you’re striving toward those goals.

With that in mind, I asked my Art Biz Inner Circle members how they wanted to BE in 2017.

Many artists chose a word-of-the-year to answer the question. I thought it would be fun to share with you the wide range of be-ing words, which I’ve grouped into seven categories below.

I hope you’ll take a look at this list of ways of be-ing for artists and see if any of them ring true for you.


Who can argue with wanting to be happier? You’ll enjoy a lot more of your tasks when you approach your work with this attitude.

The desire for more happiness was expressed with these words:


About the last two, artists distinguished between the outer perception (blissful and joyful) and the inner feeling (-filled).


I’m not sure that “contentment” is the right word for this category. “Acceptance” might work, too.

©Michon Weeks, Wheel Within a Wheel (Saw Blades). Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 inches. Used with permission.
©Michon Weeks, Wheel Within a Wheel (Saw Blades). Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 inches. Used with permission.


We all loved that last word. It’s better to do things imperfectly than to overwork the task in search of perfection, which we all know never comes.

Bravery & Action

A lot of artists are bursting out of their comfort zones to make their dreams happen.
They seek to be:

An Activist

Organization and Reliability

Then there are those of us (me included) who are always looking to feel less scattered. We want to be:

In Control
Creatively structured

I put the word “focus” in two categories because it applies equally to both. Note below the different types of focus.


This is an interesting category:

Trust (in myself)
Focus (on me)
Focus (on the work)

You’ll find “focus” is the word-of-the-year for many artists, but there are two types of focus here. I love how one person said it was high time she focused on herself after focusing on others for so long.

©Michelle Sirois Silver, Recovery Method 2. Waste hosiery on linen, hand hooked. 22 x 48 inches. Used with permission. Photo courtesy of Ted Clarke.
©Michelle Sirois Silver, Recovery Method 2. Waste hosiery on linen, hand hooked. 22 x 48 inches. Used with permission. Photo courtesy of Ted Clarke.


I could steal any one of these words for myself. Who doesn’t want to glide through each day feeling lighter and more peaceful?


Incidentally, my word of the year is “ocean.” Oceans, for me, are vast, expansive, and meditative. When life and work get crazy, I want to retreat to my vision of how it feels to be near the ocean. (Kinda crazy for a mountain gal like me, I know.)


Countless artists I’ve worked with have desired recognition. These two words were prominent this year:


For those who chose “validated,” it was seeing the work sell that was most important. They feel respected, but the sales would be an indisputable sign that people connect to the work.

Your Turn

I’d love for you to share your thoughts on how you want to BE this year. Please leave a comment below.

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79 thoughts on “Ways of BE-ing”

  1. “Patience” is my word and I’ll put it in the diligence category. I’ll put a hue of “acceptance” in it. I intuitively pick my yearly words. In December, I meant this as keeping up with my studio time. I was happy with the rhythm of my day and was adding business practices. Patience meant to keep going and that my art income would improve.
    They say not to pray for patience
    Monday, I found out that my day career hours were changing. Duties were increasing in areas I have no interest in and have to take time & energy to learn. I would have less art time and not at the time of day that is in balance with my natural rhythms. I ran financial numbers in hopes that I could take early retirement, but my husband isn’t willing to consolidate, sell the house, and forgo insurance.
    More patience than I want to practice is needed. I’m being a Debbie downer. I want to end on a positive note. So let’s go back to the word diligence…

  2. My word for the year is Build. To me, it means to start where I am, and do many small things over the course of the year in order to build a solid foundation to support my future plans. I plan to put the structures in place now that will hopefully allow me to pursue my dream of being a self sufficient artist. The word also symbolizes to me that my repeated small actions and efforts over time should turn into something bigger, something that may seem daunting to think about creating all at once.

    1. Build – what a great ‘visual’ for the baby steps we have to take to travel onward and upward. I think that is my word, too!

