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We asked 24 wonderful artists, photographers, and writers to share their artistic resolutions. Their answers are heartfelt, insightful, and inspiring. We hope you enjoy this unique creative collaboration, and that you can find applicable lessons for your own artistic life in their words.

What is your creative/artistic resolution for the next year?

“I've definitely found my creative niche in photography and love every moment of the process, from taking the photos to digitally enhancing them, but there is also a love in me for painting, in particular abstract painting. In terms of my career, I've been quite busy with photography and teaching online, so I have found it difficult to make time to paint. My artistic goal is to carve out some time, however small, to paint. I made a conscious choice to start with the un-lofty goal to create at least three paintings this year. This simple expectation takes the pressure off, makes it doable, and gets me excited!” — Susan Tuttle

I'm not one for making resolutions at the beginning of the year. My philosophy is that I'd much rather reflect on the past year and recognize all I have done. I find that to be empowering and motivating. Each January I have a ritual of making a Ta-Da list. I start with the end of December and work my way back to the first of the year, making notes of everything that I can remember doing during the year. It is easier to start with the most recent self-imposed assignments. Eventually I recall a full list of achievements, missions, chores, and projects that leaves me feeling really good. Sure, there are always things left on my To-Do list...there is always more to do, and ideas that are still in-process. However, when you move items from your To-Do list to your Ta-Da list, you celebrate what you've completed — that's much more affirming than worrying about the tasks ahead, and the pledge to make changes with the turn of the calendar page.  Maybe you could start the year by patting yourself on the back for all the work you completed last year, from art projects to self-improvement, and then carry forward the positive energy into the brand new year. Make a Ta-Da list, because it's way more fun than a To-Do list!” — Michelle Ward

“Seriously, my resolution this year is to try and keep my workload manageable so that I leave some time for myself to grow as an artist. To be truly creative takes time … I am a slow worker and I need time to allow ideas to grow and develop, but I don’t always give myself enough time. I would love to work on a bigger scale — it’s something that I generally shy away from but I think it may be time to push myself to work bigger. I think that working on a larger scale will bring a sense of freedom. I would also love to learn some new skills; traditional bookbinding and printmaking are both on my to-do list, so maybe this is the year!” — Kate Crane

“My creative resolution is to not compare myself, my art, and my personality, to other creatives out there. It's so hard not to do this because with so many of us, the goal is to distinguish ourselves, but in order to do this we must be true to who we are and why we create. We must follow and trust our intuitions and design aesthetic and not worry about what other artists doing.” — Cat Kerr

“My creative/artistic resolution is to set aside time to 'play.’ Instead of carving out time to make things for my Etsy shop or a vendor show, I'd like to just create for the enjoyment of it, especially with new materials or techniques that catch my eye.  It seems like a long time that I've worked with yarn, so the crochet and knitting needles will be put to use in the early winter months.” — Susan Frick

“To be a better servant to my muse, to resist nothing, and to suppress the ego dragon, which uselessly guards the gold. I know all of you creatives out there will fully understand what I mean by that.” — Sandra Evertson

“Several years ago, I stopped making official resolutions that start in January of each year. I found that after the busy holiday season, I needed a little bit of a break at the beginning of January and didn’t need the pressure of heavy resolutions. Instead, I make monthly resolutions year round. Using the Japanese “Kanban” approach — I have workflow post-its that represent projects I am in process of working on, projects I want to do (but are not ready to go yet), or projects I’m waiting for approval on, and projects I’ve completed recently. It’s nice to be able to move items to the done list! Certainly I have dream projects that I want to create, and sometimes I have to put them on a back burner if I have other things that require my attention first.

I find that writing down your dreams/projects/desires creates the kind of magic you need to get things to come into being. I have pride in completing and finishing a lot of projects during the course of a year, I know that there will always be projects that don’t come to fruition. I think it’s important to finish things, but it’s also important to accept that sometimes it is the process that is the most important thing. I find that if I ever have a moment of “artist’s block,” where I pause when I have a blank piece of paper or wood panel in front of me — I just force myself to dive in. Just cover the surface with anything, any color, and any collaged bits of paper. By just doing it, you are freeing yourself. You are allowing yourself to let go and just create. Sometimes I discover something new in doing this, something wonderful. Sometimes I make something I don’t like, but the beauty of the process is that you can keep layering, sanding, painting, adding gesso, stamping, inscribing, etc., and magically it becomes something that I love.” — Caitlin Dundon

“I do not set any type of resolution. Being a very free spirit, restricting my creativity (as well as life), in a predetermined, labeled box, does not work for me. I simply go with the flow, and the more I stay open and free, the more I am showered with ideas and inspiration, and the more I feel happy and fulfilled (both in art and life).” — Monica Sabolla Gruppo

“I want to be courageous with color-revisit, the 96 crayons from my childhood. I have green thumbs and want my art to appear more like my garden — a fertile rainbow.

