Thursday, December 9, 2010

Breaking News: Artists Need Goals!

I am very thrilled about how 2010 has gone for me, and I'm excited for 2011! This year has brought me so many great things; a new beautiful house, my perfect studio in that same house, an acceptance to Road to California, notification that a submission I sent to Quilting Arts was accepted and will be out next year, and just yesterday - I won a grant!!!!

I applied for a grant through the International Machine Quilters Association, that awards money to take classes at the Machine Quilters Showcase in Overland Park, Kansas! Within hours of getting that sweet, sweet email, I had my week there scheduled out! I will be taking ten classes in six days! It will be hard, it will be chaotic, I might get a little cranky but I will make every use of every dollar of that grant. I will absorb as much knowledge as I can while I am there!

This is actually a catalyst for one of my goals, teaching! Which got me to thinking, how many of us quilt/fiber artists are using goals to advance our careers? For years, I did not set goals and would wonder why my "hopes" never came to fruition!
If you read any books or articles on succeeding in business, a main staple to nearly every one of them, is goal setting.  Why should those of us seeking a successful art career be any different?

The truth is, we're not any different. An art career is just that, a career, and goals need to be set for it just like any other "job". This can seem very daunting at first, especially if your goal is something like, "To be a famous artist." If that's the goal you set (which I did for many years!) you're likely doomed to fail. Why?

Any life coach or business coach will tell you that one of the key pieces a lot of people miss in goal setting, are the details! Sure, a company may publicly state their earnings goal, but what they don't tell you is the gazillion little tiny goals that get set company wide in order to try and make that major goal happen!

That's certainly the key I was missing for a long time! For years this is what my goal list looked like:
  • To be a successful artist
  • To be a national teacher
  • To write a book
Honestly, none of those things have happened.......yet! I have spent time reading a lot of books on art careers, and building a successful business. The major thing I took from them was small goal setting! I altered my goals list within the last year or so to something more like this:
  • Work on my website/blog to get my name out there
  • Reach out to other artists
  • Practice technique to get ready to teach (haven't done as well on this one, we will discuss why later!)
  • Start an industry blog (done! You're here!)
  • Write more often
  • Submit article idea to at least one magazine (done! and accepted too!!)
  • Enter into at least one national show (done, and accepted into Road to California!)
  • Apply for grants (applied for two, got one!)
There is nothing wrong with the first list technically, it's just incomplete! Those top three are what I refer to as my lifetime goals. All I needed to do was start filling in the blanks with some details!

To be a famous artist I need to:
  • Get website going with portfolio, bio, statement, etc.
  • Start industry blog that serves my community as well as gets my name out there more
  • Start writing and submitting articles to magazines - a published article puts my name out there
  • Connect with artists I admire - I can learn from them, and am often inspired by them

These are just some of the revisions to my main goals, but even that isn't the end. Often times I find I need to break down those smaller goals to monthly, weekly, or even daily tasks. For example:

Create Art:
  • Get studio cleaned
  • Spend at least two hours in the studio a day
  • Sketch one page while in studio
  • Complete one piece, no matter what size it is, per week

The difference is, the lists are getting more and more specific, which makes even the HUGEST goal possible. To be honest, we do have to let go of the fantasy of setting the goal "Be a successful artist" and then expecting it to happen overnight on it's own somehow. We also have to set definitions on what our goals really mean. When I say I want to be a "successful artist" what does that mean to me? Well, for me, there are many things that fall into that: my artwork begins to sell, I get my work in some galleries, I have a piece published in article/s, I am asked to do teaching or trunk shows or lectures on being a fiber artist, etc. That subset gives me the key to what I need for setting goals!

Once I define "successful artist" I know that I need to set goals to make those things happen. Artwork begins to sell: I need to take more professional images of my works and Etsy them and then promote my Etsy site. Work in galleries: I need a body of work that I can submit to galleries that is available for display and is cohesive and professional. You see how this is working? We are breaking things down, then down again and so on, until we reach manageable monthly, weekly and even daily goals. But why?

Research shows that if you put rats in a maze with a treat of food at the end (goal), it doesn't matter how long that maze gets, the rat will ALWAYS show a burst of energy as soon as their food (goal) is in sight! He gets an adrenaline boost as soon as he sees that his treat is within reach, and we too get that same adrenaline rush when we reach a goal - any goal! The smallest goals that we reach, still gives us a sense of accomplishment and it's easy for that accomplishment to snowball from there! I accomplished X, which means I can accomplish Y, and heck, let's just keep rolling and wrap up Z while we're at it? This feels great!

How I approach my goal setting now:
  • Lifetime Goals
  • 5 year goals
  • Yearly goals ***It's good to have a daily planner for this to breakdown to monthly/daily tasks***
  • What I plan to accomplish in the next six months
  • In the next month?
  • In the next week?
  • How much time will I need to give each week?
  • Daily goals
I list my big goals first, then I use that list to set my 5 year goals, then use that list to break down ot 6 months, then month, then week, and then little goals for each day. There is NO SHAME in small goals! I also reassess my goals list every month or so, to see where I'm at!
Are you ready to set some goals? Do you already? Let's hear about it!


  1. Outstanding! Like I've said before. Your blog is good enough for magazine publications. This is a great example of one that should be published.

  2. You should publish that post in QA! lol That was awesome!

    I'm sort of in a similar boat to you. Did the blog and poof- doors are opening. I approached some galleries and magazines and POOF again. They say yes! I've been asked to teach and have been called upon for commissioned work. It's so exciting. And really - all you have to do is knock on some doors and there they go! It's exhilerating once you get past the procrastination and fear of asking in the first place.

    I had to laugh about the goal: MAKE ART (duh). I've spent all day blogging. No art. It's hard to be the artist and the art manager at the same time!

    One thing I do is lie in bed at night with my cell phone and email myself a list of teeny to-do's, like "add flickr pics" or "update CV" or "call so'n'so to ask about...". When I'm alone in the dark in the quiet, my mind is still stirring and bubbling with ideas. This way I don't forget. ; )

    Thanks again for the great post.

    Monika / My Sweet Prairie

  3. Well, what the heck?!!! I'm inspired. Today I'll start by making my "to do" list. It messes up my brain to only keep it as a mental list. Let's see ... there's finish cutting up that felted wool for scarves, sew the pieces together, do those chair back covers promised to Rob's auntie, get some face cradle covers cut out, start sewing the yarn around the........ See? It's started already. Thanks Miss Stephanie. Send this article to a couple of mags. This is good.

  4. Ditto on your professional level of writing (and inspiring). I once asked an internationally known artist how many years it took her to become an 'overnight success'. She grinned and answered, "Seven!"