I love a good question. I also love a good answer.
Sometimes a good question does not make for an easy answer, and so I always go to my tried and trues: friends who may have dealt with the same question, colleagues who may have wrangled with the same issue, counselors who can give wise advice.
The following question was posed to a group of artists, entrepreneurs, crafters, musicians, writers teachers, healers and designers. Listen to their stories, feel their words, and remind yourself all over again that we are all on our own paths, and luckily for all of us sometimes our paths intersect and we can share our experiences to everyone’s benefit.
Have you ever been offered an opportunity that you knew in your bones was something that could move you forward, a little closer to where you want to be with your art/business/creative endeavor?
This opportunity was something that could give you and your work more exposure, or get you an entree to someone who you admire, or get the cash flow going that you need.
And to jump on this opportunity would mean a very big add-on to an already very long to-do list.
Did you jump? And if so was it everything you had hoped?
Did you take a pass on it and hope that another one would come along? Regrets? Joys?
It seems that many of the people I know are jumpers. Jumpers in the sense that they know themselves, are comfortable with their paths, know the direction they are going, and know when taking a risk will be a good thing even when they might not know the outcome:
I LOVE to jump. And every time I have jumped it has been worth it – albeit never in the ways I’ve expected. The beauty of my leaps is that even when they haven’t led to more money or the exposure I had hoped, I get beautiful songs out of it. And I get to keep them! Jumping is always a little scary. All of a sudden I am writing a musical with Joe Sample, or coming up with songs for a Disney Movie or the Dixie Chicks or Enrique Eglesias. But the more I find my way into these creative rooms, the more I see how big the house is, and how at home I feel.
–Jonatha Brooke, Singer/Songwriter
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Yes, I have had many opportunities that have been beneficial to my work as an artist and no matter how much work they entailed I never hesitated to take them on. As long as it is a good fit for the work I do and it feels right to me, that is all I need to sign on. I am never afraid of taking on more work because I love what I do and my entire life is structured around it. I tend to have realistic expectations so I am rarely disappointed in anything I commit to. Most times I find that if I earnestly focus on the work at hand, when I raise my head, I am often met with exceeded expectations. With that said, I think it takes time and experience to know which offers to dive into and which to sit out.
Lisa Occhipinti is a Venice CA-based painter, book artist and author.
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Opportunities have come and whether I think they will move me closer or not, I only accept those that feel right. What I’ve realized over the years is that sometimes the *BIG* opportunities do not move me forward as much as I think they will. It’s most important that I feel inspired, because the real expansion happens with the accumulation of those inspired steps that I take every day. I think all too frequently I have found myself anxiously awaiting that ‘big break’, instead of focusing on creating great work and appreciating exactly where I am. Opportunity to move closer to my dream, to give my work more exposure, to get an entree to someone I admire and get the cash flow going have often happened when I was least expecting it and always happen when I am following my heart.
Marisa Haedike is a creative entrepreneur who will never be boxed in, but if you insist on putting her in a box, you can start with artist.
Following your heart and listening to your own internal voice are key to this theme of jumping or waiting, and sometimes following your heart can mean saying no to something that looks like something you should say yes to. Listen to your own heart, trust your own inner voice, learn to listen to yourself, you could change your own life.
I was offered an opportunity and no, I did not jump. I had a chance to have my hand-crafted dolls placed in a retail chain. The call came from the buyer at the chain after a full page color story appeared about my work in a national newspaper. At first I was thrilled at the possibility, but ultimately my instincts told me this was the wrong direction for me and for my work. The terms of the agreement would have pushed me into being something I did not want to be.
Everyone thought I was crazy but I listened to my inner voice and turned the offer down. A year later another opportunity came along that was better suited for me and where I wanted to take my business. I strongly believe that what is for you is for you and that you have to listen to that quiet firm voice inside.
Deborah Grayson is an art quilter and doll maker.
