You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging lately. It’s not that I haven’t been trying. It’s not that I’ve had nothing to say. It’s finally time for me to give in and officially go on hiatus. It’s been long enough thinking that I’m not. I’m going to take some time to make memories with my son (!).
Elliot Blayne Greyvenstein. My days have even less control over them than when I was pregnant. They are very covered in milk, and trying to take photos with the big camera at all the milk-free opportunities.
He’s one month old and he’s rocking our lives.
All round cool guy, Paul Jarvis, wrote a State of the Union for his most recent Sunday Dispatches, and invited the reader to do the same, so here I am. I’m encouraging you to do the same too. It was great to have a look at how far I came this year, even with half of it spent as a pukey, pregnant mess. So let’s have a look.
WHAT WENT WELL LAST YEAR
I’m putting this down as a success even though it’s the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’m at 35 weeks now, and trying to decide if this mark on my hoodie is this morning’s puke or toothpaste. I’ve become a walking advert for abstinence, yet this is still somehow the most magical thing that’s ever happened. I mean, I even like his creepy 3D scan pictures.
People keep telling me how I’m going to love this little boy more than I love Griffin, which I just cannot imagine, so I’m excited to meet him. And also to stop the uncontrollable puking.
Besides growing a human inside of me, I feel like the rest of my personal life has just leveled up in ways I could never have expected.
Oh my heart beats for Get Messy and the artists making things through it. 2016 is the year that Get Messy became an actual business instead of just something Lauren and I do on the side. We were interviewed on a podcast and featured in a magazine. Yay. Every single year we work really hard to make the community and the experience even better and 2017 is the biggest jump yet. You’re gonna want to be a part of it.
This year I was involved with nine courses and it’s the easiest way for me to find flow in work. I launched Photo Organisation 101, which I didn’t market and didn’t do too well sales-wise even though it’s been one of the most requested classes and even though I’m in love with the class. But you know how sometimes you just need to get something off your heart? And there’s always another day to market it.
Through Studio Calico, I created an Art Journal Mini Book class and having a physical kit, and seeing people making amazing things rocked my heart. It was such an honour to pair up with them in my favourite class series ever. I also contributed to a few of their courses (woo).
I was meant to launch The Minimalist Art Journal in July, but pregnancy made it wait until December and the response to that has been awesome! I loved having guest teachers for that and the women I chose totally rocked it. I think I like pairing up for classes more than working solo, but only when the pairings are as organised as I am. This launch did super well even though it felt really rushed to me. I’m not good at marketing (even with a degree in it), and I’m not good at trying to convince people to buy, but I must have been able to somehow communicate how great the content was. In the end, the course’s message was something really important to me (and articulated by T!): express with less.
I ran my first “special” for Level Up, which brought in a group of new students that I am SO excited about. This class still has my entire heart. This year I’m going to do a content update, and increase the price. There’s something to be said about slow growth.
A really great example of a magical group is the trio involved in launching Vanessa’s Totems class through Get Messy. V did the art and the teaching (duh), Lauren did the editing, and I did the tech. We are each so very good at our bits and I feel like we created something way better than the sum of it’s parts. Sales wise it did amazingly, and even better is seeing the art the students are making from it, and how it’s changed their art lives. V’s already working on her 2018 class and I’m thrilled to be a part of it again.
Whaaaaaat. Lauren and I launched a podcast, and I’m still pretty much in awe of it and the guests that we interviewed. If you’re feeling stuck, try a new thing. I’ve learned so much about sound. Mainly that it’s the most difficult thing to be good at.
This was my first year not doing Project Life and I don’t regret it at all. I created a pregnancy album and a December Daily and that was enough.
I also finished the year strong for my Creative Teams, and it’s really interesting creating just for myself.
People and places
This year I met three special online friends – Vanessa, Catherine, and Jennifer and pretty much died of the inspiration watching them art IRL. I also made a bunch of new German friends. I saw internet/business bestie, Lauren, in Budapest. I saw my favourite Dutchies. Twice. I also had my uni roomie stay with us for almost a month. I took a magical trip to Berlin with Fe, and another one that T surprised me with for my birthday. I saw Paris again. We flew to South Africa and I saw my best friend get married. T went to the USA. My family came here for Christmas. My mastermind group bought me a new lens for my camera when my only one broke. Friends from around the world posted stuff to us for Baby E.
People have been really good this year.