  3. Playfulness! I’m working on letting go and loosening up. I want to have more play with my family and also look at my business with a lens of playfulness. I want to laugh more. I don’t want to worry so much about outcomes, and if I’m playful, then it’s all a fun game and I won’t get so caught up in the “correct outcomes” or even worrying about whether I’m “doing it right.”

  4. This year I want to be able to live by my art. I want to be able to sale my art. I want to know how. I want something magic that people says” I want you do to my portrait’s child, or pet..

  5. Denise Van Balen Adams

    My word for the year is FOUNDATION. I wanted to so rush and get to a certain point, that in reality wasn’t attainable! Being the mother of a Special Needs young woman that lives with my new husband and myself, I often have to stop and step back and reset myself. I have to allow myself the time to build a strong foundation to build my art business on and be ok with having to take time to be mom!!!

  6. Amazing…that is also the word of the year I chose.

    I feel I’ve been letting life just happen over the past couple of years instead of me taking control. I’ve put on a tremendous amount of weight (partially due to health reasons…but enough time has passed since my surgery that I really can’t blame that anymore!), stopped creating art, stopped exercising and generally have just been ‘existing.’

    My family (husband and remaining child still at home) moved halfway across the country this summer and I feel like I’ve woken up from a too-long nap. I’m inspired to create, I’m motivated to get outside and move, I’m setting goals again.

    ‘Normal’ me is very high-energy and goal-oriented. I have woken her up again and plan to be AMAZING this year, both professionally in my art and personally!

  7. Complete (which would fall into the Organization and Reliability or maybe Contentment)
    2016 was full of trauma and disrupted my art practice more than I could have ever imagined. 2017 will be about completing what was started, and what is beginning.

  8. Margaret Warfield

    I want to be bold and confident in myself and the art that I create. I, also, want to re-discover me and or develop a new joyful, artistic, driven me.

  9. My word this year is ‘Belief’ – The ability to believe I will find the time, the energy, the motivation and the determination to create – with my art, with my garden, with making a little money go a long way ……. And to bravely put my work out there into the World to be seen!

    1. And it is happening. Got into a show on a suggestion from a fellow artist for next month. I will be teaching an embroidery class in March and accepted for a 2 person show in May. Also have three new pieces done towards the goal of 10 I made to you and the crowd at Breakthru. It is all starting to fall in place. YAY.

  10. As I read the words of the year, I thought of relaxed. I profess that I can get more done being relaxed. It is difficult to process feelings, ideas and concepts when one is stressed, anxious and pressured to feel a certain way. Perhaps we could think of “being relaxed” as the foundation for happiness, what do you think? One of the ways I stay relaxed is to not take myself too seriously, I try to keep a sense of humor, and a smile on my face.

  11. Excellent article and idea Alyson. Thank you.

    My word is Mindful……it involves many of the other ideas, organized, more structured and ess scattered…sprinkled with a lot of gratitude.

  12. Involved
    After reading about creatively, stillness and the void that is needed to allow creativity to truly surface I intentionally spent time detached. It is a very interesting process and although this was creatively very productive I miss the connection with others.

  13. My words for this year are energized and refresh. Have you all ever noticed the change you feel when something goes well with your art and you start working more with an added energy? That is what happened to me in 2016. I was invited to do a solo show in a large local art gallery. I created 18 pieces in 2 series that I had already designed, but not done. 4 pieces sold and another 4 were commissioned and I just got 2 more commissions. My work also got accepted into the Healing Power of Art on line gallery. Most of my work is in cancer centers and is designed to make people less stressed and be able to heal better. I gave 6 talks on my work while it was up for 2 months and just got invited to be a workshop leader in the international meeting on death and dying in June of 2018. Their theme is The Role of Art in Death and Dying. I had made a piece in my last show about the loss of a loved one and one of the members of this group happened to come hear me speak. I do not want to lose this energy I feel and enthusiasm that continues to grow. The business aspect of being an artist is difficult to me, but I take all the classes that Alyson teaches and I do everything she tells us to do so it is improving. Some parts I am still working on getting complete. I do hope to join the inner circle at some point but at the moment with 4 boys at home in middle and upper school I cannot image what I could do more right now. I am committed to keeping my time with the boys while they are home and work like crazy while they are at school. I am building my base so that when they are off I can really take off. Alyson, thank you for all that you do for the artists in the world. I follow you faithfully and I read Professional Artists magazine which is amazing… and of course you are constantly in that magazine which makes me smile. Without knowing me at all, you are my steadfast partner in the quest that is more fun with you there!

