Good and Bad News: Your Work Is Never Done

Newsflash! You’re just getting started.

Whether you think this is good news or bad news depends on your disposition. Some people feel fulfilled and complete every day. I envy them.

©CoLee Wilkinson, Mermaid Lamp. Watercolor, 27.8 x 21.8 inches. Used with permission.
©CoLee Wilkinson, Mermaid Lamp. Watercolor, 27.8 x 21.8 inches. Used with permission.

I want more. Not more “stuff,” but more out of life. More experiences, more love, more friends, more cats. (Only kidding about that last one!)

I know it’s not fashionable these days to want more. “They” say I should be content where I am and live in the moment.

Can’t I want more and appreciate the present?

I have come to realize and accept that I will never be complete. I am just getting started.

My work is never done.

I will never feel like I’ve arrived. There will always be something more to look forward to, and new goals and dreams to pursue that are optimistic about the future.

This is different than being unsatisfied. People who are unsatisfied are negative, unhappy, and, often, annoying.

I’m satisfied because for me, satisfaction comes from a job well done: getting some exercise, cleaning out the garden, or ironing napkins for dinner guests (I know … ironing … weird, but true).

©Sue Norton Scott, Back to the Beginning. Mixed media, 40 x 40 inches. Used with permission.
©Sue Norton-Scott, Back to the Beginning. Mixed media, 40 x 40 inches. Used with permission.

There is great satisfaction in taking the steps toward your vision and seeing each project to completion.

But the vision may shift, and the dreams will get bigger, which brings the next set of projects.  

This is how I’m wired. I’ve been this way … um … forever.

I have come to embrace this part of my nature, and I’m happy and positive because I’m enjoying the journey. I can’t imagine a different perspective than the one ingrained in me.

This brings me to your life as an artist.

You Will Never Arrive

©Rebecca Johnson, Spring Bells. Bronze, soap stone, schist, limestone, 66 x 14 x 12 inches. Used with permission.
©Rebecca Johnson, Spring Bells. Bronze, soap stone, schist, limestone, 66 x 14 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

I doubt that you will ever feel as if you’ve arrived, which I consider good news.

My thinking is that if you ever feel like you’ve arrived, you’ve done something wrong because every creative person and entrepreneur I know is on a lifetime search for new ideas. There will always be another:

  • book to read.
  • class to take.
  • show to see or to install.
  • museum collection to see your work in.
  • email or postcard to send.
  • sculpture to sculpt, photo to snap, painting to paint, pot to throw, bowl to carve, or necklace to fashion.

These are all things to look forward to on your artist’s journey.

Your work is never done.

And you should be worried if you feel like you’ve arrived because it probably means you’re out of ideas.

While the rest of the population is waiting in line at the Apple store for the latest electronic gadget, we artists and entrepreneurs are nursing a buzz from new ideas, new art supplies, and new inspiration. It would be foreign to live any other way.

There’s Bad News, Too

Now for the bad news: If you can relate to what I wrote above, you will never have enough time to do everything you want to do.

You’ll never have enough time to make all the art that is incubating in your head. Nor will you have enough time to implement all of the marketing ideas you find here and elsewhere.

However, your creative journey will allow you to explore new challenges that will lead you, at times, to unexpected and rewarding results.

©Nicole Kagan, Resilience. Mixed media, 17 x 17.75 inches. Used with permission.
©Nicole Kagan, Resilience. Mixed media, 17 x 17.75 inches. Used with permission.

Your work is never done.

This is why it’s so important to understand your values and set your life and business priorities around those.

Embrace the part of your artist soul that is always seeking. It’s one of the things that differentiates you from others.

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52 thoughts on “Good and Bad News: Your Work Is Never Done”

  1. I’m amongst the truly blessed…time…money…space…one to love and to be loved by.

    Did I mention I make Art?

    Did I mention Brian The Baby Dragon is Published & that I illustrated it’?

    And I’m about to start on its follow-up?

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly Alyson. I should hate to get to the end. Meanwhile there’s loads more paintings to paint, ideas to follow up, more conversations on line and off, lots and lots of instagram posts. Those around me are retiring and they feel their work is done. I hope I never get to that point. Anyway when I get to 90 you’ll still encouraging us to get out there. Thank you

  3. I love how you give permission for various things – not excuses because the work isn’t done, but permission to simply not be perfect!
    This post truly made me go “ahhhhh”, now I understand why my to-do list is never actually finished. I am constantly adding one more thing even as a finish the one before. And that brings up another thing that I learned in Bootcamp – focus on what makes you work better, not what everyone else thinks is a great shiny new thing.

  4. You hit the nail on the head!!! I am blessed to always feel like there are always ways to enrich my life while still loving the life I lead. I do never have enough time-but it’s a small price to pay for being so full!!! Thanks for putting words to my thoughts.

  5. Wonderful post Alyson. I’ve come to the realization that it’s necessary to be selfish with my time and to do the things that make me happiest. Time can never be replaced and there is always much on my list.

    If I don’t decide what is important to me and block out those hours,the hours will be filled with “shoulds” – should serve on that committee, should clean out the basement or the garage before I get to the studio. Anyone can run a dishwasher but no one will ever paint like I do.

    Let the tombstone read “Adequate housekeeper. One HELL of a painter!”

  6. I completely resonate with your “never finished” sentiment.
    I would like to figure out a way to communicate these ideas when people say “I don’t have any room for any more art!” If you never move art around your house, it makes your house feel stale. It is great to shake things up with a different arrangement! (Maybe a side-consulting business idea:)

    1. Elizabeth: I’ve written about this before. I think when people say that they don’t have room for more art they are actually saying “no, thank you.” They are not true collectors, who would find room for the art they love.

