Is there such a thing as loving too many things about life?
As I wake up each morning and try to plan out my day, I think my biggest problem that I am encounter on most days is which direction to head.
One tends to view others that are self-employed as someone who gets to sit on the beach most of the time, drinking a tropical drink with a wide-brimmed straw hat and wondering where they will spend their next holiday. When I come across people that have that mentality (yes – they do exist) I just smile to myself. They absolutely have no idea.
The majority of successful entrepreneurs that I see are those that absolutely love what they are doing. While making a living at your business is a true necessity, I find that if you don't truly enjoy what you are doing, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to succeed.
Art, designing and creating in general is something that many love to do. I remember being very young when I decided that I wanted to do something that involves being creative with my life. When I was in university, I even toyed with the idea of being a commercial graphic designer as a career. Coming from Chicago, I was familiar with names like Leo Burnett and Ogilvy & Mather and I used to dream about working in a corner office with a wall of windows overlooking the city. This was long before "Mad Men" was ever even a thought. It was back in the early 80's when I attended a state university (SIU). I even took some art classes while there, which only fueled my desire to create.
However, I soon found that I didn't have the stomach for it. I am not fond of competition and found myself feeling stressed out and nervous when doing something that needed to directly compete with another's work. As I look back on this so many years later, I do realize that every day I am competing with other designers, but it is in a much different way now. While people still pick and choose whether they want to use my designs for their own creating or not, because of the nature of how my work is marketed and presented it doesn't feel like direction competition.
The internet has provided a stage for all designers to display and sell their ideas. Some do well and others fail. The amount of behind the scenes work is tremendous. Besides the usual and perhaps more mundane tasks of bookkeeping, packaging and producing and shipping orders, there is the additional and very time-consuming duties of social networking, building and maintaining websites and online shops, and taking care of customers. As the business grows, any one of those aspects of the business can in itself become a full-time job. But usually these daily tasks are carried out by one or (if we are lucky) two people. It doesn't leave much time for designing.
I suppose I am discussing this today because it has been on my mind. As I look to the calendar, and we are already well into May, I think about all the new designs I want to create and I wonder why I haven't created more. I realize that this can be a very self-defeating position, as I know that just about every hour of every day, I am busy working on something for the business. Keith can attest to that, and I fear sometimes that I am becoming one of those boring workaholics that can't leave her job for a second. I think most of you who know me know that most of my waking hours are spent thinking about one or more aspects of the business. Whether it is planning a new project or working on an existing one, it is rare that I am doing something completely unrelated to art and design. But is that really bad?
In the early days, I wondered how the designers I admired kept coming up with fresh, new ideas. I even attended classes on designing, which taught us to look at the world through different eyes. Little by little I have trained myself to see things not only as they are, but filled with possibilities for other things. An iron gate for example doesn't just look like a gate to me. I notice the curves of the ironwork and think of how that concept can be applied to a design for the scroll saw. I look at trees or animals or inanimate objects and think of how they can be portrayed in different media, such as paint, wood, or fiber. This wasn't always the case. It was only through training my own mind to look at things this way that I learned to see the world differently. I now fully understand the term "seeing things through artist's eyes."
I often am asked how I keep coming up with ideas for new projects and designs. It is difficult to answer that, because it isn't just one thing we do. It is only through years of training ourselves to see the world differently and loving what we do so much that it becomes part of our being and make up. I don't think about looking for ideas. They come to me every time I open my eyes. I like that.
Because of this phenomenon, I think I am a much happier person. Since I spend so much time focusing on positive things like creating, it leaves little time for worry and despair. I am not saying I don't have my sad moments – as I am as human as anyone else, but I do believe that by concentrating on things that are in general a positive force in my life, I am truly happier than most I see around me.
I'll take it.
I finished up my seahorse pattern for the online article yesterday. I was pleased at how it came out. I submitted nine pages of instructions with 34 step-by-step photos for the article. (One thing I love about digital publication is that there are few limits on space. We no longer have to confine our instructions to one or two pages, as we did in print.) It isn't that the project is so difficult, but it is rather long because I geared the instructions to beginners and I wanted to thoroughly explain every single step. Because of the details, it will make the process easy. Really.
I am very proud of finishing this piece up. I will be even more thrilled when I see others recreate it. Not only do I enjoy making things myself, I also love sharing my designs with others and hoping that they can experience some of the joy I feel when doing so. With things the way they are in this world, I am happy if what I do can contribute somewhat positively in the lives of others. Even if it is just for a little while.
I am thrilled that I am busy and I am fortunate in that I get to do what makes me happy. I love looking at life through my 'artist's eyes'. While I may never have a large bank account, it somehow doesn't matter. My health is good, I live comfortably, and don't have the burden of huge debts that I see plague so many others. Each day is a new adventure to me and I embrace it with my heart and soul. Most of all, I appreciate all of you, my followers, customers and friends, for allowing me to live this kind of life. Without you, it wouldn't be possible. That is one thing I never forget.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"