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Where self-discovery limits options…

This blog post is about a personal journey with my art and my business. It breaks all the formulaic blogging rules of making it about my audience etc. But my hope is that you can relate to some of what I write. If you resonate…you may not feel so alone. Perhaps I am the only person who feels this way. If so, then I am just another story to add to the mix of us all being unique individuals.

Brief background

In 2012, I took the brave option to leave my 19-year career as an NHS physiotherapist to find a new way of working. To find work that fills me with joy and expansiveness. A nourishing new career that can be carved out into old age.

Years of doing the same vocation did not leave me with a plethora of exciting options. However, I did have a sense that there were many transferrable possibilities utilising my developed skills and abilities. It felt exciting and frightening at the same time! I pondered how I could be of service to people (but on my own terms).

During that time, I re-discovered my passion for art.

Where am I now?

Three years into my journey has forced me down a complex path of self-discovery and healing. This is often unavoidable when you desire the freedom and flexibility to work to your own rhythms and to be your own boss. This is unavoidable with a difficult childhood, a lifetime of people pleasing, and being an expert in self-criticism.

Much of what I have found has been enlightening and nourishing. But, self-discovery can come at a price too. Let me explain.

The old normal

Gagging on my toothbrush, or emotionally numbing myself down became normal for me when I was doing work that I endured rather than loved. Twenty years as a physiotherapist taught me to be grateful for what I had, the security of a job for life, and the ability to hide who I really was behind a uniform (even to hide from myself).

The new normal

On my journey, I explored my creative side and my deep desire to make art. Options and ideas came flooding in. I dabbled with a few ideas (from website design to illustrations for digital spaces).

However, I had a sense that I was creating art with a gun to my head. The gun is ‘How can I monetize my art?’ This was even before I had found my signature style (which is still evolving). I was learning and developing whilst attempting to provide professional services to meet the needs of clients who were commissioning me. It’s been a rapid learning curve against a backdrop of inexperience and naivety.

Some of my experiences were amazing… many were not. At first, it was easy for me to take the victim route and blame a difficult client (there were some difficult clients). However, in recent times, I have come to understand my part in things. I am now the one becoming difficult…

Partly because of the visceral reaction to my past career and partly because of my strengthened connection to my intuition; I have discovered what aspects of my art bring me joy and ease and what aspects leave me cold or anxious.

It is a sobering discovery.

  1. I am naturally introverted and a highly sensitive person

  2. My art is mainly intuitive and spontaneous in the moment

  3. My art has to have meaning

  4. It has to be an expression of self

  5. I have to feel that I have my own way

  6. My art is usually completed in one sitting even if it's not perfect

  7. My art evolves from one completed piece to another

  8. The process of creating art is just as important as the end product

  9. I work to my own ebb and flow rhythms

  10. I have a daily struggle with visibility versus hiding

  11. I now cherish and love my body and my journey. So, it’s time to do things differently.

These discoveries leave me vulnerable (especially number 5). It makes commission work untenable. 

There seem very few options left for me to make money with my art. Generating income from services and commissions for clients affects my well-being (for all sorts of complex reasons).

I am fortunate in that, currently, my monthly bills and simple needs are met. So, I find it hard to quell the wilder/untamed side of my artistic nature who desires to do her own thing. 

I cannot tell you how many commissions I have turned away these last 12 months. I have also started backing out (early on) from a few that I have started but had to stop. My body is so loud these days. My reactions were so visceral. I have tried a variety of types of commission work, but they all lead to the ‘toothbrush gagging’ unpleasant feeling within my body. I feel sadness that the part of me (who put up with disharmony in my body for the sake of money), has now completely eroded. I feel vulnerable in that I swing from “Am I losing my mind?” to “This feels right. I am listening to my intuition now…even if it does not yet make sense.”

I am free falling…

What now?

I can safely say that commission work, for now, is off the menu. Product creation is the only thing that feels light, joyful, exciting and expansive. It is the only thing I have done that has an organic life of its own. It just works. I am happy. My consumers are happy.

I edge-dance every day with solopreneur comfort zone stretches and look at ways to evolve and expand my horizons. In 2012, I was juggling many possibilities. Now I seem to have one ball to throw around (yikes!). A tiny piece to grow from.

Is that even possible? I have no idea.

But, whilst my basic needs are met, whilst my days are flexible; I choose to move towards what feels right in my body…(even when on the outside it looks kinda daft and not fitting with the economic view of making money).

I have artists who inspire me. One of my absolute favourites is the story of the tree change dolls. If you do not know the story, then I suggest you check out her website. I desire to tell a similar story. I am open to possibilities whilst nervously biting my lip and allowing myself to trust the process.

Who knows where I go from here? Thank you for reading.

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