Getting Out of Your Own Way as an Artist
Getting Out of Your Own Way as an Artist

Laura and Nikki share stories of how we get in or out of our own way, the importance of adjusting your mindset, and several helpful steps you can take to get beyond these challenges to advance your art business.

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Topics discussed

  • Fixed vs. growth mindset
  • Learn how to draw what you see, not what you think
  • Change the way we think to get out of our own way
  • Learning to grow in our abilities
  • How we self-sabotage by being afraid to ask for help 
  • Creating lasting habits (even for the “icky” stuff) 
  • Proactive time management and how to fit it all in 
  • Creating systems that work

Laura

0:07
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:08
And this is Nikki with the Startist Society inspiring you to stop getting in your own way, and start building an art, biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:17
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

0:31
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

0:38
Hi Nikki

Nikki

0:39
Hi Laura, what are we talking about today?

Laura

0:43
Today, we are going to talk about how we get in our own way.

Nikki

0:48
Oh, we are good at that, aren’t we?

Laura

0:51
So good. I think I have a PhD.

So there have been a ton of examples in my life where I get in my own way. I could probably talk about this for three hours.

Nikki

1:03
Let’s not

Laura

1:05
But we won’t.

Nikki

1:06
Let’s pick a couple of examples.

Laura

1:08
Before we get into examples. I think it’s important to talk about mindset. And I know that mindset is one of those buzzwords right now. There’s some great books out there on it, including Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Really what mindset comes down to is, do you have a fixed mindset? Or do you have a growth mindset?

Nikki

1:29
And what do those mean?

Laura

1:32
They sound fancy, right? Like scholarly. But really what it means is, if you have a fixed mindset, you think that people have abilities that they’re born with, for example. So when I was younger, I kind of had this idea that there were creative people in the world that were creative because they were born being able to draw perfect portraits out of their fingers or their hands, they could literally create without thinking, and it would look stunning to me. And so I drew stick figures…stop laughing…

I did. And I made up this story in my head that said, ‘Well, I’m really good at music…and I’m a really good student…and I’m smart at certain things, but I’m never going to be an artist. Because when I draw, I draw stick figures. And this person over here is Michelangelo.”

Nikki

2:25
Because you weren’t born knowing how to draw perfect portraits.

Laura

2:28
Exactly.

Nikki

2:29
And neither was Michelangelo.

Laura

2:33
So it’s these stories that we make up in our heads about it. I had that kind of story going on and not realizing, when I was younger, that anything was really possible and that we can grow in our abilities. It’s a process that you can learn. So probably about seven or eight years ago, I really started getting into drawing and painting and playing and experimenting. And I read some of the key books like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and really looking how to see and not draw what I thought I was seeing. And I started practicing. And pretty soon, my stick figures looked like… a little bit less like stick figures.

And then a little bit later, they got a little bit better. And eventually, I was able to create a series of portraits that I actually had in a little gallery show. And that was not anything I had thought was possible at one point because I thought you were either born with it or you’re not. And so I think one of the key things for moving forward and how we get in our own way is how we think about ourselves and our abilities and what’s available to us. So as soon as I got out of my way and said, You know what? That’s a story I made up, I’m going to replace it with something new that says, “You know what? I can!”

Nikki

3:52
And you did.

Laura

3:53
And I did… I did. So since then, I’ve continued to develop and learn and experiment, and realize that there is room for so many artists in the world. And you don’t have to be born with this ability to draw something perfectly from the get go when you’re six months old, if you can even hold the pencil when you’re six months old.

But another way I think we get in our own way and self-sabotage is when it comes to asking for help when we need it. We don’t want to inconvenience others or make any requests that might seem unreasonable. So we let that stop us in our tracks. And I wanted to share a story along those lines. Back in 2001, when I was much younger than I am today…

Nikki

4:44
Weren’t we all.

Laura

4:46
I used to take sewing classes on Friday nights at Hancocks because I was that cool kid on the block that on Friday nights wanted to go sew in my 20s, right?

Nikki

4:57
So cool.

Laura

4:58
So when I was sewing and learning how to sew, I was also involved in a project called the Self Expression Leadership Program with Landmark Education. We were creating community projects that moved, touched and inspired us, and I was looking around for what project to create. And I thought, you know what?  I’m going to see if I can sew something that could be useful for people. And I decided that it would be really cool to sew some hats for cancer patients. So what I did was… I reached out to the American Cancer Society and some different groups just to check it out and see if that was something anybody was interested in and decided just to get started with it. And when I did that, there was a resounding yes.  Yes, this is something we need in the community, in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. And so I began to break it down into little pieces and contact different groups and start to get volunteers and things like that. And as I started that process, we started to get fabric donations rolling in. To store the fabric was a challenge because I live in a condo, and there’s not a lot of room for large amounts of fabric in a condo.

Nikki

6:13
Not when it’s full of 500 tubes of magenta paint.

