Monday, April 14, 2014

Busy with Business

These days I've been thinking a lot about my art businesses. I have several: creating art and crafts to sell, running my Etsy shop Sprout Head, wholesaling my notecards, vending at craft shows, doing illustration commissions, working on getting published in the children's book industry, exhibiting my personal art in galleries, and maybe you could also count teaching art workshops.

I tend to work in bursts of activity, sometimes focusing on one thing more than others, and sometimes trying to do many at once. I've had a few people criticize me for doing too many things. Sometimes I feel like a freak because I find it so difficult to focus on just one thing, even if those things are related. I find inspiration in working in so many ways, yet I also know that it's hindering me from really excelling at just one thing and being as financially successful as I'd like through my art. On the other hand, I think that everything I mentioned has also fed each other in very important ways.

Last year I bought a book called "The Right-Brain Business Plan" by Jennifer Lee of Artizen Coaching. (Jennifer also just came out with a new book: "Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way.") Admittedly, I did not get far in the book because I didn't devote the time to doing the exercises. Which is probably my biggest problem - I don't devote the time for planning important aspects of my businesses. In the past, I tended to have an idea, figure out how to execute it, and throw it out in the world in an unsustainable, hit-or-miss fashion.

Last week and this week (April 14-18), Jennifer is running a Right-Brainers in Business 2014 Video Summit, and I've been watching the interviews with several creative business owners. If you're quick, you can also watch for free by clicking that link (each interview only stays up for 48 hours, unless you upgrade your subscription.) Listening to so many (mostly) women business-owners speak has really got my mind turning! I was especially moved to hear Lilla Rogers say that it's normal for creative people to want to do many things, and there's nothing wrong with us for being that way. I was inspired to hear Alicia Forest, whose business hit her first million, say that she takes the summers off to be with her family. She said that it's possible to run your business and also make time for the other things you value, even if that means that it takes more time to grow the business.

So what I'm realizing from the summit is that it's wonderful to be myself and that I want to be more focused about my goals, but also know that it takes time and experimentation to be successful. I want to stop making each goal into this perfect ideal, and start with what I have and work up to it.

Another book that is really helping is "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore. He writes about the psychological reasons why people procrastinate, and techniques for overcoming it. His advice to take 30-minute chunks of time to "start" projects (rather than focusing on finishing) has already been super-helpful. It is so much easier to work on something when I'm not criticizing myself for not having finished it already. He also recommends making a commitment to doing enjoyable activities - in fact, doing so will actually make you more productive because you won't be burned out or resentful of your work.

Back in the winter when art centers were asking me to submit teaching proposals, I told everyone I was taking the summer off. Initially, I wanted to be able to travel. But on a deeper level, I just wanted some space. Space to breathe, think, create, or do whatever I wished. I actually didn't really know what it is I wanted all that time for, but I wanted to make sure that nothing would hinder me from doing it!

Now that I've moved to a new apartment with my very own studio space (I swear I'll post pictures soon!) I am really glad I made that decision to create space. After the SCBWI conference, I planned to take that time to create a children's book dummy. But now I'm re-thinking it, because if I devote that time to just creating the dummy, I will almost certainly have to get another job by summer's end. Now I'm thinking about devoting this summer to pushing my art businesses in very concrete ways. If all goes well, my income will continue to grow and I will be that much closer having art-making as a sustainable business.

I'm still in the thinking stages of all this, but my ideas are flowing and I feel much more energetic, partly due to the warm spring weather in Richmond. But I think that my new mind-set will pave the way for some great things to come!

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What about you? Have you ever felt "stuck" in some area of your life, and realized that you had to change your own thinking or actions for things to get better?

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