You Can't Do Everything

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.



You are probably bombarded with all the things you should do to improve your art career (from the creative side to the business side). We at Fine Art Views contribute to that bombardment. And you probably get it from multiple sources.


All this information is great…but…it can often lead to overwhelm. With so much that you are supposed to do with marketing and creating, it can often seem that there is no time to get anything productive done. There’s just too much.


For many people, when faced with this type of overwhelm, they choose to do nothing. Some choose to do nothing because of fear. Some choose to do nothing because of confusion. Some don’t know where to start. Some want to do more research to make sure it is just right. You get the point.


And the question is does this describe you?


The truth is you cannot possibly do every idea that you come across. There are a gazillion great ideas out there (and a gazillion bad ones).


Another truth is that there is no magic bullet that will work for everyone. On occasion I get emails or have conversations with someone wanting a step by step to do list or formula to success.


But I won’t give you that. It doesn’t exist. I will (and do through this newsletter) give some suggestions to consider. And as pointed out, there are many other valid suggestions – many of which contradict each other. But they are all worthy of consideration. They all work for some artists, and they all don’t work for other artists. There are some that are generally better than others, but nothing is absolute for everyone.


The trick is to find what works for you.


But this is often another stumbling block which causes many artists to choose inaction. How do you know what works for you? What if you fail?


But, I see inaction as a bigger failure than trying something and failing. Why? Because, you are at least doing something. You are being proactive and taking control. Even if you try something and if fails, you can learn from your mistakes. You will be much more likely to try again and keep trying until you find things that work for you.


With inaction, you automatically fail. With action, you might succeed.


Consider the following diagram:




  • Point A – Let’s assume that the line at the base of the triangle (running from “Inaction” to “Doing everything right”) is a continuum. Point A represents someone who is moving along that continuum toward doing everything right. But look at where he is. He is very close to inaction. This person only takes action when he is fairly certain of a successful outcome. He doesn’t get very far, does he?
  • Point B – This represents someone who takes action, but most of the ideas failed. He is quite far along the continuum towards failing at everything. But he isn’t actually on the line, he is somewhere in off the line just enough to suggest that something he is doing is pulling him (even if just a little bit) in the direction of doing things right.
  • Point C – represents someone who takes action and is doing a lot of right things. Yes, he is off the line a bit which means that he has also done his share of things that failed. But he learned from his mistakes and continues to take action.


Now look at the relationships between points A, B, and C. Point B is much closer to Point C than Point A is to C. This suggests that although the person at point B has failed more than his fair share, his taking action is moving him closer to where he wants to be than someone who does nothing at all. The person at Point B could very easily become the person at Point C. And he will get there much quicker than the person at Point A.


The lesson – (almost) any action is better than no action at all. Even failed actions get us closer to our goal if we learn from the mistakes.


Each and every one of us is somewhere within that triangle. The question is where.


So, as you sit down to make goals for 2013 and you consider the plethora of ideas and suggestions from this and other blogs, books, workshops, etc. don’t worry about trying to do everything. But DO worry about doing something. Anything is far better than nothing.


Best Wishes,

Keith Bond


PS This topic is a springboard to a variety of related topics that I’ll address in future posts.



Editor's Note:  You can view Keith's original view here.


6 Responses to You Can't Do Everything

Jeanean Songco Martin
via faso.com
Dear Keith, Let me preface this comment by saying how much I admire your work. I can see that you are truly a "working artist" I can say the same for myself after years of stopping and starting. When I feel overwhelmed I am tempted to just give up but I manage to persevere. I think having many deadlines in Art College helped me to organize my work and to actually develope good working habits. We are all aware of the pitfalls of feeling overwhelmed. The secret for me is to develop a game plan and to manage obstacles in small doses. Begin at the beginning. Case in point: 3 shows in 3 months. Ridiculous but that is what happenned to me recently. I felt extremely overwhelmed. The first show was the hardest, but once over I was feeling very very good as the sales were surprisingly good. This "boost" in sales allowed me to manage the second show and was able to have more work framed in a timely fashion. Unfortunatel, because the second show is figurative/portraits and I don't anticipate selling as much as my landscapes would I probably will be in the hole. So, I took a huge leap of faith and ordered my new frames for the third show and am working on touching up and framing each of the twenty new pieces of work by lining up all the paintings and deciding what exactly is needed (if anything), work on two paintings at a time one in the morning and one in the afternoon. And if it gives me too much trouble simply abandon that particular painting. I am in control, working hard and seeing results. Litte by little is the clue.