Laura

6:18
Exactly. So, at the time, I decided to reach out to a storage facility unit to see if they would donate space. I had no money at the time, no additional money to spend on something like that. And so I reached out and immediately got a no. And at that point, I started to shut down a little bit and thought, “Oh my gosh, this whole thing is crazy. What am I even thinking? Why would I do this? What I’m going to do with all this fabric! It’s all sitting in my living room.” And I decided to take the 10 seconds of courage and call someone else. That person also said no, but they said, “You know what? If you call this number, I know someone who owns a storage unit that I think would appreciate your cause, and would be interested in getting involved.” So I reached out and made that third phone call. And that particular company ended up donating air conditioned space to Brimming With Love, which was my charity project, for over 14 years!  Which is phenomenal.

Nikki

7:21
Fantastic

Laura

7:23
It’s really amazing. And if I had let that first no, kind of stop me in my tracks and say this whole thing is silly, what was I even thinking, then we would never have donated thousands of hats to hospitals all over the Metroplex. And even to this day, there’s still a website available, where people download a free pattern that I created with Milly Ralsky in town. And that’s available to download for free and make hats all around the world. So anybody who is interested in that, we’ll link to that in the show notes. But it’s called brimmingwithlove.com. The key point here is getting out of my own way and my own story in my head that said, “it’s just not worth it”, or “nobody is going to agree to help” when really hundreds of people rose to the occasion to help over the years. It really was an amazing outpouring of love and of people wanting to help others.

Nikki

8:21
And it happened because you didn’t let fear stop you, you got out of your own way and you reached out.

Laura

8:28
People want to help people. In our hearts, we want to be of service to other people. And so realizing that the way we love giving things to other people, they love giving to you too. So getting out of your own way (to be able to make those requests) can really have amazing results.

Nikki

8:45
Awesome. So, I have a couple of examples of how I got out of my way in a few small ways. Mine are less mindset and more practical. Well, in a way it’s mindset too. So tell me if this sounds familiar.

Laura

9:05
Okay.

Nikki

9:05
It’s New Year’s Eve. You have a whole long laundry list of all the things that you’re going to change about yourself and your habits and your priorities and your tasks tomorrow because the calendar ticked over and it’s a new year, right? So “New Year, New You”.

Laura

9:24
Mm hmm.

Nikki

9:25
“I’m going to be a totally different person tomorrow”. Well, that mindset is just setting you up for failure because, you know, you’ll get one of those little charts that has habit builders… and you fill in the little bubble that says I completed this task this day. And on day two, you haven’t done it.

Laura

9:47
I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Nikki

9:48
No, I’m sure you don’t at all. But that just leads to overwhelm and that’s leaving you worse off than you were to begin with. So my solution to that, and how I got out of my own way (in small ways, I’m still working on a lot of them), is I decided to take one small action towards that goal of getting everything organized in my business. What I did is, and I started this about five years ago, is I decided rather than waiting until the end of the year to categorize and organize my receipts for the whole year to get ready for taxes,  I would go through my expenses every Monday for the past week and categorize them into categories for tax write-offs, etc. rather than wait till the end of the year.

Laura

10:46
That’s brilliant.

Nikki

10:47
It’s one really small thing that you’re like, “Oh, God, do I have to deal with this every week?” But when you wait till the end of the year, it takes weeks to get through it all, and you want to throw things at the wall and cry (not that I’ve been there). But if you do…

Laura

11:02
Can I tell you, that’s me. I always wait till the end of the year, and then I spend hours digging…

Nikki

11:06
And you’re a finance person!

Laura

11:08
I know.

Nikki

11:08
Mm hmm. Well, I’m not a finance person. And I was doing that. And it was miserable. So I thought, okay, if I spend five to 10 minutes every Monday morning categorizing my expenses for the week, then at the end of the year, it’s no big deal. So I actually started doing that. And I use an online tool called FreshBooks Cloud Accounting. We’ll link to that in the show notes. And it does the same sort of things. It’s like QuickBooks and a bunch of other tools. But I really like this one. It’s designed for creative, mostly service-based businesses. Although they’ve added a lot of things for a product-based businesses lately. But anyway, it pulls in all my expenses from my bank accounts and credit cards. And I just go through, categorize it, and then it learns from your categories, and does it for you automatically.

Laura

12:04
Wow.

Nikki

12:04
And it takes no time at all. And then it just relieves so much stress at the end of the year. Well, I’ve been doing that… I’m notoriously bad at forming new good habits (I’m really good at bad ones), but I’ve been doing this one for almost five years now.

Laura

12:20
Wow.

Nikki

12:21
And a lot of people actually think oh, why would you want to start your week with something so icky as dealing with your finances? Why wouldn’t you want to start with something fun?  But this gets me to where I start my week, instantly accomplishing something that makes me feel good about my business.

Laura

12:41
That’s smart.

Nikki

12:42
And it’s fantastic. It’s a great feeling. And then once that becomes a habit, you can move on to another habit. So I’ve started adding other, you know, admin type things to my day to where now Monday is pretty much an admin day. I do all of my expenses and mileage tracking, client website maintenance tasks, all of that on Monday. And then I feel like I’ve started the week accomplishing something really, really good.