WHAT DIDN’T GO WELL LAST YEAR
Pregnancy has been the most insane lesson in losing control. I had no idea that it would affect me this much. Almost six months have been completely written off to entire days spent lying in bed with a bucket. The silver lining, though, is it got me to see that 1. life goes on and there isn’t a guy who reprimands you for unanswered emails, 2. being organised, setting up processes and working in advance are essential to solopreneur peace of mind, and 3. Lauren and T are heaven sent – one picked up on all business work, and one picked up on all housework.
I made an exceptional amount of art at the beginning of the year. I loved what I was making. Then my pages became black and raw as I worked through issues falling pregnant. And then I became sick and unable to create anything at all. I still haven’t been able to get quite back into the swing of things, and it feels as though a piece of me is missing.
T started arting, though. And it’s been the most amazing thing to watch.
I’ve totally neglected it as I struggled with what the internet has been teaching and what I’ve known to be true. I’ve also been trying to make it worthwhile to readers, which has meant that I’ve been publishing nothing. I had guests on which was new, and came at the perfect pregnancy time, and they were an absolute win.
To turn around my growth from my blog, I gave it a mini makeover. I also spent a lot of time thinking about what I want it to be – screw what the internet “experts” say. So that will come this year.
STATE OF THINGS TO COME
This year, my focus is on five things:
- A baby to turn our family initials into ETC.
- Level as my word for the year – I like that it can be interpreted in a few ways. As a position on quality (reaching a certain level), improvement (up leveling), and the way that’s speaking to me the most right now – an even surface. Keeping the status quo (or finding it again after Baby E). Relaxing a bit.
- Get Messy leveling up in a serious way. Make sure you’re signed up for the mailing list
- Fine tuning and improving things already set up. Trying not to start anything too new, except…
- New classes. Get Messy has an awesome 2017 class line up. I am also open to pairing up with someone new. If you want to launch a class, but have no idea how and are struggling with the technology and branding, I’d love to work together. I’m not putting a sales page together, but if this speaks to you, send me an email. I have space for three people and if you’ve read through this entire email, you’re probably my kind of person.
So that’s my year and a brief look into 2017. What did your last year look like? What do you think your 2017 is going to look like? How did you grow? What did your art look like?
Hello lovely reader
I haven’t been active on the blog for a very long time. When I started my amazing guest posts, the idea was to post on a Monday and Wednesday with my own stuff still. As it turned out, that didn’t happen, and my brilliant guests kept this little piece of the internet afloat.
There’s a really great reason for my silence, though…
That’s a blurry, weird picture of my insides! And there is something inside of them! T and I are obviously pretty stoked.
Our very favourite creation will be finished around 18 February 2017.
If you’re thinking that this still doesn’t explain the almost radio silence on the blog, and the newsletter, leaving Snapchat and almost leaving Instagram, completely neglecting my emails, moving the podcast launch date, and my favourite new course launch date, then you’ve either never been pregnant or are one of the 98% of really lucky pregnant ladies who didn’t experience hyperemesis gravidarum.
Hyperemesis SUCKS. I was completely unprepared for actually falling pregnant (we were trying but there’s only one functional ovary) and even more so, for being literally knocked off my feet during the first trimester. You guys. For eight weeks I was in bed every single day from waking up to sleeping to waking to sleeping. For another two weeks, give or take a few glorious days, I was able to move around between vomiting. I lost 12kg. It was tough. My brain was miraculously okay, but it was worse than a depression. Life was kak. At week six, I couldn’t imagine getting through another week, but somehow here I am at 14 weeks + a few days and I got through all of it.
I didn’t make one thing. I didn’t do one piece of work. I mostly hated my email pile up and somehow managed to respond “too sick to reply, I will when I’m better” and add it to a folder. I moved two launch dates. This is not like me. I am a hustler. It was really tough to revert to doing nothing and having no control over it. Oh man, it’s been tough to learn this utter loss of control. No doubt it’s going to help when baby is here and again, I’m going to have to give it all up again.
And you know what? It’s all worth it. It’s all okay. A lovely woman on Instagram gave me my motto, “some days all I can do is continue creating a human and that’s okay“.
I started off living a passive life, then I turned it into a life of Getting Shizz Done. When I went back to passive for reasons outside of my control, I thought it would be a smashmortion. I thought I would never be myself again. I thought, “that’s it. I’m a mom now and my life is no longer my own. My body is no longer even my own”. But you know what? This isn’t true. It’s been four days since I reached 14 weeks, and those four days have included a blurred-vision-nausea-inducing migraine, and one morning puke, and they’ve still been fantastic. I worked from wake up to sleep (with so many more breaks than I’ve needed before) and I managed to catch up on everything that needed to be caught up on. Apparently miracles do happen to those who hustle.
