12 Step Program for Artists

A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Tony Clennell, wrote about his 12 Step Program for Artists. It was his wrap up conversation with students at La Meridiana. Tony taught there for 3 months. One of these days, I am going to do something like that – a residency focused on clay. I digress.

Tony Clennell, Italian ceramics, la Meridiana

Here is my version of Tony’s 12 Step Program for Artists:

1. No Plan B – in other words, if clay is my creative path, then focus on it. Don’t do a million other things (or even three). I own C2C Gallery which entails many “to do’s” but I need to remember that the reason I opened C2C was to provide a venue for me to sell my work and other artist’s artwork that I respect.

2. Keep Learning – try to learn something new everyday. I try to read every morning. Something that is good for my business (the gallery); for my clay work; or my soul.

3. Don’t ask permission – Being from a small Midwest town, we are taught to not make waves, always be nice, and obey the rules. For me, that means to stop looking over my shoulder. I need to do the things that make me happy. For me, that is being in my studio, playing music, and singing. Just have to keep making. I tried the traditional route of working for a long time and it just didn’t fit me.

4. Put your own mask on first. Tony reminded us that the flight attendant always says “put your own mask on first” and then help others around you. Since my children are adults, that means I need to take care of me – enough sleep, exercise, and eating organically.

5. Be the Emperor. Remember the story of the emperor strutting around with no clothes. Sometimes, you have to just do it, faking your confidence. I learned this lesson in the corporate world early on. There were many men who acted as though they knew all the answers. I learned they were faking their way. So, fake it until you make it. You have to keep walking forward to get there, though.

6. Allow Yourself to Not Be Perfect. This is a hard one for me. I was the A student in school. I work really hard to always have everything “perfect” for my kids when they visit. Christmas? Well, I used to run myself ragged with all of the “must do’s”. I don’t do that anymore. Guess what? I love Christmas again.

7. Learn to Lose. Everyone has a plan (or should have a plan) until they fail. Then, what? Diana Krall has a great song titled, Pick yourself Up, we all make mistakes and have difficult periods in our lives. It’s called being human. But, we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.

8. Like People that Like You. I am try to surround myself with creative people who like me. Walking with a creative friend always causes insightful conversations helping me along my path.

9. Sometimes Snakes Kill, Sometimes Chocolate Kills. What’s good for me might not be good for you. It’s all ok. I need to walk my path.

10. Rope a Dope. Tony talked about Mohammed Ali knowing that he was going to get killed by George Foreman if he went punch for punch. So, Mohammed took lots of body blows against the ropes and then when Foreman was exhausted, BOOM! As a potter, I know that functional pottery sells more easily than paintings or sculptural work. So, I have to make the best pots that I can make. I need to remember this as a strategy for surviving.

11. Live Your Life Generously. Be generous by helping your community with the talents that you were given.

12. Have Fun! Go back to Number 3. Remember I was raised in the Midwest. We are taught to work hard. If you aren’t working hard, then you are lazy. I have to do better at this on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I am doing what I love by being a clay artist, a gallery owner, and more. BUT, I could laugh more. Yup, I am a work in progress.

I am meeting a friend later today, who, I know, will make me laugh often. Have a fun, creative day. I am off to my studio. Peace.

Meeting friends at NCECA, Minneapolis, man

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