Beth Meadows

Fears

Relationship Status with Facebook: On Very Thin Ice

Beth MeadowsComment

So how are we feeling about Facebook these days? I'd like to know.

Not too long ago, I was scrolling through Instagram and stopped on a friend's photo of mostly blue sky and the top of a tree. The caption proclaimed that after checking Facebook everyday for over a decade, she had decided to Deactivate. She was free!

I'm pretty jealous of her. 

I check Facebook less and less these days, but I still check it multiple times a day. I know it's an obsessive compulsion, so about six months ago, I took the app off my phone. It's helped, I guess, but now I just view it in my web browser, which now keeps me logged in. I don't know the exact numbers, but I probably have gone from checking it 100 times a day to 10 times a day. Big difference, still sad for how unfulfilling it is. 

So why don't I break up with Facebook? 

Ultimately, I've stuck with it for two main reasons: to keep in touch with old friends, some I may never see again, and because I have a Business Page. 

The distant friends are from my hometown or ones I met while traveling, mostly from studying abroad ten years ago. It's sort of fun to lazily re-connect every now and then with them. A "Memory" pops up. A foreign friend shares it, and everyone "Likes" it and we say, "Let's have a reunion!" (Like! Like! Like!) but that never happens. 

(Sidebar- I just opened Facebook and quickly closed it. A post for another day, but why do I do this while I'm doing things I want to be doing? Out with friends, in my studio, while I'm writing. No matter what good Facebook offers, this should be enough to make me quit.)

I also have a wildly unsuccessful Facebook Business Page. I decided to keep it so that when that one person every eight months searches for me on there, they will find me. And maybe the 50th person who does that will buy a lot of my artwork. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket, fool!

But I'm really half-assing playing this game. Most of the time, I'm not really assing it at all, so ultimately, it just makes me feel bad, especially when I post something and get three likes. From two of my friends and my sister. (Y'all are so sweet, by the way. Love you!)

Over the past few years, I've placed myself under the tutelage of a couple of nerdy older men who have helped me tremendously. David Allen of Getting Things Done (changed my life) and now Michael Hyatt of the podcast This is Your Life (are you who you waaannnaaaa beeeeee!!!??? hahahha). I love them both dearly for what they have taught me. 

So Michael recently told me (I'm going to pretend we are BFF's) that he decided to limit his personal friends on Facebook and grow his Business Page. 

At first I thought, "Now this is a great idea, and I'm down. I want 250 personal friends (which means de-friending over 750) and I want to focus on growing my Business Page."

Just looked. He has 13,533 Followers. I have 382. I'm SO close! (lies down. sleeps for days.)

So I started the great De-Friending of 2016. But then I began to worry about who I might offend by doing this. A larger part of me doesn't care (because it's for the greater good), but the ever-conflicted part of me tells me I should. How can I de-friend a bunch of people and expect them to still support me as an Artist?

But here's the kicker, and I've thought about this for many, many years. When you have a business, your audience should be so much bigger and broader than your close community. Of course, the support from friends and family is so precious and appreciated, but it can also be misleading. I admit that at times, I've ignorantly based my confidence as an Artist on how supportive these people have been to me, but I can't survive as a business off of sweet and loving pats on the back. I need to exceed these bounds. I need to reach the millions of people I don't know (... that have money).

Artists put so much into what they make. The thought process, the research, the gathering of tools and materials, the hours of labor, the hours of installing. A lot of it is methodical process, but it also can be deeply emotional as well.

Then they must choose the five most effective ways (out of 500) to promote this thing that has taken them so long to develop. It's too hard and we're tired! (lies down. cries. goes to sleep.)

Back to Facebook...

Recently I heard two entrepreneurs say how ineffective Facebook has been for their businesses. I wonder how many other businesses feel this way.

I'll tell you who Facebook is good for. It is a wonderful place to be if you're a mom with kids, or you're pregnant, or you just got engaged, or you just had a baby. This is what the people want and these few are making bank with the Likes. 

