Toward the end of 2013 I was looking at the goals that I set in the beginning of the year. They were on a white board in my living room. I accomplished most of the goal, yet these goals did not have a huge impact on my art career.
The most significant events of the year were not part of my goals. I did not think I would win an award from the National Sculpture Society and have my work in museums. It never occurred to me that some of the top galleries would start approaching me for representation. And I never saw myself as part of a big feature in Western Art and Architecture Magazine. Yet these events are the highlights of the year.
I realized that I have a lot of systems in my artistic life. I sculpt every day. I do my business work on a daily basis. I travel to different cities to meet people almost every month.
I connected the dots and came to the conclusion that all the great things that happened in 2013 were a direct result of the daily tasks I do on a regular basis. It is these set of systems which propels my forward and not the goals.
When I was in high school I remember reading an essay about inspiration. It might have been titled "inspiration" and it sort of bored me even before I actually read it. The idea that you have to somehow capture the moment of inspiration and get everything down on a page while the fire of inspiration burns sounds better in theory than it tends to be in practice. What can happen a bit too often is that the emotional state of the person who feels inspired may lead them to imagine that whatever the jotted down in the moment of inspiration is the distillation of whatever their moment of inspiration was. Anyone who has ever, even for a few months, reviewed submissions to a student literary magazine can already get a general sense of the shortcoming of such a philosophy.
What I have discovered, if only for me, is that setting goals doesn't lead to their achievement. Rather than commit to writing this or that it makes more sense to commit to writing itself. You don't commit to a concrete project or, if you do, you at least don't expect committing to the project ensures its completion. Commit to the process of always being working on something and always have so many projects that you can't possibly finish them all. This lets you stay committed to continuing the creative process as an end unto itself and if you commit to that then you'll potentially find you're getting things done. If you commit to a goal as an end in itself then whether you make or fail to make that goal becomes the basis for pride or discouragement. That's not really, ultimately, how you keep getting anything done in the arts. If you commit to the process and if you view inspiration less as some quasi-spiritual moment and more like a discipline and a work ethic you can get things done.
If you try to reverse-engineer your activity you're going to discover that life has this nasty habit of introducing a few things that obliterate the certainty and effectiveness of whatever you tried doing by way of reverse-engineering to get where ever you thought you wanted to go.