Friday, April 4, 2014

Good Bad News

"... we are sorry to inform you that your application was not selected for the finalist round..."

Why in the world would I be happy to receive this kind of message in response to submitting my work for an art competition? Well, I am, and the reason has several facets.  First, I should say that I am a full time artist. I spend most of my time creating things, and I sell what I create. That has been my goal since childhood, and, well, here I am. But since life and work are (ideally) about constant growth and learning, my passion and work are not about arriving at some cut and dry destination and stopping. So for the sake of continued growth, and because making a living (for me) requires diversifying, pursuing a range of opportunities, I submit my work and ideas to different entities. On top of making enough to pay bills and have respectable savings, my goal the past few years has been to set a minimum number of projects/shows/grants/opportunities to submit to, and to exhibit more every year. It is a challenge to juggle everyday orders with "big picture" efforts, but a necessary part of my artistic growth. And the more an artist submits, the more she faces getting a "yes" or often, "no".

I got this message yesterday, and I was frankly happy for a number of reasons. First, I was happy that I could say this was another opportunity that I tried. That I didn't miss, or shy away from. The answer was honestly not as crucial to me as the feeling of taking advantage of a chance. And the more chances I take, the less it matters to me when some come back with a "no". Yes, it is a numbers game.
I was happy that I've grown enough in my approach to my work that I didn't take the no personally and begin to question my whole creative direction. I now feel that as long as I focus on doing what I'm driven to do, and doing it to my best ability, with an eye towards my own standards of excellence, that's what matters. A few years ago, I would have cried and started picking apart every life choice I'd ever made, down to the breakfast cereal I bought in 2001, and wasted time thinking that if my work were more like this person's and that person's, I would be better/happier/more successful. But these days, I am drenched in the realization that I don't need to try to create like someone else does, or mimic someone else's style to be fulfilled and successful. What's mine is mine and will happen in its time. Also, how many of the same artist (or whatever you are) does the world need? We are all different for a very good reason. Don't ask me what that is- this was supposed to be a quick post.
I'm [secretly] happy that I wasn't chosen because I can keep chugging along with other things, without the particular set of expectations that would have accompanied this "yes" (hey, I'm human, and though I can stir up some megalomaniac tendencies from time to time, sometimes I just wanna hide under a blanket with a book, or daydream and not be expected to create a masterpiece).
I'm happy that, though I'm staying busy making a living (which in itself is a beast), I'm pushing myself to reach further, even when it's not necessarily comfy. Bigger goals have bigger requirements.
Lastly, I'm happy that I know that whatever happens, I've eluded the what-ifs one more time, and have devoted time to things I will one day be glad I tried. What's the saying? "Do something today that your future self will thank you for." (paraphrased, not sure who to credit...)

Okaaay, wow, and speaking of devoting time (my most precious commodity), I think time's up for completing this post. I got an afternoon waiting to be conquered. How about you?

P.S. Just in case you haven't heard this repeatedly already, typing the word "happy" about a million times made me think of this, which is the truth: