The Fires Burning Within

I have been feeling this increasing need to create for several months now. I’ve laid a lot of groundwork, have my pieces all laid out on the game board, but things keep getting in the way, not least of which is my refusal to ever work myself sick again. Not excuses, just frustration at the delay.

My goal is for all my creative endeavors to be fueling each other, for the art and writing to flow back and forth, to use them as inspiration for both my music and my costuming. My husband and I are talking about starting to sell homemade bath and beauty products which we did as an offshoot of our Fairy Magik label years ago but at the tail end, so we didn’t give it a very good go. To do all of that while taking in freelance sewing work and spending more time with the children. But to do more than chip away at that requires me first and foremost getting out of this stressful and physically exhausting job I’m currently in, which we’re working on.

I’ve been posting older work on Instagram to inspire me to continue chipping away, but honestly, by the time I sit down and have a few minutes to work, it’s so late at night that I’m spent and can’t tap the space I need to be in. Everything comes in it’s own time, and I feel the “soon, the time isn’t right just yet, but soon”, but patience has never been one of my strongest points. So the fires within continue to burn, to grow, threatening to overwhelm me.

When I finally unleash the fire, it will be a sight to behold.

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Drained

So, I almost worked/exhausted myself sick again. My inflammation has gotten really bad, causing joint pain that I haven’t felt in a long time. My daughter has been teething her molars still and is going through a huge cognitive growth (her vocabulary has doubled in like a week and she’s started teaching herself her letters!), and waking up every 1 to 2 hours for over a week now, and I’ve been pushing myself to work past midnight every night for over a week too. Last night, my body said “nope” and I went to bed right after my daughter, which was helpful, and I was able to rearrange the delivery date of one of my projects to make my week better, so I should make it to bed at more reasonable hours for the rest of the week (except for Friday – I’m working til 9:30PM then going to have to finish packing for our trip to my interview, so I’m sure I’ll be up late).

I feel silly for letting myself get in this situation, and I can blame some outside factors for holding me up on my original schedule, but I never want to work myself into being bedridden again. So that’s something for me to bear in mind if I continue trying to freelance while still having such a young child and working a full-time job. I can’t do it all. I have to practice self-care, especially when I’m going on so little sleep. Otherwise I can’t be present for my family or present for the bigger issues facing us a society.

My Spinning Head

I have a lot going on in my head right now. The currents are threatening to thrash me about and pull me under if I let them.

  • At the suggestion of a friend of mine who already works there, I applied for a job in my former field at a big university in a state my husband and I have never considered living in before. I had a phone interview a couple of weeks ago and have been invited for an in-person interview next month. I always have the tendency to worry about things ahead of time, and while I’m shoving the actual logistics of being offered and accepting such a job and selling the house and uprooting my family to the furthest dusty corners of my mind, they are still making their presence known. I have been having all kinds of feelings about this prospect bubble up, sometimes simultaneously – excitement, dread, panic, happiness, flattered, a positive outlook toward a new adventure, the irony of having applied to many university positions years ago with nary a bite and now to have it happen when I don’t know if I really even want such a position anymore, the irony of having decided to make this the year I go freelance and get more time with my kids. It’s a lot. I’m excited to interview, to see the situation that’s available. The idea of a stable job with real benefits and a pension and paid time off is appealing. But it’s not what I wanted. On the other hand, a lot of people don’t get what they want, and providing a secure environment to raise my children may be worth the sacrifice of my wants. Again what I’ve talked about before – others’ needs coming before my wants.  The position though is interesting, a mix of creativity and organizational work, and the situation seems posh. But this may be yet another year of BIG DECISIONS AND CHANGE for us, when I thought we were fairly settled. So there’s that.
  • I have two freelance projects I’m doing – one for an individual client and one for an entity – and both have been fraught with delays from other people. So now, on top of my full-time job and sneaking out of state for an interview next month, I’m going to be working incredibly hard to pull off these two contracts. Other people holding me up is frustrating. Having to chase after people for contracts and money and answers to questions to start working… it’s a pain.
  • I’m finishing the last part of Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Idea, and it has been challenging me in really great ways. But now I’m contemplating the workings of life and humanity deeply while all this other stuff is going on.
  • I’m letting myself carry more than my share of the outside world lately, allowing myself to get sucked down by it all.

