Almost exactly a year ago, when I started this blog, I proclaimed 2011 The Year Of Transformations.
And it was. But not in the way I thought it would be.
What 2011 actually was wasn't very close at all to what I'd wanted it to be. What I'd mapped out. What I'd planned.
There was a lot of transformation. But it was transformation that fit me.
I don't know if that makes any sense or even what I'm trying to say.
I opened up my Etsy shop five and a half years ago.
And on one hand, the success I've acheived there...the fact that my art is now in places like Sweden and Italy and Oman...is just mind-blowing. The fact that I can sell art over the interent as my job is mind-blowing.
But on the other hand...it's so very easy not to keep your eyes on your own paper, so to speak.
To see that this person has made 20,000 sales in the time it took you to make 500. To see another person opening a brick and mortar store. To see another publishing a book (or two). To see another on Martha Stewart. To see another published in 8 different magazines. Another with a line of figurines based on their art by a national gift company. And on and on and on.
Etsy, the blogging world, and the internet offers us so many opportunities. Mind-blowing opportunities. Crazy big dreams are coming true every single day and if you're at all involved in the handmade community, it's impossible not to see that.
And in a way it's so encouraging.
But in another way...if your own business is relatively small...if you're not having books published or mega big licensing deals...if you've never appeared on television or in a magazine...
It can make you feel like what you've accomplished pales in comparison. Like you're not very successful.
Like you're a little fish swimming with sharks. Nice sharks. Let's say whales. Whales are nicer than sharks. My comrades in this ocean aren't threatening. They aren't competition. They're people just like me, following their dreams...and it IS inspiring all the crazy big dreams coming true and I am thrilled for their successes.
But...one was been transformed the most in 2011 was...my mindset.
I sort of had this epiphany at the beginning of last year that I'd been doing everything wrong. I'd had an amount of success I'd never dreamed possible...though not quite making the money as steadily as I would like (and let's face it...don't we all always want more money? I mean, if your boss offered you a raise...would you say no?)...but I'd been looking at all these whales thinking...I should be doing that, accomplishing that, keeping up...if I'm not...I'm not successful.
I was looking at those whales...wanting to acheive what those whales had achieved.
So, in January, I started changing things up.
I've heard over and over that if your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough.
So I convinced myself that there were some things I hadn't done just because I was scared of them...and I started doing them. Your dreams are supposed to be scary, right?
Most of the artists doing really well offered a variety of products, beyond paintings and prints. If I ever wanted to get where they were, I had to do that too. And no excuses. I'd just been putting it off because I was scared of the unfamiliar.
I started offering postcards and larger prints and my sales had a boost.
I had plans for stickers and greeting cards and bookplates and bookmarks and on and on.
Then my sales flatlined and discouraged, I took some time away from creating to read and research and learn everything I could about running a handmade business from those whales.
I realized that for the past five years, I'd been basically doing everything wrong. I hadn't been doing any of the things I should be doing. Like a mailing list with a regular, creative and enticing newsletter? Um...I had about twenty names and had sent approximately three cut and dry messages letting them know when I had a sale.
And oh, my gosh...if I've accomplished what I've accomplished doing everything all wrong...imagine what I could achieve if I started doing everything right? I coudl totally be a whale!
I created a perfect business plan, for product and marketing.
And I tried it for a week before realizing that it was just going to make me miserable.
I'm babbling. There's a point somewhere. I promise.
Somewhere, at some point in time, two things hit me (and no, neither of them were fists):
1) If I spent all my time doing things I didn't want to be doing...why not just go get a "real job"? Isn't part of the appeal of having your own business getting to run it YOUR way? Isn't part of the reason I quit my "real job" because I was tired of being told what to do, tired of jumping through hoops to please unpleasant bosses, and tired of spending all day doing something I didn't enjoy?
Now, when you're running a business, there are some tasks that are drudgery but unavoidable. Taxes, for instance. Gotta do those taxes. Fixing the printer that seems to have a vendetta against you. If you're selling prints, there's no way around this one.
But you're free! You're your own boss! You get to decide your path. Why spend your time doing things you really don't want to do? Because, yeah, some of those things I felt I was supposed to be doing...I had been avoiding because I was intimidated. Others...I'd been avoiding just because I had NO desire to do them whatsoever.
I fell absolutely positively back in love with creating digital art. This time last year, I didn't enjoy creating animals at all...now I love it. I want to spend all day everyday creating. Of course, that's not possible. There are those unavoidable business tasks and other family obligations...but why spend a minute writing an eBook your heart is just not in instead of doing what makes your heart sing? Oh, because you're supposed to provide awesome free content to build up a following.
Ugh. All the shoulds.
All the things I felt I had to do -- and probably would have to do -- to become a whale.
Oh, and the other thing I realized:
2) I don't want to be a whale.
I have dreams that are crazy big...for me. They may seem small to someone else, but for me, they are big.
I'm starting to get frustrated because I have these things in my heart, things I feel like I need to say, and none of it is coming out right.
