Be Kind to Yourself
Be Kind to Yourself
My business venture, EstuaryMagicks, has been kicking around in one form or another for years. I longed to pursue a creative career, but I was too busy trying to balance housework, my jobs, frequent moves, health problems, and the sinister shadow of student loan payments.
It was the burnout that made me commit. Last November, I came home from work and collapsed against my husband, sobbing. “I can’t do it any more,” I said for the hundredth time, and he said, “What if you don’t?”
That was the beginning. By mid-january I had moved to a very part time position, and I found myself at home with an Etsyshop, a semi-coherent brand, and a wall of complete terror. Okay, I told myself, Make something. Make something good. And when I hadn’t made anything brilliant by the end of the week, I was a disaster of guilt and anxiety.
I needed to let go of the pressure. I left the traditional working world because the high-stress work environments were not only wearing me out, but draining my ability to create. But, lo and behold, I came home and reinvented the pressure in my own living room, and it almost destroyed my fledgling career.
It is vital that we, as small business owners, get work done regularly and get it done on time. A lapsed blog will lose followers, a late order will anger customers — that’s undeniable. But your best work will not happen when you are riddled with guilt.
So I redefined success. I told myself, if you make or list one item today, then you have succeeded. By those standards, I would be filing for bankruptcy in a year, but I needed to learn a lesson. So I made a dreamcatcher. The next day I listed it. Success, I said. The next day, I made and listed another dreamcatcher, and was surprised to find it wasn’t even lunch time. I could make another one, I thought, consumed by a feeling of wonder.
My definition of daily success is more complicated now — pack and mail orders, maintain social networks (as briefly as possible), put in some time on my novel, work on my new product line, eat at least one full serving of vegetables for lunch, etc — but on the bad days, the bleary days of stress and exhaustion, I scale it back down. If all else fails, I create something, anything, and when the day is done, I say, good job.
EstuaryMagicks is still very much a baby. I have a long way to go before it will be a reliable bastion of personal income, but I know that I can last in the long term. I won’t collapse halfway to the finish line.
How do you balance productivity with caring for yourself?
Gypsy Sauerwein is the creative multitasker behind EstuaryMagicks. In addition to selling earthling-friendly wares on Etsy, she writes fiction and illustrates. She teaches CreativityClasses that help children connect many genres of inspiration.