So, in the midst of all of this, I have to keep myself centered. I have to take care of myself in the ways I know how and shut my mind up enough to be able to listen to the intuitive inner self. I need to keep stepping forward in the creative process. It’s going to be really difficult, but I am up for this challenge.

Business Decision Making Time

I’m going to spend a little time today writing out my options and thoughts on the sewing line I want to start in the coming year as an income stream once I am able to move into freelancing full-time again, which will be on top of the freelance design and build work I currently do and will continue to build doing and the alterations I’ll take out of the home, and this will be the bulk of my income while I build up the creative work I do here with writing, art, and maybe someday music without stressing about the income the work here brings in as of yet.

So firstly, I have to pick a direction. I thought that I had, but I’m second-guessing myself now on whether I need to narrow my options more. After a lot of research, it seems like other shops are most successful having one niche thing they do very well, for example, a creator only makes tutus, or waist cinchers and corsets, or capes, or fairy wings, or hair accessories, or purses, etc. Or they focus on a very particular niche market, like horse blankets with a handful of horse accessories, or ice skating costumes, or ballet costumes, or burlesque costumes. Sometimes even more narrowed, like a shop only sells pasties for burlesque, with nothing else. The upsides to having a shop like this are:

  1. You get really really good at something so you can market yourself as an expert and build a reputation
  2. Being really good at something means you learn all the shortcuts you can possibly take and still make a really good product
  3. If it’s a “rinse and repeat” kind of pattern adjustment to create different looks, you aren’t starting from scratch every season to mix up your selection
  4. It’s a lot easier to train potential future employees/family members/friends to help you if the orders start piling up, which is again a time saver
  5. If for some reason you ever want to start mass-producing anything via hiring out a factory (not something I think I’m really interested in), having easily repeatable patterns makes the process much easier

The downside for me though is that the thought of limiting myself in this way bores me. Because my background is in costume design, my initial thought (and what I find much more interesting) was to design an entire look and then offer up the pieces of the look in a shop, and to also include interesting patterns of other things I’ve developed over the years. To have vintage and costume inspired pieces that could be worn in a wide variety of settings, maybe include some men and children’s pieces as well as accessories, and to tie in the designs with some of the work I am producing here eventually as far as inspiration goes. But if I go this route, I may potentially be running into problems down the road.

Part of my concern is that my husband and I already had an online shop, both on Etsy and via our own site, where we sold fairy-related art, costume pieces, and even bath products under our label, and we made it all. And we never were able to really get a good month of sales, in part because we were spread all over the place instead of having a particular focus, and also because we were frequently going for quantity over quality (a mistake I will not be making this time around). So is it narrowed enough to simply stick to sewing/wearable creations under my unique vision, or do I force myself to start very narrowed and see how it goes? Also as an aside, I made up a big batch of a face scrub/mask to give as Christmas gifts, and I had forgotten how much I love to make the bath/beauty products and it would be fun to eventually try selling those again. The recipes I had come up with were really good, but it is such a saturated market. So for the meantime, I will just allow myself to create more of those for myself and for gifts as I can carve out the time to.

Anyway, any of you have any thoughts on this that could help me reach a decision? Do I do what “feels” best to me despite it possibly being more complicated and time-consuming? Or do I follow good examples of other successful businesses and stop being so freaking stubborn in life? It would be nice if something could be easy for a change.

