#ArtistTherapy: Measuring "Success"

"I don't feel like I've accomplished anything..." Yes, it's that time of the year. End of year review, year in review, summation of goals, whatever you'd like to call it and you start to consider what have you actually done. Especially in terms of your art. Let's call it what it is: pity party time.

Every year I write a list of goals/aims for the next year. This is for me to be accountable and also seems a way to punish myself. I am a checklist person. Someone who needs to be able to scratch things off and then see what's next to tackle. The idea of taking items off a To Do list is nice. Makes me feel productive. But also when looking at the year-round results I see I didn't do as much as I aimed and also took on a bunch more than I'd envisioned.

And there in lies the rub. Events, activities, volunteer work, new ideas, heartbreak, and so on can sneak up on you and derail your goals completely. Yet, you're still accountable for what did and did not happen. And when it comes to your art did you pursue it as heavily as you swore you would on the last days of the year as the clock steadily ticked down to a new year, new month, an anticipated new life? Maybe not.

If the answer veers toward the negative do you consider yourself successful?

The measurements of success are so varied for so many people. I consider success doing what I said I was going to do and being satisfied with the final product. I also consider success getting something I believe in published at a place that understood my goal. I consider success someone enjoying a cookie I developed. I consider success finishing something, anything. I consider success being respected by my peers for what I do know and being open to additional knowledge. See? The scope is wide.

What I am taking away from 2014 are the things that have brought me a better understanding of myself and my work. I am glad for being a part of We Need Diverse Books, for starting a podcast to continue the lack of diversity in publishing/art conversation, I am hopeful that my latest draft of my collection will be done before 2015 is officially here. I am glad for the small wins and consistency of life in being employed. Still being passionate about my work. Having a continuous slew of ideas hit me. Of having my work celebrated with acceptance for a future publication or winning an award that allowed me free attendance to a conference that gave me renewed faith in my work. I am glad for the success of panels and cookie competitions I participated in and for being able to work on my writing even if I didn't make as much time as I had (continually) promised myself. I consider 2014 successful in some areas and not so much in others but that's what the culmination of days helps with. Making sure that you are building towards that bigger goal that overall feeling of success that may not be accomplished with crossing off a task in a day but more so the accumulation of knowledge and heart and passion for the work you are pursuing.

Maybe you want to make a Goal list for next year. Maybe you want to hold yourself accountable day to day. Maybe you want to engage in said pity party and sulk over the "lack" of success you had if there's no agent contract, no book deal, no show in the works. But consider that if you've made progress, that same forward movement we talked about earlier this year that was so easy to stay stagnant in that any steps could be considered a success because we're looking forward, not back.