When I look back at 2013, I picture a lot of things that took me completely out of my comfort zone. This is always a positive thing, although sometimes when you’re going through it all it can feel like pain or punishment (especially if God is sculpting you for something great and all you can see right now is that things suck.)
Every year I’ve done one of these “favorite moments” posts and each time I’ve been surprised at how the year played out.
Last year I made these goals:
- More fiction writing
- A creative day planner
- A lifestyle blog
- A new series of ebooks
- A bunch of personal goals
For the most part, I’ve done these. I’m still writing more fiction (not yet publishing it – still in thinking-mode about what a fiction career might look like for me) and I’ve done every goal except the ebook series. I’ve made some progress on it but haven’t finished. So I’ll continue working on that this year, and also add a few more personal goals.
Not One Lifestyle Blog, But Two
I had planned to start a new “lifestyle” blog, which would be different than my geek life site in that it would be tips-based, and have a much different vibe. I liked the idea of taking my “21 things” books and combining them (sort of) with a blog. So that’s how 21 Simple Things came to be.
It’s been a learning curve with this site. I made some mistakes when I started it, learned from them, and finally managed to turn it around and be profitable before the year was out. (I’ll share all the lessons here eventually so you’ll know not to follow my mistakes.)
A completely unexpected thing last year was my desire to start a Christian living blog. I had already started one lifestyle site and had no plans for another one. But God has been working on me this past year and connecting me with new Christian friends. It helped nudged this thought into my head of a blog that would be written by several different women highlighting our walk with God. Hence, Putting on the New was born!
Putting on the New was a first for me in that I purposely started it with the intention that many different writers would be a part of it. I hadn’t done that before. I always had guest posters at my blogs, but this time the people involved would be regular contributors rather than occasional posters. I’m so honored to be a part of such an amazing group of women.
I’ve been impressed by the lessons in each of their posts, and their perspectives are all so different. I love that. I think it reminds me of the Fishers of Men verse that I’ve been stuck on, and how God’s people are all so different. The blog began at the end of July, and now has over 55,000 views a month. I hope the blog continues to grow. Right now, I’ve sent out a couple notes to ACFW and have an ad on my writing site, and from that God has gathered these wonderful writers that I’ve been blessed to work with.
Conferences and Concerts and Rock Stars – Oh My!
The biggest things that took me out of my comfort zone were also the most amazing. Attending the ACFW conference was such a thrill for me. I got to meet my good friend Debby Mayne in person, even though we’ve been close for several years with emails and phone calls. We met online while working for the same client about four years ago.
A few weeks after ACFW I got to attend the Women of Faith conference with my sister. Amazing blessing! (One day I’ll share the whole story about my sister, too. It’s a good one.) I so enjoyed the day with her and my niece, and we were literally moved to tears by some of the speakers. What a joy to find my sister late in life and then be able to share our love of Jesus. Isn’t God amazing?
Of course, it just wouldn’t be a complete experience if I didn’t do something to embarrass myself, too. Like chasing a Christian rock band down the street. Which we did with my favorite band Third Day.
Favorite Posts and Blog Remodeling
Have you noticed that the site looks a little different? It’s been through a few versions over the last few years, but I like this one and I’m sticking with it. (Yes, I am.) It highlights the areas I specialize in pretty well, it’s easy enough to navigate, and it seems to capture “my vibe.” (And of course, there are still things I’m doing to get it all updated….that part will never be over.)
But I like it. So I’m keeping it.
I used to list the favorite articles that I worked on each year here but then I got too busy to keep track. So I’ll limit them to this blog alone. I feel very blessed to be able to write for the clients I do and to have the readers I have.
I’d say my favorite posts this year might be these:
- Supporting Other Women
- It Takes Time
- Using Your Creative Gifts
- Who Is On Your LSL?
- When Do You Start Feeling Old?