So this might be some weird leveled-up version of myself that I’m meeting. One who actually has constraints and works through them. One who also gives herself time to rest when she needs it, and even when she really doesn’t want to. One who realises the value of rest over productivity. It’s amazing what your body can go through when it doesn’t have a choice.
I’m not sure what the future is going to hold (besides a little Greyby), but I’m pretty excited to get there.
Before I share what’s happening in the other parts of my life, I want to add a little disclaimer since I’m not as eloquent as those who don’t need disclaimers: I am very happy to be pregnant. I am very unhappy to have had to go through hyperemesis and wish more women spoke about their experience with it. I’m very happy to be able to work from home. I’m unhappy to have had things put on hold. I’m happy to have realised that life goes on even when the very worst work thing you can imagine happens. Work goes on. Some days all I can do is continue creating a human and that’s okay.
Onto the other updates!
Beyond thrilled to have started creating again. My main project is my Pregnancy Album, which I cannot wait to share with you! Scrapbooking and Project Life style documenting is the easiest way for me to get back into things, and having kits like the Gossamer Blue one take all the thinking out of it and frees brain space to just create.
I started a mini book club thats going to start 1 September, where we’ll go through The Artist’s Way. I’m excited to put some jumper cables back on my creativity with this book and with a dedicated community. Internet people are awesome.
Read guest posts
I have come back completely re-energised for the blog, with so many topics to chat about. Guest interviews are coming up next week and you’re going to LOVE these artists as much as I do. I just know it.
Join the free Introduction to Art Journaling course
Get Messy is still rocking it. It’s the one thing that didn’t slow down at all during my three month break. Yay for planning ahead, and for an absolutely amazing team and community. We’re currently working on 2017 and it’s going to be even more amazing. I’m constantly amazed at that “little” community.
View the resources
Something that I had been working on just before I fell pregnant and off the face of the internet was my Resources page. I am so often asked about certain tools I use and things that I recommend. It’s definitely going to be something that will grow over time, but I reckon that there is more than enough for anyone wanting to get started or to elevate her creativity. I have a few affiliate links in there (yay me) for the tools and programs that I am constantly recommending and absolutely adore. People always say that about affiliate links, but unless I use something on a daily or weekly basis, it won’t be affiliated.
How She Creates – the podcast
Listen to the podcast
My sweet podcast had to move her launch date because of the fact that I couldn’t interview guests without puking. The new launch date is 10.10.2016, and be sure to sign up on that page to be notified when it launches. I’ve also organised the most incredibly presents from the guests that will come with the episodes directly to subscribers. If you’re not into subscribing to things, that’s totally fine too – just keep an eye out on my Instagram. That’s just as great, although very presentless.
During September I’ll do the interviews. I have the blog posts (over at that site) set up and ready. The first season is completely planned (with room for this new thing I discovered called “life obstacles”), and I have been jumping around the walls about the guests. Each episode is focused on a certain type of creating and has two or three guests that are pretty amazing at it, and we have a digital coffee chat. I can promise you that you will end each episode feeling crazily inspired, having advice to be able to start, and knowing what to do to start or elevate your creating in that way.
This podcast has been a long time coming and I’m almost excited for its birth as for my own human baby’s birth.
Learn something at Caylee Grey Courses
The Minimalist Art Journal is a course that I’ve always wanted to write. It was meant to launch in July, but that did not happen. It’s kind of difficult to video tape yourself making things when your hands are shaking and your mouth is puking :) So I’m moving the launch date. To when? I’m not sure yet, but I’ve got the outline done, and now I just need to get filming. If you’d like to know when that launches, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.
Level Up is still going strong and I am still in love with the course. I am going to have a relaunch for it, and then close it completely so that I am able to focus entirely on the students. So either be sure to join now, or sign up for the newsletter to stay updated about when your last chance will be.
And I feel like that’s it for now. It’s a huge update!
What are you currently working on?
Howdy! My name is Jenna, and I hail from the Lone Star State in the US of A. I am a writer, editor, and creator. I also live with mental illness which is what I am here to talk about today – more specifically, the principles I use to maintain my creativity and productivity during times when my inner demons threaten to overwhelm me.
Those Pesky Inner Demons
After a month of successful productivity as indicated by my todoist Karma points, the boxes of junk ready to be transported from tidying up my office, a completed art journal, and several completed articles, a recent Monday morning completely threw me off my productivity game.
It began with waking up, overwhelmed with inner resistance and dread of the sort I had not experienced in a very long time. At first, I could not understand where this was coming from. I had been on a roll, even being careful not to overdo it (because it finally got through my thick skull that downtime actually improved my overall creative thinking and output). I realized, after over an hour of being unable to get out of bed, that I had missed several days of taking my antidepressant.
