Hey how are you? Been a good day? Busy? Yeap, I know how that feels. Make a cuppa maybe, or pour a glass of wine. Sit down for a while.
Excuse me, but I’m about to get all reflective and thoughtful for a minute. This is one of those posts I’ve written many times in my head. I’ve written and deleted a few too. I guess I just want to take a moment to reflect and share some of my thoughts with you. With myself.
I’m going to tell you a story…
It’s been just over a year since I made the decision to make a go of my ‘art’. I didn’t really know what that meant. I just announced that ‘I want to make a living from my art’. I wasn’t working at the time, Daisy was 18 months old and I was feeling the financial pinch as well as the frustration/boredom of being a full time Mum again. Having a baby after a 10 year break was quite a shock to my system.
At the time, there were many articles, blog posts, e-courses etc offering me the chance of my dream job. To make my living from my passion. ‘Give up my day job’, ‘live the life I want to live…now’, ‘make a 6 figure sum from my blog’ etc etc.
Making the statement, ‘I want to make a living from my art’ didn’t seem like such a mad idea. Other people seemed to be doing it according to my google searches or articles I read in magazines and newspapers. How hard could it be?
My plan was simple. I’d create some pretty pictures, blog 5 times a week to promote them, attend some craft fairs, take part in some exhibitions maybe. It would all be tickety boo within 6 months. I would have financial freedom, with work that fit in around my family. Happy days.
Well all I can say is: how naive was I?
Internet, you lied. Or at least you didn’t tell me the whole story. Or I didn’t read between the lines…
A Creative Rollercoaster
In the past year I’ve had huge ups and downs with my creative journey. I’ve sold work which is always a huge boost to my system. I’ve also had exhibitions, where I’ve spent a lot of money preparing, only to sell absolutely nothing. My confidence has been on a rollercoaster ride.
Also in this year I started freelancing again as a graphic designer. Regular money – the satisfaction felt great. Plus I’m very lucky that I enjoy my freelance work. However my artistic journey became a ‘hobby’ rather than a career again. I hate the word hobby, do you? It feels as if it’s unimportant or frivolous somehow. My art is my passion. My creative work I suppose.
Anyway I just didn’t have the time to devote to my artwork. It wasn’t paying any bills and has in fact, cost me money. I know it’s not all about the money… the money… the money, but when the mortgage needs paying, the kids need feeding, things go wrong in the house, money is important. Fact.
After taking on freelance work and gaining some financial satisfaction again, I realised this dream job wasn’t going to happen. At least not as quickly as I would have liked. It didn’t really help that I had no firm idea of what my ‘art’ was all about.
This led me to try and become ‘commercial’, to please people in order to make a sale. That business strategy, especially in the highly competitive arts market, was going to fail fast and it it did.
No matter how great the accomplishments, the set backs hit me more. To the point I started getting depressed. Then jealous of other people ‘making it’. Then to the point I wanted to delete this website, rip up my work and destroy my art materials and put them in one great big bonfire. Yeap, I can be quite an emotionally charged person at times. It was all pretty messed up.
There was a more positive realization to this recent low period, however. A lot of people may disagree with what I’m about to say but….as a mum and wife, I realised I can’t have it all. And that’s OK.
As a Mum of 3, with financial and time commitments, a relationship to nurture with my husband, my friends, my family, I can’t be the artist I want to be. Right now.
I’m not living that life I see on Instagram and Pinterest that seems so idyllic and makes me feel lacking in some way. I like my sleep, I like to cook fresh meals, sit with my family at the end of the day, enjoy my weekends with my friends or playing with kids. I work hard being a mum, a wife, a freelancer and an artist. However the latter has to take a back seat because my children and my husband are more important.
As a wife and mother I have had to make that choice. Perhaps that’s why so many of the female artists I admire made their mark either because they didn’t have children or because they did it after their children had grown up. I’ve come to art late in life so don’t have a previous established career to fall back on either.
I think having children means compromise. I have compromised my career. My freedom. My bank balance! Having my daughter after a 10 year break has been more of a wake up call than I realised it would be. As the boys were getting older, I was able to do more, concentrate on my career. I went back to University for goodness sake! But the blessing that Daisy is, meant I had to put that renewed freedom on the back seat again. Including my ambitions. Again, that’s OK.
Too Many Messages
I feel I am constantly receiving messages of ‘having it all’. Take this e-course, attend that event, read ‘xyz’ book or blog post that tells you how to make loads of money with your new business (because we are all entrepreneurs these days apparently), achieve internet fame and find the meaning of life all whilst juggling the day to day of family life, fitting into size 10 skinny jeans, remaining stress free by practicing mindfulness, eating organic and drinking green tea because even our food needs to be ‘clean’…… Can I come up for air now?
I was falling into a trap.
Some of the above does work for a handful of people and I take my hat off to them. A handful of these amazingly successful beings then go on to say ‘you can too’, and you’ll pay for their experience and knowledge. Some of its fantastic. A lot of it isn’t.
After lining the pockets of some of these people telling me how to achieve my dreams, I’ve realised most of it is the same stuff, repackaged. They are basically saying the same thing. They had a passion/talent/experience, they worked hard work and persistence payed off. It’s also down to a bloody good idea and a little bit of luck too.
If you have a passion, which I do, just follow it. Find the time when you can. Make the time and then place as much importance on it as you would your job or looking after the kids. But I’ll say it again, you can’t have it all and if you try you’ll drive yourself nuts. Compromises have to happen.
I’ve realised that my dream job won’t exist if my family aren’t happy, or if the other areas of my life aren’t in sync. Which makes the promise of a ‘dream job’ exceedingly hard to achieve. Perhaps that’s why, in reality only a handful of individuals will actually, truly achieve their work and career nirvana.
There’s No Happy Endings
Perhaps I’ll continue to work away on my art, in obscurity for the rest of my life. Again, that’s OK. I’m an artist and I can’t switch that off.
I have had some wonderful wins such as when I get an enquiry or sell a piece of work. If I don’t, I’m OK with that too. I’m not looking for happy endings. I’m just enjoying the process. Plus importantly I’ve connected with some wonderful people, that I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t been on this path.
In conclusion I think I need to stop giving myself a hard time. When the kids are grown up and are living independent lives perhaps things may change. I’m not making that call right now, I don’t want to feel disappointed or put myself under that pressure. If you’re a parent who has a dream, it will happen, just maybe not for a while. Or perhaps it will. But you’ll have to make compromise and sacrifice either way, with your work, your creative passion or your family life. If you’re comfortable with whatever you decisions are, then that’s OK.
Have an inspired day
Gorgeous Letterpress Postcard with those wise words is by Inky Collective