Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Maggie Stiefvater: how does she do it?

Gawain - a work in progress
16" x 20" coloured pencil on pastelbord

copyright Maggie Stiefvater

How do you become a best-selling artist? How can you find more time for your art? Bottom line - what are the "secrets of success" to juggling all the various demands and responsibilities that threaten to engulf you so that you can really 'make it' as an artist?

OK - the time has come and the answer is here. I've written before about the meteoric rise of Maggie Stiefvater (see links at end) and I've been on at her for ages to share how she has managed to achieve her success. This time Maggie is going in for the 'big reveal' in her latest blog post "How to juggle and other parlor tricks". It provides an excellent account of the "secrets" of her success - and how she manages to create and develop her artwork, develop her art business and at the same time cope with all her other responsibilities and still make time for all her other interests - such as writing 65,000 word novels.
Of course, by juggling, I mean juggling priorities to be a halfway decent mother, wife, artist, businessperson, dog owner, cat owner, writer, sometimes-house-cleaner, etc. without cloning yourself.

........For those of you who don't know me, here is my life: I'm a full-time, professional artist making a 5 digit salary that I'm not going to reveal on the world wide web. I have a cop husband who works full time evening shifts and two small children under the age of 3. I also have two cats, one which does not bury her poo in the litter box and one who is criminally insane. I have two dogs (more on this later). So my life is busy, basically. I also am a musician and an aspiring novelist and so time must be made for playing music and writing. (Maggie Stiefvater)
In her blog post, Maggie's identifies and expands upon her "secrets" - her guidelines for juggling priorities and 'making it happen' as an artist. I've set these out below in summary - but you really need to go to her blog to read about how she implements them - that's the real secret! It's the longest blog post I've seen in a while (mine included) - but it's a really valuable blueprint for making time for being a successful artist and it's very definitely a recommended read.

In summary, Maggie's "secret" guidelines are:
  • if you want something you make the time
  • set goals - at the beginning of each year and each day
  • making your goals specific makes them easier to accomplish
  • watch how you spend your time
  • focus on your goals
  • reward yourself
  • schedule your week
  • schedule time off
  • choose your battles wisely
  • if your spouse is not supportive get another one!
Sounds simple? Of course - but it's how Maggie implements them that is of particular relevance to all those seeking a career as an artist.

Personally, I think we should set about cloning Maggie's husband as he has played no small part in her success. Principally by identifying the primary secret which changed her whole approach to art - see below. He should be on commission!
First of all, I want to say that the most important element of the equation is my mind-set. I was not always a chipper, productive Maggie. In fact, before 2006, I was constantly griping that I could make a full time living at my art if I only had time. But who has time with two toddlers and everything mentioned above? My husband pointed out that if I took all the times I was griping and all the brief times I had during the day and smashed them together, I wasn't completely without time. I have found this to be true again and again. When someone tells me they don't have time to do something, I don't believe them - I believe they don't have the motivation yet to do whatever that something is. If you want something, you make time.
If you want more practical advice like this then read "How to Juggle and Other Parlor Tricks". In fact, better still, print it out, stick it above your computer and before you switch off at night check how many of her recommendations you followed that day!

I'd love to hear what you think of Maggie's secrets - and I'm sure she would too.


Links to other posts on this blog about Maggie Stiefvater:
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1 comment:

"JeanneG" said...

I particularly liked what she said about a supportive husband. "Get a different one if not supportive". I think that if any spouse isn't supportive, it can bring your spirit down and stop forward movement. My husband (36 yrs) is probably my worse critic. I don't always get feedback if he likes something, but he sure is vocal when he doesn't.

A time or two I have had to tell him "enough" if you can do it better, go try.

But he can see things that are wrong when I can't. And he isn't afraid to criticize which is important. Can't learn without negative as well as supportive advice

I have always said you have to make time for what you love. That's why I let housework go if need be so that I can have "me" time. Thanks for the reminder thru Maggie. Jeanne.

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