Monday, July 1, 2013

Challenge #13: Make A Map, Dammit!

You may have noticed that the timing of our posts has been a bit sporadic this last week. That's because I've been on a road trip up through the eastern United States -- and it just so happens that last night I landed in Huntsville, Alabama. Sound familiar? It should -- that is the city of residence of our very own fabulous Art Abyss editor Kadie Pangburn, and we are cooking up a little surprise just for you in honor of the occasion. But let's get to the challenge.

In the spirit of summer travel season, this week and last week we're doing a bit of creativity voyaging. Specifically, we're attempting to make some progress toward that big beautiful mountain that beckons off in the distance, that goal you've always wanted (or have realized is actually what you want -- maybe through using some useful tools). However, say you've figured out where your mountain is. You can see it, even. You've memorized the snowy peaks, the way it glows at sunset. You know that mountain -- your goal -- inside and out.

There's only one problem: you don't know how to get there.

Last week, we talked about the challenges that you face when trying to figure out what goal is best for you -- but that's only half the struggle. Once you identify your destination, your way forward still may not be clear. No matter how many artist biographies you study or self help books you read, the reality is that your narrative, and the difficulties within that narrative, is still unique to you. Other people can develop tools that may help you, but unless you allow your needs to shape the way those tools are used, you'll find that you keep running up against the same old roadblocks again and again, and end up stuck staring at that mountain from the same place as before.

Once you have a goal in mind, you're like a GPS system (or GoogleMaps, or Waze, if you prefer) that's just starting up - you've told the computer which way you want to go, but it hasn't processed the data for a route that will get you there yet. It's still just the tool.

The data that you add -- in this metaphor, street names, traffic warnings, interesting attractions and useful stops along the way -- is what makes your GPS unique to your situation. Now what might they call such a collection of data?

Oh yes -- a MAP.

Now, how might we go about becoming cartographers for our own personal creative GPS?

Let's start with identifying major landmarks along the way: what are the things that you have accomplished, are in the process of accomplishing, or will accomplish that are necessary developments to have in your life for you to be able to pursue your ultimate goal?

For me, it comes down to three basic things:

1) Financial Stability
2) Fulfilling Relationships
3) Knowledge

Note that I said "to be able to pursue your ultimate goal," not "to be ready." I am a terminally un-ready person, but when I change that question to ask if I'm "able," things become much more feasible. I don't have as much knowledge as I'd like, but I have enough to get me started. Ditto for finances. Out of the three, fulfilling relationships is one thing I am incredibly lucky to have on lock. Once I get those other two things further along, I should be in good shape to pursue my ultimate goal of being able to support myself with my art.

Now that you know the major landmarks you need to pass, figure out what routes will get you there. 

For my map, this means taking a more active role in my finances, continuing to nurture my relationship with those around me, and actively seeking out new information and inspiration to inform my work. Anything that gets me closer to achieving these landmarks counts as a route I should consider taking.

Final step: make your itinerary. Where should you start? What comes after the first step? And after that? How do you get to the end?

Thankfully, unlike a roadtrip, you don't actually have to know how you're going to accomplish reaching your ultimate goal of the mountain -- but if you break things down into the individual steps and plug those into your GPS, not only will you be headed somewhere, but you'll actually be headed where you want to go, even if it doesn't always feel that way. 

For the moment, I'm going to get back to my real roadtrip. But on the long drives from town to town, I'll be figuring out what's on the map going towards my mountain. What about you?

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