    1. Eve Marie: This is so lovely. Thank you! Unfortunately I haven’t been able to contribute to PA as much as I would like, but they are doing a fine job without me.

      Keep up the good work.

  14. Roger K. Lawrence

    Want to wake up every morning excited about making art and approaching what I do with enthusiasm! Hope it shows in my work and my interactions with other artists and friends.

  15. Flexibility, Spontaneity and Obedience are the three angel cards I selected on New Year’s Day for pondering in 2017. I’ve done it each year and somehow they reveal their importance as the year unfolds. I take this to mean look for and be open to new opportunities while having a plan, working it, and enjoying the ride.

    1. It took me back at first to see the word obedience come up. However, the more I thought about it, the word is pointing toward knowing and working within my limitations. I can only do so much and going beyond what is healthy for me to take on can be a problem. If I have a plan as to how and when I take steps to accomplish what I want to do in advance and keep to that, I have a much better chance of success in the long run. I experienced real physical complications from work overload last Fall. I won’t be making that mistake again.

  16. Last year my word was Focus, the year before Reconciliation. They both seem to continue to “operate” somehow. This year I was surprised that the word I got was Flourish. It seemed kind of too big, but the idea is that I want all the seeds I’ve planted to start producing some fruit.

  17. I selected several qualities that I want to learn how to embody this year.
    The big one is SPACIOUSNESS.
    More free time in my schedule, taking up more personal space, less clutter, less back-to-back projects and events, more opportunity to be still and reflect before moving forward.

    Others are Power, Love, Presence, Wonder, Belonging… I have a few more written down in my intention journal.

  18. My word is” Enjoy” what I am doing. I paint mostly on commissions, so pressure to get what client wants. Then on my own projects, what may sell. So I’m going to “Focus on enjoying” the process and not be in any hurry on whatever I am producing.

  19. Mary-Lynne Stadler

    STUDIO – in more ways than one. I am having to leave my current ‘studio’ because the landlady’s conditions have changed and that is making it literally impossible to work there. So my primary Goal this year is to find a permanent studio that gives me the space to work. Also, I use the word studio because I want to establish a good studio practice this year, once I have my new studio. For the past three or so years I have had so many family commitments that my studio practice has fallen apart. i want to get it back.

    This brings me to another word for the year: FOCUS – in making and marketing my work, and getting sales and students.

  20. More is probably my word. Specifically, working longer– getting over my penchant for short attention span theater– and smarter– not doing the same things and making the same mistakes over and over.

  21. I’d like to build a structure in several areas. – New structure for teaching classes in enameling, improve structure for my business tasks, and for my studio practice. I would also like to let go of perfectionism in the process. Ease and joy are my go-to words. Thanks so much this is a great topic and conversation!

  22. Yes lots of great things hear. I need to refocus and get my art to different avenues. My setback was a knee replacement that still does not work right and I go for therapy once or twice a week. Last year I got fed up with not getting anywhere and now I go for extra activities 4 more times a week. Anyway my wonderful Art has taken a back seat, so now I want it in the front seat.
    I have this apperception of my paintings to be as great as they can be. I will try to be fearless to reach that goal. I also need to regain the respect that was lost with my inactivity.

  23. Love this post. I think “Validated” is definitely resonating with me this year. I’d also add Empowered. I think of those as related to the same thing, though, which is ultimately the ability to view my work with confidence and objectivity.

