Confidence or Guts?

“I just need a little more confidence”.

“How can I feel more confident”?

“I just don’t have the confidence to do this”.

I’m not sure you can just “become confident”. It’s not something you can decide you will be or declare it to be so.

Confidence is earned.

The key ingredient to becoming confident (along with a decent haircut, btw) is just plain guts. Releasing your curled toes that cling to the edge of the diving board.  Making the phone call. Pressing send on an email. Showing up at an event that scares the crap out of you. Walking up to the mic and asking the question.

So where do you get the guts? We all feel afraid the first time we did something. And discomfort is all part of growth and skill-building. I mean who was completely confident to sit down with their lunch tray at the cool table in junior high except for someone who had either done it before (and didn’t die) or the ones among us who are truly fearless (or completely delusional)?

But that’s not me and probably not you either.

I remember going to an event with my sister Chrissie a few years back. I have no memory of what the event was, I only remember that neither of us knew anyone except each other. My natural inclination was to skulk along the wall, dart over to the snack table and then slip out the back door (you will notice that I always make sure that snacks are part of any plan worth doing). But no, my sister Chrissie put out her hand to the closest stranger and said, “Hi, I’m Chris”.

Now, what kind of madness is that? Introduce yourself to a stranger? What? You think you’re MOM or something? This is the kind of activity that I felt completely uncomfortable about for years. If fact, when it was Girl Scout cookie time, I actually wrote out a script to try to sell cookies to my very own aunts!

Fast forward a few decades and I realized that my best shot at making any money and fulfilling my creative dreams was to be an independent illustrator, primarily licensing my art for cute and fun products. But that required making calls, sending cold emails, and showing up in person.

How was that going to work?

I had to figure out how to go from here (broke artist with a reasonable okay portfolio) to there (thriving artist with a few royalty streams at any given time). But I figured if I had learned how to draw well enough to go pro—a task that required many hours of practice, study and sheer grit to get better at it, then this part of the biz could also be practiced and studied too. But at the end of the day, it was the “sheer grit” part that took me to the next level.

Was I confident I could do it? Of course not. Was a I bundle of fear and uncomfortable dorkiness? Of course, I was! But the actual doing of the thing that made me the most uncomfortable was the thing that brought me to the thing I always wanted. Yeah, confidence.

And when you have done it enough times and by doing so you saw this thing called “success”, confidence takes over and you don’t need as many guts. You’ll remember, “oh, yeah, I did this before and I didn’t die”.

Confidence comes from accomplishment. Guts come from, well, your gut. When staying where you are no longer serves you and you’ve run out of excuses or diversions, conjure up a memory from when you demonstrated a little moxie (even if you have to go way back to our Girl Scout Cookie days)  and use that feeling to propel you to where you want to go.

I promise you won’t die.


PS. Right after I published this I started researching quotes by Aretha Franklin and this popped up:

“Be your own artist and always be confident in what you are doing. If you’re not going to be confident you might as well not be doing it”.

RIP Queen of Soul

Cool Interviews with Cool People

I’ve been asked to take part in the Thriving Artist Summit that starts next week—25 creative types across several disciplines with tons of practical information on how to thrive as a creative professional. And it’s free!

Wanna be part of it? Here’s a link to get the videos sent to you (they are designed to be short and chock-full of juicy info). Just click here to gain access starting on July 2nd. My interview will be on July 16th!

Listening to others outside of our industry can bring you a new perspective and maybe a few new ideas to add to your bag of tricks. Love to know which ones you found the most interesting to where you are now—and where you want to go!

Ronnie Walter-Thriving Artist Summit
The Thriving Artist Summit

The Curse of Curiosity

I was at a party over the holidays and one of my neighbors asked me what I was doing these days. And since I have my elevator speech down, I said, “Besides my illustration work, I also coach artists to help them make more money with their art.”

“How do you coach artists? Isn’t that kind of hard?” he asked as he took a big scoop of my super fabulous Pimento Cheese.

I knew what he was thinking. You know, “all artists are crazy, how can you possibly work with them and anyway, aren’t artists supposed to starve?” Or maybe he was just thinking how awesome that pimento cheese is.  I know I was.

I explained that artists aren’t any different than the rest of the population (I left out that I find us far more interesting, but whatever…), but I told him that although what may look like crazy or off-beat to “the civilians” around us is what we are blessed/cursed with. Or what I would call “hyper curiosity”.

I know you know what I’m talking about.

Hey…what if I…?

But if I do that, will I be able to do that?

Hmmm. That’s interesting. I should research that.

But what about this other thing?

Is that right for me?

Ooh…did you see this thing? That looks so cool!

Wait, what was I working on?

One idea leads to the next, and the next and the next and pretty soon you’ve headed down another rabbit hole, changed your mind and you can’t even remember where all this started.