But if we've learned anything, it is that a unique Like is the shallowest form of human connection and not all that satisfying at the end of the day. There doesn't have to be any Real Life Interaction, a thing we all are desperate for, to back it up. And for businesses, Likes don't necessarily mean monetary investment from the Likers, and I don't know if y'all know this, but money is pretty integral to running a business. I'll go so far to say, it won't work without it.

I don't have a clear conclusion about all of this yet, just a feeling of dissatisfaction. Facebook and I are growing apart, and I know it's not going to pull the trigger. It's behaving like a passive boyfriend who wants to break up with me but wants me to do it. Why are you such a jerk, Facebook?

I'd love to know how you're feeling about FB these day.

Maybe we can take the leap off and away from it together. We can hold real life hands while we do it. 

What could this breakup mean for us? I'm not sure, but I think it might look like tops of trees and limitless blue skies.

 

So here is what I want to write about:

Beth MeadowsComment

1. MY ARTWORK

For some reason it's become hard for me to sit down and write an artist statement, so much so, I didn't include one in my last show. I think it's fine to do without one if it's not coming easily, but I'd still like to share the backstory of my artwork, and it would be nice to do that informally here.  For example, I envision posting a photo of a painting and then making a list of all the things that influenced it, as opposed to writing out a small and formal essay (aka an artist statement). I like lists. I like them a lot. (See: This post)

2. TRANSPARENCY OF JOY & PAIN

I've been thinking about the potential disconnect between my social media account and Real Life and hope writing can bridge that gap.

I try not to relay negative things on social media because I don't feel like it's the best place for that. So I keep it light (instead of telling you how often I think about giving up making artwork or how many panic attacks I've had about money. You know, that kind of thing). 

At the same time, while I know deep in my heart that most people are also only putting their ***Best** on social media, it can be such a hard place to be in because we can't not compare ourselves to others. If we don't see the hard things in others' lives, we start to wonder if and why we are the only ones who are unhappy/ poor/ lonely/ fill in the blank. And I don't want to contribute to that either. On multiple occasions, people have come up to me in Real Life and told me I must be doing so well because that's what it looks like from Instagram. Oh, brother...

So I'm here to tell you, that just ain't true. My life is equal parts joy and struggle. Yes, I am doing well. And I am also prone to fits of panic, and a lot of other fun things. 

3. ENCOURAGEMENT

Through sharing challenges, struggles, fear, panic, frustration, etc., etc., my hope is that I can offer encouragement to others who are pursuing something they love or frustratedly daydreaming about it. We're all in the same boat here, the boat-of-not-knowing-what-the-heck-we're-doing (#illustrationidea). Yes, it can be wonderful to pursue a dream. Yes, it is also really painful. 

I deeply want to help artists, or anyone with creative endeavors, to jump the hurdles that are undoubtedly in front of them by sharing my experiences. 

4. INSIGHT AS AN ARTIST

I've had a little baby spark of a desire to start a lecture and How To series for artists and recent art grads in Knoxville. I'd love to talk about things that I've learned in my decade+ since school in hopes that others can bypass a lot of the pitfalls I faced.

I'd also like to share what I think Knoxville needs to help support artists and encourage artists to view themselves as savvy business people from the moment they cliche-ly throw that cap up in the air and saunter into the Real World. And just maybe, that insight could apply to people in other cities, too. 

I want to start developing some of those ideas here. 

5. MY GOALS

I'd like to talk about goals I have, which may be no fun for anyone else to read, but it will hopefully help me think through some things. Maybe you can help me with them?

6. STORY TIME/ MIXED BAG

I want to write for fun and for the challenge of it. I want to put words together, and I want to form sentences and paragraphs with those words to talk about intriguing things I come across in my life. They're all a part of my internal thought process that can well up in me when I'm in my studio in a very overwhelming way.

