Monstress: The Initial Plan
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This is the second part of a series of articles I am writing to revamp Monstress Productions. This is all in an effort to create a full-fledged case study for my summer workshop. I hope this will give you insight you can use to reinvigorate your art practice and online strategy. [/blue_box]

In writing these articles, I have swiftly come to realize that I have a lot of work to do to get my practice back in shape. Much of my effort can benefit if I approach my online presence the right way. Having a web site is very nice and all, but being an online citizen is quite another. I try to use this platform as a means for establishing and maintaining credibility, finding peers and support, and generally recording my efforts so I might help others. The following is a wide-ranging examination which will help me hone in on what I need to do.

My clarified goals

I want to focus in on my art making in a way that helps me get closer to being the cultural producer I know I can be. I want to make work that changes lives while it pushes me beyond comfort levels and presuppositions that I hold dear. I also need it to pay more for itself or I cannot keep it up. It can’t just be a hobby: this is my personal research, and it deserves the proper investment of my time and effort. It deserves to have goals and measures of success.

  • I want to start making Monstress Products on a regular basis again in a way that ensures they are well-made and will sell.
  • I need to be making every day–on some level. Writing is especially crucial to my process and I do that already, but it is not focused much at this time on creation.
    • Here is where an online presence can help: my creative output can include tweets, posts, and updates on all my social media accounts. It may not be time in my studio every single day–infact, that is impossible so I have to find other ways to get active that help me think and make.
  • I have to sell the old work: I really need a store that actually works. I have to promote my work, get people interested in the old stuff and get it out the door. All it does now is sit in boxes and collect dust. I need money to come in to cover show fees, materials, and all the costs of studios and online coverage.
  • I have to get my name and work out there so that I may be invited to better shows, speaking engagements and other opportunities. In order to be seen as a resource, I have to make more, show more, and report more on the process.
  • I want to think about my work on a daily basis, to research and explore ideas. This is a process I can easily share with others on many platforms while I promote my work.

My mindset and habits

Priorities: Professional Demands

I prioritize my personal research after professional demands on a daily basis. This has always been an issue for me: I had to work several jobs while going through school so I did not even get to focus on my practice then. It is scary to let go off work demands when facing a blank page. I hide in the day job details and it is very hard to stop because I am really good at that job (actually, jobs).

The irony is that as an academic, I am supposed to keep my personal research alive and kicking. As I have had to work so much to make ends meet, my art had to take a back seat again. Given that I had never gotten it to really make much money on its own, that was too easy. It had led to opportunities, though: workshops, speaking engagements, and jobs have all sprung out of the path my work cleared for me. Direct income is not always the biggest benefit from our work.

Priorities: Familial Demands

My familial demands are not an issue: they are an assumed part of the landscape and I have finally realized that the only way to make being a mom NOT a liability is to simply stop seeing it as a problem. I love my daughter, I LOVE HER! She has taught me more about life and myself in 2.4 years than I managed to get in the 40 preceding it. Looking at the world with her as she marvels over cardboard paper tubes and frosty windows?? It is exhausting and utterly renewing work and love. I am an artist who gets to also be a mom.

I have found that as my daughter gets older, it is getting easier: she can work side by side with me a bit, but my time with her is about her. It has been so amazing to really have to focus–I have to make sure I am organized for the time I have. That is never a bad thing.

Confidence Level

I have gone wary of taking risks with all of the financial demands I have now, but the work suffers so much when I don’t extend myself. I have to get my mojo back to say the least, and the only way to it is through the jungle of fear I have let creep back in. I am expecting my work to either be an utter failure or expecting it to suddenly pull in buckets of cash. Neither is really all that possible. If I don’t make any, then I fail.

Getting my confidence back is coming from taking action. Writing this? Taking action. Cleaning my studio? Taking action. Drawing on the subway? Taking action!

Momentum Building & Maintenance

Since I have to work better with less time, I have to deal with some bad habits that really sap my energy.

Downtime usually turns into procrastination

I tend to play Hulu in the background as I work on my computer, tuned to the stupidest cartoons I can find as they just turn off major portions of chatter in my head. It actually makes me vastly inefficient. I take so much longer to do my work. There is nothing wrong with turning off my brain, but I have to admit, this way is not working.

