creative thinkers: jessica swift

bird lady print

Being part of the creative online community has helped me realize a better, more fulfilling way of life. And I’m constantly searching for new insight for both my own life & to share with you! So, I’ve decided to take a virtual seat next to some of the most successful artists, crafters, and creatives online and talk with them about what makes ’em tick. First up, a conversation with Jessica Swift – the artist formerly known as Jessica Gonacha.

While I’ve known of Jessica for quite awhile, this is the first time we’ve really “talked.” And I truly felt like I was speaking (well, typing) to a kindred spirit.

Jessica is a an illustrator, graphic designer, and surface designer. She sells her work retail, wholesale, by commission, and via license – her business truly explores the breadth of creative business available today. Below, you’ll read more about what Jessica has to say about creative living, intention, and the struggle with living a “perfect” life online – oh yeah, and a conversation about how proud we both are to be left-handed. For more on her business goals, click on over to my big thinking blog for the second half of the interview!

Tara: I loved your post on “intention” yesterday. Today mine is: I am willing to accept that I won’t get everything done today – and I will still be a success. What’s your intention for today?

Jessica: My intention for today is: I am willing to accept that things don’t have to be hard. I’m willing to accept that it’s ok to relax sometimes. Relaxing is hard for me sometimes!

Tara: I agree – why do we make it so hard on ourselves? Is it ambition? Perfectionism?

Jessica: I’m not sure why we make it so hard on ourselves… it must be ambition. I think it’s a bit of fear, too. And yes, perfectionism. I always fear that if I’m lazy, I’ll fail immediately. I’m being a bit dramatic, but that’s sort-of what it comes down to!

Tara: Fear that things may be easier than we think they are?

Jessica: Oooh, fear that things may be easier than we think they are — I’d never thought about that.

Tara: I like that. Some people think that success has to be hard. When really, if they’re using their passion to drive their work, it should come pretty easily.

Jessica: Yeah, I totally agree with that. Success SHOULDN’T be hard. IT should be natural for everyone! But it’s hard when you get involved in comparing yourself to others– that’s where I get tripped up sometimes.

Tara: Do you think that affects your creative direction? That you see what others do instead of relying on your own creative process?

Jessica: No, I don’t think it affects my creative direction– what I do think it affects is me just getting started on my own work. It stifles me a bit sometimes. Like “how can I do this work when someone out there is creating this or that AMAZING thing?” You know what I mean? I get defeated about my creation sometimes. Does that make sense? Like I’ll never live up to all the amazing stuff out there or something…

Tara: Yes. Definitely. Seeing what other people do – their success – is overwhelming. You see it all laid out in its entirety instead of finding your own simple path – from step a to step b.

Jessica: It’s totally overwhelming! And everything looks so perfect online– it’s easy to think that everyone else is so successful and don’t have any worries or challenges. Yes, it seems all laid out, with no path around how they got there.

Tara: Ah, yes. The land of perfection: the internet. Why do people struggle so much with showing imperfection online? You don’t have to answer that… but I wonder about it. I share a LOT online… but still have problems with that.

Jessica: I wonder about it, too — and it’s interesting actually– the times that I’ve shared struggles or things that aren’t quite “perfect”, that’s when I get the most response from other people online. I think people crave that vulnerability from people they admire! It shows that we’re real people with real feelings, not just robots!

Ah… the representation of perfection. So many of our blogs & Twitter streams rely on it. Friends, if Jessica & I aren’t living “perfect” lives characterized by moody Holga photography & vintage shoes, nobody really is. But we choose to see our lives beautifully.

And in that beauty – no matter how marred – there is perfection.

Tara: On the topic of struggle, I read your interview on Make Under My Life and loved the section on saying “yes” to life and ignoring negative thoughts. I think flipping negativity on its head takes real creativity! Do you have any other suggestions for getting past drama & negativity to focus on living a positive, confident life?

Jessica: Oooh, flipping negativity over! Well, one of the big things for me is the drama/procrastination that comes with just getting started. I can waste countless hours just doing NOTHING, meaning to start a project but not quite getting there. A lot of negativity and guilt is involved with that. So the times where I can just sit down and START something, I can bypass that negativity and get into the feel-good part of creating.

I really like the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I think the same can apply to negativity. “Feel the negativity and do it anyway.” I find that if I can just push through it, I can transform it.

Tara: How do you make time – or clear the creative air – to just START something??

Jessica: One thing that works for me is going on a loooong walk outdoors! How do I make the time to just start something….. this is something I struggle with. A lot if has to do with turning off my email. Email is a time suck for me, and I can check it incessantly and get nothing at all done. If I can consciously turn it off and know WHY I’m turning it off, it gives me more space to do something else.

Jessica: I also think morning intentions (back to that again) really help — it helps me remember WHY I’m doing what I’m doing.

Tara: Yes, your post on intentions really stuck with me, granted it’s only been 24 hours! But I think that could be a very powerful thing for me. Do you have a morning routine for setting the stage for creativity to enter your life?

Jessica: I definitely want to make intentions more a part of my daily routine. As for a morning routine… I ease into the day by eating breakfast, checking my email, and reading a few blogs. Then once that’s done, I just know that it’s time to work. I consult my to-do list for the day (which I usually have started the day before), and start with whatever interests me the most at the moment. Usually that’s how it goes– sometimes I have projects that need to be addressed first, so there’s no choice to it. :) I’d like to change my routine a bit, though, and allow for more spontaneity… I want to start walking in the mornings and see what that does for my creativity! A lot if my creativity comes from just getting started working, too, so if I can just start, things start flowing.