I wonder if writing will help tame that beautiful stallion with ADD (aka my brain) and feel like methodically filing away a mound of papers piled up on the floor of my mind. It's a tall order, but I'll try it.  

Just Try it On!

Beth MeadowsComment

Do you have thoughts about things you want to do that won't go away?

Pushing away little nudges at my heart has been the story of my life for many years because of the nature of my work life and pursuit of art. The more I wanted to succeed in these two areas, the more I had to say No to any other thing that might take away my focus.

If I've learned anything about being an artist with a day job, it is this: If I want to say Yes to certain things in my life, I have to say No to way more, even good, fun, delightful things. Doing well in one area means staying focused and cutting out distractions in other areas. I get it. Sometimes begrudgingly, but I get it.

But about six months ago, I made the choice to start walking away from my day job (and its all-consuming nature) to see if there was a way to say Yes to some of the things I had put on the backburner. While it was difficult and scary to move away from that job, I knew in my heart it was time, so it was weirdly also very easy.

Over the past several months, to process all of the things I had put on the backburner, I wrote them down and brainstormed about each one. I ended up filling up an entire legal pad and started another. Apparently there were a lot of things I had pushed to the side.

Here are some examples of what came welling to the surface:

  • Write (Blog) consistently* (doing this now yo)
  • Take dance lessons
  • Teach art classes*
  • Buy glass dishes with lids and prepare meals for each week*
  • Go on a real vacation*
  • Go on so many vacations
  • Find an ocean and sit by it for many days*
  • Play soccer*
  • Learn how to make jewelry (soldering, metalworking)
  • Make a body of artwork & court some galleries outside of Knoxville*
  • Get together with (fill in the blank with 30+ different people)* 

As you can imagine, a legal pad-sized list is pretty overwhelming, but I keep reminding myself to take it one step at a time. This whole process has taught me two powerful things:

1. I want my day job to allow me to make art and to do as many things on my list as possible. I don't want to take work home with me on nights, weekends, or vacations unless, I am the owner of that business.

2. Finally going after dreamy or lofty goals demystifies them which is necessary to figure out which are worthwhile. The greatest gift of working through my list is realizing the items I thought I wanted to pursue, but in fact, really do not want to do.

I'll give you an example:

As you saw on my list above, I put down Teach Art Classes. I've thought about it for such a long time, BUT... Almost as soon as I sent that message out into the world, I realized I didn't want to do it at all. Surprise!

The thing about dreaming, which is all in your head, is you don't start out thinking about the work. The time. The effort. And if it's a business idea- networking, marketing yourself, coming up with prices, preparation, running errands, keeping the books.

So when a few people expressed interest in the classes, I responded. When I didn't hear anything back, I quietly backpedaled... and then ran in the opposite direction. I was so relieved. A dream I had dreamed for so long: Dead on Arrival. 

It was a little embarrassing, I admit, but the silver lining outweighed that feeling. Now I can check that puppy off my list. Actually, I checked off a whole page, and that's a gift. On to the next thing...

Sidenote: This doesn't mean I will never teach art classes, just not right now.

So after this happened, I was talking to Dale Mackey of The Central Collective about this notion of trying and quitting (gasp). Was it ok that I did this? And she tells me that if she has, what she thinks is a great idea, she will just go for it. If it loses steam or doesn't work out or she loses interest, she can allow herself to quit thinking about it and move on. And that's ok!

I think we all agree that this method may not be appropriate for every aspect of life, but as an entrepreneur, as a human who develops many interests, isn't it fun to think of all the things you can pursue with this mentality? It allows someone like Dale to dream uninhibited, which is a beautiful thing because, while some of her ideas don't come through, the ones that do are pretty brilliant, and our community reaps plentifully from her endeavors.

