I'd love to talk to the Blog Society tribe about something that I've struggled with for almost a decade now...
I always wanted to do something creative and to run my own small business and brand, but I never really thought that I could just go ahead and do it. Sure, there were (and are) lots of other people that are putting their voice out there, running a blog, making things, or selling their wares and art. And here's what I thought: those people are simply more talented, more qualified and plain luckier than I am.
I don't have permission to do that kind of work and live a creative life.
I'm happy to say that I'm speaking from the other side now and have finally pushed through the noise to launch my creative business and brand, Hudson + Daughter, in early 2014. It's not perfect, and it's a work-in-progress, but I've had some surprising and thrilling successes, including a recent nomination as a Martha Stewart American Made finalist and a Country Living Magazine press mention.
Today, I'd love to talk with you about my creative struggle, and what finally lit the fire under me to put myself out there and launch my business...
The untruths I had on repeat I was very, very busy for years--busy telling myself all of the reasons why I couldn't possibly start my own creative business. (So busy, that I wasn't doing the actual work.) Here are the three big un-truths that had me stuck in creative paralysis:
* Untruth #1: Am I really allowed to design, make, and sell things I make when I didn't go to art school? Truth: Well, actually yes. You are. And this is actually true of most fields, apart from the industries that require professional certification. The commercially successful illustrator and artist Lisa Congdon (and author of recently published Art, Inc.) never went to art school. She didn't even launch her art career until she was well into her thirties. And think what you will about Sheryl Sandberg and Leaning In, but the stats don't lie—men are more likely to apply (and therefore get) jobs that they are not exactly qualified for. Equally qualified women are more likely to talk themselves out of applying in the first place.
* Untruth #2: Fear. What will people think? What if people don't like what I'm making or saying? Truth: Actually, most people aren't thinking about you at all. Ouch—right?! But really, it's true. It may feel like such a big deal to send that email to your address book telling them what you're up to, and sure, you may have a judgmental relative to deal with at Christmas dinner. But most people will likely smile at your good news and be on their merry way. Here's an added bonus to getting over your fear of what people think: it will become immediately clear who's on your cheerleading team. Sure, you knew your best friend from forever ago would be your number one fan, but you might be pleasantly surprised at some of people who emerge as champions in your corner.
* Untruth #3: The people who are making their creative businesses work have more time, more money, more talent, and more connections than I do. Truth: Yep, they do. But so what. There will always be people who seem to have it all. Maybe it's not attractive to admit, but I get jealous really easily. I'm jealous of Anna Bond for her singular style and the immediately recognizable, alluring, and whimsical look of her work and brand that happens to have stretched into every adorable boutique across the nation. I'm jealous of Ina Garten for the life she has created for herself—plunging head first into a catering business (from a government desk job) and transforming that business into a cooking and entertaining media empire. Plus, she's got an awesome kitchen. Instead of internalizing that jealousy, and making it all about what I'm not, I pay attention to the feeling and ask myself what exactly is it about that person or her body of work or her lifestyle that I'm really after? I write it down. I make it a long term goal. Once you're clear about what it is that you're after, you're much more likely to make it happen for yourself.
What finally pushed me to move beyond these untruths and launch my creative business:
* Becoming a mom and losing all of that "me" time. John Lee Dumas calls it the baby effect. I've had less time then I've ever had in my entire life, and I've never been so productive. I've got one hour to design this piece or write this blog post or it's never, ever going to happen. Now's the time to seize that hour. Use the small amount of time you have. By committing to doing even one small thing each day, the days and weeks add up, and you've got a body of work and a business that is chugging along.
* Putting myself out there and sharing my work. I'll be honest, some days it feels downright uncomfortable. And yes, sometimes I still cringe when I push the send or publish button if I'm pitching to a magazine or promoting a product. But here's a little secret: just keep on doing it. Notice what happens when the sales are lower than you had hoped for, or if you get a 'thanks but no thanks' reply: the world doesn't end. Surprisingly, I've taken these rejections far less personally than I would have ever imagined. And, not surprisingly, putting myself out there has led to the good stuff—the successes (the press features, the sales). This is the stuff that keeps fueling the creative fire.
* Connecting with a creative community, off-line. If you are lucky enough to have someone in your life who is like-minded and is also working on a creative project, talk things out with them. Meet for regular coffee dates. It's not necessary that you're working in similar disciplines—it's far more important to connect with a person who is open-minded, encouraging, and curious about her work (and yours). If it's proving difficult to find that person or group, try looking online for a group that meets in your area, or start your own.
* Wising up and getting older. This may be the most elusive one of all, and perhaps is the most important. At some point, the collective experiences of your life—your professional experiences, your studies, your personal growth, even the stuff that just happens to you and to the world that is out of your control—all of this meshes together and pushes you to evolve as a person. Meanwhile, the time is flying and the years are passing. Fast. Notice this. Does this scare the hell out of you? Good. Use this fear. Seize it. No one hands you the permission to go out and do the thing you're meant to do. You have to go ahead and take it.
Now, I'd love to ask you: what has held you back in the past? What was your turning point—when did you finally go ahead and give yourself permission? What happened? I'm so curious to hear!
Rebecca Pitt founded Hudson + Daughter in 2014 as a way to share the things she makes, open a shop, and to connect with readers, writers, artists, and makers. She has a soft spot for indie comics, collage, beautifully illustrated children's books, Ernest Hemingway's first and third wives, modern architecture, the 5 o'clock spritz, first folios, Wes Anderson movies, rare book rooms, Lorrie Moore short stories, and flaky, buttery croissants (preferably paired with the perfect cup of dark roast coffee). She has lived in Connecticut, Italy, Boston, New York City, and is happy to call the lower Hudson Valley home. You can find her on her blog or on Instagram @hudsonanddaugher.
All images by Rebecca Pitt