I can’t believe it’s already been three years since I started my company, And So We Begin, on what would have been my nana’s 100th birthday. Three years of juggling, working hard and trying to achieve more creatively. Today I’m celebrating once again, with cake (naturally) and spending a little bit of time reflecting on what I'm trying to do and where I want And So We Begin to be in another year's time.
My company is a blend of two worlds. Half the time it's just me... Listening to 6 Music drinking tea... Writing, painting and drawing, creating things with the hope that people will enjoy them. The other half of the time I'm being prized out of my creative cocoon to have adventures working in event management.
In reality, this means that the creative side of things often takes a back seat while I concentrate on the events work and it's a constant challenge to find time to create and to try to get that side of And So We Begin off the ground.
I recently read Big Magic by the wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert and one of her main pieces of advice is to 'not give up the day job'. She says that this puts far too much pressure on your creative pursuits to make money and means that you can't create freely. I've often thought I needed to 'take the leap' and become a penniless artist to make the creative side of my company work but actually I think she might be right and juggling has its benefits. Mainly security. And with such pressure on my time, I find it makes me even more determined to sneak an hour here and there to pursue a project, paint or write.
This anniversary finds me on a rare break from the day job and so I'm pondering my projects and writing a long 'to do' list. The minute I have spare time I've found I've got an avalanche of ideas all fighting for attention. Below are just some of the projects I'm thinking about... The question is, how do I prioritise and work out what to focus on first? How do I make sure And So We Begin has a clear path forwards?
Angel's Great Escape
I started And So We Begin to launch my first story book app with perhaps more apps to follow. The experience of making the Angel's Great Escape app was many things... Complicated, eye-opening, satisfying, exciting, fun, long and a massive learning curve. It was an absolute labour of love and a way to bring the story to life rather than founded in a desire to make apps.
My labour of love continues as this Christmas I'll be releasing Angel's Great Escape as an ebook. The story has been reworked into a more traditional picture book style with pretty fonts and a brand new additional character. I hope that this will take the story one step closer to my hope of seeing it for sale in print.
In the past year, I have found a new love of drawing. It seemed to come out of the blue and wasn't something that I had ever thought of as a viable business idea. Put simply, I didn't think I could draw. At the time, I felt unable to write but I really missed the feeling of the pen on the page. One day, while waiting for a delayed train I took my notebook out of my bag and started to draw. It just felt nice. As simple as that.
I really hope that illustration will have a part to play in how And So We Begin develops. I opened an Etsy shop earlier this year and started to tentatively sell some cards. I was quite surprised when people wanted to buy them. So my plan for the next few weeks is to restock the shop with Christmassy cards and prints and to see what happens...!
Another hobby I started this year to help me switch off is brush lettering. The old fashioned way, with a proper brush and pot of ink. One weekend when I had just finished a very busy event, I attended a lovely workshop hosted by Quill London. There were pastries and coffee and lovely tutors who showed us patiently how to use our brushes and ink. It not as easy as it looks! While the tutors produced beautiful, elegant lines, my hand writing looked like I hadn't written for twenty years. But with practice at home I started to find it very therapeutic and started to create little designs. I'm not sure how brush lettering will feature in And So We Begin's future but I hope it does.
Ah, my oldest and greatest love. I'm planning to re-read and edit my children's novel that has been shut in a drawer for six months. And I have an idea for another novel whose characters are starting to step out of the corners of my mind and on to scribbled notes in my notebooks. Another piece of wise advice from Elizabeth Gilbert is to make sure you "show up and get to work" so even if I find myself staring at a blank screen I'm going to start blocking out some time each day to write and hopefully it will show up too. It makes me think of this brilliant Peanuts cartoon : )
And then there's the sitcom script that I've been working on with my comedy writing partner in crime for, well, 'several years'... And the other novel idea... And the question of whether to self-publish or to pursue trying to find an agent... And the paintings I'd like to sell...
The question is, is it really possible to focus on everything at once and still give every idea full attention? How do you find focus if several ideas are all jumping up and down and shouting 'pick me'? Do you listen to the one that shouts the loudest when you wake up in the morning? How do you handle making sure you have a clear creative direction? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And in the meantime, I'm going to tuck into this cake and get back to brush lettering this rather long 'to do' list.