Sunday, January 04, 2009

Portfolio Project, Week One: Explore

Painting in Process/Blank

Let me tell you. This week has not been as productive as I was planning.

Last week, my Pre-Portfolio Project was all about thinking and planning and coming up with expectations and goals and plots and making it all bigger and more ambitious and WOO HOO let's just reach for our dreams and what a great year it will be!

And then came January First, the prospective start day... and I didn't start. I made a log, though, so I could keep track of what I didn't do... and what I did.

And day two and I slowly started writing things down and trying out ideas and sketching a little. I even painted a picture that I had no inspiration for but I just tried it out and came up with something that I didn't even like.

And day three and I started to write, fewer pages than I had planned. And I messed with the blog. And I painted a picture... with inspiration... but in fits and starts, because it flickered on and off, that inspiration, like a flashlight with dying batteries. And it isn't done, that picture. This picture, with the flying house inspired by a video posted over on Secret Notebooks.

But in these three days where I have not reached my goals, I have been doing a lot of thinking about what this all is, this project and this process.

It is
1. Not going to go from 0-60 in 60 seconds. No it's not. I already knew that was not how productivity develops, but I guess I thought I had been so busy before, I could just translate that business into a new project, but I can't. You still need to take baby steps in the beginning until you are warmed up for the great strides.

2. Not going to turn out to be what you expected. Will I finish my novel in a month? Probably not. Probably not even the 2 months I had scheduled. If I manage it in the whole three month period, it will be a blessing. Am I going to paint my initial 60 paintings (like I originally proposed) or even 24 finals, like I had settled on after looking at the whole list of expectations? Some of those other goals might get knocked right out of the project. Don't know. But the project might even end up being MORE than I expected. In fact, I am beginning to think that the project might help me outline my non-fiction creativity book that I have been tossing around for the last, oh 15 years.

3. Tough. And it's not the project itself that is the hardest work. The hardest work is the work that goes on within yourself. Questions to ask that inform it all: Who am I? What do I really want? What am I afraid of? What are the most important things in life? What am I willing to give up? What drives me? What do I have to share with the world? How can I believe in myself and my work?

So last night and this morning I made the realization that this week (maybe longer, because this project will probably change over the course of 12 weeks) is about exploring.

In it, I am exploring the ideas that I set forth before hand. Exploring my ability to reach my goals. Exploring the creative projects and finding what shape they will have.

In that exploration, I am allowed to get lost. I am allowed to blunder around, trip over my own two feet, get turned around and go backwards, take a new path, climb a tree for a better view, mark a rock with a piece of chalk to show where I've been, take a nap and start out again.

In exploring the boundaries of my project, I am allowed to not be inspired. To produce crappy paintings, or ones that seem more unfinished, like last night's piece. What started out inspired and ended up being a cypher for what is to come. I am allowed to write 3 times as many words as I actually keep. I am allowed to snap a hundred thousand digital photos and erase them all. I am allowed to cut my hair and consider that part of the process. I am allowed to scrap half my project and stick in and even more ambitious piece. I am allowed to start keeping track of the things I do to take care of myself, not just my project.

I am discovering this work. I am discovering my self. I am discovering the year. I am discovering the road as I go... in fact, not only am I discovering it, I am making it as I go.

Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar.
(Traveler, there is no road. You make the road as you go.)
-Antonio Machado

What are you discovering this week about your project, your goals, your self? Take a chance and go off the beaten path of your intentions and discover something new. How is your path changing as you walk along it?


differenceayearmakes said...

My word this year is DISCOVERy - so it is all about what I find while traveling the road. Already during this end/beginning of year reflection I've had a few DISCOVERy/epiphanies. I have goals for this year, but I'm taking them in small bites at a time - because somehow if I set out to accomplish in big bites I'll get overwhelmed and end up accomplishing much less.

There is something about the "I will have this much done by this date" goals that can be very counterproductive, weirdly enough. Even in the workplace where these type of goals are common they have to be continuously readjusted according to circumstance.

Don't hit the ground running, remember the tortoise and the hare. Give yourself some breathing room and you'll be surprised how much you'll accomplish. That's my 2cents worth.

Emme said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog, Rowena. I "know" all of what you said, but its still good to be reminded by someone else traveling the same road. You're so right about it being such an internal thing, more than what we produce right now. I am rediscovering myself, after being pregnant and/or nursing for about 10 years straight. I'm in a new, wonderful,(and strange and uncomfortable) place right now just kind of exploring new parts of myself. Yes, definitely a cool thing to show the kids that I am going for the big dream, even if its hard and weird and uncomfortable!

Natasha said...

Wow I needed this this morning. I had so many things planned for the end of the year and suddenly got scary sick because I'd been burning the candle at both ends of too long and everything I planned fell apart....and I got sad...just feeling like I'm a failure and I realized my body needed me to stop as did my mind I had to slow down and rediscover things like what it means to take time for me and seriously stop to smell the roses and explore that smell and color and all of it...this post reminded me that sometimes we have to just be and let ourselves explore, grow, learn and move from that space. I'm inspired and moved by you...thanks for this're on an amazing road

m. heart said...

as soon as i saw the floating house here i knew it must have been inspired by the video. i found that image really powerful as well and love your interpretation.

jennlui said...

oh yes baby steps, yikes!!! that's a big lesson for myself as well... i find that my create energy is mostly found in bursts. so i'm learning to work with my flow... and not to force things, which well never works. creative bursting energy days are for making things happen, and the days that aren't so motivated are for reading, planning and getting my thoughts sorted... it's actually been going very well lately with this. the key was to notice my flow... now it's to respect it and to work WITH it!!! this has been a BIG big big lesson... now if i can just keep focused and remind myself that it's all in baby steps...

thank you for this post it's been a great reminder for me...

baby steps

peace and love

Julita said...

Since I too am on a road of discovery regarding myself and my art, I am going to live by your words this year because I don't think I could have stated what you said any better. Thank you.

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