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Just Move the Trash Can

I recently returned from an amazing trip seeing friends and family. On the last leg of our journey, we stayed with a dear friend of mine who shared a unique perspective on problem-solving that was both funny and amazingly relevant to my own life. So I’d like to pass it on to you.

We were talking about handling challenging situations. Now, my friend is a dog, cat, horse, fox, goose, snake, you name it, whisperer. She can train any living creature.

She told me a story about a man whose dog kept eating out of the trash can. He was utterly miserable and at his wit’s end on what to do about it.

So how should he handle it, she asked me? I started coming up with possible strategies (from many years of watching Cesar Millan on TV).

And then she said, with a dramatic flourish, “Just move the trash can!”

Oh. Right.

What a simple solution. Brilliant!

That so tickled me, and I thought about how often I over-complicate, well, everything.

The Airplane Flight Home

The next day, my husband and I packed up and left to come home. We only brought carry-on luggage and mine was stuffed full to overflowing. The JetBlue airplane was smaller than the Delta flight going the other way. Therefore, the overhead storage was smaller as well.

We tried and tried to shove my overfull suitcase into a too small area. Nope. Wouldn’t work. My anxiety was ratcheting up because I really didn’t want to check my bag. Our frustration was growing.

Over walked the flight attendant who quietly said, “Why don’t you just empty out the front pouch?”

AHA … that flight attendant just moved the trash can! And I burst out laughing.

Once I followed her suggestion, my luggage slid easily into the storage area. And I was even able to fit all the excess into my backpack!

Picking Up the Car

We got to the hotel where our car was parked and discovered the battery was dead. My husband was really upset. He immediately called AAA. Because he shushed me when I tried to speak, I just quietly walked into the hotel and within five minutes someone came back with me to jump start the car.

I MOVED THE TRASH CAN! 😇

Now that I have this awareness, I’m excited to keep practicing! It does make one think outside the box.

Creativity and the Trash Can

So, how does this relate to creating, sharing, and selling art? Here are a few examples that come to mind.

Creating Art

With my chemical sensitivities, I can’t use many art supplies I’d like to use. Instead of letting that obstacle keep me from creating, I experimented until I found art supplies that worked for me. And now, I’m even working on finding alternative ways to get the effects I love with the supplies I use.

It’s not easy to go through this process, and not every experiment works. But by staying focused on my goal of making art, I open my mind to a creative solution that will work for me.

It’s not binary – I don’t have to think that if I can’t use acrylics, I can’t make art. Or if I can’t use certain markers, I can’t blend colors.

No, in fact, I love that I figured out how to blend Pitt artist brush pens, which are India ink and seemed un-blendable when I first started using them! By experimenting, I’ve stretched the limits of the tools I can use.

The biggest way I moved the trash can was in the beginning, when I made the decision to make art despite the resistance and all the negative messages. Once you do that, the focus shifts to finding the method that speaks to you. And that’s where the fun begins!

Sharing Art

I started my art journey in 2011. It took me years to even contemplate sharing my work because I felt ashamed and unworthy to do so. But I came to a point that I just felt sad keeping hundreds of doodles in a box.

My idea about how to share art was extremely limited and my efforts were very unfulfilling. I just put them on an art selling website and got few views and no feedback.

But at the end of 2018, I moved the trash can!

I never thought about using Instagram. It just didn’t interest me. I was always a writer, so my feeling about that app was that it was very superficial and took a level of photography and art skill way beyond my ability. It just kind of repelled me, if you want to know the truth.

But then, I had a feeling that it was really the right venue for me to share my art. I found a wonderful, affordable coach. And through her loving, compassionate guidance, I became open to overcoming my resistance.

Just like the decision to make art, once I decided that I was going to share my art in a way that would be satisfying to me, there was no more back and forth about whether or not I would proceed. My focus shifted to finding the way that would work best for me.

Overcoming my terror of posting on Instagram was truly painful. But it just became clearer and clearer that this would be worth trying. If you’ve seen my Instagram feed, you’ll know that I’m no professional photographer. (I’ll write more about my process and what I’ve learned about using Instagram in a future post.)

But with time, I grew to love it and it became easier for me. Plus, I found my own style and continue to experiment with different layouts and ways to present my art, instead of feeling like I have to do it perfectly based on how someone else does it.

I moved the trash can by becoming open to other ways to share my art instead of being stuck in the idea that there was only one right way, and if that didn’t work, giving up. But I also had to be willing to go through the discomfort of learning something new and experimenting to find the way that worked for me.

The result is that I’ve found an amazingly supportive community on Instagram. And incredible daily inspiration.

