Opening Night

If discipline and willpower were not enough to get her through this, Dani wondered, then what was?

Even though Dani had been a member of Growth Studio for a few months, she realized she hadn’t fully taken advantage of all the resources.

It was finally occurring to her that passively absorbing information was probably not enough to move the needle.

She submitted a question for the next call, and we got to have a little chat.

I listened carefully to what Dani was struggling with and gave her a little ‘homework’ assignment. Part of that was to go back to one of the lessons, Success in the Studio, and re-watch video #3.

The more important piece though, was to take note of her thoughts, and look for assumptions.

When she re-watched some of the Office Hours calls, and was brutally honest with herself, Dani realized that she always sort of looked at other artists who were doing better than her with a little envy.

Dani is a sweetheart, so this realization was tough. She did not like that she sometimes felt envious of other artists.

But she realized the reason she felt envious was because she was making a big assumption AND missing a huge opportunity.

She assumed these artists had an advantage which gave them a leg up somehow.

She made a shift in her thinking.

She started asking herself better questions.

Instead of asking:

“What do they have that I don’t?” or

“Why couldn’t I be more like that artist?”

She started asking:

“What are they DOING differently that gives them that result?” and

“What might I LEARN if I took a similar action?”

For Dani, this was HUGE. Her thoughts shifted from:

“Something outside of my control is preventing me from getting where I want to be.”

To:

“This is my choice. I decide what to think and how to act (or react).”

Granted, her first response to this realization was frustration with herself (we worked through that) but pretty quickly…

She felt EMPOWERED. In a BIG WAY.

Maybe painting WAS hard. Maybe she DIDN’T know all the answers.

BUT

She also knew she could do hard things. And she could find the answers – if she asked better questions.

She stopped asking “How can I not be afraid?” and instead asked “Am I willing to be afraid?”

She asked the same questions about failure and discomfort, and all the roadblocks she had been setting up in her own path.

“If I’m going to fail,” she thought. “it had better be for a valid reason, not because I just wasn’t inspired or didn’t try. At least then, I’ll learn something for the next painting or the next show.”

“Failures” are only as powerful as what we make them mean.

“I can feel uncomfortable and scared. I’ve felt it before and I’m OK. I am WILLING to be uncomfortable and afraid in service of my art. And more importantly, I’m willing to do that in service of myself.”

Dani’s painting practice is not all rainbows and ponies.

But she has new tools to help with the roadblocks.

And she has a community to cheer her on.

Best of all though, she feels empowered and confident .

She has her own back.

OPENING NIGHT:

Outside the Community Center on opening night, Dani felt that familiar sensation – equal parts terror and excitement. She took a moment to just sit with the discomfort, then took a deep breath and walked in.

She stood in the middle of the room, taking in the crowd enjoying the art, she heard her daughter squeal as she raced across the room – “Look! Mommy’s paintings are here!”

One of the artists in the show came up to congratulate her and give her a hug.

Friends from work waved hello from across the room.

Her ears perked up when she heard a woman taking about one of her pieces. It was a painting she had struggled particularly with. She’d worried about overworking it and almost didn’t put it in the show.

“I feel like I know this place,” she said to her friend “It’s like I’ve been here before but I know I haven’t.”

“I love the colors and how the light hits the tree,” her friend responded, “it’s incredible! I wish I could paint like that!”

Her mother in law, who had helped with the kids SO much the last few weeks so that Dani could get everything ready came over to congratulate her.

“The show is wonderful, Dani! I don’t know if I really understood before why you sacrifice so much to paint, but now that I see it here, all together, I get it. Your paintings are beautiful. I’m proud of you.”

Her husband squeezed her hand and winked. “I am too, love.”

Dani realized she was actually proud of herself too.

Proud for saying yes to a show that scared her. For pushing through the discomfort to create a body of meaningful work. Proud of doing the hard work and the growth that came from it.

She didn’t hold back.

Of course she could see things to improve next time, but she didn’t see that as failure. She saw them as lessons to bring to the next canvas.

She learned something about herself as an artist, about what she wanted to say. She felt confident in her voice for now, and that was plenty.

She pushed through the challenges, the discomfort, and the fear, and more than one ‘do-over’ painting to put together her first real show!

“Excuse me, are you the artist?”

Dani turned around. It was the woman she’d heard talking about her painting.

Dani had always resisted calling herself an artist. With a big smile, she answered:

“Yes! I am the artist.”


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