Open Yourself to Possibility

When someone suggests you should try Twitter, do you proclaim that it’s silly?

When you’re urged to mail postcards, do you say it’s too expensive?

When you’re told that you should start an artist newsletter, do you respond that you don’t have anything to say?

Saying No vs. Saying Yes

I often teach my clients how to say No in order to bring some sanity into their hectic schedules. It’s important to learn to say No to things that don’t serve you well.

But it’s equally important to say Yes and to be open to possibility. It’s critical that you don’t erect walls that fence you off from valuable experiences.

Jody Lee, Morsel II, C-print

Jody Lee, Morsel II. C-print. ©2007 The Artist

When I first started my business, I encountered a lot of excuses from artists who told me why they couldn’t try this or that. If I hadn’t been given so many excuses, I wouldn’t have been able to subtitle my book The No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion. I would have had a different book. Without those excuses, I wouldn’t have been able to define the artists I wanted to work with.

I now only consult with artists who are open to possibility. I want to work with people who choose to live their lives as an adventure instead of playing it safe. I want to work with positive people who enrich my worldview.

Practice saying “Yes, and . . . “ to everything.*

With this in mind, let’s return to my three questions at the beginning of this newsletter.

A friend says: You should try Twitter!
Rather than saying that it’s silly, you respond: Yes, and maybe you can tell me how it might benefit my art business. I love hearing about any new tool that allows me to share my work with more people.

A friend says: You should send out postcards for your art exhibit.
Rather than saying they’re expensive, you respond: Yes, and I’m going to update my mailing list over the next few weeks. I’m also going to talk with other artists to find affordable options for sending postcards.

A friend says: You should start a newsletter.
Rather than proclaiming that you don’t have anything to say, you respond: Yes, and I will sign up for other newsletters to see what I might be able to share that would be of interest to my mailing list. (See Action 8, Send a Killer Newsletter, in I’d Rather Be in the Studio!)

See how different these responses are to immediately dismissing a suggestion?

[*This is discussed in the excellent book Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith as it relates to improvisational comedy. They recommend the book Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson.]

FINAL WORD: Don’t dismiss what could be a good idea. Practice saying “Yes, and . . .” this week. It’s hard to do, but it’s powerful. Saying “Yes, and . . .” immediately changes your outlook from negative to positive. It opens up your world to other possibilities.

My Blast Off class is all about an affirmative approach to your art career. It’s all online at your convenience and begins May 19.

When have you embraced a new idea that made you uncomfortable at first, but ended up being a great move?

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13 comments to Open Yourself to Possibility

  • This is excellent advice for even non-artists.

    My usual answer is “I understand the benefits and am currently working on my list of to-do that includes that! Thank you for the reminder of how important it is to complete that!”

  • I’m consistently amazed how many artists won’t try things to get their work out of the studio and seen by the world. Part of the problem may be that in the studio one works at creating a little bit of perfection in one’s work (and on the good days actually succeeds a little bit). When it comes to taking that same work out into a less than perfect world and not always getting the desired response, one can be tempted to say the heck with it.

    If an artist is genuinely happier keeping their work a secret from the world of course that’s fine. But often there’s a feeling bitterness that comes with the retreat from the world of trying to show and sell one’s art. You don’t have to do all the things you hear Alyson suggesting.
    That’s not her point. But if you do want to start building an audience for you work, you have to try some of her ideas.

  • Honestly, all new ideas make me uncomfortable at first, & it’s usually the greater the uncomfortability that provides the greatest self-reward if I adopt the idea…(if it wasn’t a struggle, I don’t congratulate myself as much)…examples of things I wasn’t ready for? The cellphone (thought people looked silly talking & walking), digital cameras (thought the resolution was too low), Facebook (thought the friend thing was dorky), contracts with galleries (thought red tape was wasteful & untrusting)…

  • One of the first big moves for me was to participate in open studio tours in our local community. I had artists next to me who were actually making livings off of their art and I was really just starting and feeling totally unworthy, half finished projects laying around, etc. But I went for it and love the experiences. Not everyone likes what you do, but it only takes a few positive encounters to make it worthwhile. And those experiences make you stronger for the next challenge in the world of self-promotion.