I want to be bold and make a Vimeo video. I am nervous my New England accent has a touch of southern charm. I want to stretch my mind like an umbrella, and face my torrent storms of doubt and jump into puddles of pooling color — I want to paint again. I want to purchase a red sable brush, and perhaps paint poems. I want to be brave and listen to the wishes that whisper to me as I wonder what is next. I need to tend my art like gardening — weed out the doubt, dig deeper, and plant soulful wishes. I want to be a Cover girl, who doesn't?! We all need to dream in color.” — Ella Wilson

“To edit myself less, censor myself less.” — D. Smith Kaich Jones

“In truth, I’m not big on resolutions…I never make them for the New Year. I prefer instead to plod along towards my goals on a daily basis. I see every day as a gift, a fresh start, a new beginning. For most of my life I was a serious night owl, but over the past few years, dawn has become my favorite time of day. Each morning I look to the sky for promises, and I am grateful to see the sun rise again. Perhaps this happens to everyone as they get older, I don’t know, but time has become precious to me, and I make every effort not to waste one moment.

I’ve not yet picked a word for the next year, I’ve tried that in the past, only to have a different word present itself as “the one” sometime during the year. So I will wait and watch and see what rises to the surface over the next few months, and then I will adopt the word that finds me.” — Kelly Letky

“I hope to carve out time to make art that is solely about personal creativity and not related to a project that’s based on specific guidelines as part of my work as an artist. In the same vein, I plan to continue to be consistent with my art journaling, which is a process that for me serves as both a creative laboratory and therapeutic exercise. In addition, I want to push my creative boundaries and step outside my comfort zone as I create new work for an annual exhibition that I am part of.” — Seth Apter

“I want my voice back. No, I don't have laryngitis, but I feel like I have lost my artistic voice. The upside of teaching and writing books and doing Webinars, is clearly the connection with people. I am out in the world a lot, and that is certainly good — very good! the process of juggling all those balls, it is quite easy to lose focus on one singular thing...and that is what has happened to me. Simply put, I have lost my voice. I want to get it back so that I can re-capture my body of work.” — Mary Beth Shaw

“I would like to further develop my own style, and acquire new skills such as drawing and digital art. I'm planning to spend lots of time with my children doing creative things and compiling their works. I also want to extend my knowledge in the field of photography.” — Olga Siedlecka

“I prefer to use the words "creative invitation" as opposed to "resolution". It feels like a gentler approach and works much better for me at this stage of my life and creative career. I am aiming for greater trust in my that my creativity will continue to lead me where I need to go, whether that is through my fine art, further developing my product line, or becoming more involved with teaching.  I can make all the lists I want to about this or that path, but I am finding that simply showing up in my studio day after day and allowing space for the journey to unfold, without designating precisely what that journey is, brings the most rewards. So, I suppose my creative invitation to myself for the next year is to stay out of my own way, create freely without the overlay of how to make money, or be practical with my endeavors, and to stay in the game and allow room for serendipity to seep in.” — Anna Corba

“I recently read a blog post by Alexandra Franzen that really hit home with me. She wrote about writing from a full cup, a place of abundance, instead of writing for comments, praise, and thousands of dollars in the bank. As a professional writer, it's easy for me to get wrapped up in the business side of writing — the side that seeks validation. I forget that writing is simply what I love to do, and not to get 50 comments on the blog, or praise for a magazine article, or likes on Facebook. So my creative resolution is to write from that place of abundance, to write because it's in my bones. If the comments and likes come, that's simply an overflowing cup!” — Cassandra Key

“I resolve to create art without interruption — literally and figuratively. One-Liners is a body of work that was interrupted by my home construction this past year. Inspired by Alexander Calder and Paul Klee, I have created images from one continuous line (for the most part), and titled each piece with a one-liner. Without lifting pen from paper, I let the ink guide me. Each image embodies spontaneity, and the result is always a surprise. It has taught me to let go of expectations.” — Cathryn Mezzo

“My resolution is to continue to be in the moment. Being present and paying attention to all the little details of life is ever inspiring...this is where the beauty is. And this is where the joy happens, and love is about all of these things. And these things, both big and small, keep the creativity flowing. “ — Becky Shander

