It was an unusually warm and sunny day when I took this photo, and considering it was officially still winter, it was amazing I didn’t need a hat or scarf while I stood on the beach soaking up the sun’s happy juice. The seagull was a bit of luck, and it’s the reason why this image has been on my mind lately, because I feel a bit like that seagull.
Recently, I started exploring my creativity again, and it’s been more of a struggle than I expected. I’ve put ‘being a mum’ first for so long I’ve lost touch with what being a successful creative means now, and I find myself having to navigate the opportunities, and pitfalls, the ‘online world’ has to offer. I know what I want (that was the easy part: Writer & Illustrator), and the work I have to put in to get it, but this ‘online’ lark feels like I’m flying above a powerful sea of creativity, negotiating oncoming winds, while (and this is important) at the same time trying to enjoy the view.
All at Sea
For me the online creative community is both beautiful, and so curated it’s almost unreal. I am a forty-something looking with envy at the wave upon wave of the successful younger generation, who seem to have been born knowing how to take a damn fine photograph, and can tweet in their sleep, and I salute them; Because it’s not their youthfulness I desire (youth has sod all to do with it), it’s the perceived confidence and determination which is fuelling their success that I lack. Youth hasn’t given them this though, it’s simply their generation has grown up in an age where the internet and mobile phones are everyday; sharing online is not new, it’s normal. (It’s OK, I’m not going to start the next sentence with ‘In my day…’) They’ve learnt, early-on, how to master the online world and, in the majority of cases, navigate the good and the bad, and come out looking like they’ve ‘got this’ (whether that’s true is a whole other post)
Of course, you rarely see the mess and mistakes - in a time where perfectionism is a goal, it’s no wonder creatives and creativity can struggle.
Creativity needs the freedom imperfect provides
I need to remember: someone else’s perfect brings order and rules; comparing my now to their perfect will just kill my creativity, because it won’t allow me freedom, and creativity needs the freedom imperfect provides. So here’s an amendment to what I wrote above: …seek the confidence and determination which will fuel your own success. The truth is no creative should strive for perfect, it stifles our confidence and squashes determination; we need to allow ourselves the freedom to grow into our own perfect, for our confidence and determination will grow too.
Flying into the Wind
I recently came out of a low period in my life…
I’ve been depressed (for months) and now I’ve regained something, I’m able to see above whatever it was; I’ve got my ‘black dog’ on a lead and it’s not hounding me or peeing on the carpet.
(Aside: Black Dog is a common description of what depression feels like; I know depression seems a bandwagon word at the moment, but the silence needs to be broken, so we can start treating it like a symptom and not something to be ashamed of.)
Part of my depression, was realising I didn’t know who I was anymore ~ For the last 17 years, I’ve been ‘just’ a mum and somewhere along the way I lost myself in that role; I’m sure, if you’re a mum and have had to leave your creativity (or any desire) for ‘when I have more time’ (or in my case, enough energy too) you’ll know what I’m on about. When your kids, slowly, become more independent and you have some of that precious time on your hands again. You go through a grieving process, you start to realise there is a line in the sand now; where you stop and your kids begin… they’ve grown into lovely humans, with dreams and aspirations of their own. Then you see the question in the sand ~ What about you? You’ve been so busy being a great Mum (yes, you have!), so engrossed in the bloody good, hard, demanding and rewarding job that is motherhood, that you stopped asking ~ What about me?
I didn’t have enough energy (M.E./chronic fatigue is a ball and chain) to take any opportunities outside of ‘mum’ and now, when I know it’s time to make my own creative opportunities, it’s a daunting, fear addled, but exciting journey ahead.
I’m flying high at the moment ~ I’ve started writing again, I’ve drawn, painted and even shared in a small way (on Instagram) ~ I’m riding this warm pocket of air, trying to find a good place to land and build my creativity up into a creative business. I can see on the horizon my novel finished, my illustrations published and selling from my online shop, may be even a bricks and mortar store? But I also know there’s a way to go and it’s not always going to be easy; I am going to need to stop and take breaks, I’m also going to need to negotiate overwhelm.
Overwhelm - so many things, so little time; prioritise; get it done; blah, blah, blah…
Don’t you just love mind maps? I mention them because they save me from overwhelm. They give me the freedom to be messy and explore without boundaries. No one looks over my shoulder and says I can’t when I mind map; it’s my playground; my private space. Plans can be made in a few bubbles and lines. Projects and dreams can be as big or as small as I like. I’ve found they help me get everything out of my head and, more importantly, take a step back.
Overwhelm happens when I think too many steps ahead, or I’ve taken on too much. Mind maps give me a chance to explore possible creative (and practical) goals, as well as breaking them down into manageable steps. I then take these steps and put them into a seasonal planner (it’s a bit of bullet journalling, part diary and notebook kind of thing ~ nothing ground breaking), I decide what I want to get done over the next month or so and spread the little steps over the season (maybe I should do a blog post on my planner?) And by this time I’ve left the big picture to percolate, taken just a few ‘steps’ into the journey stage and overwhelm takes a back seat for a while. The power of mind mapping, eh?
That doesn’t mean these ‘little' steps can’t be challenging, uncomfortable, or even scary, but that’s only because they’re the unknown, and that is where fear lies. Fear of failing or fear of making a mistake and wasting my time are my biggies at the moment. Fear I’m not good enough comes a close second ~ perfectionism rears its head again, because what is ‘good enough'?’, if not someone else’s idea of perfect?
Enjoying the view
Notes to self:
Learn to embrace the journey you made to get here ~ you can’t change it anyway, and regrets will only get you down.
Know it doesn’t matter how long it’s taken you ~ age is a number, not a restriction.
Use the ‘online world’ to share the story of your journey ~ let the rest of it (likes, followers etc) care about themselves.
Build a small community of support ~ share and engage with those who understand what it takes to be a creative, and love what you do.
Only be afraid of giving up ~ let that fear drive you and be louder than any other doubts.
Create for yourself first, build a business second ~ you have no business if you don’t create; you won’t have a successful business if what you create isn’t something you love doing.
Be brave ~ you can do this; the steps may be challenging, but they’re worth it.