Laura

13:13
That’s awesome.

Nikki

13:14
So now I’ve decided a couple of days ago, actually, I’m adding a new weekly habit every Friday to end my workweek with (as if I actually end my work week on Friday and don’t work through the weekend). But saying that I do, let’s pretend for a minute that I do… I’m ending each week with sending an email to all my clients that I have ongoing projects with, as a little update email of what I’ve accomplished this past week, what I’m going to plan to do next week, and what I need from them to help move the project ahead. So I just have a little…

Laura

13:51
It’s like a little status report to hold yourself accountable.

Nikki

13:55
It does. And it makes my clients happier, because website projects can linger for months and months and months, between all the design and tech things on my side and the clients gathering content on their side.  It can be dragging on for months. And, you know, you kind of maybe don’t talk to each other for a while in between there. So I’ve decided to add this habit of doing that every week. And I’ve only done it once. I usually just kind of do it randomly. You know, I don’t keep everybody in the dark forever, but I do it kind of randomly and here’s what’s been going on and here’s what I need from you. But I’ve decided to implement that at the end of every work week. And so that’s you know, that’s an idea. That’s a different kind of thing of habit stacking. It’s not stacking one on to another but it’s basically you get one habit down to where you automatically do it without even thinking about it. It would never occur to me not to do my Monday expense categorizations and so I’m working to make the Friday status updates do the same thing. And so those are great ways of breaking things down, getting out of your way, learning from past mistakes of, you know, letting things build up.

Laura

15:17
I think it’s so actionable. I think that’s a really great example of how to take something and make it actionable and make it work for you. And getting out of your own way of the things that might otherwise be the stuff that you put off last, you know, to get past the procrastination of it.

Nikki

15:32
Ooh. And speaking of putting things off, I’ve got another story…

Laura

15:37
Do share.

Nikki

15:38
I’m trying to find time in my day to juggle – or in my weeks, months, whatever to juggle my client-based web design and branding business, and my own fine art business and my hopefully, surface design business. So I’ve got kind of two things going on in the art. But I’ve always been very reactive in what I’m going to do and not proactive, so I work on whatever is kind of screaming at me the loudest. So it’s client work that comes before my own work. And I really need to get out of my own way, I really need to prioritize my time so that there’s time for all of it. So my solution to that is setting designated days and times for each type of work, I do

Laura

16:30
Cool.

Nikki

16:31
I’m really good at at setting that and not as great at sticking to it. I’m working on that. But what I’ve done is I’ve kind of mapped out my ideal week, and it has me working on, just as an example. You know, admin and ongoing client maintenance on Mondays, new client work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Now, this podcast on Wednesdays, and my web design business, on Fridays, and then weekends to work on my own art. So that’s what I’m working with right now and trying to make that stick. So I’ll have to report back and see if I’ve actually been able to accomplish that.

Laura

17:08
Yes, I’m I’m gonna be really curious. But I honestly think that once you set a plan in place, even if you’re not following it every single day, you’re gonna see forward progress and being able to have more time to do your own artwork and do these other things that you want to do, because you are trying out a system. And sometimes you just have to put those systems in place.

Nikki

17:28
Yeah, yeah. And don’t let falling off of the plan one day or one week make you just toss it all out the window and quit. I’ve done that in the past.

Laura

17:39
Me too.

Nikki

17:40
But I’m trying, trying really hard to, you know, get back on the horse.

Laura

17:44
I mean, who hasn’t said I’ve had one piece of chocolate? Why don’t I have eight?

Nikki

17:48
I have never in my life… only had eight.

Laura

17:58
So yeah, so I think that the key takeaways really are around shifting our mindset, realizing that just because we’ve had an image in our past of the way we think things have always gone. Or we have an idea that only people who are born with something can do a specific thing. That that’s not really true. And you know, I actually have a friend who has a little plaque that she keeps on her living room table. And what it says is, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Nikki

18:31
That is so true.

Laura

18:34
It really is, so much of it is mindset, we’re all going to have things show up, right?  There’s going to be things that pop up and get in the way, or challenges that we’ll have in the process. But so much of it is saying, “You know what? I’m going to give this a shot.” And and it is possible for me to do this. And I can draw something other than stick figures. And I can be somebody who does their accounting on Mondays.

Nikki

18:56
And you can make that phone call to the storage unit and see if the second one said no, but maybe the third one will say yes. And you can take small actions on a repeated basis that take you a little bit closer to your goals by forming those habits.

Laura

19:16
Absolutely. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard today, we’d love for you to subscribe to this podcast and join us in our Facebook accountability group as well.

Nikki

19:26
Yeah, we’d love for you to join us in the Facebook group so we can all help each other be accountable. And we’d love for you to share this with a friend using our hashtag #StartistSociety.

Laura

19:37
For more info and the show notes, you can go to startistsociety.com. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

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