“To produce a cohesive licensing portfolio by focusing on my nature photography archive, combined with my digital art textures, and word art quotes. I have recently licensed a small portfolio and hope to expand the line.” — Michelle Shefveland

“My biggest challenge is that creative resolutions and goals go hand-in-hand with those I have for my business. As a working artist, it is difficult to balance time between work and play, so my goals for the next year include being more purposeful in scheduling studio time to create just for me. If I don’t schedule time to create, I can go days or weeks without going into the studio. I know that at times it is because I am busy with life and work, but I also know that at times my confidence wanes and that leads me to negative self-talk, resulting in an empty studio. Keeping to a schedule gets me in the studio creating more often.” — Roben-Marie Smith

“I’m opening my arms wide to embrace new beginnings, possibility, and the unknown. I’m letting go of expectations. I’m inviting joy into my creative process and allowing flexibility in my routine.

I am so thrilled to be nearing a new year — it promises to be full of big changes.

My husband and I are expecting our first child in May (!!), and I’m preparing to let go of my current creative routines in order to open myself up to what is to come next.

I do know that in the New Year, I plan to carve out a piece of time each day (no matter how small!) to create.” — Mary Wangerin

“Focus — I am all over the map. So I plan to fine tune and focus on two or three projects, not a dozen. This way, I might be able to improve my creative productivity and not water it down by being so involved with too many projects.” — Deb Taylor

“I do not believe in resolutions and I do not make to-do lists. What I love to do is to stop when I feel the overwhelming need to make changes and take the time to listen to what my heart is telling me. I think of a resolution as an ongoing process, and instead of making it the end-of-the year habit I react to every situation through my impulses. When I am free of overwhelming expectations and due dates, I am successful in not rushing the moments, but really letting myself dive into them. My creativity springs when I give it time, space, and peace. Working as an independent creator is a continuous learning curve that above anything else includes self-improvement.

I have a lot of work to do in regards of exposing and maintaining the most authentic, creative version of myself. I need to be more self-aware, ego-less, enthusiastic, disciplined, and self-confident in order to channel my energy toward what I love to do: creating prose and images that will help me and others live a meaningful life. I need to dig deep down to find the sense of “I” that is disentangled from things, labels, opinions, expectations, social roles, race, profession, and past times.

I need to promise myself that every day I will focus my attention on writing for 30 minutes and shooting photos. In this little block of time, I need to practice my passion every day consistently and stay on track despite the environment I find myself in. As unglamorous as it may sound, I am convinced that this is the only tool one must possess in order to master his or her crafts and complete his or her creative projects.

I need to stop waiting for things to be perfect, to maintain a healthy self-esteem, and to show acceptance. One way to do it is to stop comparing my work with the work of others. We are all on our own paths and by trusting my own journey, I will be more kind to my creative spirit and myself. I also have to recognize the need of creative entitlement and embrace it as a liberty of having a vision and voice that deserves to be shown to the world.

I need to cultivate enthusiasm and determination to continue when I fall in the gap of feeling short and not good enough according to my criteria and aesthetic taste. I will go back to the brilliant advice by Ira Glass in which I always find comfort and motivation: ‘And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?’” — Sylvia Stefanova

“My resolution is to go with the flow of the year and allow it to unfold instead of forcing preconceived goals and ambitions on it. I am such a goal-orientated person that I usually have a long list of things I want to accomplish in any given year, but plans change, new business opportunities arise, and sometimes what you set out to do isn't what ends up happening. In years when I would have very defined goals, I would feel flat and that I somehow had failed if even one of the items on my list wasn't checked off, even if the end result ended up being better than my original goal. So for this year, I am going to allow the year to unfold and guide me. Of course, I will still be working hard at my business and there are still many items that I want to accomplish, but I'm not going to set anything in stone just yet!” — Claudine Hellmuth


What do you do to stay inspired — will you be looking to new sources of inspiration in the next year?

“This one is easy: I go outside. Nature never fails to inspire me, from a pink cotton candy sunrise to a black crow eating seed in the driveway. I listen. To the birds, the wind, and the quiet whisper of flowers growing. To the sound of snowflakes gently hitting the ground, the cacophony of migrating geese that always makes me laugh, and the rustle of leaves passing through the tall poplars. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I can walk outside and hear these things. I listen, to life.” — Kelly Letky

“I am a very community-oriented artist and often gain inspiration from connecting to other artists. As such, I will be increasing the number of workshops I teach with other artists, participating in a multi-artist collaborative art project, overseeing a group art exhibition, and setting up several, open-call online collaborations on my blog.