Daring Greatly With My Art
One of the hardest parts about being creative is judgment. This usually happens from people who aren’t creative, or who have always wanted to be an artist, writer, actor… or whatever. Lately I see it in people who are “in the ring” but not in the exact same way you are. Since there are many ways to go about a creative life, we all do it differently.
I’ve always accepted the fact that my writing and art won’t appeal to everyone. They can’t. Even I don’t like everything I do all of the time.
But still, it’s scary to “put it out there.” The buzz-phrase of the year seems to be “daring greatly” thanks to the success of Brene Brown’s book, and I think that’s a good way to describe it. Why is it so hard to put your creative efforts “out there”? Because someone will slam you or just plain make it a negative.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. I say, if you want to paint or write, do it. Get it out there. Pay attention to constructive feedback, not haters. There is a difference. Sometimes the haters are even in the form of friends or judges in contests or your family. I always like to remember one of the Four Agreements which says, “Don’t take anything personally.” This roughly means if someone loves the stuff you do, that’s good, but don’t get a huge head over it. If they hate it, that sucks, but move on. In other words, how they feel about your work is more about them than it is about you.
Now, having said all that, I have to talk about my art. I was really scared to put it out there, especially because I’ve been sharing with you all my growth process. I’m new to mixed media. I love it like crazy but I’m still learning. Remember this picture? How different it is from my latest one, and that’s the point. It continues to change.
This year I tried out selling my art at a flea market and online at my Etsy store. I made sales. I was so happy. I only broke even at the flea market (I picked Labor Day weekend to do this and with Harley Fest in town no one was interested) but I may try it again at some point. I enjoyed prepping for it and seeing it all come together.
And I have been starting to sell prints in my Etsy store. It took several months, but I feel very grateful for the customers I’ve had, and the lovely notes they’ve sent me. I feel very fortunate to have positive people that pop in and out of my professional and personal life.
If I could sum up the year, it would be with the word gratitude. I’ve been studying it, practicing it, and making it a part of my life and work. Let me give you some history on this. I had a hard start in this world, and I didn’t understand the practice of gratitude. I thought that if you were happy and had good things going on, you’d be grateful.
As the years went on, I learned that gratitude was a practice. The more you did it, the more joy you could feel, at least that’s the way I experienced it. You look for the blessings rather than looking for the negative. This doesn’t mean you have an unrealistic view of life, it just means you don’t put your focus on the small, annoying things but on the small, beautiful things instead.
In the last several years I have practiced gratitude more and more. This year, I did a Bible study from the book 1,000 Gifts, I read tons and tons of great books about gratitude and joy, and I wrote down grateful thoughts to my husband. I developed a creative planner, which is something I’ve wanted to do for years, that has weekly spots for gratitude in them. I’m thinking about it, recognizing it, and am mindful of it in a way I haven’t been before.
And you know what? I need to keep doing it. Life can get very hard. Without gratitude we lose connection to what’s important.
Looking Ahead to 2014
It’s so hard to predict things going forward. You just never know what the upcoming year will look like. One goal I’ve started is writing in a prayer journal. I hope this keeps me mindful of praying for people and also recognizing the gifts that God gives us.
I want to do more art this year. I want to continue to write. I want to continue to pick up clients and maintain my freelance writing business, which includes other ways to make a living as a creative entrepreneur.
While I usually list a few goals, I find this year I just can’t. I’m in thinking mode. Lots of options, lots of confusion… I don’t even know what to strive for (besides making a living for my family). Perhaps it’s the new addition of doing art and writing fiction that has caused this confusion. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone a bit. It’s not a negative at all, but certain things have put me in “step back” and think mode. That’s my regular, warm and comfy place when I’m unsure where God wants me. If you’re a praying person, I’d appreciate a few prayers to help me listen to whatever it is God is telling me.
And thank you, any of you, who are reading this. If you’re a regular, well, let me give you a big huge THANK YOU. If you just happened by, welcome, and please come back. You add so much to my life by helping to encourage positive thoughts and actions.