This wasn’t an intentional mishap on my part. I had recently been making some adjustments to my morning routine which impacted my medication routine. But, the mistake I had made was getting smug about my productivity – thinking that my recent streak was all attributable to sheer willpower.
One of the hardest things about living with a mental illness is that willpower and choice isn’t all black and white, do or do not. Sometimes all those funky chemicals in your head get out of sync. They start screaming at you and drown out everything else – all the positive, all the motivation, all the faith. You might be aware that this is happening, but you feel powerless against it, and that only makes you angrier and even more despondent: Why can’t you control it? Why can’t you control anything?
While I may have an official diagnosis from an officialized person, these sorts of feelings are by no means limited to those of us with official diagnoses from officialized persons. In fact, that diagnosis doesn’t really matter because we all have our own demons. What does matter is how we deal with our demons so we can continue to live the creative life we seek.
“What does matter is how we deal with our demons so we can continue to live the creative life we seek.“
3 Principles I Use for Facing My Demons
I am regularly reading the stories of other artists and creators, looking for commonalities and new ideas. Eventually, these stories become a part of my own creative process as I play with and adapt them to my own circumstances and personality. The following three principles are a result of that and have been integral to dealing with my own inner demons: those ones that tell me I am not good enough, that I am just a lazy git, that it’s all just too hard. These principles are an amalgamation from other artists and creators: the shoulders of giants on which I stand in order to stare those demons down.
1. Doing It For Myself
Creating is an amazing act, however humble or grand, but as a self-proclaimed creator, I often tend to aim closer to the grand side of things than the humble side. What this means is that I end up putting far too much pressure on myself and, consequently, collapsing under the weight of my own great expectations. I imagine into being this grand audience of esteemed peers and readers that in no way exist in any approximation of reality. It’s all just in my overly ambitious head where my inner demons and own worst critics lurk, just looking for a way in. This is where doing it for myself comes in.
Think of it like this – we are already creating for ourselves because creating makes us happier than any other kind of work. That’s not selfish or wrong, it’s actually really brave. You are brave. I am writing this article because I often don’t know what I think until I write it. Putting it out there in the world and helping other creatives is just a happy bonus, and a reminder to myself to be brave, just like you.
“I often don’t know what I think until I write it.“
One of my favorite examples of doing it for yourself is a collection of illustrations by Toby Allen. Toby Allen is an artist who happens to have an anxiety disorder. One day he decided to draw his mental illness as a monster. This eventually became a collection of monsters representing a range of mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, social anxiety, avoidant personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, paranoia, and dissociative identity disorder.
In turn, Allen’s work inspired fiber artist Emily Monaghan to transform Allen’s 2D illustrations into 3D works of art. She ran a successful Kickstarter to launch a limited edition collection of mental illness plushies based on Allen’s art, and she’s even added a pattern to Ravelry. Allen’s creations inspired another creator – that’s how doing things for ourselves end up doing things for others, and both creative endeavors provide comfort to a huge population of people who really need it.
2. Stepping Away from the Internet
The internet is often where I find stories to help me better my own creative process or to spark ideas and inspiration (see the above example, after all). It is also where I wind up mindlessly clicking away at the “if you like this article, read this one” until the memory on my desktop is maxed out. Or I keep arranging and rearranging my Evernote, the place where all my creative ideas and plans are stored due to the misguided belief that organizing for creative ideas will result in actual creativity. Eventually, I end up like this adorable sea otter named Nellie, arranging her cups over and over again…except not nearly as cute.
Principle number two: you have to make the internet work for you, not you for the internet.
“You have to make the internet work for you, not you for the internet.”
Recently, I went on a technology detox that was inspired by Caylee’s article “Produce More, Consume Less.” By doing on a technology detox, I took ideas and strategies from a fellow creator and made them work for me. For example, one of the first things I did was quit Facebook. While Facebook can be a great source of community for some people, for me it’s a useless timesuck that encourages me to needlessly compare myself with other people who my inner demons convince me are getting the whole creative life thing more right than me. Clicking the “deactivate my Facebook account” button felt like removing a physical weight off my chest. This then set in motion a series of further actions for stepping away from the internet more often.
Once I step away from the internet, I make it a point to reward myself with something that engages my body. It might be as simple as propping my feet up on my desk and leaning back in my chair. It might be pouring myself a glass of wine and sitting on my super comfy sofa with a physical book, immersing myself in the texture of the pages and the smells emanating from my wine glass. Other times, I might just doodle in my journal with my favorite pens, the sound of pen on paper providing an incredible sense of satisfaction.