Living in NYC provides a ton of inspiration and my goal is to be more consistent in actually visiting the galleries, museums and other art venues that always provide me with creative fuel.” — Seth Apter

“I honestly have to admit that I am constantly inspired by the world around me. There is so much to see, so much to feel, so much to smell, so much to taste, and much to hear. I love working in the studio with a wide arrangement of music. From classical to country, and Latin to rock. It’s all good and all inspiring.” — Cat Kerr

“I find that the best way to stay inspired is to keep inputting imagery into my brain — from simply looking at magazines, catalogs and Pinterest to see what is trending, to simply going for a walk to look at what’s around me. I used to hate all those catalogs I’d get in the mail, not having enough extra spending money for all the beautiful clothes and knick-knacks available. Now, I pour over catalogs to see what colors are used together, what little trinkets people are buying, and sometimes a little something will trigger an idea that will create a piece of art — a rug pattern can inspire patterning on the wing of a bird I’m painting or collaging, etc.

I think going for a walk is one of the best ways to lubricate your brain with some oxygen, while also just visually experiencing the world. I am inspired by nature on a simple walk — variations in patterns of leaves, branches, and simple flowers and grasses, but also the colors, light, and birds. Even if I’m in a city or neighborhood environment — I can be inspired by colors and patterns from a simple wrought-iron fence to the checkerboard tile of the entryway of an older apartment building.” — Caitlin Dundon

“To stay inspired, I look at the work of other artists and read about their lives...usually through books and magazine articles. The other day I found the most fascinating story of a collage artist devoted to recreating historically accurate depictions of British society through cut and paste...fascinating! I also continue to be inspired by materials themselves, especially those that I discover each year in the flea markets of France.” — Anna Corba

“The primary fuel of my creativity has always been nature and the rhythm of the seasons. Walking with the trees or on the country road, in the woodland, the garden, or on the beach, I take in the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of every leaf, flower, bird, sunset…The divine artistry of nature brings me back to the essence of being, to the one-ness of all things, and my creativity flows. The truth is that I can find inspiration everywhere as long as my heart and mind are open to let it in. Books, art, new places, music, ordinary everyday joys, comments from my readers, and most importantly individuals who tune into their most authentic self and live their best lives can elicit emotions, put me “in-spirit”, sparkle an idea, and make me follow my bliss and this inner knowing of what I need to do next.” — Sylvia Stefanova

“I won’t be looking for them, as I believe inspiration comes from within and not from the outside.

As to stay inspired, I will keep soaking up Nature and silence, going for solo drives and hikes in the glorious English countryside, or visiting Manor Houses and gardens — almost always unplanned and without a map (but always with my camera, sketchbook and a journal). These activities quiet my mind, fill my joy tank, and are always source of endless inspiration, and amazing clarity for me (in my work, for my life).” — Monica Sabolla Gruppo

“Austin Kleon, author of the bestselling book “Steal Like an Artist,” once said that it's so important for artists to always remain a fan of other artists' work. I couldn't agree more. I discover artistic inspiration in countless places — Pinterest, blogs, magazines and books, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, and 500px, to name a few. Poems, nature, gardening, novels, plays, dance performances, museums and galleries, music; you name it. Not only am I inspired by other artists’ work, but by beautiful visuals in general. To date, Pinterest is my favorite place to turn to for soaking in imagery — photography, paintings, food, home décor, craft projects, table settings, fashion, and travel.” — Susan Tuttle

“To stay inspired I perform a creative ritual I’ve done for many years. I have a large curated collection of antique oddments, relics, and artifacts that line the shelves of my curiosity cabinets. They consist of beautiful and unusual items lying next to each other, side by side. Broken statuary fragments, ancient fossils, French military medals, found Blue Jay, Owl, and Hawk feathers, sacred Spanish milagros, ornate Roman intaglios, and the list goes on. These are my most prized possessions — some are rare, irreplaceable, and valuable, while others have no monetary value at all to anyone except me. I derive inspiration from a ceremonial habit I have of rearranging my collections into different groupings. This ritual always sparks ideas. As I add new acquisitions to these little ‘stories,’ concepts and designs take form (as if by magic), and then I follow through and bring them into existence. It is a tried and true, constant course that always works for me.” — Sandra Evertson

“I attend art retreats and workshops that are out of my comfort zone. For example, I really do not love to paint, so I place myself in a painting class to be stimulated and stretched. I may never paint again, but I always go away with new inspirations and challenges that apply to my daily life whether it be cooking a delicious meal in my kitchen or trying a new technique in my art studio. I will continue to participate in online workshops because they always feed my creative appetite. ” — Deb Taylor

“I practice rituals from the book, “The Artist's Way” by Julia Cameron. I have tweaked the rules-to suit me. I type my Morning Pages — you’re supposed to handwrite three pages. But I couldn't read my writing, so I type. If my weekly Art Walk Date is canceled by life or the weather — I don't let that stop me — I take my Art Walks-online. I go visit other countries, and/or watch a foreign or historical film, or visit Pinterest.  I do prefer to physically visit a place with fresh eyes. I always take my camera and chase light. Photos for me are visual poems.  My favorite painters are the sun, the moon, and the weather. 