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A company who I’d dreamed of working with for years offered me a job. I strongly respected and admired the people on the team and the company’s vision. I believed my designs would receive great exposure in the market and, as an employee I’d have financial security.
I decided not to jump for 2 reasons: I would have had to relocate to a small town in another state, and also a part of me wondered what it would be like to try licensing on my own. So I jumped into unfamiliar territory. I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time and the momentum is building. After reflecting on if I have regrets and/or joys, I honestly don’t know the answer to that question (maybe a little bit of both). Like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote says: “Life’s a journey, not a destination”. I believe it’s a process of experiencing the unknown. This is where you will receive wisdom that guides you along your path. Be open to the detours and unexpected gifts. The universe wants to support us when we take a leap in either direction.
Jenny Parker is an artist and designer.
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All the TIME! It seems that opportunities appear out of nowhere, and I usually say yes! Some of them turn out to be duds, a few have turned into really exciting events that have opened a new alley for me. My problem is that I may be saying yes to too many opportunities. This year has been all about jettisoning some parts of what I do because I’m running out of time each day. I find myself continuing to evolve, and try to choose to participate in events that will keep me moving forward towards my long-term goals. Remembering to take the time to check IN on those goals is something I need to do!
Candy Glendening, quArtist
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The opportunity came about a year ago, when a friend asked me if I wanted to sub-let his ginormous art studio for the summer. My initial plan was to use the space as a hub of creative activity ~ classes, workshops, shows, etc. ~ an idea that I’d gotten in my head months earlier. When the opportunity for the sub-let came along, I thought it was a sign that this was meant to happen.
As the time for me to take over the studio neared, I got more anxious about the idea of trying to pack the summer with events, and made two new decisions:
1. To pull back from my original idea and use the space to focus more on my own creative work.
2. To pay the rent entirely on my own.
Both of these decisions served to give me the best of both worlds. While my commitment to doing my own work motivated me to take advantage of the space while I had it, the decision to take responsibility for the rent inspired me to hustle a little bit in order to subsidize my rent. So a friend rented the studio to teach his own class, another group rented the space for a gallery show, and I also hosted a workshop for another artist (this workshop was so lucrative that it paid most of my final month’s rent.)
It was a great experience from every angle, and gave me a small taste of what it would be like to create a full-time studio/hub of creativity on my own, an idea that continues to tug at me every so often. So the story isn’t over… but it had a lovely beginning.
Christine Mason Miller: artist*writer*explorer
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The opportunity itself was amazing; writing a book on marriage for Chronicle Books in San Francisco. But what came before that, what made it possible is the part I remember best.
I was dying at a full-time job selling other people’s books. People would meet me and say, “Why are YOU doing this?” I was a writer in hiding. I didn’t think I had what it took to write and be in the marketplace. One day I was standing on the cliffs in Utah looking over the whole valley and I saw my life like a landscape and knew it was either leave the job or the cancer choo choo train was coming after me.
I left the big corporate job with no net, just a plan to get back to writing and save my life. The call came in from Chronicle Books the next week.
Laurie Wagner is a writer and writing coach in Alameda, California.
Saying YES! has the potential to change the momentum of your life. Saying YES! to you and your path is a big piece of what the journey is all about, Saying YES! when it seems totally crazy to do so, is sometimes the very best thing to do.
About a year and a half ago I was contacted by the acquisitions editor at Quarry Books to see if I’d be interested in writing a book. My short answer was no. At the time, I had just moved, was recovering from knee surgery and was in the midst of many other projects, as well as a big personal one – growing a baby! But, there was this little voice inside my head that grew louder and louder, telling me to go for it, I had to do this. No, the timing wasn’t great, but I just knew that this would be good thing for my career.