3. Making Spiritual Habits
A part of being creative is being in my head a lot, processing things that inspire me in order to transform them into useful and/or beautiful creations. Being in my head like this, while crucial to my process, has its consequences because my head is the same space where those inner demons lurk. Stepping away from the internet and engaging with my body is one way of transitioning from this headspace, but I often have to take a step farther. I have to establish a spiritual habit.
The importance of spiritual habits finally dawned on me during my grandmother’s funeral last year. A devout Catholic, she had arranged for a traditional Catholic funeral. While I had occasionally attended mass with her as a child, it was not a regular activity for me. During the funeral, my father, who grew up Baptist, and I fumbled our way through the hymns and genuflections, while my mother, who had not attended a single Catholic event in several decades, proceeded with complete ease as the recesses of her memories took over. The spiritual ritual had become a habit for her because she had learned them at a young age and repeated them over and over again. As someone whose spiritual perspectives can best be described as a bunch of gobbledy goop glued together with gumption, in that moment, I finally understood the significance of spiritual ritual to moments like these.
Dealing with inner demons is no different. I need spiritual habits to work through the trauma, something to fall back on when the inner demons are telling me that I am no good.
“I need spiritual habits to work through the trauma, something to fall back on when the inner demons are telling me that I am no good.“
This principle is the hardest for me because of some negative experiences with institutionalized religion from my childhood, but I am learning to find what works for me. I am also learning how to move beyond what works for me in order to learn about and even participate in rituals that have been providing people comfort in times of trauma for a very long time. I have found solace in Catholic rituals that honor my grandmother, and I have found revelation in rituals far beyond my comfort zone. Being comforted by these rituals myself reminds me that I am not alone – I am not the first to deal with mental illness and inner demons, nor will I be the last. I encourage you to find your own rituals that can become spiritual habits for you. More so than the other principles, this one is the most individual and will only come with a willingness to learn and to practice. But remember, a ritual is a creative act and you are a creator. You have it in you already.
“A ritual is a creative act and you are a creator. You have it in you already.“
As these are suggestions based on my own experience and we are all standing on the shoulders of giants, I would love to hear how you deal with some of your inner demons. I am still new to this community, but have continually found inspiration here. Please share some of your own principles and strategies in the comments section. We are always stronger as a community.
Jenna is a writer, editor, and creator. She is arguably over-educated and most certainly uncomfortably honest.
Say hello on Twitter (and tell her Caylee says hi!)
I’m absolutely thrilled to introduce Guest Post Friday. At the beginning of the month I invited you to apply to guest post on the blog and I’ve received ah-mazing responses. My body became tired from falling off my seat so many times. The quality of these posts is high. Crazy high. I kind of want to turn this blog into a guest post only blog based on these posts.
I will still be blogging. Mondays and Wednesdays are my days. All the guest posts are along what you’ve come to know from this blog (creativity and productivity), but have a different perspective with a lot of knowledge in the author’s expertise. You’re going to love it too.
From next week Friday, the guest posts will go live onto the blog at 10am Berlin time. I can’t wait to introduce (or reintroduce) these ladies to you and share all of their goodness with you. You should get excited too.
PS: if you missed the Guest Post Applications and you’d like to stay up to date, you can sign up for The Creative Push.
Man oh man. Berlin. It has my heart. I took my Berlin City Notebook and UniPine Fine Line (0.05) with, and spent coffee shop time doodling and journaling away. At night I’d add ephemera found from the day. I traveled there with Fe, a fellow documenter, who totally understood and wrote in her Project Life cards as I made marks in my journal. Not that T doesn’t understand. He’s actually pretty brilliant and doesn’t mind as long as I keep occassional conversation (which I totally can, yay me).
This was a life view changing trip for me, and this tiny little notebook is really special. You can see bits of the Gossamer Blue March kit in it too.
I am the worst sketcher, but I still like my eggs benedict image.
Berlin and it’s street art. Even it’s advertising spam is gorgeous to me. I took that Ram Tam Tam right off the street pole.
I mean. That paper. All found pieces.
And all of this paper found in one shop.
The back of the Moleskine City Notebooks are loads of fun. They are a DIY travel guide and I love filling those out as we go.
So that’s what it looks like before touching it at home. I always have grand plans of completing it when I have all my supplies and my studio, but I quite like it as is. All of this was done while in Berlin itself. It’s nothing crazy, there are no watercolour cityscapes, but it’s mine. And it feels exactly like how I felt when I was there. Now that’s a little bit of magic.