If you’re just tuning in, this series of posts is about a self-improvement (ick, I hate that term) a self-developmental program that I’ve put myself through twice (yes, twice) which I call Five Years to Independence. If you follow the steps, yes it takes a long time, and no, no harm will come to you, and, in the end, you’ll feel better about your talents, and will find yourself accomplished in your field.
This plan works for you if you are not currently using your chosen talent to support yourself. If, for example, you are a fine painter, but you spend your days checking tax returns for a living, this plan is for you. I myself spent half of my life trapped in a succession of customer service positions before I figured this out.
Year One was all about not looking back, about honoring the road you’ve chosen so far in life. Although it hasn’t led you to success in using your talents, it has led you here.
And here is where we begin Year Two – The Year of Confidence.
Although this year is about self-confidence, it’s not the point. The point is that this year you express, believe, and totally embrace confidence in your talent. Whatever it is.
If you dance, this year you are a dancer. If you write, this year you are a writer. If you act… and so on and so forth.
This is the year in which you give yourself permission to be who you really are. You stop making excuses as to why you’re not that person: you be that person.
It takes a lot of courage to stop thinking of your talent as “well, you know, I dabble in watercolor,” and to instead refer to yourself as a painter. But that’s what this year is all about: courage.
One of the key parts of last year, the Year of No Regrets, was that, while you stopped kicking yourself for never having trusted your talent, you also worked in your art. You wrote, danced, sang, built a resume, even if only you saw it, which says Yes, I Am That Artist.
So, in fact, you are that artist. You write/dance/sing/act/paint. Whether anyone has seen it or not is immaterial. There is now artwork in the world, which you created. Artwork, by its very definition, is created by an artist. And that’s you.
Now, if you skipped the working part of the first year, it’s okay. Start working now. Now. Don’t put it off, or you’re wasting your time.
So, yes, that is who you are, but it does take some courage to admit it. You don’t have to go get new business cards. You need to tell your heart of hearts every single moment of every single day that you are a practicing artist. If you doubt yourself, look at the work you’ve accomplished.
If you are a performance artist, your road is both more difficult and more rewarding. A painter’s painting is a forever thing, but that moment when you catch the audience’s heart – that is fleeting. If you’ve ever done it, you feel it in your soul. For you to practice your art, you need to put yourself in front of an audience so you can pursue and perfect those moments. It’s harder, because you need to be cast in role – I recommend acting classes, either in workshops or for college credit, or both. Community Theater is always a very useful option. But it is so rewarding, because those little moments are such emotional highs. I know, spoken like a true actor. Funnily enough, I chose writing instead.
So, do you now what to do here in Year Two? Be it. Live it. Stop dreaming of it and become it.
So, here is my caveat about the Five Years to Independence: you have to define success. You don’t quite see my name on billboards, or find my novels at Barnes and Noble (yet).
Here’s how the plan has worked for me: I spent literally twenty-eight years in the customer service industry. Starting as a simple rep, I worked my way up through the ranks until I was a corporate director. When that company was sold, I moved on to become a partner in a service business, where my primary function was customer service. All the while, I dabbled in acting, in voice-over, in writing. The Great Recession crashed my business, and I found myself working part time at Bank of America helping people negotiate their failed mortgages.
It was then that I started this program, having built it as I went, and figured out who I really was, and what I wanted to be. I wrote my brains out in the Year of No Regrets, and sold my work for pennies to a number of online publishing sites. In that year, I became a writer.
In the next year, I decided to focus on a practical use for my writing, and learned how to be a technical writer. In the summer of that year, I got myself hired as a full time technical writer.
That, to me, is a huge success. I make my living, pay my bills, support my family, through my art as a writer. I no longer say that I dabble in writing – I do it every single day. It’s not prose or poetry, but it’s my art. And I love it.
To be sure, there’s much more to come – I have two novels, Droppington Place and Marigold’s End, that I’m marketing right now (for you marketers out there, did you notice how I slyly built two links right into this post? I know, I know, brilliance at it’s best).
The caveat, then, is that you must define your success. Getting to where you want to be requires mapping a road. Now that you are confident as an artist, you need to start thinking about where you can ply your trade.
That comes next, in the Year of Accomplishment!