I've kind of been chasing other people's dreams. Not chasing...but...envying. Not even envying...but letting other people's dreams make me feel like mine weren't big enough.Thinking I'm not successful...and being disatisfied with my success...because it didn't measure up to the great, big things other people are doing.
It's like when you're in high school and you're just on the literary magazine and that's not very cool, the cheerleaders are cool...they get to wear short skirts and date the senior hunk...and oh, so you wish you were a cheerleader. But then one day you stop being a teenager and realize it was utterly stupid for you to want to be a cheerleader, because you hate jumping, you prefer pants and O-M-G, you loved your days on the lit mag.
And so I'm throwing all the shoulds out the window and just saying it, loud and proud.
I am an artist for a living and that's a crazy big dream come true in its own right. I want to create art all day and maybe make people smile and make enough money to live comfortably and take care of those I love. To not have to worry about money.
I want to create art all day. I don't want to spend time on things I don't enjoy -- like fancy newsletters -- even if they mean my sales would skyrocket.
Being in the top ten art sellers on Etsy or selling forty prints a day or being on Martha Stewart...having my own mini-empire...those things are just not my dreams.
Looking at what other people have done...and trying to make those my amibitions...is like putting on a sweater that doesn't fit. It was a lovely sweater. But it's not for me.
I'm not saying that one day my dreams won't change.
I'm not saying we shouldn't stretch and do things that scare us and dream bigger.
But I'm saying...I want to do what makes my heart sing and my pulse get up to warp speeds.
If you chase other people's dreams...you'll never be happy with your success. Because even if you acheive the crazy big things they're achieving...it won't be what you wanted. It won't be what made your heart sing and your pulse get up to warp speeds.
I know what I want. I know what my dream life looks like.
And to do that, all I have to do is stop wishing I were a whale...and just be the best darn little seahorse I can be.
And I'll wind up exactly where I'm supposed to be.
I'll keep working hard. I'll keep stretching.
But -- except for the things that are unavoidable -- I'm going to be spending 95% of my time working doing the things I love and only the things I love.
My business will grow...but it'll grow in a way that will fit me.
It'll transform, but not according to a plan filled with shoulds.
One thing I knew about myself -- and tried to change -- was that I do best when I'm laser focused on one project at a time. I thought, no, no, that's wrong. Gotta change. Now I'm using that as a strength. I know I do best when focused on one proejct...so that's what I'm doing. No spreading myself thin or doing things half-heartedly in the name of "I should" or "I'm supposed to".
If you want to be successful at anything, you have to find something that works...but it can't be anything that works...it can't be something that works for someone else...it has to be what works for you.
For the past six years, I've struggled with blogging.
I've felt that I should blog.
I've heard that I'm supposed to blog.
But...blogging as a means to something...blogging in order to get people to care about my art...blogging about my art...
It 's something I plain don't enjoy.
That is the kind of blog I want to have someday. Filled with cartoons and illustrated stories and videos. That's the kind of blogging I'd look forward to and not dread. The kind of blogging I could get excited about. The kind of blog that wouldn't feel like a chore.
Sadly, to do that the way I'd want to do it -- whole-heartedly -- would require a LOT of time...and alas -- like I said, I do best when I'm focused on one project. And now...that one project is The Dreamy Giraffe Collection. Spending every moment I can making art to get my shop where I want it to be...and hopefully eventually having a standalone shop, in addition to my Etsy shop. Yeah, that's kind of a should...but not all shoulds are bad shoulds. Not all supposed tos are bad. You just have to figure out...which shoulds are you doing for the sake of should...and which shoulds are you doing because they're actually moving you towards where you want to be.
Find out where you want to be.
Really figure it out.
Because if you're looking at where everyone else is...and thinking...I gotta get there...
You will not wind up on the path that is custom made for you. You will not wind up thriving.
You will spend your whole life -- where you coulda been the most rockin' seahorse ever -- wishing you were something you're not so you could have something you don't really want.
Okay, so, anyway, I am pressing the pause button on the whole blogging thing.
I have a four pronged attack now -- to creating MY dream business and MY dream life. I'm tackling those prongs one at a time. I don't know how long each will take or when I'll get to the second or third or fourth. And I don't want to go into too much detail about what each is, because, like I said...dreams change.
I'll still be tweeting and posting new work on Facebook.
I may even create a Tumblr where I can just post new stuff without having to write about it and, of course, it'll be in the Etsy shop, under The Newest section.
If you've read this whole thing, bless you and thank you! I doubt it made any sense, but I felt the need to explain...I'm not going to be blogging for the forseeable future...but it is a very active. If I can't do something with my whole heart, I've realized -- it might just be because I just don't want to do it. That it's just not right for me.
I may edit or even delete this later, when I look back at it and see that it reads like the ramblings of someone who hasn't slept in days (when, really -- I had a great night's sleep). But, for now, I hope someone gets it.
I hope some other little seahorse out there reads this and realizes...you don't have to want to be a whale. There's nothing wrong with not being a whale.
And to all you whales AND seahorses out there -- congratulations on each and every one of your successes. And keep dreaming YOUR crazy big dreams and making them come true. Be happy in your own skin. Be content in who you are.
2012 is going to be The Year Of Thriving!