  • Very good post. I especially love your statement that you seek out people that are already open to possibility to work for and with. Your job is not that of therapist. Just like a sports coach you want to work with talented people that are seeking to improve their game… and the name of the game is art and business. I find myself more and more seeking out new friends that are passionate about their art and about sharing their work. Enthusiasm is so contagious and negativity can be as well.
    I love Sari’s comment and Philip is right on target about picking and choosing ala carte from your huge menu of things to try.

  • Wayne Dyer said something in his book, Excuses Begone! that I ask myself all the time…what are you NOT willing to do to make your dreams come true?

    I am not willing to starve, so I have a day job. I am not willing to go naked, so I say yes to inexpensive clothing. I am not willing to be homeless, so I pay my bills.

    I recently switched to a 4/10 work week in a split shift so that I can paint on a daily basis. The hours are kicking my fanny, but I will get used to it. I AM willing to work an odd schedule to have time to pursue my dreams.

    When it comes to buying art supplies, I AM willing to spend what is necessary to make my work as good as it can possibly be. I’ll eat more cheaply if I need to. I wear old shoes if I need to. I AM willing to do that.

    I also work a part time job because that income pays my gallery rent. I AM willing work part time for a second company 7 days a week to do be able to pay for things art related.

    You just have to ask what you are willing to do and what you are not. Most importantly, if you are not willing, perhaps this is a dream that is not that important to you. You have to make a decision to completely invest yourself or not.

  • I began taking yes steps a number of years ago by attending the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center’s classes. This led to joining a BNI Chapter, a MeetUp group, and becoming involved with Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter. Through Renaissance, I met my web designer, who created my graphic identity, including postcard (!), thorugh BNI I met a marketing consultant for small businesses, who encouraged me to get a Facebook business page, and start an email newsletter, Through Twitter, I met colleagues who interviewed me on blog talk radio, and an artist support blog site. Through a Facebook friend, I discovered Art Biz, and joined the Linked Group, signed up for the newsletter, and read the Blog!
    I now love, rather then dread, looking at my email, because I love my contacts, and all we are creating together.
    Thank you Alyson, for the inspirational work that you do!

  • Wow! This bit of advice couldn’t have come at a better time. I have always seemed to second guess myself when it came to my artistic abilities. Early this year I made a decision to ” just do it” and move forward step by step with my art career. I have recently been asked to do an Art Talk at a local gallery and have been undecided about whether I should do this or not.Questioning my abilities again! Well I guess the answer needs to be ” Just do it” and say ” Yes” !! Thanks!

  • Angeline: Great, positive approach.

    Philip: Isn’t that the truth. Some people get so frustrated that they give up. I get that. But I really want to encourage artists to build that courage muscle and get the required work done.

    Sari: Bingo. The more uncomfortable it is, the bolder step you’re making. If nothing else, you’ve conquered a fear.

  • Alisa: And hopefully the other artists were encouraging. That in itself is worth the effort.

    Rebecca: Absolutely. I have to cover all the bases, but you must select what you need at this moment in time.

    Lynne: That’s an interesting take on the subject. What are you NOT willing to do to make your dream happen? That helps you set the boundaries.

    Debra: That’s awesome! Look at all of those connections you made! I’m so glad you’re here with us.

    Sue: Absolutely you want to do an art talk! I think there are some posts on my blog (and a bunch in my book) about doing an artist talk. It’s fantastic experience–and relatively easy when you blog about your art regularly.

  • It’s often so hard to know when to say “no” and when to say “yes.” It seems to me from reading here that the key is not simply “Yes” but “Yes, and…” This gives one time to consider the benefits versus costs to one’s business and art. Sometimes the gut instinct gives us a good answer, but sometimes that fast response is based on fear and that’s when that “Yes, and” really comes in handy.

    Great post, Alyson!

  • […] Here’s the question you have to answer: Will it make you happy? If it does, great. Go for it! […]

  • The last times I embraced an idea with a ‘yes’ mentality I was able to create a professional opportunity with a atartup and freelance gigs.