Tuesday, February 25, 2014


I attended the Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts conference this past weekend in Greensboro and it totally surpassed my expectations. I had a great time! It was hosted by UNCG and ran the gamut on topics pertaining to every kind of person pursuing an art career. That meant they had speakers on issues as broad as "Making A Career As An Artist" to entertainment lawyers providing insight into copyright laws to clinical psychologists leading discussions on creative blocks and procrastination. It was truly a unique and valuable opportunity for me to be in a place where I could relate to everything and everyone around me.

There were 3 keynote speakers and then tons of breakout sessions where we could choose which speaker and what topic we want to attend. My favorite part of the day was with a woman named Ellen Lloyd who hosted an interactive session on crafting your vision and mission statement for your art career. This is something that I've always heard is important to create - like a business plan for yourself - yet it always felt so abstract that I was burdened at the very thought of trying. So, I had to go sit in and hear what she was going to say. I was so blown away with how successfully she was able to debunk the mysteries out of my own head that I went home and tried the lesson over again with my fellow artist and longtime friend Megan ("Bring post-its!") We had so much fun and I learned so much more doing it again that I decided to share the lesson here. 


 -- all you need is some Post-It notes, a writing utensil, and a cleared table top or wall space --

Complete the following sentence as many times as you can within a 10 minute time limit, putting each answer on its own Post-It note. When you're done with the note, simply place it to the side until you've completed your 10 minutes. Notice the word "ideal", this is not necessarily where you are now but where you want to be, so think BIG!

"In an ideal world, I strongly believe my artistic endeavors will ____________________."

When you are finished, arrange the notes in front of you, grouping similar answers together. I had 3 different clusters in all. Start to reread your notes and underline words that you use more than once. Then, create a title for each of your groups, giving them their own Post-It.

Now you are ready to take a stab at writing the first draft of your vision. Your vision explains in one broad sweeping sentence your dreams of what you want in your career. It's like the thesis statement to the essay that is your dream job. So, look at those underlined words, see the groupings you have made, and start formulating. You in no way are committed to your first draft, this is just a starting place.

Once you feel like you got a handle on that, you're ready to attack the mission statement. The mission statement is like the rest of your introductory paragraph in your dream job essay. Here is where you define the what, how, and who. What do you do, how do you do it, and who is it for? This summarizes your core values and how you pragmatically fulfill your vision. 

So, same idea as before with the Post-Its, new sentence. Start with the first blank and write as many notes as you can before moving onto the next blank.

In an ideal world, as an artist I      (what you do)     
by        (how you do it)      
for      (who)        .

I found this sentence to be more challenging. Try to think practically. State the obvious. Once again, take note of the word "ideal", do not put down "part-time waitress" because that's what you do now. Put down that dream job. Another way to think about it, if this sentence structure fuddles you, is:

I am        (what you are/want to be)      
that       (does what and how?)       
for      (who)       .

Now assess the new notes in front of you, arranging again into groups and acknowledging repeated words and phrases. Begin formulating your sentence or sentences; your mission statement can be as short or long as you want, as long as you get all the pertinent information in there. A lot of businesses have vision and mission statements written for their company. Think of yourself as a company of one. Amazon.com's vision and mission statement is summarized in one sentence: 

“Our vision is to be earth's most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” 

Obviously Amazon.com can't sell anything anyone wants to buy - that's their ideal speaking. But it works; it's clear, to-the-point, and leaves room for eternal growth. And they managed it all in one simple sentence! 

Maybe your vision and mission statement can get directed down to one sentence or it can be more, all that matters is that it makes sense to you, and gives you a touchstone of reference as you steer the course of your career. When done correctly, this is your north star for every decision you will make. Too many times, as artists (and others), we sacrifice our dreams for the prospect of easy money or to help other people with their dreams. Frankly, I'm tired of how often I say 'yes' to projects that I find no creative energy in. I'm ready to put my vision and mission statement into the forefront and stop forgetting about it when it comes to making decisions!!

I hope that you will find a chance to try this activity out in your own time, as many times as you need to clarify your goals. I highly recommend doing it with a friend and sharing your Post-Its along the way. I was amazed how different Megan would answer questions than me, and it got me inspired to think in new ways. Rereading sentences out loud helped put things into perspective. But, if you really don't want to share your vision with anyone else, you don't have to. This should be for you to come to a better understand of your dreams

But everything is better with a support system :)

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