James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

07: Keep It Real, Keep It Honest

Thank you for the overwhelming responses from last week's letter. It was a tough topic to write and I was excited to share it with you all. Practice is important towards bettering our craft, so I was curious to how you all were sustaining or starting a practice regime in your lives.

Jeannie Harrell shared a bit on how she struggles with motivation and what she did to change it.

“So far in 2014 I’ve actually been thinking a lot about practice—I realized last year that I’m really flagging in discipline and in creative confidence. Coming home from my day job and immediately deferring to snacks and Netflix every night is great, but I feel like I’ve been turning to non-creative habits out of an underlying fear of making mistakes. I’ve decided to kick off 2014 by taking introductory drawing classes online. Not only am I hoping to give myself a creative boost by getting back to the absolute basics of the artistic act, I’m also determined to get myself into the habit of doing something creative just for myself on a regular basis.”

Jen Hewett, who's writing was shared a few weeks ago about her Uncurated Life, shared with me on getting back in her practice groove.

“I want to get better at having a regular practice, carving out time to work on personal projects, instead of only focusing on getting orders out and drumming up more business. Having a regular practice drives everything else (the inspiration, the customers, the money), so I’m working on being more disciplined about it.”

There is a romanticism with practice and the constant hustle behind it, but what if you're overloaded and need to relax? What if you need to be honest with yourself? If you didn't tweet about how late you stayed up working on a project, did it really happen? Setting limitations on yourself and your practice is one of the most important things you can do for your personal sanity. I recently had a moment where I was confused on what I needed to do next in my life, professionally speaking. I was freaking out, worrying that what I was doing wasn't good enough. I thought if I asked for help, I was insufficient; any dullness in my shiny coat of armor was a sign of weakness. My choice in being dishonest with myself led to a downward spiral of self-destruction and self-loathing. Being honest with yourself on how much you work and setting limits to that is just as important as the time spent practicing.

Just because other friends in the industry are photographing late night posts of their #HustleHardNights, doesn't meant that you are meant to match that. If you work differently and at different times, own it. If you are at a stage in your life where you need to back away and take in things rather than make them, do that. Honesty in one's self is the simplest thing that can be lost in a sea of self promotion.

Also, it takes a bit of honesty in one's self in starting new projects. On Saturday, I went to an event at Chicago Artists Coalition called 20/20 Business. It was all about making your art into a business, and the mechanics behind it. The part that really stuck with me was how to know if your idea is worth exploring further, and that all comes through those open dialogues with yourself.

Think of a chart with an X and Y axis. The Y axis is your Impact and the X axis is your Feasibility. A project has a great ability of being picked up by its audience if it has a high impact (something that brings value to others) and feasible to accomplish (thanks to those wonderful skills you picked up from all that practice you've been doing). Where the honesty comes in is knowing what your limitations are. Can you do this project on your own? Do you need help from others? Do you need to practice a little more on that skill before you can commit to it full time?

Have you ever caught yourself being un-real with yourself and your abilities? Has there ever been a point where you had to "honesty check" yourself? For myself, it was last year when I thought I could redesign an entire mini website on my own with a three week turnaround time. While my skills weren't as strong, I  wanted to prove wrong what my gut was telling me. I did get the project done, but the stress acquired and the time I missed out with friends and loved ones was not worth it. I could have easily asked for a freelancers' help. I'd love to hear your stories on finding your honesty. Just hit reply.

Thanks for reading and see you next week,

-James


What did I find interesting this week?

1) Joshua Foer on Deliberate Practice: A detailed look at the three stages on goes through when learning a new skill.
2) Silent Technical Privilege: Philip Guo, an Asian-American computer science professor, discusses how he got ahead in his career because "he looked like he was good at programming".
3) An Interview with Carrie Mae Weems on BlouinArtInfo: Carrie Mae Weems discusses the Guggeinheim, frustrations with being labeled a black artist, and social activism.
4) The Joy of Unfollowing: An interesting opinion piece on how TMI no longer exists in online culture and how that should be treated.

James T. Green