Uncertainty

I am moving forward in my hope to be home with the children and freelancing as soon as possible, but the economic uncertainty in the United States and globally right now is making me nervous. I am trying not to let it freeze me up in my planning, but I am now trying to plan smarter as far as the planning my online shop for my sewing business goes. I won’t want to invest huge amounts into bolts of fabric to begin aside from some basic silks, which means going with the slightly higher cost and lower quality fabric available from the handful of local stores in the area. And I am rethinking my plan of only having truly high-end products and trying to come up with a few lower ticket items that will still be well-made to entice people. And I’ll probably take on as many alterations as I can reasonably do this prom season to invest back into the business, which means of course less time to get samples sewn up. All of that really is dependent on whether or not we get to the place of financial security to get out of the current situation I’m in. We’re working on it, but nothing is certain in this world right now.

It also means I won’t be able to afford oodles of new art or music supplies and equipment, so I’m going to have to make careful stock of what I have and be very careful in my use of things going forward. Writing thankfully can be done anywhere on any machine.

It’s really difficult to stay positive right now with everything going on, isn’t it? It’s hard to make plans for the future when everything could be easily cast aside at a moment’s notice. Part of me wants to go be a survivalist somewhere instead, and hide away from society. But I want to do what I can with what I have to help. So I refuse to succumb to fear.

Planning All the Things

Right now I am in the midst of the planning stages on a lot of different things. It’s, quite frankly, something I adore doing, and I’ve kind of set myself from now to the end of the year to really outline, take notes, study, and develop firm business and marketing plans on top of the creative planning of the actual projects themselves. How fast I am able to move on the plans will very much depend on how fast I am able to get out of the 9-5 job (really crossing my fingers that it will be sooner rather than later) as well as how much extra contract work I get in. I’ve got some big audacious long-term goals though, that will involve letting all of my creative work feed into each other, but it has to come step-by-step, and I have to will myself to do the step-by-step piece of it.

So what am I doing? Well, I’ve started watching some handmade and small business videos on Youtube, learning techniques both for my sewing/costume work and for the work to come here. On the sewing side, I’m making concrete plans to build samples and open a shop up. On the writing/art/music side, I’m going through years of work and deciding what is worth keeping and what to discard. And overall deciding what is the most meaningful to me at the moment. I need to let my passion drive me forward. Because of course after having the most amazing week and 1/2 of moving forward and pushing outside of my comfort zones, I have a recoiling now with that little voice of doubt rearing up, whispering terrible things to me. I’ve had a couple of bad days, where even though I continued my process, the shine wasn’t there. Some of that is old insecurities still lingering, some of that is my letting the outside world bring me down… so to move forward, I must have that passion and drive that I’ve been missing for a while.

While planning, I will probably be getting the urge to create too, so expect more poems and sketches and little tidbits than there has been lately. I’m really excited about my next path.

A Dip Into My Past

This past week, while waiting for people and on mini breaks at work, I read through my blog from the very beginning, way back in 2012. It was an interesting trip back for me. Eye opening, and very helpful in finally honing in on the next direction of my life.

The first few years of doing this blog focused a lot on writing as that was what I was prepping for release into the world. I also kept talking about music and art projects that I wanted to tackle. And I really miss having projects that I am passionate about. I miss all parts of that process.

I also posted my dream schedule of balancing parenting with being a freelance creator, and I am so far from that dream at the moment, it is laughable. Working full time (plus) in theater left me with barely any other creative time, let alone quality parenting time, and while the job was fulfilling in different ways before the leadership shift and it gave me the stability to get a mortgage and health insurance to have my 2nd child, I was so much happier when I was only working part time for them. Then going back into a different full time position doing bridal alterations has been draining in a very different way, and because of the hours the shop is open, even though I am physically working less hours, I still feel like I never get to see my kids or create anything extra. Especially since I’m still self-healing from last year. I feel all this pent up creative force longing to burst forth though.

So, the goal for the past couple of months now has been to be freelancing by the end of the year and becoming the at-home parent. Once that happens, I will still do some alterations. I will do some costuming work too as it comes up and as I can find time to do it. But I want to focus the bulk of my energies on my kids and on creating my own work again. I need to feel that passion for creating that I get sucked out of me by scraping myself dry through overwork.