Ellie Harold
via faso.com
Your article is spot on about the potential for overwhelm. We all want to get it right and believe that doing one more thing will get us the success we long for. In my experience, however, one deeply meaningful goal may be enough for a year.

In a workshop I facilitate this time of year called "Goal-Setting for Artists, I suggest that artists select only one or two goals for the year. The goals should be SMART ones; that is, specific, measureable, actionable, relevant, and time-limited. For me, relevance is key. If it really matters, it's more likely to have originated from some deeper creative impulse within me than something I pick up as a "should" from well-meaning sources.

Last year my one SMART goal was to produce a book with the ideas I know contribute to an artist's fulfillment. Using my own good advice, I completed this goal by the middle of May. The rest of the year, and now 2013, was/is filled with opportunities (such as this one) for letting the world know about it. Your readers might be interested!

It's called 7 Habits of Deeply Fulfilled Artists: Your Aesthetic Needs and How to Meet Them. More info at www.EllieHarold.com/other2.

May we all be fulfilled by our art-making!


Lori woodward
via faso.com
Keith, this post is so right. I've been trying to do too many things in the past 5 years. Some worked, some failed, but now I'm also adding... "is this activity something I can happily sustain for a long time?"

I have come to the conclusion that whatever I choose to focus on, it needs to provide satisfaction, growth in a direction I enjoy, and ultimately more than just providing income.

I think you're right about there being no recipe to success. We have widely different personalities, so when we try new ways to market our work, we're also testing how well that approach fits who we are. The journey is fun and an adventure. It takes thick skin too.

Love the diagram! I'll have t think about where I am on it.

Barbara Reich
via faso.com
Hi Keith - I find that things go better when I have a small list of things to "focus" on". If I work on improving too many things at once, everything falls flat. The more I focus on a particular element or new painting idea, along with maybe a new marketing idea, I am much more likely to create forward momentum. Getting overwhelmed only stops my momentum and has a detrimental effect on my creativity. When all else fails, I remind myself that it is about the "art" and if nothing else, stay focused on the art. It will carry you through every time.

Barbara Reich

Rosalia Tignini Verdun
via faso.com
Hi Keith,

thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

It seams that almost all of us have the same dilemma!

It is more difficult for artists like me,from an other country, the work and sacrifice gets to be double!

Because it becomes more office work than art itself except you have your own secretary and an assistant!

But the love and passion for the Art
conquers any difficulty.

All the best to all for the New Year.

Rosalia Tignini Verdun

cathy hamilton
via faso.com
I couldn't agree with you more...and I am truly in the midst of which you speak...redefining myself as an artist?...or retiring from art for the fear of failing....I am not quite sure where I belong on your triangle ... because right in the midst of discovering your wonderful site and setting up my web page I suffered a setback as an artist due to a partial amputation of my right hand....everything as an artist for me has been put on hold due to this, and with each day that goes by it is becoming clear to me that the style and technique I have grown into over the past 40 years as an artist is being challenged to its very core....unfinished projects with very understanding clientele assuring me of their patience while I heal...potential clients calling to have me do work for them because they have seen my work...attempting to hold the instruments of my craft and realizing that perhaps I might never be able to accomplish my technique to its previous existence....thru moments like these I am discovering that 1. my desire to create has NEVER been stronger....2. the realization that I'm not quite sure of where I belong within the framework of my work....and the most important is 3. While my desire to create has never been stronger the fear of failing has never been stronger....
Your triangle and article are challenging thoughts that seem to be spearing me in the direction of realizing that while hands are the means of holding the tools of my craft, it is my heart and soul and brain which possess the true ability to create, and if inactivity exists on 'my triangle' it isn't the partial amputation of my right hand controlling that placement....only if I allow the amputation to spread to myself and who I have become as an artist will I feed the fear of failure....and that I refuse to do...Perhaps not only health issues but just the daily challenge of existing in today's world spurs one to grow, stretch and FIND THE WAY EITHER BACK TO OR TOWARDS THE NEW SELF of whom we all have become as artists....your triangle truly represents more than just three sides....thank-you...
Cathy Hamilton

Topics: Inspiration