One last story:

There were these beautiful shoes at Style of Civil a few years ago. I had an art show there, and each time I'd go in, I'd stare at them, pick them up, hold them. I couldn't afford them so I wouldn't try them on until the owner said, "Let me get your size. Let's see if they work, and if they don't, you can quit thinking about them."

And so I tried them on. And they were extremely uncomfortable. And it broke the magical spell they had cast on me. I was free! 

(Please click here for poignant illustration).

What a delight to receive from a boutique shoe store owner such sage advice that has helped me live my life better. It's the main reason I'm writing again. Writing has been nagging me for so long and I now have the time and energy to turn toward it and say, "Let's do this. (Please don't embarrass me.)"

So I leave you with these words if something good has been tugging at your heart for a while:

Just try it on** (while also being safe, responsible, and caring for others).

 

 

*I have done these things or started the process. Three cheers for Lists!

**Name that movie

Writing Fears Continued

Beth MeadowsComment

... Continued from the previous post...

6. I am most inspired by all of those psychology-ish & autobiographical writers and speakers out there: Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ann Lamott, Cheryl Strayed, Brennan Manning.

It's a common trend these days to talk about your story and apply it universally to help and assist a broad audience. And I do think these writers have profoundly helped others by telling their stories. 

I guess I wonder if I have anything new to add. I'm also overwhelmed by all the stories and ideas that are out there (I just recently started listening to Podcasts and the sea is OH SO vast!), that may be well known, that I'm not aware of yet, and I will just repeat things that have all ready been said.

This is an interesting fear that also affects other endeavors I have, but I can say, it does not really affect art-making.  When it comes to making art, I just do it. (That's a loaded statement I'd like to expound on later, but...) It's a beautiful thing, while writing feels like unchartered territory for me, and I am an amateur in very chartered territory. And I have to ask myself questions like, "Is chartered* even a word?"

7. When I make a painting, there is a sense of mystery to the deepest meaning that I do not readily share with others. It's not that I'm intentionally hiding something, but where I don't feel the need to divulge every detail of my artwork to others (because I'd like most to infer their own meaning) I'm not so sure I can be that vague with writing. Can I write about my experience or opinions and keep it universal and not so specific?

I wonder this because, while I've been writing my whole life, it has mostly been a practice just for me. I've kept a journal since I was very small (One that has a lock and key. Adorable). But many things happened over the past several months and one of those things was giving up that private practice of journaling. I still long to write though, but since it's no longer for myself, I'm feeling a bit lost. 

8. I don't have a uniform subject matter. Or really any definitive topic I want to discuss. I suppose, like my artwork and how I use social media, it will be about everything. Everyday I become curious about something new, and I think all the time, "If I went back to school, I would study this thing!" Those are the things I want to write about.

On this note- I know I have wild ADD. Not many interests stick. I wish there was grad school for curious people with ADD. I would study and learn everything I could about a different subject each week or month, however long it took until I was ready to move on. Oh my goodness! Heaven on earth! #businessidea

Well, I am sure there are more fears, but next I will share about why I want to write. 

*I discovered both words are used wrong, but I leave them here to bring the point home.

Write or Wrong

Beth Meadows1 Comment

 

Everyone has them: Stories and memories they fondly tell over and over again. I call these stories people's Glory Days.

It's funny the subjects that fall under my Glory Days category, the things I repetitively recount to friends, family, strangers, as I gaze off into the distance and sigh.

I don't have a lot of fun and wild stories from my past that are appropriate group banter, so many times my Glory Days have more to do with what I have accomplished. I know. Totally lame.

For example, something I bring up a lot is my stint as a writer for the (Award Winning!) Sunsphere is NOT a Wigshop blog. I wear that honor like a bejeweled crown.

I loved writing for that blog, a feeling which mostly had to do with my naivety about writing back then. I did not know what I was doing, and so the joy was great, (ignorance is truly bliss). I felt pretty uninhibited, which I didn't realize would be such a fleeting feeling for me. The fact that people were reading did not scare me away from writing.