Yes, I love all the Gelli art I am seeing and want to play with this medium. Art is fluid and always moving like the Northern Lights. I need to continue to grow, change, evolve, and playing with new sources helps expand our horizons. ” — Ella Wilson

“I pick things up from the ground. Sticks, leaves, lost buttons, feathers, wire. I pay attention to the small things. I listen to the swirling ruffle on a dress. I take pictures I think I will never use, always surprised when I find the secret stories in them.  I paint furniture and I paint walls, no music playing, letting my thoughts free up with my movements. I read, and read, and read. I do lots of nothing. And those periods are some of the most inspirational for me. Ideas seem to stick harder.

As for next year, I have no idea where inspiration will be lurking. I like that.” — D. Smith Kaich Jones

“Cleaning your workspace is always a good idea as it often results in a surprising discovery that will eventually become a part of a future whole. I usually visit a flea market to find some rusty additions or just to look around. I also like to spoil myself with some little purchase, like new brushes or paints. After the shopping, I always look forward to working with my new buy. My advice is to look through art and photo albums, and even some children books, too. Don't forget nature with its colours and details. A piece of bark can be more inspiring than professionally printed papers.” — Olga Siedlecka

Coffee with Squirrels.
Staring out the window for an undetermined time ignites my creative fire. With a cup of joe warming my palm, I watch squirrels bounce across my grass, hunting for buried treasure. Driven by instinct, they know what needs to be done. Their certainty calms me, and within this holy space, my muse emerges from shadow to dance in light.

Coffee with Ink.
On my dresser sits a pile of life. Fifteen years of life. Stacks of journals graciously hold my thoughts in their pages. Each day I sit to write, the blank page opens itself to me, welcoming ink scrawls interrupted by coffee slurps. Like a miner sifting for gold, I fill pages with sand, and occasionally a gold nugget appears after rigorous shaking. This is the place where ideas are born — ideas that mature into reality.

Coffee with Luke.
On a weekly basis, I have coffee with a creative spirit — my friend, Luke. We meet for coffee like two kids having a play date. We play with language, images, sound. We laugh. And I leave with the feeling that anything is possible. I highly recommend finding your Luke.

I plan to have more coffee.” — Cathryn Mezzo

“I stay inspired by reading my favorite authors, filling Pinterest boards with gorgeous photos, and notebooks with poetry. I collect quotes, and crystals, and magic spells. I look for the beauty in the everyday. I listen to instrumental music, dance, meditate, and drink coffee and jasmine tea.” — Cassandra Key

“To stay inspired, I like to do things that slow me down. Activities such as yoga and meditation are good places to go whenever I need to unwind and relax...which puts me in a peaceful frame of mind to receive creative thoughts and ideas. If you prefer more physical movement to quiet the mind, walking alone outside, especially in nature, can also be a good way to go.” — Becky Shander

“Taking a few photography/hiking trips each year to new places and vistas. Especially during our long winters, being in nature with warmth and sunshine for even just a few days awakens my creative soul. As a nature photographer who likes to shoot each day, keeping my vista fresh is important for inspiration. We have recently purchased a motor-home van in which to travel more extensively when our youngest leaves for college in the fall.

I also change up my camera (Canon 7D, iPhone 5 with add-on lenses, numerous point-and-shoots), lenses, and techniques often to keep things fresh. Switching between infrared, motion blurs, macros, landscapes, etc. keeps me learning and growing. ” — Michelle Shefveland

“I enjoy perusing blogs, Pinterest, and magazines for inspiration. Vintage fairs are also a wonderful source of inspiration, especially absorbing all the creative ways to display wares. I recently joined Instagram (EvelynandRose), so I'm sure that will be a new source of ideas as well. Sometimes just admiring a vintage piece I have in my home also sparks creative ideas — especially time-worn colors and textures. I think the next year will be a year of weathered, rustic, and faded looks in my designs.” — Susan Frick

