Sunday, November 14, 2010


What Shall I Do
journal page
I subscribe to Lisa Call’s blog, partly because she’s a fiber artist who makes art quilts as I once did, but mostly because of how she thinks about her work and life.  In her last few posts she’s talked about accountability, goals, and structure, topics which hit home with me as I’ve been struggling for awhile with those same issues.

She quoted Jon Stewart who said “I’m a real believer in that creativity comes from limits, not freedom. Freedom, I think you don’t know what to do with yourself. But when you have a structure, then you can improvise off it and feel confident enough to kind of come back to that.”

I would phrase it differently for myself: Creativity blooms within limits. Too much freedom leaves me not knowing what to do with myself, but when my days are structured I’ve given myself focused time within which I can be even more creative.

Haven’t you noticed how busy people get more done?  “If you want to get a job done give it to a busy woman”. I’ve been that busy woman who gets a lot done, but right now it’s not happening because I haven’t much structure in my life. I don’t have a paying job; I don't work to sell the art I make; I’m not involved in structured volunteerism other than marginally; I don’t answer to anyone for what I make, other than dinner every night and that’s loose, too. I’ve given up my one-time habit of setting 1- and 5-year goals and breaking them down into daily and weekly action items. And I don’t accomplish much… certainly not as much as I know I’m capable of doing or as much as I want to do.

Do any of you feel like that about your own life? Do you wish you could accomplish more? Do large swaths of time pass with nothing to show for it?   I know I'm not alone.
I thought blogging would help, that I’d feel accountable to you readers and get the work done and then write about it, but you’re all so nice that almost no one questions why I haven’t been writing. I can’t put blame on you… it’s me who’s given up doing what needs to be done. I feel lazy, in a bad way.

What would happen if I set weekly studio, art business, and personal goals?

What if I wrote them down every Sunday evening and revisited them the next week and checked off the completed items?

What if I had a section in my Planner for goals and a to-do list with a yellow highlighter that I use to mark completed items?

What if my life had structure?



  1. Oh Jo, I could've written this post myself! If you get structures in your life I hope you will share how and how it is going on your blog so that I can learn from you! :-) Others can't keep us accountable, only we ourselves can do it and it takes SO much work, don't you think? Nov-December is a great time to start for next years goal setting!

  2. Don't you think sometimes it's hard to know exactly what does need to be done? I went from working to suddenly being at home trying to make "work" or a "job" happen with my art. The first year went well, but now things are shifting again. How much do I plan and structure and "just do it" and how much do I listen, quiet myself, trust, pray, and then act? What if I don't accomplish anything? And how in the heck is it measurable? I resonate with your struggle with structure. Thank you for your openness.

  3. Jo, such a great post!! I agree: Too much freedom and even too much inspiration makes me a 'deer in headlights' where I just daydream about 'what if'? One reason I join the online challenges is b/c they give you parameters and of course- a deadline. I wish you the best with creating structure, meanwhile, I'll say that your art is wonderful and I always enjoy it so thank you for sharing it with us.

  4. Interesting dilemma. What I find most fascinating is what lies beneath this move away from the highly structured life you once chose to the far more free wheeling mindset. We are all so wonderfully different. I think you've found some kindred spirits here in the need for some limits and objectives. I think fist I'd want to know what lead to this radical change in how you do life and art and then I think your answers would show themselves of where to go from here.

  5. Good luck finding just the right amount of structure so you can accomplish what you desire.

    Thanks for the reference to my blog.

  6. This is an issue I have always struggled with....loving the freedom but knowing I will accomplish more with some structure. I do well for awhile then I'm right back in the same spot. Please share as you travel this road and maybe some of us will gain insight as well.....

  7. Please forgive me for my comment. I have never visited your blog before today and the first thing I read was about Lisa Call talking about accountability, goats and structure. I thought to myself, I wonder why she is thinking about goats? Did she start to raise goats? Does this woman (you) raise goats? Then I looked again and saw that it said Goals, not goats. So I got a good laugh at myself. Now I shall get back to reading your blog, maybe jump over to take a look at Lisa's.

  8. I am that busy woman who gets everything done. I like the structure and accountability. I can't imagine how it would be if I did not have a day job, how much more art I might be able to get done. But, the more I consider your words, maybe you are right, maybe my productivity would go down! You have to decide how much you actually WANT to get done, you HAVE been that busy woman, did you like it better than what you have now?

  9. I have thoughts on this but no time to write. Hope to come to Portland in January-hope we can visit!

  10. Ha - I love Jan's comment. I need to get some goats.

  11. i agree so much - and want to use YOUR quote for an art journal page of my own. Maybe it will help me start getting more art done.
    I lost structure to my life 2 years ago and since then have gained 60 pounds, taken up drinking alcohol again (in moderation but i completely stopped drinking before) and worse of all stopped outputting my creative spirit. And i've attributed so much of this to structure. In my work life i kick ass - i can organize and get stuff done like few others can, but in personal life ... its couch potato, stuck in a moment time. Good luck! I follow your every blog post so i look forward to more... thanks for sharing!

  12. Something in my heart told me that I wasn't alone in the struggle to bring order out of chaos both in life and in art. Many of you feel as I do... like I'm not doing enough good with my days.
    Bren went directly to the heart of the matter with her question, "what lead to the radical change in how I do life and art". What lies at the core of the problem? She's asking me to stop looking for treatment for the symptoms but to look for the root cause.
    I don't know the answer yet, but it will come as I continue to think and pray about it.
    Jane says that joining online art ventures gives her parameters and challenges her. That's right, it does. She's set up some accountability.
    Elizabeth asks if I like being super busy better than what I have now? The answer is no, I don't. I'm enjoying retirement a lot, and I don't want to feel like I'm run ragged like I once was.
    What I do want is to be more productive, to look back at my day and see that I've done more than make a simple 5x7 collage. As I evaluate my own productivity I see that I'm not working to the best of my ability.
    And I don't need to raise goats to do it! Loved your post, Jan.
    Nike has part of the answer in their slogan, Just Do It.
    The other part of that for me is to name my purpose, state my long and short term goals, and then just do it.
    I will create a new and more suited-to-me schedule and see what happens. I'll get back to you.
    Lara, please email me privately at I agree that structure is key. There's an answer here somewhere. Let's try to find it.

  13. I wonder if it's the lack of deadline that retirement alleges. There's an old "Shoe" cartoon that talks about deadline being Shoe's muse. We would know about that; kind of like creating a website.

  14. Writing down your goals totally helps a lot!


I appreciate comments and questions.

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