Letting Go and Moving On

Last week I found out something that made me finally cry about losing my job. Outright sobbing for a solid 15 minutes, like I’ve done in the past when someone has died. I felt so wounded and betrayed, and thankfully my children were asleep and I was able to give full venting of my emotions. But I wanted to censor myself at first, because I recognized that what was wounded most was my pride, and really, of all the Seven Deadly Sins, Pride may very well be the least fun one. Also, in my efforts to evolve as a human, I try really hard to not let my ego drive the ship and to focus on deeper issues and discard the parts of my being that don’t serve me well, but I obviously have a long way to go still, and I really hated to have that reminder. That I still have attachments to certain identifiers about myself and my position in society. Objectively I know that it’s all meaningless, but subjectively I still occasionally care what other people think of me. It’s so contradictory that it is funny.

However, I am a creative soul, even as I seek to always be growing and learning, and I must admit that I will always have to give my inner artist-child expression or I will suffer serious consequences. And so I allowed myself to grieve and didn’t self-censor, and then I realized that I was indeed grieving a death – the loss of that version of myself and that path through life that I had set myself on. Those particular circumstances will never exist for me again, even if I do choose to return to the theater world someday. And that version of myself deserved a proper mourning and burial.

So if I was less wise than I am now, if I was less evolved, I could let myself linger in the betrayed role. I could play the victim and even relish the anger and bitterness for a while, fueling angsty poems and art pieces. But being where I am, I am ready to move on and figure out my new identity. Staying angry isn’t healthy for me, and my body already is showing me the benefits of letting it all go. The week I got sick leading up to losing my job, I had a fairly severe psoriasis-rash outbreak on my hands and then a patch open up on my back, and all the areas are healing now. I find myself laughing and being goofy with my family more, which is part of my self-improvement goal for the year of allowing myself to have more fun. And while I may get an occasional twinge of missing the part of me I no longer have, I can weigh it against what I do have and recognize the benefits of letting go. Life is too short to give other people the power to hold you down.

Whatever the future is, I trust that it will bring me what I need to continue growing and loving and creating. I may not agree with the Universe, I still may need to be dragged kicking and screaming to the next path I need to tread, but I do trust.

Job Opportunities and Future Creative Endeavors

I have a job offer that I am accepting. It starts in a couple of weeks. I’ll be the one working full-time again, while my husband will continue his part-time position he found for a few months at least to replenish our savings a bit and continue freelancing from home while watching the baby. And we’ll see how things go.

As it seems to matter less now that I keep these two sides of my lives separate, I will discuss my former job and my future job. I was working as a theatrical costume designer and costume shop manager at a local theater before I was let go after getting sick and being unable to complete the costumes before a show opened. Costume design is what I have my training in, and it’s something I really enjoy doing when I am working with people that are good to work with. But the entertainment industry is one that is really easy to be taken advantage in, to burn out, to deal with all kinds of crazy personalities, and to drive yourself into the ground. If you want to check out my work (and learn my real identity – ooo) you can see my portfolio page here. I need to update my Bio page eventually, as all I did was remove the section about where I had been working, but I’m in no rush to do that yet. I also have a tumblr blog where I occasionally post pics of me wearing vintage and repro vintage outfits as a kind of soft-marketing for the custom work I do here.

My new job is going to be doing bridal and formal gown alterations and helping to grow a second shop to it’s full potential. I’ll be making the same rate of money, even bringing in a little more possibly, and I’ll get to work from home part of the time. And the hours, while possibly getting crazy during prom season, won’t be anywhere near what I was putting in every time we led up to a show opening at the theater.

So, pluses are my family and I get to live at the same level of comfort we were at before, maybe even better because we will be able to start building our savings up again. I’ve worked with this woman and in this shop as a freelancer several years ago when I was freelancing show by show at the theater as well, so we have a relationship and I really admire her. I’ll get to help people feel beautiful and confident on their big days, and I’ll still get to be creative in making the bustles of gowns (which I actually love doing) and some custom work as it comes up. I’ll have more time with my family and more energy to put into my own creative work. And I’ll get to surround myself by pretty fabrics and dresses almost every day.