“The journey to a personal body of work is different in that I am compelled to wear blinders to sources of outside inspiration. I realize this sounds a tad ridiculous, especially in our 24/7 internet world. But I long to be in my cave (aka studio), holed up in mad-scientist/artist mode, playing with paint to see what comes up and where my muse guides me. It is important for me to rely on internal sources of inspiration as I have done in the past. For me, this typically means lots of time in nature, writing in my journals, meditation, and practicing yoga. These things will clear my mind and allow ideas to emerge in due course.” — Mary Beth Shaw

“Following the whispers of my heart and soul is my favorite way to stay inspired and avoid burnout. I listen to what I’m being drawn towards each day — is it painting? Writing in my journal? Sending a love note to a friend? Going into the woods for a long walk? Whatever brings joy to my heart — I start there. I love to notice small details inside seemingly mundane routines. It’s all inspiration!” — Mary Wangerin

“Staying inspired can be very challenging and for me a healthy balance in my life helps. I go through phases where just being in the studio doing something keeps me inspired, but roadblocks come, so making time for fun is important.” — Roben-Marie Smith

“Here in Washington DC we are very lucky to be close to Baltimore where my very favorite museum of all time is located — the Visionary Art Museum. I always leave there super fired up and ready to create! I also nap, and read, and rest. I am usually inspired and have a long list of things I want to make and do, the only times I am not is when I am burnt out and that means it's time to rest!” — Claudine Hellmuth


How do you, as an artist/photographer/writer, set challenging but attainable goals?

“When I begin to notice myself slip into that easy, comfortable zone while creating, I know it’s time to unleash my brave and bold and introduce a new creative goal. Pushing past that comfort level is where we grow, discover, and uncover amazing new techniques and processes; and ultimately when we have the most fun!

Sometimes that means I say yes to opportunities that thrill, but scare me. Sometimes I give myself a time limit for finishing a painting. Sometimes I challenge myself to use colors I don’t normally ever use while painting. Sometimes I collaborate with a fellow artist on a painting.

It’s all in allowing myself to try new things creatively, while embracing the discomfort of uncertainty/vulnerability that can come with a challenge!” — Mary Wangerin

“For me it's about ebb and flow, and balance. There are times I have the energy to take on large-scale artistic projects (like writing a book or creating online courses), and I give them my all, often shaving time off of some other things that are important to me, like getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and time-consuming preparation of healthy, tasty food. I'm a mom of two kiddos, so I don't need to explain to you that there is only so much time in a day. I can't go too long of a stretch cutting back on aspects of self-care, no matter how much I love the work I'm doing, especially now that I am in my 40's. It's imperative that I take work breaks. As I write this, I have currently cut my 40+ hour work week in half. It feels good to give to myself time and refresh my body, mind and spirit. Allowing myself to have these hiatuses will make me all the more ready, and raring to go for the next heartfelt project!” — Susan Tuttle

“In setting myself goals, I find a dialogue I am moved to take part in. Working alone is all fine and dandy, but to make the connection through one’s work to a larger audience is what grants greater meaning to artistic pursuits. I seek out galleries or teaching venues that appear to be a good fit for my aesthetic, and I apply myself. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I'm not; sometimes I simply create my own opportunities.  I am mindful to follow through, and not just think about or imagine things —manifestation is key. It is impossible to 'go it alone' the act of reaching out, I become accountable to something larger than myself.  Each year I try to stretch my comfort zone a little...not too much, but a little, and I find that each year builds on itself in this way. My hope is to stretch my comfort zone by letting go!” — Anna Corba

“At the end of every year, I take the time to review my experiences and achievements from the prior year. Going through the posts on my blog is the perfect way to do this. Based on what I have accomplished and what I have not yet achieved, new goals begin to take shape for the coming year. As ideas come to me from different arenas, such as artistic medium, publication, product design, and workshop focus, I do my best to develop plans that are new and exciting to me and at least somewhat distinct from my past approaches. In this way, my choices tend to be both challenging but possible.” — Seth Apter

“I'm a list keeper. I like to write down what I plan to achieve for the year. That includes a list of article deadlines, design teams, collaborations, and even what workshops I hope to put forth. By keeping a list, I feel that every goal is reachable, because they are actually a list of small goals put together to create one big goal, which is — make every moment count. By the end of the year, I can look back and see that every small goal achieved adds up to a successful year. It’s not completing the list that makes it successful, it’s about spending a year doing what I love to do. Every small goal matters.” — Cat Kerr

“By setting smaller, attainable daily goals, my more challenging goals end up being reached without even knowing it! A little mind trickery.” — Michelle Shefveland

“During a screen writing class, the teacher asked: ‘What is the biggest difference between famous screenplay writers and yourselves?’ After a moment, he answered his own question, ‘They took their work to completion.’ That became my motto. Take your work to the finish line. Not doing so may be the only thing standing between you and success. Remove that barrier and a path opens before you.