  7. Love too, that you give permission, that we will never be finished wanting! I want to get it all in and savor it. Thank you Alyson and I so enjoy and look forward to your posts. How may years now? 🙂

    1. ‘Strewth a virtual friend for nine plus years…this blog is always my daily start…no matter where I am at the time…or in the world…a wifi address & my iPad. Originally it was not this simple!

      I guess I too have been busy travelling and trying to make art. Art is a skill I hope to master one day

      Love from the Greek island of love…Lesbos…back to the UK next week….

  8. I recently was talking to a friend about this very thing. I wanted to try a new extention to a medium and she said but are you chasing to many things in your work. I can’t wait for her to read this article. I told her if you are not stretching and reaching you are not growing just like the 100 year old in your back yard. Thank you so much I was think maybe she is right, now I see I am going in the right directions keep reaching for my DREAM. Thank you Alyson

  9. Well stated as always Alyson!! This is exactly how I feel. When my to do list gets low I start looking to add to it. It is not the destination but the journey.

  10. I loved this. As I took a walk on the beach earlier this week I felt so much gratitude for life and all the experiences. Some people say to me they are amazed I get so much done, have time for so much and I just say I wouldn’t have it any other way! I don’t have children and I am so curious about life. This endless curiosity always leads me to new, exciting things. I’m totally in love with life and want to taste every sip and bite!

  11. Thanks for this Alyson, it was just what I needed to hear this week as my partner and I move into a phase of shaking up our lives once again in pursuit of more – not more things, less if any – but more experiences, more creative people to meet, more opportunities to see great art and amazing landscapes…As you say, not because we’re unhappy but because we have such a zest to grow and expand 🙂 That we will continue to create is a given!

  12. I used to make to-do lists and get so frustrated when I couldn’t finish! I guess that’s the Perfectionist in me…I still make to-do lists so I can have a map of what needs doing, but a few months ago I caught myself writing down what I did that day, so at the end of the day I’d see what needed to get started, what needed follow-up, etc. Yes, there’s always something to be done and getting all caught up doesn’t really make sense; if everything’s settled, what else is there to strive for? Some of my dad’s friends at the automobile assembly plant couldn’t wait to retire and be done with work. I often heard later that those same people died within weeks of retirement.

  13. My business allows me to have projects where the work is never done but also have projects that have a beginning and an end. Always nice to pack away files and folders when a project is completed but the ongoing relationships, projects, learning and experimenting are so rewarding!

  14. All I can say on this one is that I’m printing it out and hanging it in my office (and maybe my studio too). Excellent post Alyson….working on earning that tombstone of Paula’s 🙂

  15. Margaret Galvin Johnson

    I read this out loud to my daughter and got very emotional about the part where you talked about how as artists we’ll always be searching for the next thing to make accomplish, learn. Being an artist is so multifaceted and that is so much a part of why I love being an artist. Thanks for the great perspective on what it feels like.

  16. When caregiving was my focus “more” was an overwhelming stress. Now, as I assimilate grief, “more” is exciting opportunity. As an example, I received a grant to study some basic jewelry metal working for a week. I now am gloriously thrilled to have more skills to use in creating my art.

    Thanks for always being so on target, Alyson.

  17. Wonderful article. I was born an artist. Creativity is my sweet “disease” and drug of choice. I have never been bored in my entire life. So many stories to tell… New ideas, new experiences are the fuel of life. Even if one project is or feels completed, the next one has already taken roots…. and I am so thankful for that energy.

  18. I feel blessed to be an artist. It’s an exciting reason to get up every day and get to work. There’s always something to be done – painting, documenting your work, posting it to Facebook and/or Instagram, marketing, entering competitions, shipping artwork, etc., etc. – and it’s a blessing!

  19. Alyson,
    “I have come to realize and accept that I will never be complete…I am just getting started.
    My work is never done.”
    How very TRUE! I think this phase of my art career discovery, my connection with you and my classmates, while starting my life in FL, I have found a new rhythm. I love your thoughtful incentives, your distilling an “art career” and your constant suggestions for delving into yet another aspect of claiming the belief “I am an artist have all been the best step forward that I have made in ten years!”
    Thank you very much for your bringing all of us together!

  20. Oh, my goodness, of everything I’ve read over the “who knows how many years,” this puts a new perspective on everything I’m doing and have done. I can’t tell you how badly I’ve always loved finishing a mural project. Even when I was asked to return for other rooms those were like new projects that had an ending.

    I know I’ve read similar things, some from you, Alyson, but this was so well written that I know I can enjoy all the unfinished stuff now. OMG! It’s not unlike housework never being done and when you get bored you just rearrange the room and everything in it and it all seems so new. I am going to love my new career. I so appreciate all you do and all the fantastic artists I’ve met while taking your courses. Thank you Alyson. (You can teach old dogs new tricks)

  21. Love this one Allyson and couldn’t agree more. Thank you for shining a light on this aspect of both/and when it comes to appreciating existing abundance and wanting more. It is paradoxically calming to surrender to the “never finished” and just be grateful for a wellspring of ideas and opportunity. I’m so inspired by other artists’ stories of that here. #abundance2018 is my word of the year and you nailed it. Btw, I iron my napkins too 😉

  22. Very creative artworks, similar with mixed media paintings. Thanks for the articles. Anything with great ideas can be used in an artwork.

  23. So true, Alyson. My work is never done. I never run out of ideas but I do run out of time to carry them out. And retirement? I don’t plan to. I will always be creating, encouraging and helping those coming up in the ranks.

    Thanks for the fft.

  24. I am in a period of growth with my art right now and I awake excited and eager to greet each day. I get my tasks completed so that I can get into my studio and paint! I too feel blessed and happy to share my art with the world.

  25. Loved your article Alyson. Art enriches my life and since i have retired have been able to create every day!

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