Not that it’s ever happened to me…

But here’s the thing—that’s how we figure out the good stuff. That’s how we’re built; to see the possibilities, to try new things, to make the old ideas new.

But we’re also built to feed our bodies and have shelter from the weather and the nastier creatures we share with this earth. We must figure out when to stop asking all the questions and start crafting our ideas to reflect what’s happening culturally, helping people express their emotions and figuring out what the heck the market wants—while staying true to our purpose and values.

Now, that’s the hard part.

How does your brain work?

Despite my constant defense that artists are not crazy (well, no crazier than the rest of the population), I do think our minds work slightly differently than, say, a software engineer, research librarian or the restaurant server who remembers everyone’s order without writing anything down. If Wally Waffle had required me to commit the entire menu to memory, I may not have made it through that second year of art school.

Over the years I’ve managed to accept that multiple tracks of information, ideas and every embarrassing moment of my life are all running at full speed and I’ve even devised a few methods to stop at the right station in order to get something (anything) done. So what do you do to corral the ideas, quiet the chatter and forgive yourself for that thing you said? Personally I am pouring all of it into drawing cartoons, writing and teaching what I know so I can blessedly sleep, knowing that it will all be waiting for me in the morning.

HonorYourBrainPS. My new Skillshare class, “How to make Money with Art Licensing” is now live. Use this link to get 2 months free–just think what you could learn in just two months!

Let’s call it a plan, shall we?

I am deep into planning for 2017.

It sounds like such a corporate-y thing to do, but I usually spend a few moments around this time to have a  look at my goals and objectives for the coming year. I evaluate the state of the market, what are the most expeditious paths to actually bringing in income and what passion projects to move forward.

But this year I am going a bit deeper. Getting help.  Having meaningful conversations. Working through a few processes that will help me negotiate where the real crossroads are between my time, talents and passions. It has been frustrating and illuminating at the same time, just like any process of gaining clarity and peace.

I also know that old saying about “the best laid plans of mice and men…”  when it comes to standing up and declaring, “This! This is exactly what I am going to be doing in the next twelve months!” Serendipity happens, new opportunities raise their hands in your direction and compelling ideas creep in and wrestle your previous ideas for space and time. I get that.

But the basics of what I do best, the cream that rises to the surface need to stand guard for the moments when I drift too far away or agree to things that are less “Well, maybe…” and more “Oh, Hell, yes!” .

I often use a “hub and spoke” graphic to illustrate concepts and you might want to use this one to help you see through the clutter and indecision as you plan the next chunk of time in your life. Feel free to [media-downloader media_id=”1119″ texts=”download it here”] and let me know if it was useful to you!

 

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And as I head into 2017 I know a few things; no matter what happens in the US Presidential election, it will be blessedly over and we can regroup and move on. (whew!) And I will have a pretty clear picture of how to move my creative interests forward, how to expand my business to include more outward focused activities and will continue to develop cool alliances with cool people while remaining fluid when it comes to opportunities that I don’t know about yet!

That’s doable, right?

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These Girls…

I was out of the studio for a whole week, last week. It was a long planned trip with my four best friends to celebrate a year of (pretty big) birthdays and our 46 years of friendship. I packed clothes, gifts, and a ton of art supplies–and big plans to use them.  We envisioned lazy afternoons on the deck overlooking Lake Michigan, trolling around charming towns, enjoying good food and the occasional glass of wine. We did all of those things—and so much more.

I am grateful and blessed to have these four strong, unique and hilarious women in my life. Over the years we’ve witnessed marriages, sparkly sunsets on Sanibel Island, great hilarity in Texas, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island; we’ve celebrated new life and held each others hands through the complicated, the sad and the sometimes wretched heartache that is all part of living on this earth.

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We rented a house big enough to hold us AND our giant personalities and embarked on a week that we wanted to be rejuvenating, relaxing and restorative. We split up the cooking duties, Claire led us through a communal art project, and we celebrated each birthday on a separate day of the week—or as we said, “Hey! It’s my fake birthday”! Debi personalized journals for each of us with her popular font, Cantoni, and in them we wrote letters to the “birthday girl” with funny memories, things we admire and love about that person and encouragement to follow their path to peace and fulfillment. Then we would read the letters out loud at our nightly camp fires. Yes, it was blissful. Yes, I am so grateful for each of them. And yes, we are planning our next trip.

Oh, in case you were wondering—of COURSE we got on each others nerves now and then! I mean, really; five women, forty six years, one house—and did I mention the big personalities? But here’s the thing. We get it. A long time ago we accepted that if we expect the others to be patient with our weirdo tendencies then we need to show a little tolerance to theirs. So we’re a little more tender, a little less judgmental and can usually craft a response that either cracks everybody up or figure it’s a good time head out and clean up the kitchen.

