I had a near miss last week, this time of the work variety. What happened? I very nearly applied for a job that had absolutely NOTHING to do with what I want to be doing but seemed like an easier option at the time. Let me explain.
Over the past 3 or 4 years I’ve been getting the creativity back into my life – art, craft, writing – after a long artistic absence (try several years!) I’ve written about this before in my Facing the Fashionistas and Losing in Style pieces on Good Enough Mother so hopefully you know where I’m coming from.
The fact is, when I graduated from university almost 16 years back I found that my entirely academic degree was worth very little in the working world. So after several months of bar work and soul searching, I figured that enrolling on a secretarial training course would at least bring me some kind of decent paid work. Plus it would get me to London where all the excitement and potential was too.
That’s when it started: getting side-tracked from the things I really wanted to be doing, side-tracked so far that I lost sight of it all entirely and forgot where I wanted to go or what was right for me.
I still have a self-portrait I did one day when I just got sick of tapping away at the keyboard working on my typing speed; beneath the forlorn face I drew as I slumped disheartened in front of the mirror, I added the title ‘I Should be Learning to Type’. Now I will admit that touch typing was probably one of the most useful practical skills I have ever learnt but I found the work I ended up in soul-destroying: because I wanted to write, I worked as a PA to an agent representing writers. Later I looked at proof-reading jobs. Because I wanted to be more creative, I trained to be a teacher but spent all my time doing anything but my own creative work (don’t get me wrong, I loved so much about teaching, but there’s little room for your own needs in the classroom. That may sound selfish but it left me frustrated). Because I wanted to create beautiful pictures, I looked at training courses in all sorts of things: floristry, garden design, make-up artistry… anything but actual art and writing. Totally and utterly side-tracked.
Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way (the book that changed everything for me) calls it becoming a ‘Shadow Artist’. It’s the way you end up on the periphery of your dreams but not ACTUALLY doing what you feel most strongly and passionately about.
Now I know there’s a lot to be said for having a good steady, predictable career. It pays the bills for starters. But I’m in a fortunate position right now in that I’ve got the chance to put the mornings while my son is at school into my art and writing without the pressure of having to bring in a large second income. For now at least.
As a result I’m on the cusp of launching myself into a larger market with the support of a like-minded friend I was fortunate enough to make over the new year – she’s a jewellery designer and together we’re going to hold events, hit the craft fairs and encourage and support one another along the way. It’s incredibly exciting!
But in the midst of it all, I’m getting scared: what if I can’t make good enough art on a consistent basis? What if I run out of time before our first exhibition (next month) and don’t have enough stuff? What if I don’t sell anything? Is my work of any real consequence or meaning? Why can’t I paint like this or that artist? And with those thoughts in my mind, I’m finding it hard to get anything done! Panic!
Wouldn’t a steady job be easier? Wouldn’t it save me all this self-doubt? Isn’t there something comforting in that kind of routine?
My son’s school newsletter came home last week with details of a job opening at the school kindergarten. Ah ha! I thought, just what I need! It fits in with school hours, it’s part-time, I love working with kids, it’ll pay a steady wage, I can turn up, do the job, it’ll be great to be in a school environment again but in a more fun way, then walk away at the end of the day, job done!
I very nearly applied.
But alarm bells started to sound and I stopped myself because at the end of the day, it isn’t what I want to do and would take too much commitment, time and energy from my real goals. So I’m keeping to my long-term plan, which is to make a living out of my art and writing.
It may sound like an easy option to choose: working from home for yourself doing what you love (it certainly sounds pretty good when I put it like that!) but it’s actually quite tough (yes, violins please) because you’re on your own, in a bit of a vacuum sometimes, wondering if you’re moving forwards or going backwards. But if you can push through the tricky doubts, the times when things just aren’t working, and avoid the side-track trap, I believe it can work. All I can do is stay true to MY path, nobody else’s, and roll with it.
But what about you? Have you found yourself side-tracked by life? In what ways? I’d love to hear your stories – and how you turned it around…
Nikki Newman, 36, from England, currently lives in Qatar, where she moved this year due to her husband’s work. A former teacher and proud mother of 7-year-old Oliver, she’s currently focusing on settling her family into their new lives, while also pursuing her passion for painting. To see Nikki’s work please go to: www.nikkinewmanart.com