After I wrote about my recent rejection, I have been puzzling over the idea of success. Do you ever do this do yourself? It is one of those topics I can bumble happily along and not think of at all until it smacks me in the face. I know there are professions that have clear status points, titles, promotions, and achievements that let you know you are progressing. The path of creative people is so much less defined. If I want to scroll through my social media and consider the successes of my creative peers I can point to published books, grants, residencies, public art installations, work on television and film, museum shows, and tenured teaching positions. I am friends with people with gleaming resumes and amazing connections, but defining success is such a strange thing.
Over the summer two artists that I know and admire had a month long residency to build an installation at the ASU Art Museum. These women make incredible work (both together and separately) and are on a tight schedule flying from place to place to install shows. They stepped away from their work a couple of times to catch a meal with me and dip in a pool (an Arizona summer can keep anyone working hard in an air conditioned museum). The three of us talked and talked and talked about many different facets of artistic life, projects we were following, and things that excited us. As a stay at home mom who has followed her husband's career through multiple cross country moves, (with the unintended consequence of removing me from any art community where I was taken seriously on my own) I was basking in the inspirational glow that I get from this rare type of interaction. It honestly stunned me when one of them said to me, "How do you manage to get so many creative projects done?"
I'm not saying that I am boring, or accomplishing nothing, but on a good day I do not feel on par with most of the people I went to school with (or my creative peers). I'm not looking at people and thinking I deserve what they have, because I don't actually do that. I do look at myself and think I should be doing more, I am capable of so much more, what in the Hell am I actually doing?
Some of my artistic friends must have clear ideas of personal success that can be measured. Personally, I never had a clear path in mind. My career has been full of fits and starts that have pointed me in different directions. I am grateful for each aside because I love the sets of skills I have acquired (printmaking! bookbinding! pop-up book construction! costume design! puppet making! video editing! painting! sewing! drawing!) and I am able to take material experience from one place and apply it to another, but success? It is so murky to me. I'm trying to redefine this for myself and believe all this experience IS my success. On a good day I can start to believe that.
Since my children are finally both in school (I know I mention this in almost every post) I'm trying so hard to put myself back into things. Can I just tell you what has been happening since August? I have applied for two different public art opportunities and one grant, started two large scale drawings, continued to work on commissioned portraits for my drawing business, made a bunch of Cabbage Patch Kids clothes, spoke at a lunchtime lecture series, submitted a writing proposal, I am helping to jury the local arts festival, working to design two murals, taking a class on grant writing, starting to experiment on large ceramic forms at a local sewer pipe manufacturer (more on that soon), am trying to help manage this website and business, oh! and Halloween is approaching so I need to get on with making costumes. Plus, you know, standard life things like doing all the laundry, keeping the house and children relatively clean, making dinner every night and knowing what everyone needs at all times. I don't think I am failing, but I'm not feeling like much of a success at the moment. I am not writing this to complain, I like to work, I'm just trying to figure out how to find satisfaction. Do you know what would qualify as success to you? Does it change? Am I the only one worrying about this?