Cons are that after working in theater, almost everything else feels boring by comparison. There are so many little problems that need solving, so much fly-by-the-seat decisions that need to be made, that it is difficult to move at a slower pace. This is why I’ve said in the past that I have two speeds – 100 mph or not moving at all because I overworked myself. So maybe this is actually a plus, because I’ll be forced to modify my way of doing things. Anyway, the other con is that costume design is this blend of everything I enjoy doing – reading and analyzing scripts, historical research, psychoanalyzing characters, inputting all of that in my brain and sketching out ideas, collaborating with the scenic and lighting designers to best realize a director’s vision, occasionally doing fancy renderings, having to read actors to get them to want to wear what I want them to, and then buying/sewing/renting the costumes and making sure they all fit nicely and the actors can move in them the way they need to move. All while on severe budget and time constraints. Doing alterations won’t engage me in the same way. Again, possibly a plus because it will leave me room in my brain for my own projects to be bubbling away, and it will also allow me to focus on my further growth as a human being, allowing me to listen to podcasts and lectures while I work and to just daydream a bit more than I’ve had the opportunity to do in recent years. Another con is that some of my work at the theater was put into helping in our local school district, occasionally going in and working with very poor, at-risk students. We would also pull some of those students into shows we were doing sometimes. Now I won’t have that direct interaction in the community that I felt was really valuable, so I have to find a way to add that back in again somehow.

All this leaves me with having to decide where to put my few hours a week of creative energy. If our positions had flip-flopped and I was the one freelancing from home, I would have tried to build up my sewing business, doing alterations, yes, but also coming up with some kind of line. I could have made a lot of money off of vintage-inspired kids clothes but probably would have quickly gotten bored with it too (cutting the same thing over and over isn’t exciting), and I’ve been leaning toward creating a custom corset and costume line since grad school and have so many ideas for it. But I don’t know if I’ll feel like sewing a lot more after sewing so much during the week, and it feels silly with the world being where it is to put a lot of energy into corset making. I also have two big commissions for the year all ready lined up which will take a lot of time. So I may still dabble at creating a line of things to sell, combining pieces I’ve already made with new pieces, but I doubt that I’ll be motivated to move very fast on that end. So I’d like to focus more on work under this name, as I move to fully unblock myself. I’ve been loving painting this abstract, and may do a couple of more before tackling those bigger pieces I’ve been putting off for years. The writing… I have to see what will happen with that. I have enough poems to probably put together another collection, and I’ll have the time now in theory to try to get out to some poetry readings. The fiction is difficult. I read through some old story ideas and I am really interested in a lot of them, but with reality being so much like fiction these days, I’m having a really hard time wanting to delve into it. I’m not going to push myself too hard on that front, because I can’t force myself, but I will write something every week. And music – I’m building myself up on that front too. I probably won’t try to start pushing myself more until the baby is a little older and weaned, but I want to have that in my life again. Maybe I’ll combine the writing and the music and start writing my own songs again as a means to get back into writing. I don’t know. It’s all kind of up in the air right now. I need to continue to give myself permission to play, and I am trusting that it will sort itself out.

So that’s where I’m at. We’re going to have a rough transition into me being out of the house as the baby definitely likes me better than daddy at this point, and I’m sad that I can’t be a happy housewife for a while longer. But it will be good. I am glad that we’re going to survive this bump, and I feel like I got a nice little 2.5 month extra maternity leave and the chance to fully heal, which is more than so many people get. And I’m also proud that my work ethic stands on so firm a footing that upon posting that I got fired from my job, I was made a job offer with no questions as to why I was fired (we did discuss it later on). This is also the second time that someone wants me so badly that they are creating a position in order to have me. Having me available is the impetus toward someone else pushing forward in an endeavor, and that feels really great.