Hooray! I'm reviving the blog because I like to blog. I miss blogging. I'm not making products to sell in the Etsy shop anymore because I don't want to. I've found closing my shop and taking a break ultimately led me down a winding path to creative fulfillment.
I've been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's new book "Big Magic" this week and it got me reflecting on my winding path as an artist. The validating message of her book is to just create - don't worry about commercial success, don't worry what anyone else thinks/make art you enjoy, and honor the muse-gift of creative inspiration when it strikes or perhaps lose it! She's a fan of finishing what you start, even if it's a half-assed effort.
Creating Deeds & Petunia began as creative outlet and morphed into a small and humbly successful business that felt pretty great. Making sales, being featured in publications, growth and recognition with the business was validating and gave me the okay to keep doing it. I found a good balance between work and life and raising two small kids it all felt good and exciting.
As things got busier and kept growing, I felt the endeavor begin to plateau. As I tried to help it continue to grow, I felt overwhelmed, dissatisfied and frankly a bit bored with it all. I wanted to make things. Beautiful and exciting things. But I didn't want to spend time that I didn't have marketing myself. I didn't want to spend money I didn't have on marketing either. I didn't want to make things worrying about what I was going to *do* with them.
I didn't want just a business. I didn't want to quit either, but I didn't know quite how to evolve and keep the creativity flowing. I liked what I created but never felt totally in love with making any of it. Close, but no cigar. I felt defeated. Eventually I closed the shop and quit blogging for a while and tried to pursue other avenues so I could let my creative endeavors be free of the burden of providing me income. But I couldn't help but feel somewhat like a failure.
Not The End, Just The Next Chapter
It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. I eventually found my path again and learned to declare "I am an artist!" without hesitation. There were plenty of bumps and bad jobs that I quit, bad advice from self-declared experts on what I should do (now when I hear the phrase "you know what you should do is..." I run), a move across four states and many depressing months of sulking and despair over how to continue with a life devoid of creative fulfillment. In reality, I hadn't failed at my business or as a creative person for that matter, I had just outgrown it and my ideas of what success and fulfillment should look like.
Looking outside of me for validation instead of looking to create what made me happy and fulfilled and excited and challenged was a big lesson. I realized that I'm not burdened with creating a product anymore, and my artistic outlet is a lot more than just an outlet, and definitely more than just a business - though there are still some business elements I grudgingly take seriously.
What I use my creativity for now is to deliver a message to/from the Universe that comes through me, a gift that I must honor. Half the time I'm left dazed and wondering how it came out through me. But I love what comes out. This art is beautiful and terrifying and cathartic and satisfying all at once. I have already had some successes with my new endeavors, but even if I never make another dollar off of what I create it won't matter. Because it's not about the money (no one chooses art for the money!) or recognition or measurable success by our society's standards. It's so much more.
If I never started Deeds & Petunia, I never would have even picked up a camera, I never would have opened this portal of creative flow. In the end, I wasn't a failure, I was on the long and winding road to where I'm supposed to be now - making surrealist narrative portraits, taking photos and trying to find a steady way to pay the bills that won't kill my creativity. :)