Monday, July 19, 2010

Keeping tabs on success

As much as I hate to admit it, I am one of those people who forgets to appreciate what they have, at least in career-related matters. I'll have a successful show and then a week after it's taken down, I start fretting that my career is stalled. Or I'll create a breakthrough painting or series, then a few days later, I start worrying that I don't spend enough time in the studio.

To help combat this "never enough" perception problem, I've created what I call a photo diary. I started it a few years after I finished graduate school, when I realized how much I had actually accomplished even though I was feeling like I hadn't done enough with my life. It's a looseleaf notebook with plastic page protectors that I can slip papers into and out of, with a page for every year I've been alive. On the lefthand page is the year and my age that year, followed by a monthly summary of various professional activities such as shows I was in, sales of my work, or classes I taught. On the righthand page is a photograph of me that year. (I admit it, that part is vanity! But I figure that some day, when I'm in my 90s, I'll look back and admire how young I looked in my 40s!)

To keep the diary updated, I sit down every six months or so and, referring to my calendar for date information, create or add to that year's activity list. Every December, I print out a final page listing the activities for each month, then select a photo of myself from the year, and print that out.

Obviously the early years are baby and little girl pictures, and beside those, I wrote down where my family was living at the time (we moved a lot) or which school I was going to. Then as I got older, I started listing the various degrees I earned or the different jobs I had.

It's interesting to keep a yearly reference like this, to help remember what happened in which year, or how long I worked at something. But it's also good in that, whenever I start to feel like I'm not accomplishing enough, I can read over the book and appreciate how far I have come. To anyone else who deals with feeling "inadequate" as a professional, I highly recommend this type of diary as a tool for regular reality checks.


Nancy Natale said...

That's a great idea. I often feel like I've just been sitting around not doing anything. Of course I have been doing that but meanwhile I have also accomplished things in my work and career. I wish I could be organized enough to do something like your diary. I once tried keeping a log of the works I created, but I wasn't able to maintain it. I guess the grad students who study my work will have a much harder time of it because of my laxity.

Good for you! You're making it a lot easier on them.

Lynette Haggard said...

What a fun idea! Thanks for sharing this, Catherine.

Catherine Carter said...

Nancy, I definitely want to make it easier on the many biographers who will surely be writing about my work! ;-)

Lynette, it's also interesting to look back at the photos and go, "I remember that dress!" etc. ;-)