But something changed in me once all the writers gradually faded out and the blog died its slow death. I had started my own blog so that I could expand the subjects I wrote about, but all of the sudden, I became stiflingly aware of the audience.

I am an open book by nature and can be pretty direct (direct: a nicer word for abrasive). I have also been on a mission to become a gentler and kinder person as I age. Mix this confusion with trying to better market and sell artwork and you get paralyzing fear. It's a hard line marketing yourself as an artist because who I am is tied to what I create so divorcing the two felt like I was doing myself a disservice. But I didn't know how to write without the fear that I would estrange so many from me.

I think part of my nervousness stemmed from being a wide-eyed observer on social media for so many years. If I've learned anything from Facebook, etc., it is that if you're honest, you will anger exactly 50% of all people. It's a scientific fact that I made up one day after years of observation. And I just didn't want to bring that negativity down on me, even if it meant that 50% of the people loved it. I couldn't do that at the time.

Riding the line of honesty and kindness has felt impossible to me for a long time. In a lot of my experience, if I'm honest I hurt people or open myself up to criticism. I have struggled with depression, self-loathing, anger, many things, and what I realize looking back is that I needed a time to hunker down, a time of self-protection, to figure out what was harmful in my life, to decrease those things, and increase any and all good. 

During this time of mental health hibernation, writing had no place, even though I longed to do it. And in this way and so many others, Adulthood has crushed my dreams. In its weird and mysterious way, too, however, Adulthood has knocked me down to build up something better within me. Wisdom and maturity will stop at nothing to well up in me. The more I blow them off, and I am so good at blowing them off, the harder they come down on me. They will not let me continue to live the way that I have lived, letting so many bad things into my life, being a fool. The hibernation phase was a lot of time embracing how I really felt about things (not hating myself for feeling something negative) while simultaneously licking my wounds. 

Today, the wound-licking is mostly over and I'm beginning to bare my scars with a little pride. I'm still a little shaky about it and don't feel completely ready to start writing again, but I've decided to take the leap anyway. I've grown impatient, and I know I have a harder head and heart (in a good way) to deal with the criticism, if and when it comes. 

So because I love a good list, I will name my fears in order to face them head on:

1. I'm afraid that my writing will decrease my audience as an artist. If people read what I'm thinking, many may discredit what I make, and that's scary because Art is an aspect of my livelihood. But it's also a dumb fear, and I'll tell you why through an example.

I love Justin Bieber, mostly because I love the music he makes. I also follow him on Instagram which I find wildly entertaining. Do I think he hung the moon? Do I think he is perfect? No, I do not. My love runs deep for him because I love the mixture in him of ridiculous fame and talent alongside the fact that he is very human, someone who makes mistakes, and is arrogant, and, I think genuinely, trying to do the best he can in this world.

And in this first point, I have all ready sent many people running for the hills. I will be disdained by those who cannot understand my affinity for JB, and I will have to live with that. I am not sorry.

2. My family/ friends of my past will read what I write and worry. Or wonder why I choose to put these things out there. It would be easier to think only strangers will choose to read out of enjoyment and not because of the worry I instill in them. Worry is a quality I accidentally instill in people that care for me. I can't exactly say why, but y'all, I am fine. I am better than fine. So I hope that people come to listen. You don't have to agree, just listen. If you want.

3. I will want to write about personal things or stories about people I know and will have to stop myself or censor myself. I've never understood how auto-biographical writers do this. It's really what I want to do, but how do you do it without potentially burning major bridges. How do you do it gracefully?

4. I will worry about who is reading and I will let that dictate what I write and fluctuate between self-loathing and arrogance, which is my MO. 

5. I will not be able to break away from my perfectionist tendencies. This post alone has taken a few hours because I edit and add and edit and add. I don't have that kind of time. How can I write better faster? Practice, I suppose.

Let the practicing begin.