Solution: I need to schedule my downtime for a limited, enclosed period, I cannot multitask during that time just as I can’t in others. 

“N-Yes Syndrome”

I overpromise elsewhere in my life and cut the difference from my own work.

Solution: I am learning to say no by making sure every “yes” gets me closer to my overall goal of making art. It really helps to simply ask for time to think about it all, then I can turn things down later gracefully once i really give it some thought.

Exhaustion

I am TIRED these days. I have been making modifications in my sleep schedule and working on a healthier diet, but I also need to acknowledge that being a mom and a professor and a freelancer and an artist is really freaking hard. I cannot squeeze any more time out of reality, I cannot force myself into endless overnighters (or even one, really) so I have to be prepared to make big changes.

Solution: Sleep. That means less downtime. That means actually keeping to my plan. It helps when I remind myself of my goals when I feel resistance.

My preliminary set of actions

  • Acknowledge how much time I really have to devote to this, and be brutally honest. This could change as I develop my discipline back, so better to be honest now.
  • Cut away all distractions from my core mission of getting my practice back on track, and use my online presence to keep me motivated.
  • Set my goals in clear, simple, and concise language. I need to be as concrete as possible.
  • Decide what I really have time to do and what I need help to get done. I have long held the belief that I have to have done every little thing for my career to make it really authentic.
  • Set up a real store for all of the old work. I plan on using Shopify or Big Cartel as a part of my site, but am still researching it. I used to do everything by hand, but it doesn’t work if I am too strapped for time as it is.
    • Devote a regular chunk of time to this project for a set period of time, and check in about my results.
  • Get a project going that I can publicize to get people excited. I have been thinking that I could hold a contest wherein people could suggest modern woes I could potentially design products to alleviate. That could be very, very cool..
    • Devote a regular chunk of time to this project for a set period of time, and check in about my results.

My initial plan of action

Time Management

  • Look hard at my working time and structure it. (An hour a day? Two?)
  • Come up with a sustainable plan.
  • Turn some stuff down and clear out headspace for my work again.
  • Follow the plan, report back.
  • Redesign as needed.

Studio/Work time

  • Find slots of time
  • Figure out what I really need to be doing
  • Do it in chunks of time I can sustain
  • Follow the plan, report back.
  • Redesign as needed.

Site

  • Sitemap: restructure the site to do what I really need it to do
  • Wireframes: make sure each page helps in that
  • SEO: set goals, make sure I am driving traffic as best I can (more on this all later)
  • Redesign: new theme, new look (I will use a premium WordPress theme and modify it to my needs to save time)
  • Add a store
  • Put up all available work with accurate inventories
  • Follow the plan, report back.
  • Redesign as needed.

Portrait Product Contest

  • Write it out for myself, really get all my ideas and everything on paper
  • Plan trajectory as a true project
  • Business plan:
    • How will I fund this?
    • How will I get materials?
    • How will I pick a winner?
  • Follow the plan, report back.
  • Redesign as needed.

Online Presence

  • Examine and fine tune social media accounts (more on this in next article)
    • Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Ello, etc…
    • What needs to go?
    • What are the trends that would most help me?
    • What is the output I need to be creating?
  • Get newsletter set up, promote on social media, get people to sign up
  • Start a regular schedule: post, tweet, and add to presence in a dependable fashion, in a way that is sustainable
  • Promote store and products in a concerted campaign
  • Promote contest in a concerted campaign
  • Follow the plan, report back.
  • Redesign as needed.

How will I measure success at this stage?

  • I will get my butt into my studio and develop an approachable work schedule. This has already started.
  • I will redesign my site by June 1. Keep in mind that I am a web designer and can do this very quickly.
  • I will do a full inventory of my work and add a store by June 1.
  • I will write and research my next moves, which I will add to this site as articles, starting immediately.
  • I will develop a social media regimen, write about it, and apply it while reporting back here.
  • I will mess some things up and be able to correct them because I am paying attention. So what’s to fear? Mistakes let me know I am alive!

Coming up:

I have some plans to work out and explain to you: my social media plan, my site redesign, and my store. I am also starting to develop some worksheets and slides for the workshop based on what I am digging up here.