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Monday, February 27, 2017

Breathing Room

The past few weeks I've shared my plans for this coming year (here and here), and this week I want to share my final goal: learning about running a small business. This is an area of great struggle for me because I would love to just create and not think about the rest, but if I want to keep doing this work with any regularity, this is a necessary component. I'm trying to break it all down into manageable parts, but this week, to be completely honest, my goals started to feel more overwhelming than energizing.

When I began dreaming for the new year, I decided to dedicate the first three months to learning more about running a creative business. The first step toward this goal was joining a nationwide creative group called the Academy of Handmade Artists and Supporters, and I am so excited to be part of the Seattle chapter community and to learn from and have accountability with other creative entrepreneurs. The resources they offer have already been immensely helpful; the local team here is warm and welcoming; and I left my first meeting last week feeling affirmed and inspired.

But later that night my thoughts started racing, and I found myself lying awake in bed, staring at the mini-blind-striped moonlight on the ceiling. All I could think of was my to-do list and how to prioritize all that needed to be done. And I felt already far behind.

As I lay in silence, words spoken to me earlier in the evening returned to my thoughts. One of other chapter members told me that it's okay to start out; I don't need to have it all together right now. It sounds so obvious and yet I badly needed the reminder to let myself be where I am.

Later this week I discovered one of my favorite Netflix shows, Chef's Table, released a new season, so I watched the first episode, which follows Korean monk Jeong Kwan, a chef who cooks for her monastery. This monk's selfless approach to her work is illuminating and humbling, and at one point she shares these poignant words: "Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly."

I have a massively long way to go, but I work hard not to compare myself and my work to others. However, I realized through my wrestling this week that I also need to not compare my current self (and work) to my ideal or future self (and work). This is probably my most difficult challenge. When my thoughts are focused on where I am not, I begin to feel the need to prove myself. But this week has helped me see that I need to give myself breathing room, space to be right now, exactly as I am, so that as I move forward, I do so in fullness and peace.

It's been a year of moving slowly for me, mentally and physically, accepting tiny glimmers of progress as they come. As aggravating as it can be at times, this slow growth has helped me make real, whole-hearted progress, and I want my work growth to be the same - slow and right, not on an arbitrary self-imposed schedule.

I'm not halting progress; my goal remains the same, but my approach to it is changing for the better. While I started the year thinking I'd get a jump-start in these first three months, I'm now realizing I need to adjust. My goal is still to learn about effectively running a small business, but this will take time. I now have accountability and support, and I will make progress. But I won't do it all this week. Instead, I will focus on guarding my breathing room and continuing to let go of my own expectations, criticisms, and timeline in hopes that "creativity opens up endlessly."

- shelley

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