There’s a lot of talk about “making it happen”. It seems so easy when you see the words in a brushstroke font on Pinterest or Instagram.* You click ‘like’ or you pin it. You feel inspired for a few seconds or (if you’re lucky) minutes and then you go back to your real life. In your real life, things probably aren’t Instagram-perfect and an inspirational quote isn’t going to change your life.
Maybe (like me) you have moments in your creative life where you’re crying at the dining room table because you HATE the illustration you’re working on and feel like it’ll never be ‘right’. Maybe (if you’re lucky) you have someone in your life that will see you struggling to create something as awesome as you want it to be and encourage you to keep pushing. If you don’t have someone like that, then let Ira Glass be your person and read this.
Maybe (like me) you have moments in your business life where you’re so overwhelmed that you actually have ‘fantasies’ of getting a cold or the flu, just so you can have an excuse to take a break from the hustle of being the head of every department of your small business. Or maybe you find yourself spending way too much focusing on what your peers are doing and you get lost in this “why can’t my business be as successful as theirs mindset”. I’ve been there too. Maybe you consider getting a “real job” with benefits and a 401k and co-workers to chat with on your break (as opposed to doing what I do – sharing my innermost thoughts with my pets).
I’m going to share the big “secret” I learned pretty early on in my business and creative life. It isn’t easy. You’re going to have moments where you want to do more than throw in the towel. You’re going to want to take the towel and stomp on it and then burn it while chanting or screaming. You’re going to get intense bouts of imposter syndrome and question why you ever thought YOU had the talent to be an artist or the skills to be a business owner. Doubt and overwhelm WILL HAPPEN! They’re unavoidable. What separates the makers who are dreaming of making time for their creativity or the entrepreneurs who are wishing they had the problem of not being able to keep up with the demand for their products or services is not JUST talent (Ie: having a product or service that someone actually wants to engage with) but perseverance, working hard AND smart and adaptation.
You probably know all the stories about the failures of highly successful people. Twelve publishers rejected J.K. Rowlings’ manuscript for Harry Potter. Walt Disney was turned down 302 times before he secured financing for Disneyland. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive. Thomas Edison said, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” Einstein’s teachers thought he was ‘mentally handicapped’ and ‘slow’. The first time jerry Seinfeld was onstage he was booed off. Henry ford’s first auto company went out of business. Yet, all of these people persevered. They didn’t let go. They pushed beyond the fear and kept making and taking chances.
When it seems like someone has “gotten a big break” it probably means that after years of honing their craft, working hard AND smart and adapting has finally paid off.
Perhaps there are some modern-day versions of Marilyn Monroe’s “getting discovered at a coffee shop” story but I don’t know of anyone like that nowadays. From actors to entrepreneurs to artists to chefs to bloggers to musicians… EVERYONE I know that has gotten to a point where they feel (at least a bit) comfortable with their finances and security has worked hard AND smart to get there!
You’ve probably guessed by now that I don’t have all the answers. Despite being a maker, artist and creative business owner for nearly two decades there’s STILL so much for me to learn. Maybe that’s the point… never rest on your laurels. Keep pushing. Keep working. Keep building your community.
These past few months my inspiration has gotten a shot in the arm. My overwhelm turned into excitement. My questioning of the path I choose transformed into confidence when I truly internalized that I would never be happy working for someone else. My insecurities related to my creativity didn’t feel as detrimental when I reminded myself that at least I’m MAKING SOMETHING!
Don’t get me wrong… I still have those moments of doubt and burnout and asking myself how I ever ended up in such an emotionally and mentally taxing career. BUT at the end of THIS day I’m feeling pretty grateful.
I know it’s WAY easier to focus on what my life isn’t, rather than what it is. As someone who’s never been able to be 100% “on it” about keeping up with self-care daily routines… I try to focus on positive things in my life (Ie: gratitude but without all the yoga, smoothies and appropriated Buddhist prayer flags arched in my backyard – not that there’s anything wrong with that stuff if you’re into but it just isn’t for me) I’m all about the 80/20 rule. I try to do the things I know I’m supposed to do 80% of the time.
Those “things I’m supposed to do” include all kinds of things from walking my dog to drinking more than a few sips of water per day to not slinking off for a drive-thru cheeseburger to not procrastinating to being kind to myself to forcing myself to make time for continuing to learn.
One of my (many) therapists once told me to treat myself as if I were a small child. Ie: what I would say to a small child that felt like a loser? Or was berating him/herself for making a decision? Or wouldn’t let him/herself take a break?
Through all of these moments of questioning my creative and business self, aside from my natural drive to keep going, the other two most helpful things that have kept me from curling up into a ball and marathon-watching on-demand TV shows are my community and the excitement I get from learning new things.
After all these years as an artist and business owner I know how important having a support system in place is as well as how key it is to be up to date on what’s happening in your community. This second part is more important than ever before as a large majority of our lives are lived and shared online and the online social world (in the grand scheme of things) is still such a new thing. The first part (community) is something every human has needed forever.
For me, the first time I FINALLY felt that sense of belonging to a group of like-minded individuals was at our once a year event, Craftcation: Business and Makers Conference. Aside from the community I get there, the education is what helps me stay on top of trends and get the skills and resources to build my business as the entrepreneurial climate evolves. I also get a much-needed break from my routine and am able to look at my life and business from a new perspective. Finally, (after so long of making things with a purpose) I rediscover the pure joy of creating in the moment.
If you’re a maker, creative business owner, blogger or a creative person looking to better your business and life then join me and 400+ other amazing, inspiring, welcoming people at Craftcation.
The community, skills, resources, tools and knowledge are waiting for you.
Don’t miss your chance for this one a year life-changing event to:
-Build your community
-Start the business of your dreams
-Get the tools and knowledge to push your existing business to the next level
-Feel the pure joy of learning new skills and making
-Spend four days at the beach having fun
*(from first paragraph) We’re totally guilty of being suckers for the whole inspirational quote thing too. In fact, “Make it happen” was one of our Craftcation mottos!