The fact is that I have a tiny Instagram following. Teensy! But the joy I get out of interacting with other artists and creatives who inspire me, along with the lovely positive feedback I receive and the people I’m getting to know, is more meaningful than I ever imagined it would be.

I understand that we aren’t supposed to “need” outside validation to know we are good enough. But the truth is, for me, the fact that anyone at all has liked my doodles invigorates my creative energy and drive. I believe we all need support and this has been a lovely, and surprising, avenue for receiving it, which inspires me to create and share more art .. and, most unexpectedly, more of myself.

Selling Art

OK, the truth is that this is my greatest obstacle. I’m a recovering compulsive debtor and spender. (See the bottom of this post for more on that.) Gratefully, I haven’t debted since 2009 and became debt-free in 2016. But I still have tremendous blockages around receiving abundance and money.

And I’ve not yet found the right audience or right way to sell my art. So I’m no expert on this for sure.

I thought that all I’d have to do is post on Instagram and sales would come. It was disappointing to realize that this was not the case.

Well, not only was that naive, it was actually absurd, considering that I was just starting out and it took months to even begin to set up a sales channel!

The most amazing lesson has been that the support, encouragement, and inspiration I do receive on Instagram is invaluable, meaningful, and fulfilling.

It’s a lovely reminder that money is not the only definition of abundance and the number of Instagram followers is not the only definition of success.

So, I moved the trash can by shifting my perspective and expectations.

In fact, I’m not at all willing right now to change my relationship with Instagram by pressuring myself to use it in a different way or on a rigid posting schedule of stories, live feeds, and posts, because, at this point, I wouldn’t enjoy it anymore. Right now, when I scroll through my feed, my heart sings. And I’m having a blast sharing my art and thoughts on there.

Moving the Trash Can

But, I do continue to move the trash can in other ways to achieve my goal of selling art.

For instance, I stopped focusing on prints and began offering the originals instead, which meant letting go of the fear of losing something by doing so.

It also occurred to me that making pendants out of my art might appeal to people. Learning how to do that gave me an incredible education in jewelry making!

AND, eureka! A friend bought a pendant right off my neck when she saw me wearing it!

I also offer my art on clothing and other items through Redbubble and Fine Art America.

There are many other ways I could move the trash can. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. sell at craft fairs
  2. Study Etsy SEO
  3. Study selling on Instagram
  4. Study selling on Facebook
  5. Post art on more websites for sale
  6. Join local art leagues and network
  7. Enter juried art shows
  8. Frame the art
  9. Change pricing
  10. Explore eBay for selling art
  11. Place art in consignment shops
  12. Pay to be in an artist coop
  13. Find more new ways to present my art – books, card deck. etc.

Final Thoughts

In writing this post, I saw a clear difference between where I am with selling art vs. sharing or making art. I’m obviously still on the fence about selling art, unlike the other two scenarios, where I was fully committed.

I believe that if I was all in about selling my art, then I would keep moving the trash can until it worked for me. It’s not like the trash can is cemented in place, right?

Or maybe, for me, moving the trash can is coming to acceptance that sharing my work with others is enough.

Trying to sell art feels like a catch-22 in many ways. It seems like it takes money to make money when it comes to art sales. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, living a sober life with money means that I don’t spend what I can’t afford.

Plus, it may look easy and effortless for others who have achieved success, but there is no question they are working their butts off, not only to make art, but to market it. It takes years of blood, sweat, and tears to make an “overnight” success. For those of us with chronic illness, such effort may simply be impossible.

And the truth is, there is also a mystical element to it all that makes lightning strike for someone who happens to be in the right place at the right moment.

But the most important point to remember is that the joy we receive from making art and the gift we give to others when we share it is 100% free of charge to us … yet its value is priceless. You may never know how your creation inspired someone or lifted their spirits in a difficult time.

So, this is all just food for thought. Wherever you are in your own art journey, I’d love to read your thoughts about how you move the trash can when it comes to your own creative blocks.


Are You a Compulsive Debtor or Spender?

If you can relate to suffering from compulsive debting and spending, you may want to:

Back to “Selling Art” section


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2 Comments

  1. Michele Michele

    You are absolutely brilliant. What a great metaphor for changing the things we can. Our perspective, to begin with, right? Instead of kicking and yelling at the dog when you see him with his face in the Trash Can–which by the way only teaches him to do it when you’re not looking–just move the Trash Can to where he can’t reach it! Simple Solution.
    So instead of feeling frustrated and defeated over the way things are in my life today, I can try changing my perspective. Be proactive, and see what I can change about the situation that will make it work better once and for all. Move the Trash Can. Empowering!!

    • Susan B. Susan B.

      Thanks for this beautiful reminder!

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