How Do You Motivate Yourself to Finish a Project? (Curious Monday)

Sandra Duran Wilson painting with lotus

We all have projects that are part of our lives for longer than originally intended. The more we avoid them, the more monstrous they become.

Procrastination is in charge.

Today’s question …

How do you motivate yourself to finish up a project that has been hanging around the studio too long?


How to you face a project that you committed to, but no longer have any interest in?

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Lessons From The Past Year

©2012 Michelle Paine, Pilgrimage: St. Peter’s. Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

It’s hard to keep up with weekly emails about your art business, so I thought I’d point out some things that you might have missed or forgotten about this past year.

These are 12 valuable actions, from 12 different Art Biz Blog posts in 2015, to help you grow your art career while staying sane.

Marketing Your Art

1. Reduce the Boring Factor: Add Variety to Your Marketing Message

Why it’s on the list: Please, for the love of Pete, read this before you send another email.

Your art exhibition, class, workshop, or event has so many facets that there is no reason to send the same emails and social media posts for your promotions. They get a little stale after a while.

I have some ideas for you.

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Dwelling In Your Zone of Genius

Zone of Genius

There comes a point in every artist’s (every entrepreneur’s) business where you can’t grow without hiring someone.

It might be a paid intern, your kid, a website helper, or a bookkeeper, but you need the extra hands if you want to expand.

Who do you hire?

What will they do?

Your primary focus as an artist is on making art. That’s when you are in what Gay Hendricks calls your “Zone of Genius.” In his book, The Big Leap, Hendricks writes:

In your Zone of Genius, though the time you spend there produces great financial abundance, you do not feel that you are expending effort to produce it. In your Zone of Genius, work doesn’t feel like work.

I’m certain you know what that feels like. Bliss.

Your goal is to take those tasks off your plate that aren’t in your Zone of Genius – the tasks that keep you from making your best work. It’s the art you produce in the studio that nobody else could do.

For example, you might be competent at updating your WordPress template, but it’s not your best work. It takes you away from your best work.

Consider how lovely life would be if you could dwell in your Zone of Genius most of the time. How would that feel?

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8 of the Biggest Mistakes Artists Make in their Art Careers

Are you making these mistakes in your art career?

You might be making mistakes in your art business that are holding you back from big growth.

Mistakes aren’t bad, and I don’t want you to feel like you have to be perfect in everything you do because seeking perfection is a sure way to be paralyzed by fear. We have to make mistakes in order to learn and to grow.

Mistakes are only detrimental if you keep repeating them without learning and correcting your ways.

Are you making any of these mistakes?

1. Not knowing where you want to go with your career.

I’m not talking about the need to have a specific plan, but I’ve noticed how few artists, especially when they’re just starting out, don’t “get” that running a business is serious stuff. You’re no longer making art for pure pleasure.

Everything changes when you start asking for money in return for your talents. For some artists, it changes for the better and you’re fired up to get your art out there. Other artists can’t stomach the pressure and lose all interest in making art. They can’t seem to get into the studio.

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Why Aren’t You Motivated?

©2014 Diane Gabriel, Young Girl With Icon, Nah Trang, Viet Nam. Pigment print. Used with permission.

I want to help you with your art business. Each blog post, class lesson, consultation, or live event is designed to help you get one step closer to your dream.

In these formats …

I can teach you what you should be doing to promote your art. I can teach you how to do things. I can teach you why it’s good to be doing these things. I can teach you about other artists getting good results.

But …

I cannot teach you how to get motivated to do the work.

©2014 Diane Gabriel, Young Girl With Icon, Nah Trang, Viet Nam. Pigment print. Used with permission.

I’d go so far as to say that I can’t teach you if you are not motivated. I could give you information, but that information is no good if it is merely

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Schedule Something Scary and Extraordinary

©Joey Feldman, Vicious. Pen and ink on paper, 28 x 20 inches. Used with permission

It’s scary to step up – to think bigger about what you’re capable of.

There’s very little motivation in the daily grind: update Facebook, schedule a few tweets, send a newsletter, write a blog post, work in studio. If you’re not careful, you’ll continue to go through the motions of life without doing something extraordinary for your art and for yourself.

©Joey Feldman, Vicious. Pen and ink on paper, 28 x 20 inches. Used with permission.

In honor of the witching season, I ask you to scare yourself a little. Give yourself a challenge that motivates you to get out of bed and into the studio every day. Take on a quest.

Anatomy of a Quest (with Examples)

According to Chris Guillebeau, author of The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, a

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Out of Practice: The Physics of Your Art Business

The wall of hearts that many artists with strong studio practices contributed to. Photo courtesy Carol A. McIntyre.

The reason you’re out of ideas is that you’re out of practice.

I was so proud of saying this to a client the other day that I asked her to hold while I wrote down the quote.

I knew to write it down because I’m in the practice of gathering ideas for my writing. I have a regular writing schedule. I can’t say the same for a studio schedule.

No Studio Practice

When Barbara Gilhooly and Ayn Hanna called for “heart art” for their commitment ceremony, I wanted to make a heart for them so badly. I stewed over it for three months before giving up. I had a twinkle of an idea, but no vision for making it happen.

Barbara and Ayn in front of the wall of hearts, a beautiful ceremony that I had wanted to contribute

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5 Steps to Take Charge of Your Art Marketing (and Why You Must)

©2014 Claire Browne, Stem. Mixed media, 7 x 3 feet. Used with permission.

Stop waiting for the famous gallery dealer to call you up. Stop waiting for the artist agent-fairy to wave her wand. Stop waiting to win the lottery.

©2014 Claire Browne, Stem. Mixed media, 7 x 3 feet. Used with permission.

Start taking charge.

You have to plan for business growth. It doesn’t happen on its own. Nobody cares about your success more than you do, and nobody can do a better job marketing your art than you can.

Here are five steps for taking charge of your art marketing, which will send you well on your way to getting what you want from your art career.

1. Write down what you want.

Many people don’t get the life they really want because they haven’t taken the time to define it. They haven’t asked for it!

It’s a

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Taking Imperfect Action

Alyson Stanfield with students

You know that I’m all about action.

But I’m also about reading, researching, and learning, which is a good thing because my primary work is teaching. You have to learn before you can teach, although you’ll learn even more by teaching.

And there comes a time when you must stop the learning phase and start taking action – however imperfect it might be or however reticent you might feel.

Students at my workshop in Burlington, VT commit to taking action.

I think we stay in information-gathering mode rather than taking action for one of two reasons:

1. We’re afraid to make a mistake (failing). 2. We don’t have enough fire in the belly to get moving. We aren’t hungry enough.

Let’s look at these.

Go Ahead and Make Mistakes

You don’t learn simply by reading books and taking classes.

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Powerful Questions That Lead to Progress


Questions, when used in business planning, are more powerful than statements because they make us think and formulate our own answers. They encourage us to consider our situation, environment, abilities, and resources. See if any of these serve you at the moment.

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