I have an ongoing list of long and short term projects. I keep revisiting each project until it is complete. My children’s book took sixteen years to percolate and has just been self-published. A sketch I did in 30 seconds during my son’s violin lesson, sold as a print. Methodical, long-term works sprinkled with short-term projects keeps me moving forward.” — Cathryn Mezzo

“First and foremost, I must write down my monthly, weekly, and daily goals in a daily planner, otherwise they're just thoughts rumbling around in my head.

Each month I think about what I want to accomplish overall, usually a big project or something that gets me closer to a bigger goal. Then I break that goal down into weekly and daily goals. I'm a big fan of micro-movements and achieving large goals in small chunks.

Even if it's something as challenging as writing a novel, if I break it down into itty bitty goals (10 minutes of research, 500 words a day, etc.) it makes the writing so much easier for me to accomplish.” — Cassandra Key

“Truthfully, I’m not big on setting goals. And I also don’t believe in forcing things. However, I do believe in having a good work ethic, which would involve doing your best on a daily basis. Taking things day by day, or taking the right steps day by day, can eventually lead you to a sweet reward. I guess right now I’m more focused on making sure that my every step is going in the right direction (where my heart is telling me to go). For me, if my heart doesn’t want to go there, then there’s no point to it.” — Becky Shander

“My goals need to be specific in nature. If they are too vague my performance can’t be evaluated. For instance, it isn’t enough to just commit to journaling or painting. I have to make that goal specific by committing to work in my journal at least twice a week or creating one new canvas a month. It is also important for me that my goals be realistic or I might get too overwhelmed from falling behind. I also adjust my goals as I go along when my circumstances change or I am inspired to move in a different direction. I have to remain flexible.” — Roben-Marie Smith

“I'm not too aggressive when setting goals for myself. As a stay-at-home mom, time with family always comes first. Creative time may need to occur during school hours and evenings, but I do push myself a bit more when my Etsy store is looking empty or I have a vendor show coming up. Nothing like a hard deadline to get my gears going! I'm a firm believer in making lists, especially of creative ideas that pop into my head. Not all the ideas come to fruition, but many do make it to a finished project — and that feels wonderful. I never chastise myself for not getting to projects on the list, because there's always some day.” — Susan Frick

“I don't think I am the right person to ask this! I have big, giant goals! I am working on setting smaller goals for myself, and most of all working at celebrating the small accomplishments along the way. Often times, as soon as I accomplish a goal I feel like, ‘Done! Now on to the next thing,’ and I forget to celebrate the small steps, which then leads to burn out. A couple of internet friends who have great podcasts about these types of topics are Tara Swiger, Abbey Glassenberg, and Jamie Ridler, and Kari Chapin, who just started a new podcast, too. I love listening to these podcasts while I work. Hearing about other artists struggling with the same issues inspires me to be a bit gentler with myself and my work.” — Claudine Hellmuth

“I’m not a goal-oriented type of person as I believe everything we need is provided abundantly and effortlessly, so why try so hard? My goal is to just allow, and to channel the creative power, without judgment about where it takes me. The more I am open to this, and raise my awareness instead of wasting precious energy to set goals, the more I achieve.” — Monica Sabolla Gruppo

“I set a timer and allow myself blocks of time. I must be diligent about it — no phone calls, unless they’re emergencies, and no chores — this is my labyrinth to walk through. My hound is the only one allowed to disturb me. He and my muse get along great.  I need to spiral inward and connect the dots of gathered ideas, experiment, and play.  I set deadlines and try to beat them — I mark my calendar ahead of the actual due date. Most of the time I succeed, but life can get in the way sometimes.  Usually my ahead date will allow me time to finish my goal. I use blocks of time, a timer, a calendar, a red Sharpie to circle deadlines and commitments.  You have to take the time and treat this window as an important appointment — value yourself and your venture.” — Ella Wilson

“As a mixed media artist, I am constantly challenging myself by trying new techniques or combinations of techniques. In my art, I also like to take clichéd imagery like hearts or, for instance a rooster, and challenge myself to create art that is a bit different, but still elegant. Lately I have been doing that with the use of subtle patterns I create by using rubber stamps with stencils, soft gel, or white gesso over or under painted areas. I think creating handmade texture in this manner make my designs stand out, but I find that spending time creating background patterns like this is an excellent way to unleash creativity and allow myself to play — which often creates my best artwork.

