It's "top nine" time of year on Instagram again. Have you done it yet? I did. And I thought I'd get a nice little square of nine of my best photos and they would be cute and coordinated and represent all the most important moments from the past year. Expectations are funny, hey?
Well I did it. I entered my name to generate my own grid of photos. It was random, and it didn't coordinate and I could care less if it looked cute - but what struck me most about my #topnine of 2016 - was the first word that came to mind as I looked at it... focus. It lacked focus. Why is this significant to me? Because that's actually one of the most important words that I'm taking with me into 2017. So I see it as a pretty cool sign that I'm on the right track.
As we head into 2017, I am exactly where I want to be. I am exactly where I've longed to be for more than a couple of years. The busy cafe that I helped design, build, nurture and manage for 5 of the last 8 years - has sold. I couldn't be more confident that this labor of love, sweat and tears - is now in very capable hands with its new owner.
This summer I was also able to create a body of artwork that I am proud of, that excites me, and motivates me to keep exploring and sharing my creative work with the world.
2016 was about tying up loose ends and trying not to get too excited about my impending freedom prematurely. There was a real tension created in having a foot in two worlds - finishing overdue projects at the cafe before taking a full month away - during which time I completed my artist residency at the passive house.
My focus was split in many different directions, at different times of the year, but overall, forward progress was made.
But then I got thinking, what is top nine all about anyway?
Well, it's the nine pictures on your feed most 'liked' by other people over the last year.
Why did they (my "followers") like these images more than the other ones? Was it the honest commentary, or the witty nonsense hashtag, or the strategic hashtag that had my image connecting with more people and compelled them to hit the *heart* button?
Were they interested in the art I created? or the cafe where I worked? or the demonstration passive house where I lived? Were they interested in the beautiful region I call home and like to explore on hikes and adventures, and share through my own creative lens?
What I decided to do in the end, was take back my top nine.
Earlier this week I found a children's eraser at the dollar store in the shape of a puzzle cut into 9 pieces, and since I've been waiting for more rubber to arrive in the mail, it was to be something cheap and easy to carve until the mail came.
It was sitting there looking at me after this whole top nine situation rambled on in my head.
I started scrolling through my feed on Instagram, reflecting on the images I had posted from my artists residency, our construction progress at the #airportacre, our time spent in the passive house, and all spare moments in between.
This was actually MY favorite photo from my feed this year, taken after enjoying one of my favorite activities...
Treasures from a walk by the river that I brought home to photograph in the hopes they would inspire something creative from me. And they did.
They remind me to focus... on what is most important to ME in the coming year. The goals I have set for my life and my online business when we move away in a few short weeks too.
And yes I will continue to participate online with instagram and blog posts and helpful tips about living creatively. And yes I will try to reach as many frustrated creatives as I can and remind them that the practice of their own art is what they can focus too -
Because engaging in creative expression will always be more important than any amount of likes.
What does your top nine say about your past year? Would you like to take back or re-define your top nine on your own terms? What are you really looking forward to in 2017?
If you'd like to answer some of these questions for yourself - I've created a fun printable workbook for you - it's also free. Enter your name and email in the form at the top of the post and hit submit.
You'll receive a confirmation message in your inbox with a link to download the file. It's that easy.
Wishing you the best over the next few weeks and beyond!