It’s hard to believe that just 10 days ago I was crewing for a racer in the world’s most grueling (and oddly obscure) athletic event, the Race Across America, or RAAM. RAAM is a bicycle race that takes the insane few who try it from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD as fast as their legs can pedal. Unlike the Tour de France, there are no stages. That’s right, there are no obligatory resting times. Racers stay on their bike a much as possible, and do everything on the bike except sleep. They brush their teeth on the bike, eat on the bike, go to the bathroom on the bike, cry on the bike, laugh on the bike, sing on the bike, and, after days of racing, hallucinate on the bike.
And who was our athlete for RAAM 2013? None other than my mother, Maria Parker, who just turned 50.
Over the course of the race, I helped her eat, bathe, and dress. I woke her in the middle of the night after three hours or less of sleep, and helped her get back on the bike to keep racing.
Daily throughout the race, supporters of Maria and our cause, 3000 Miles to a Cure, grew by leaps and bounds.
Then there was an accident — something terrible that we thought was a race-ender.
A distracted driver slammed into our follow vehicle, destroying equipment and morale, and causing minor injuries to the crew.
Everyone thought our race was over – even our crew chief, who called race officials to pull Maria out of the race.
But that post to our community about the accident generated more views than anything else we had posted to our cause’s facebook page. Support came pouring in.
Over the course of the night, into the wee hours of the morning, something shifted. Maria got a good night’s sleep. The team came together; a new plan to continue the race against brain cancer coalesced.
My mom decided she was going to get across the country on her bike, race or no race.
But then something incredible happened. She decided to start exactly at the scene of the accident, instead of skipping that dangerous portion of the road as she had earlier planned to do. And then RAAM officials decided to let her back in the race as an official racer.
People all over the world went crazy, calling her story a Cinderella story.
As Maria began passing other racers, RAAM interviewed her and said her race was the greatest comeback story in all of sports.
It was a very difficult race, but she finished it. And she won. Women’s champion, rookie of the year, and “Queen of the Prairies,” which, naturally, I affectionately called “Queen of the Fairies.”
As you are probably figuring out, the jump from athletics to art is merely a small hop.
Finding people who value your work, your cause, or your race, is a matter of knowing four keys. They are simple to say, but extremely difficult to do.
HERE ARE THE FOUR KEYS TO FINDING PEOPLE WHO VALUE YOUR WORK AS AN ARTIST.
- Keep going.
- If you quit, start again.
- Keep people updated.
- You’d be surprised how many people never start. How many people say “I’ve always wanted to write a book…” but then they come up with the most creative excuses for why they haven’t done it yet. Starting is everything.
- Once you start, you have to keep going. The trick here that most people don’t get, is that “keep going” often means starting many times. Most of us take breaks. We start a project and get discouraged, perhaps after a year, or perhaps after a minute. Each successfully completed project likely had many points where it’s maker wanted to give up. Not only is that ok, but I believe more and more that stalling repeatedly is a natural part of creating anything from a 15 x 50 foot mural to a small business. The trick is to keep going.
- If you quit, start again. When you finish something, no one accuses you of quitting. Quitting and starting again nullifies the quitting. So if you think you’ve withdrawn from the race, sold your paintbrushes, or burned all of your business bridges, think again. Excuses can be valid and worthy. There’s always an excuse you can come up with and no one would blame you. Everyone would understand. Therefore, you have to be your own greatest challenger. No matter how big your obstacle is, you will always find a way to get through and come out on the other side. Get a good night’s sleep and think fresh creative thoughts in the morning.
- You can’t find people who value your work if you don’t keep them updated. I can say proudly that of all the teams racing RAAM, 3000 Miles to a Cure did the best job with social media updates. As a result, people felt, and in reality were, a big part of our team’s success. Our updates were authentic and transparent. And truthfully, without the support of the community we created, I’m not sure my mom would’ve made it up the last four difficult hills in Maryland. We read her supportive Facebook comments to keep her going. Those supporters knew they were an integral part of Maria’s race because we told them. They’d been with us every pedal push of the way. Even if you have only a few people who value your work, cherish them by keeping them updated – honestly and openly. Let them know about your struggles and joys. People love hearing about projects, goals, and dreams coming true, but they also want to hear about the challenges along the way.
Leave a comment below if this resonated with you, and if you have any questions about how to find people who value your work, I will be happy to answer them below.
Let my mom’s race inspire you in your own art-making and selling challenges. I’m here to support, nurture, and inspire you to take the steps you need to make money from your art!