  24. my word is NEW APPROACH
    I was represented by two galleries, and they didn’t sell any of my paintings!
    I exhibited my art locally and internationally and sold few of my paintings for my friends!
    placed some of my paintings on art books.
    I know I got some publicity during this period but recently, from last year I feel used, and decided not to carry on the same way, everybody wants to make money out of you …

  25. I always chose a word for the year, my word just comes to me. This year it didn’t come. I read your blog and looked at the words I have had written on my hand for the last 3 days and realized, that’s my word(s). “it’s easy.”

  26. Focus…I visited a cranial osteopath last year and she helped me to identify what I might be lacking, and what I should concentrate on, with just that one word. Now I have “FOCUS” written above my work bench so I can see in every single time I look up and start to day dream. Yes, day dreaming is essential, but needs to be managed carefully, otherwise I find it can easily eat into my workshop time. Excellent question this week, really enjoyed reading all the responses.

  27. AWARE. It brings me to the present…aware of my surroundings, gifts that I have in my life, the joy I experience now, gratitude, a quick check in for better health, relationships, inspiration for my art work, where and how to sell my work as well as my workshop Discover Your Inner Diva… being aware encompasses everything and brings it into focus and if you are not aware you might lose that one precious fleeting idea or thought that could change your life…or the world.

  28. Be Present. Wether I am creating art, working on my art business, spending time with family or whatever I am doing I want be truly present. Each part of my life deserves my complete focus and there is time for everything.

  29. I had four. Then another four. Then some of the first and some of the second.

    Then I tossed them all and decided my word is FOCUSED.

    When I am focused I am fully present. The present is where life happens. Being unfocused I miss now, I miss my life. When I am with my family I want to be WITH my family. When I am in the studio, I want to be IN the studio. When I am working my business plan I want to be WORKING my business plan.

    I can’t be all things to all people. Not even for my family. Not even for MYSELF! I can be one thing, present in the moment.

    To make the most of my moments I am developing a schedule which will free me to be in the here and now, FOCUSED, and not stressing over what was, what might have been, or what might be. Just now.

  30. My “word” for this year (OK, I know it’s really three words) is “Peace on Earth” because it’s an inside job. I am also wanting to be more balanced in my life between self-nurturing and being a human rights activist.

  31. I like the word “ocean” . I have been dreaming of a vacation to the the ocean. So, I am going to flow like water, be clear as the blue sky and explore the depths of my inner being to get there. It is time to take my art to the next level. The “ocean” is waiting.

  32. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the crow painting was a poem my wife’s mother mentioned to me awhile back about crows.

    One for sorrow,
    Two for joy,
    Three for a girl,
    Four for a boy,
    Five for silver,
    Six for gold,
    Seven for a secret,
    Never to be told.
    Eight for a wish,
    Nine for a kiss,
    Ten for a bird,
    You must not miss.

    So, my first thought about the painting was sorrow.


    I think my word would be “Seen.”

    Your word “Ocean” has a different meaning to me. Being near the ocean is so much different than being under it. In the Navy I would spend months at a time under water in a submarine. Yes it is vast, expansive, and meditative….there is no place to retreat, no outside communication, just those around you. All life is hard until you get used to it and you will.

  33. As a full time artist, I think the most helpful words to me will be STRUCTURE and FOCUS, as I tend to lack both a lot of the time. And as the ocean is across the street, I need to get back to my swimming or body boarding first thing in the AM habit as there’s nothing like being slapped around by some waves to wake you up and get your juices flowing! All great thoughts here, enjoyed reading them all.

  34. My word for this year is Flourish
    and it can fit in many categories
    also to be creatively and most important efficiently structured
    I can be not linear enough and too easily fall from one thing to another rather than finishing one and moving on to the next

    thanks for all the inspiration and energy

  35. Sorry this is late.I missed this email.My word is Imagine. I’m always imagining paintings or crafts ect. the hard part is finding the time to do…..Thanks for your inspiration, this is awesome post, I think I’ll do this every year. It may become my New Year resolution.

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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