This Life: It's Going To Be Tough

Back at the beginning of February I was interviewed for the Dear Handmade Life blog (run by the same lovely gals that put on the Patchwork Craft Fairs that happen throughout California.) One of the questions I was asked was: 

***What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?***

 photo from 10+ years ago when I had my first handmade jewelry business: Designs By A Hummingbird

photo from 10+ years ago when I had my first handmade jewelry business: Designs By A Hummingbird

Here's the answer I gave:

"The advice I’d give to creatives, whether just getting started or well established might be a bit unexpected: It’s going to be tough. Whether or not you’re trying to turn your creative passion into a business, it’s going to be a lot of hard work. It’s going to be amazing too, but sometimes the hard and difficult times will outweigh the shiny-bright-life-is-a-breeze times. I say this because I think it was the advice I needed the first couple years of going full time with Tangleweeds. I really thought I was doing something wrong because I didn’t wake up every morning thinking “gosh, my life is amazing because I get to work for myself!” So, if you’re waking up thinking “gosh, this is really HARD,” you’re not doing anything wrong, in fact you’re probably doing something really really right. It just takes some time for it all to start paying off."

I hesitated before I gave that answer, worried it would sound depressing or too negative or too much like I'm not over the moon grateful for the opportunity to be able to work for myself. But then I went ahead and gave that advice anyways, for the reason I stated above: it was the advice I needed when I first started out.

There is so much inspiring fodder, to be found on the internet, about people setting out and turning their creative passions into a successful business. I lapped that stuff up like an abandoned kitten when I was toiling away at my "day job" and trying to work on Tangleweeds in every spare moment I could find. By the time I left my day job to pursue Tangleweeds full time I was of the mindset that everything was going to be AWESOME, that I would find the time I needed to get EVERYTHING done, and that motivation and inspiration would stalk my EVERY MOVE as I went about my new life. 

Well, as any of you tried and true handmade business folks out there know, the reality didn't quite look like the dream. While I was toiling away at the day job I had painted such an overblown picture of what my life would look like when I finally got to work for myself full time that the let down was pretty severe. I had a long way to fall.

But here's the thing: (and one of those times where I see with hindsight that life really was watching out for me) I needed that dream, that rainbow filled sky of what my future would look like, in order to have the guts to leave my job. It was in part what propelled me forward and kept me focused on Tangleweeds even when things were growing at a snail's pace. 

The first two years of running Tangleweeds full time were really rough. So many times I wished I was one of those people who had a viable career to "fall back on" or another latent passion to pursue. There were times when I simply wanted the rest of my life to quiet the fuck down so I could focus on Tangleweeds 24/7. And there were the other times when I wanted to set a match to Tangleweeds and never look back. No joke (just ask my boyfriend, he can testify to this ;-)

Eventually though, through hard work and learning the fine art of "letting go", things started to coalesce in such a way that I actually started to LOVE my work again. I never stopped loving it, I had just become so overwhelmed by the initial stages of the business that I had stopped feeling the love. Yes, I absolutely still work just as hard as I did when I first started Tangleweeds six and a half years ago, but I've become better adept at setting things aside for REAL days off. I've also better learned how to accept what I have to give. Period. Usually things don't quite turn out the way I expect, whether that's a craft fair I'm selling at, a blog post I'm writing, or a new piece of jewelry that I'm designing. That's part of the art of what I'm doing. I can see that now, but it was really hard to see in the beginning.

Coming full circle here, I was prompted to write this post because of what a good friend told me the other day while we were having coffee out in Jack London Square. She said that the advice that I gave in that original interview has really ben helping her as she sets out on a similar journey with her illustration business. She also said that she passed the advice along to a fellow creative, someone on their own self-employment path, and that it helped him during a difficult spot as well. 

When my friend (hey Amy Rose!) told me how much my "advice" had helped her and a fellow friend, it really touched me . I share it here now in hopes that it might help another handmade business owner out when the road gets bumpy. Oh, and that topmost, and bottommost photos are from way back in the day (10 or so years ago) when I made my first go at a handmade jewelry business with Designs By A Hummingbird. It's fascinating to see where things have come from and where they have gone and to ponder where they might go.