Redefining “making it”

I’ve wanted to “make it” as an artist for as long as I can remember.

And even though it feels like I’ve “made it” in every other area of my life, I’ve never felt like I’ve reached this nebulous goal with art.

Interestingly,  20 years ago I would have defined where I am now with art as “making it”. Back then my fondest dream was to quit my full-time gig, create art full time, and sell what I created.  I achieved this lifetime goal 1½ years ago, which means I have “made it” according to my former definition.

Yet now the bar has been raised quite a bit higher as I (unkindly) compare myself to artists who appear to be much further on this path than me.

And there is always someone farther along no matter how much I accomplish.

Ironically, this way of viewing my art career is the opposite of how I live the rest of my life. Hence why I started to profoundly question whether I wanted to spend the rest of my life believing that I hadn’t made it simply because of this insane game of comparison.

Determined to transform this unhealthy habit, I began listing all the areas of my life that I’ve “made it”.

Self love – √

Spiritual growth – √

Loving marriage – √

Family and friends – √

Health and daily lifestyle – √

Day gig success – √

Art career – ?????

What this process revealed is that I have far exceeded what my younger self had expected.

So what would it take to place a check next to my art career as well?

I have spent so many hours of pondering this question, and this is what I’ve decided …

First, I am watching my thoughts like my happiness depended on it, because it does.  When I hear myself thinking “I should be farther along with my art career like (fill in an artist’s name here)”, I’m saying yes to the thought, and letting the next thought go and allow my mind to go peacefully blank. I might have to do this over and over, and OVER again until the thought totally goes away, but I’m completely committed to stopping this extremely unhealthy habit.

Second, I am unfollowing artists who trigger a self-loathing response in my brain. Don’t get me wrong, I love the half-dozen artists I just unfollowed, and truly bless and celebrate all of their successes. However, for the time being, its healthier to not follow their progress on Instagram. Until I can routinely do the first task above, I’m protecting me from myself!

Third, and most importantly, I am choosing to fully sink into my life EXACTLY as it is, IN THIS MOMENT. Rather than wish that my art career was farther along (in terms of sales, accolades, followers, etc.) than it currently is, I’m totally sinking into the art making itself, fully focused on sending and receiving love to each artwork-in-process as I add layers of paper and paint.

My life experience has demonstrated numerous times (described in these podcasts) that when am fully present for my life as it is, not resisting or wishing it away, I not only fall in love with the life I already have, but magical things appear.  This is how I transformed a day gig I hated into one I never wanted to leave, found the love of my life after my ex suddenly left, healed the estranged relationship with my father, and many many more miracles.

So here I go again.

  • Remembering how I created miracles in the past.
  • Surrendering to where I now stand, deeply sinking into THIS precious moment.

Have I let go of my dream to “make it” as an artist?

For this moment, yes.

I’d love to say this change is permanent, but it will take persistently following the 3 steps above to make it a habit.

And I’m totally committed to do just that.


How do YOU relate to the term “making it”? What does it mean to you?



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16 thoughts on “Redefining “making it””

  1. Try to remember that Van Gogh was never successful while he was alive and you have a lot more life to live! You are totally a success to me because you are doing what you love!

    • Ellen,
      Funny that I’ve actually thought of Van Gogh many times as I’ve moved through this process. Yes, doing what I love does make my art a success. Thanks for the loving reminder.
      Love, Catherine

  2. Catherine,

    You are a wonderful person and I am sorry you are feeling this way – although it confirms that you truly are human. 😉 There will always, always be people who are better, faster, stronger. And there will always, always be people who would give anything to be where you are right now. We are all somewhere on the continuum of a billion shades of gray. Embrace where you are – because that is what you would tell someone else, right? With great admiration, Donna Draper

    • Donna,
      I so appreciate your kind, thoughtful words of understanding. I actually read them through 3 times and let them float over me, and into my heart. Fully embracing where I am NOW is absolutely the key. Yes, I would tell someone else this very thing, and have many times. Funny thing is that I’ve done this in MANY times, and now its time to apply this lesson with art. Here we go….
      Love, Catherine

  3. Yes I totally get it. I am at a crossroads now with my art, which is music. I’m working on being kind to myself and accepting my accomplishments rather than focusing on what I haven’t done.

    • Michele,
      We are indeed in a very similar place with our art. Thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone with my feelings about the very odd concept around “making it”. Loved the follow up email you sent and will respond to you by email as well.

  4. Catherine, this is a wonderful description of the process of loving where you are even while being open to receiving future blessings. So very hard for me to do and I need step-by-step descriptions to help me do it—yours are always my very favorite teachings!

    • Vicki,
      We are learning this one together dear Kitty. We are each others teachers. I’m honored to be doing this alongside you.
      Big hugs,

      • Adrianna,
        I so appreciate you steady and enthusiastic support. Thank you my friend. So wish we could meet in person.

  5. “I am choosing to fully sink into my life EXACTLY as it is, IN THIS MOMENT. ” Yes, yes, yes! I agree with you that when we love the life we already have, magical things start to happen. I am experiencing this myself, and I’m actually planning to write a blog post about it too. I personally don’t like using the words “making it.” Its meaning might vary with the context, but to me it gives me the feeling that I’m struggling to make something happen. As in, I am in “survival mode.” I prefer to use “I get to.” It feels like I have more choice. You are a wonderful writer, thanks for the inspiration.

    • Jessica,
      Oh I love the idea of replacing “making it” with “I get to”, like its a privilege, which of course it is. I too am taking “making it” out of my vocabulary because it has no use, and does great harm. I see us all as making it, wherever we are. Just being in this moment, is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated!
      Love, Cat

  6. I can totally relate. And understand. I admire your journey and Love your Art work and creative process. Thank you for being so inspiring.

  7. I love your perspective. And the fact that you are aware enough to see that you have “made it” in so many areas. I, too, have certain artists that trigger me and I go into the “wish I was more…” place. Thanks for the good suggestions. (Oh, and BTW, I know I really don’t watch TV much, but I’ve seen exactly one of those top 100 TV shows on any sort of regular basis. Two others I’ve watched a few episodes. I feel very modern-culturally out of touch. But I don’t really care.)

    • Denise,
      So sorry for the late reply to your lovely comment. Nice to know that I’m not the only one getting triggered by the “I wish I was more…” syndrome. I LOVE that you’ve barely watched any shows on that list – good for you. To avoid the seduction of TV is a major accomplishment, one I wish I had!


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