Fast forward to today, and my book, Painted Pages: Fueling Creativity with Sketchbooks and Mixed Media is being released to the world. Making this book has been an absolutely fantastic experience and I am so happy that I decided to listen to those little voices telling me to go for it. I learned so much about myself, my art and writing throughout the book process and feel so thrilled to be given this opportunity as I know good things will come of it. Little Ada, my sweet daughter, was born in between important book deadlines, and yes, it does feel like I had not just one, but two babies last year. My advice: listen to those voices, know that you truly can do it, whatever that “it” might be to you, and one more thing, just to make things easier on yourself, don’t have a baby in the middle of it all, everything will seem less stressful on a full nights sleep.
Sarah Ahearn Bellemare is an artist from New England who first began painting as a way to illustrate poetry, her mixed media paintings are layered with found images, fragments of text from old books, and pieces of vintage maps.
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Seven years ago, I moved to a small town along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’d been practicing yoga for several years and was deeply inspired by Kimberly Wilson and her Tranquil Space studio in Washington DC. Like her I wanted to create a studio in my new hometown that fostered and inspired women to live fully and creatively. The Outer Banks had a great little yoga studio, and I soon realized that our small beach community was much too small to support more than one, so my dream went dormant.
One evening at a party, I ran into the owner of the local studio and in one long run-on sentence, I told her how-much-I’d-love-to-work-with-her-and-about-all-the-ideas-I-had-about-workshops-and-did-she-want-to-work-with-me-and-how-could-I-help-her? When I finally took a breath she said “well, I’m actually going to law school so I’m selling the studio, you want it?” Want it? YES!
My heart still races when I think of that moment, though mind you I had a busy career as an assistant creative director for a catalog, and did a lot of traveling, so the last thing I needed was to take on a small business venture. The next morning I sat bolt upright in bed just KNOWING this was my path and she and I were under contract before I had even finished my yoga teacher training. I’ve since quit the catalog gig, moved the studio to a bigger space, opened a satellite studio location in the summer, and I run art and yoga retreats in the fall called Serendipity. Sometimes you just need to listen to the yes! in your heart.
Michelle Madden Smith is a yoga instructor, workshop leader and artist.
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About four years ago someone very close to me got ALS. It was a time of tremendous loss, crisis and sadness. I was finding it hard to find my smile again. I thought starting a blog would help me to reconnect with my creative voice. What I discovered was, as I was consciously looking for fun, joyful things to share in blog posts, I was bringing joy back into my own life as well.
I began learning everything I could about blogging. I read blogging books, got to know bloggers, went to workshops and blogging conventions. I found the blogging community to be great. They were generous and gave terrific advice when I needed it.
As so many of my friends are talking about retiring in the next 10 years, I feel like I am on a path of great new adventures. Some days it seems as if my to-do list is ridiculously long. However even if I was not making a living doing this, I would still get up every day and photograph and blog. It’s more than work….it’s passion.
Cynthia Louden is a photographer and blogger.
And some final words of wisdom:
Trust your gut. That is the best advice I could ever give because that is what I try to do. When a big opportunity comes along, I trust my gut to guide me. If my gut gets all excited and is filled with wonderful anticipatory butterflies, I know I am on the right track and do whatever I can to make it happen. I say no to opportunities that fill me with dread, where I am dragging my feet and feeling tortured at the thought of fulfilling the requirement. I have found that living by my gut guides a joyful life, not to say I don’t have cruddy tasks now and then, but mainly life is passionate and joyful.
Mary Beth Shaw is an artist and teacher
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Yes, yes and yes. In fact, I’ve never not jumped. I’m a serial jumper.
I’m a firm believer that if you don’t exercise your jumping muscles, you lose them. Grasping at opportunities is second nature to me, and although it ensures a long to do list, it also gives me rockin’ business joy. Also, calves. ; )
Erin Loechner can be found daily at Design For Mankind, her art/design blog that was recently honored as one of the London Time’s top 50 design blogs in the world.
So what are your experiences with jumping into new endeavors, or changing paths? What could you share with us about opportunities jumped on or waved past? We’d love to hear!