“I’m questioning the rules more frequently and with more gusto. I’m also realizing that most of the rules that hold me back actually don’t come from outside. They’re self-imposed.”
Reading my thoughts much? I know absolutely, 100% what Kylie’s talking about. I feel as though the past year of my life has been spent identifying my own self-imposed rules and basic assumptions, and I’m now in the process of peeling them off like the rind of an orange.
Though I’m tempted to catalog all of them (there would likely be about 96 from this year alone) I think I’ll just share the three that had really been weighing me down:
Self-imposed rule #1: I can’t share my art with the world until it’s perfect.
Somewhere along the line, my brain decided that perfection was the only suitable state for a piece of art. And I paid attention. I would struggle over and rework a piece for ages, getting grumpier with each new layer of acrylic. In fact, the whole process was threatening to become no fun at all. Until one day, I said, forget it, I’m done; I’m just going to put this painting ‘out there’ and see what happens. You know what happened? I sold a painting. And then another. (Even though I’ve never painted a single ‘perfect piece,’ and perhaps I never will.)
Self-imposed rule #2: Efficient entrepreneurs depend on routines.
When I first started working from home, and working mostly for myself, I decided that efficient people must rely on routines. I would draw up elaborate schedules for myself in 15-minute increments, and pound my way through them come rain or shine. It was exhausting. My brain would be begging to hold a paintbrush, while I slogged through answering emails. Then I’d force myself to paint while I was really puzzling over my accounting. It wasn’t until I was nearing burnout that I realized – no one else was telling me I had to stick to a routine. It was all me.
Deep down, I assumed that if I did whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, I’d end up sitting around all day eating cookie dough and watching The Price is Right. Plus, routines were my comfort zone. They were what my 9 to 5-trained brain knew how to handle. So, I did an experiment. I gently let go of the need to schedule each minute of my day, and waited to see what happened. Guess what? I painted more, wrote more, and felt better than ever.
Self-imposed rule #3: A true artist must be 100% right-brained.
I mean, that’s what that drawing teacher told me that one time…right? What was his name? Anyhow, I’d convinced myself that as long as I loved math and science, I’d never be a true artist. I could paint and draw all I wanted as long as it was a hobby, and not my craft, and definitely not part of my identity.
I still remember the first time I introduced myself to someone as an artist. He asked what I did, and I blurted out “I’m an artist!” Then, I turned beet red and grinned from ear-to-ear. My subconscious was giving me a rap on the head and saying, “Look, you can still love astrophysics, and yes, you can still read Scientific American, but for goodness sakes, just get over yourself already and start calling yourself an artist.” And that’s when I got business cards (to make it official, you know?)
A big part of personalizing my life has been slowly shedding the routines and mindsets I developed to cope with my cubicle-based career. Identifying my own rules – the one’s I have complete permission to break – is part of that process. Thanks, Kylie, for some delicious food for thought!