I loved watching my friends enjoying a quiet swim by themselves, or seeing two heads bowed together as they talked about something profound or maybe something silly. But the best times were when we were all together—breaking bread (and brownies) around the dining room table looking like the world’s oddest quintuplets, sprawled on couches in the living room, squished into the car heading out on an adventure or crisscrossing the kitchen as one chopped, one cooked, one cleaned up and a few either entertained or just got in the way.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah Ronnie, that’s a sweet little story—but how does it apply to me?”

Well, besides your family (who come with their own joys and irritations) the friends who’ve known you the longest are probably the ones who care the most about you. So gather your friends. Call them up. Reach out. Make it work.

And remember this quote from Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home”.

Well, I couldn’t pick better people to walk this journey next to me.

 

PS. The art supplies stayed in the suitcase.

 

When Bad Things Happen to Good Artists

RonnieInCup-WEBIf you know anything about me, you know I’m pretty positive. I try to be upbeat in the worst of situations, in fact sometimes I feel like I am cursed with a sunny disposition.

And I know how much we want to put a rainbow and Skittles® face on how super uber fabulous drawing pictures for a living is. And it is.

Mostly.

I have been in the illustration biz almost longer than I have not been. I have had products that stayed on the market for years generating good royalties in some of the biggest retailers in America. At any given moment I have projects cooking, my work is under consideration somewhere and the royalty fairies are working their magic.

I have managed to not have a ”job job” despite the cultural bias that says that artists can’t be successful and we’re all a bunch of flakes. OK, maybe the second part of that can be true in some cases, but I’m not naming names. Although I could.

And of course, getting paid via royalties can involve wild swings from “I’m rich!” to “I’m broke!” over the course of any given year (or week). And truth be told, I have managed to make enough money to not worry every night about whether or not I will be eating cat food when I’m 82. I mean, I even went on vacation that one time!

So far, so good.

But what do you do if, for instance, in spite of your best efforts you never ever get that client or project you want? Or things were going along swimmingly, and then all of a sudden pulling together your next mortgage payment, or student loan–or grocery money—becomes tricky at best, or maybe scary beyond what you have previously known in your life?

What if a project that showed so much promise and consumed months of your work and talent tanked at retail? Like really tanked—even though all kinds of pretty smart, experienced people gave it the green light every step of the way?

What if you were having conversations with someone about a juicy awesome project and you shared your whole bloody hopes, dreams and unique plans with them, and five minutes after they passed on it (with you) you see that they have implemented your hopes, dreams and unique plans with someone else?

Or (deep breaths, kids) you found yourself in the middle of a (gulp) really expensive lawsuit?

Well, there! How’s that sunny demeanor working out now? And just so you know, over the course of my career every one of those things has happened to me at least once. Thankfully, not all in one year but spread over lots of years of drawing pictures for a living.

Ask anyone who has a business doing anything. The guy who owns the tire store. Your hair stylist. Heck, even your gynecologist (because who doesn’t like a bit of small talk during your exam?). They will tell you this: business is fraught with risk. And rewards. That’s why many of the wealthiest people in the world are business owners. They have weathered any number of hardships and slip-ups and bone-headed moves and still managed to stay focused on the big picture. Of course, many businesses do not make it. That does not make them horrible people or losers or any kind of “less-than”. But most of them will tell you, it’s not how many times you fall; it’s how many times you get up that makes the difference. And knowing when enough is truly enough helps too.

Each time I was tripped up I chose to get up. To brush myself off. To absorb the hurt and maybe the anger. To make it right when I could. And forgive myself when I couldn’t.

And then I go find something funny or surround myself with the people who love me and still think I am adorable and hilarious.

And then I draw a picture. Or maybe two or three.

That thing you do…

KittyThing-WEBHow’s that thing of yours going?

The thing you’ve been dreaming about and planning and training for?

That thing.

How’s that going?

Do you love it?

Do you think you’re supposed to love it but it’s not exactly working out how you thought it would and now you don’t love it as much as you once did?

Is it harder than you thought it would be?

Are you making progress? Does it look like it’s going to work out?

Are you still doing it because you’ve met some cool people there and well, they seem to be pretty happy with that thing so that probably means you should be pretty happy too, right?

Are you feeling a bit guilty that you’ve devoted a whole bunch of time and a fair amount of money to make it work and you’re thinking, gee—maybe this isn’t really the thing I want?

Do you find yourself doing a thousand other things rather than the things you think you should be doing to move this thing forward? Do you think that tells you anything?

That’s kind of a big thing, you know.

Sometimes a thing needs to be revisited, re-tooled, or revised to bring it closer to the thing you wanted.

But you? You’ve got this thing.

 

Arrow-AquaBlueSigning up for my newsletter gives you all the news from the studio, sneak peaks of the blog posts and links to fun stuff that can add years to your life and several more bags of money to your attic (full disclosure–it’ll just be fun and informative!) The sign-up is right over there on the right hand side of the website–or just fill in that annoying random box that pops up now and then. Thanks, dolls!