Editor’s Note: I absolutely love this post by our Dear Handmade Life contributor Erin Duncan of wrenbirdarts. Erin’s monthly column here focuses on self-care, one of my favorite topics (likely because it’s something that I struggle with). This line totally hit home for me, “I realized that I had no idea who I was anymore outside of my business.” Like many creative business owners the majority of my life and my identity is defined by my business. Most of the time I’m totally okay with that but on the rare afternoon off I find myself wondering what if I still have any hobbies that aren’t work related. The bottom line is that, like Erin I love my business and my job BUT like Erin I know there has to be a ‘me’ outside of my business. Big life changes (like Erin’s and mine that I wrote about here) are great at forcing us to examine our existence but even if you’re not going through one, take a cue from Erin and dedicate some time to rediscovering who you are outside of your business. -Nicole S.
Now onto Erin’s post about how divorce and other big life changes can better you and your creative business…
It’s been almost a year since my now ex and I decided to get a divorce. What exactly does this have to do with running a creative business? Well, I think it’s completely relevant, and here is why. You may or may not go through a major break up during the lifetime of your business, but it’s likely you will go through some kind of a major life change that will divert your focus like childbirth, illness or financial problems. I hadn’t really considered how I would handle running a business during the aforementioned major life change. In my case, divorce amplified all of my emotions, and these emotions were as unpredictable as bingo numbers.
Whatever the event is, and if your business is your full-time gig as mine is, the luxury of taking a year-long hiatus to deal with your drama isn’t an option. Over the course of the past year, I have been pretty open about my own experience with divorce, and as a result I have been able to look back through my writing and see where my head was over the past year. I’m grateful that I shared my experience publicly on my blog for several reasons. First, we as humans tend to forget how much something hurt after the pain has passed. It’s really interesting looking back at how much has changed since the divorce started, and good lord, was it a long process! Second, while I was going through my divorce, I could never find enough personal narratives that validated the sheer unpredictability of how I would feel every single day for months and months and months. Third, and most relevant to this post, my priorities and expectations surrounding my business changed dramatically, and naive as it may be, I did not expect this to happen.
My divorce forced me to take a really hard look at myself, and when I did that, I realized that I had no idea who I was anymore outside of my business. I had gotten really comfortable in my quiet existence and in the consistency of my business. I’m pretty sure that I had a full on emotional breakdown, and in my newfound singledom, I liked going out and meeting new people, checking out new places, and learning about life as a single person, which I hadn’t been in over 12 years. In my fresh sociability I also re-examined my business. I no longer wanted to work 60-80 hours a week. This is when I started creating accountability measures of my time, spending less time on personal social media accounts, and instead focusing my social media on marketing my business. I also started to take chances on things that I had wanted to do for years, but had been too shy to attempt. I started submitting my writing to different publications, and jumping at the chance to have my hankies featured on blogs and articles. Guess what? I heard yes so many more times than I heard no.
I don’t know if uprooting everything that is familiar is the path for you when life takes an unexpected turn. You’ll have to choose your own adventure. What I do know is that my divorce was the healthiest option for me and my ex, and the unintentional consequence of pushing my little business to grown a little more worked out in the end. And living outside of my comfort zone was the scariest, most uncomfortable, AND best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Erin “Wren” Duncan is the owner and handmaker behind wrenbirdarts. She is a former bookseller, barista, grantwriter, event planner, and real estate agent with a Master’s in Social Work. Erin is known for her sometimes cheeky, hand embroidered hankies. Her work has been featured on Buzzfeed, HuffPost, Glamour Magazine, and in several local and international print magazines. Erin lives in Seattle, where you’ll find her walking around exploring farmers markets, the local craft beer scene, and scoping out local businesses. You can follow her on social media @wrenbirdarts.