Stay in the Zone (Debra Keirce)

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Stay in the Zone

Have you messed up lately? Have you had a major disappointment? One of the questions I am asked most often, is how do I stay inspired and creating.

The art business is full of opportunities to practice graceful apologies, and thicken our skin against the onslaught of rejections.

That's a depressing way to start an article. But there is a real art to staying in the creative zone, and leaving it can affect your business's bottom line.

Here are some things I've learned to do over the years that really help me to put my best out there, which sustains sales. More importantly though, here are some things that work to keep me from sliding into the "ruh roh" hole. I would love to know about experiences you can add to this list!

1. You've heard it before. Creatives need this advice as much as anyone, I believe. Pace yourself. Try to schedule time to stay still and take stock. Work smart. Don't be the hamster on the wheel. To do lists are great, but when I follow them mindlessly, I wear myself out. Plus, they get longer just before the events when I need to be the most rested.

2. Realize that people connect to your passion, not your achievements. If you work hard to organize an exhibition and then you post about all the hard work and inconveniences, how many people do you think will follow the rest of your posts about the event? Always consider how communications are landing with your audience. If it doesn't make everyone happy, do your really NEED to share it? When you aren't feeling passionate, stay silent. Or, you'll be wondering what you did wrong the next day.

3. Whenever I have a project that seems overwhelming, I try to break it down. A student of mine came to me recently for advice on a commission for a 5 foot square painting. She has never painted anything larger than 12 inches. She was delighted and relieved when I suggested she approach her client to see what they thought about her doing four or more smaller works. Small paintings are more portable, don't require as much expense for presentation, and are more likely to turn out well. Of course it's important to try hard ones on occasion, but the whole process is defeating when you tackle projects that are too big.

4. Expect to make your own mistakes even if you fail. Be wary of the advice and good ideas that are sound, but don't fit your vision - you know the ones. They sound good but you just don't feel in your gut that they are right for you. They're not. Too much advice can veer your vision off course. I'd rather fail doing my own thing, than win doing what someone else thinks I should. And trust me, I have failed many times doing what people thought I should. It kicked me out of my creative zone every time.

5. Artists who excel at marketing can outsell the most skilled person who doesn't market their work well. I want to be recognized as a great artist, so even if I had the best marketing skills, if I sold everything I made, I would not be happy if my painting didn't improve. Is that the same for you?

If so, I think we have to give ourselves permission to fail a bit at sales and marketing while we pursue mastery of our crafts. The automatized FASO site features like new art alerts often help during these periods. Sandwiched between two other art business trips, I'm taking a workshop this month. I won't be on social media much, and my newsletter won't have as much thought put into it. When I lose instagram followers and a few newsletter subscribers, I think I'll be okay with that. I'll balance it with all I learned. It's a trade off.

6. Golfers say pros make par even after a bad shot because they get good at the recovery shots. What can we do to recover from a public failure? I'm really good at apologizing. I have an artist friend who I tease about having rainbows and unicorns circling her head, because she always turns a bad situation into lemonade. A model didn't show up, so she had a student sit in and gave her a free painting lesson for the trouble. She made a new lifelong student. I want to be great at recovery shots like my artist friend.

7. How do you bounce back after a major disappointment? It's hard, and I still have to put effort into this, but I try to look at the numbers. For every one painting I toss, I have many more that get framed. It's the same with the rejections and the mistakes. Even though I may need to fail twenty times for a single success, I get confidence from looking at past accomplishments. I also have a pile of beautiful notes from collectors that I go through on occasion. And, as long as I keep going, I know I won't make the same mistakes twice. In the end, it's the last person standing who wins this game.

Of course there are times when life happens and there is no way we can remain in a creative zone. The good thing is that opportunities to improve in sales and marketing don't ever go away, and when we find our way back to the zone, we can always work on making up for any losses. I wish for you all, more wins than losses today.


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Debra Keirce

Regular Contributing Author, FineArtViews

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