Sometimes I feel like my working life is a bit like treading on a skateboard at the top of a flight of stairs – an ever accelerating rush which, should I try to stop, will end very badly indeed. Of course that’s not really the case, but there are some similarities and I do spend time thinking, since my feet are on the board for better or worse, how to develop my balance.
This year I messed up. I let the teaching aspect of my work take over. Don’t get me wrong, especially all of you reading this who have come on my courses or spent a day in my studio, I see teaching as essential to my work and not just as money earned. It is a chance to learn more myself: to push my thinking and get involved in the experiments of others. I just need to plan better and to accept that I can’t say yes all the time to teaching, even when that means saying no to assured money. This isn’t easy for any self employed artist!
Sometimes you have to stop and look at the balance of things. It’s not going to win any art prizes, but there is a lot to be said for a big bit of paper, some felt pens and a plan. I’m not talking about a spread sheet here, though if I knew more about my computer I would probably embrace it. More a ‘this is what I did this year and these were the outcomes’ leading to ‘this is what I want more of, this less and here’s how I capitalise on the bits that have worked’. I also include a mad section for advancing myself (here’s where the skateboard actually leaves the stairs for an airborne trajectory with me gracefully poised atop). That section could involve some daring cold calls, project pitches or simply dropping something that is bogging me down. The mad stuff I space out so as not to traumatise myself too much and I accept that nearly all of it will end in rejection tempered by the warm glow of having had the nerve to try.
I’m not nearly brave enough to drop everything for a meditative six months in my studio thinking about my next step (and I do know an artist who did just that), actually forget brave: I just couldn’t resist fiddling with something after ten minutes of sitting still. But I do plan and, as I hurtle forward, I realise that it’s getting increasingly important that I plan well: it’s the only way I’m going to keep my balance on the damn skateboard…