I also like using computers and software programs like Photoshop, and find it immensely helpful in all of my work, but the challenge for me is to use it as a tool to assist, and not to let it completely take over my art. I think the problem with artwork created by computer is that it’s too easy to just add color electronically. Those solid sections of color are flat and lifeless with no imperfections. As humans we are full of life, and imperfections — isn’t that what makes us so wonderful?

I always like to keep that in mind when I fall too in love with something I am creating, and it’s a great exercise in attachment. Sometimes I take something that I love (I might scan it first!) and take some brown or black paint and paint over the surface and rub some of it off again using lots of water to create a totally different antique look. It’s a challenge to bring the artwork back to the perfect moment that I thought I had before, and find that I have come to an even more satisfying point.” — Caitlin Dundon

“I remember to unlock my secrets, to give them wings, and set them free. This act liberates my creativity and allows it to reach higher levels. Then I set goals that are so far beyond what I ever dreamed I could achieve. I state them aloud, first to myself and then voice them to others. This seems to solidify them somewhere in time. And most importantly, I am willing to maintain my resolve, to chase after my goals, and go hard at it in order to make them happen.” — Sandra Evertson

“I host my own online workshop. Yep. Because I have so many ideas, tutorials, and inspirations to share that when I offer an online course, I must be accountable for the content with a schedule and online presence. It has been so rewarding and challenging, all at the same time, to step up and provide sacred space for my participants to learn, grow, and share. Another way I challenge myself as a photographer is by getting involved in online photo challenges, such as Instagram and Flickr. I place myself in a pool of very talented artists, which I feel raises my own bar of expectations. I learn so much every time I expose myself and become vulnerable.” — Deb Taylor

“I work on art every day. I make my living as a graphic artist, so that is the backdrop for my other creative pursuits. Sometimes it takes more time away from the things I’d really rather be doing than I’d like, but I am grateful that my pay-the-bills job is one that requires lots of creativity, and I am always working on something fresh.

I am forever taking pictures in my garden, there is always something new to see, and in that way I document the years. And I write every morning, either for one of my blogs, or on the novel I’ve been working on forever (this is a goal that is proving quite challenging!). But this writing has become the thing that keeps me centered, and content. It’s become a habit.

I think that’s what you have to do with your art, you have to make it into something you live and breathe, and cohabitate with on a daily basis. That opens up space for the magic to happen.” — Kelly Letky

“Deadlines tend to dominate my work life, so I have a calendar list that keeps me organized for those things that can't be missed (usually set by other people). For my art life and business (StencilGirl Products) I rely on the process of Mind Mapping, where I use an enormous piece of paper to brain dump all my ideas, and then put them into logical categories. This helps me to identify the ones that are most relevant, and I add them to my list.” — Mary Beth Shaw

“I try to set achievable goals, so that I won't feel frustrated if I don't rise to the challenge. A method of small, yet attainable steps works best for me. It's also very important to keep your schedule well balanced. Your creativity should be the time of pleasure and not another task on your to-do list.” — Olga Siedlecka

“I just begin. One sentence, I tell myself. One line, one paragraph. I always begin by describing the day outside and inside. The mundane things. Where the cat is and what she’s doing. What the weather’s like. That keeps my fingers nimble, loosens me up.  It’s a warm up for the race ahead, but I don’t run marathons.

I keep bowls full of words and phrases, and if I’m having trouble grabbing an idea, I grab a word and hold it and pay attention to the feelings it invokes, the images it throws my way.  One of my favorite books is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, and one of my very favorite parts of that book is this:

‘He'd been having trouble with students who had nothing to say. At first he thought it was laziness but later it became apparent that it wasn't. They just couldn't think of anything to say

One of them, a girl with strong-lensed glasses, wanted to write a five-hundred word essay about the United States. He was used to the sinking feeling that comes from statements like this, and suggested without disparagement that she narrow it down to just Bozeman.

When the paper came due she didn't have it and was quite upset. She had tried and tried but she just couldn't think of anything to say. 

It just stumped him. Now he couldn't think of anything to say. A silence occurred, and then a peculiar answer: ‘Narrow it down to the main street of Bozeman.’ It was a stroke of insight.

She nodded dutifully and went out. But just before her next class she came back in real distress, tears this time, distress that had obviously been there for a long time. She still couldn't think of anything to say, and couldn't understand why, if she couldn't think of anything about all of Bozeman, she should be able to think of something about just one street.

He was furious. ‘You're not looking!’ he said. A memory came back of his own dismissal from the University for having too much&nbs