Getting started. Finding that mind frame, that point of focus where opportunity turns into creativity can be quite elusive. I have Jessica has inspired you to try a few new ways of getting down with your creative self and just STARTING. Open your mind and explore what’s there – you’ll be living outside-the-box in no time!

For more of my discussion with Jessica – her views on thinking big with her small business, click over to my other blog!

P.S. Here’s the best part of our conversation.

Tara: I notice you’re left-handed. How’s that working out for you? I love being left-handed. It’s a source of deep pride!
Jessica: OMG, you’re left-handed? It’s completely a source of deep pride for me, too! I love it more than I can even express.
Tara: Yes! Awesome!
Jessica: I love left-handed people!
Tara: Me too!
Jessica: Although I’m not prejudice against right-handed people, of course.
Tara: Frankly, I can’t believe I married a right-handed person. But it’s all good because it looks like Lola is left-handed already.
Jessica: hee hee
Tara: LOL – It’s okay if you are!
Jessica: Ahhhh, I married a righty, too. How did this happen?

That we will never know…

30 thoughts on “creative thinkers: jessica swift

  1. Love the interview! Thanks Tara and Jessica. I would like to say that I am also a lefty. Here’s to right brained folks with irrepressible creativity.

    BUt that fear thing is interesting. I know I feel that too. Sometimes I think that I have connected self worth to productivity. It’s a step up from being a perfectionist, but feeling like I’m not good enough unless I am making something or doing something “productive” is not really where I want to be.

  2. Love the interview! Thanks Tara and Jessica. I would like to say that I am also a lefty. Here’s to right brained folks with irrepressible creativity.

    BUt that fear thing is interesting. I know I feel that too. Sometimes I think that I have connected self worth to productivity. It’s a step up from being a perfectionist, but feeling like I’m not good enough unless I am making something or doing something “productive” is not really where I want to be.

    1. lefties unite! productivity doesn’t measure our success (thank god!) so why should it measure our self-worth? i hear where you’re coming from but i think working towards your own goals is the only way to get past it!

  3. I love Jessica’s work and I love that this interview was not really an interview but more of a dialogue, a conversation. It made it much more fun to read that way.

    And that part about the left-handedness was so sweet! Man, now I want to be left-handed, too!

    1. thanks, maryam! that’s exactly what we were going for.

      and yes, being left-handed is a desirable characteristic 😉

  4. Your post could not have come at a better time for me. I am fighting both procrastination and the “how can I do this work when someone out there is creating this or that AMAZING thing”. With that, I will head to yoga, try to center my intentions and get to work. Thanks for a great post.

    PS. I love the format of the casual discussion.

  5. Thank you, Tara, for such a terrific interview! I also love the casual dialogue format– it was so fun. And thank you all for your comments!

    Rowena: it makes me so happy to know that you’re left-handed, too! And I can completely relate to the self-worth= productivity piece. YES. I am that way, too, and I don’t like it either.

    Maryam: thank you! I am so in love with what you do, and I’m so happy you like my work! (On another note, I hear my good friend Caroline Douglas is doing some work for Peacock Pavilions… she’s my favorite person ever!)

    Diane: yes, I know the feeling well. Heading to yoga is a TERRIFIC idea to work through it. I’ll take that advice as well– yoga is like a magic potion. :)

  6. What a great interview by an inspired artist. (as well as inspiring). I appreciate reading the honesty and reality for someone who is so gifted. The line about vulnerability from people you admire is hitting home with this interview and I for one appreciate Tara’s ability to be real! Thank you!

    1. you’re welcome! i think it’s great to have role models & mentors in your business or in life. but in the end, it’s YOU that has to live up to your ideals & goals. so just get started already!

      thanks for stopping by.

  7. Love Jess!!!! So happy to see her here today!

    Super interviews gals! Enjoyed it much so! Tara, I can totally relate with you on the mama guilt, its a tough thing but like you, my kids have been a huge inspiration for me… to do better. :)

    1. amanda, i’m looking to do a whole series (well, another free ezine like i did with “kick the door door”) on how we DON’T all do it all – so mommy guilt be damned! i’ll be sure to let you know the deets!

  8. Love this interview!!! I feel you and Jessica hit so many nails on the head – it just resonated so much with me! This sums up so much for me “Like I’ll never live up to all the amazing stuff out there or something…” I have this mental block ALL the time. Some days I love seeing all the amazing things people are doing, it is unbelievably inspiring and other days I am totally overwhelmed and feel I’ll never match up. It’s all about perception I guess. Lovely interview. Thanks!

    1. kristen, i really really don’t want you to have a mental block. like jess said, you have to get yourself to a place where you just start. the first thing you create might be atrocious. but the next will be better, and so on…

      good luck!

  9. I really love the comments about success not having to be hard. I think we all tend to over complicate things sometimes, we just have to let our guards down and let good, positive, (& easy) things come in.

    1. right on, courtney. i think if you stay true to what you truly love & what you’re truly good at, success is easy. work is easy. you might have to work hard – but it won’t feel like work!

  10. Great interview – I have bought Jessica’s stuff and faved a lot on Flickr. :) As a lefty though, I must say the unabashed lefty-love was the best part. 😉

  11. Thanks for this fun & inspiring interview, Jessica & Tara! my fave part:
    “if Jessica & I aren’t living “perfect” lives characterized by moody Holga photography & vintage shoes, nobody really is.”
    thank you for reminding me of that fact! i really get caught up in trying to be perfectly design-y a lot of times, and then not doing things because i feel they won’t measure up. so silly! : )

  12. Lefties unite! YEAH. And on your comment, Tara, about the first thing you make perhaps being atrocious, it reminds me of something a professor told me once in college that has stuck with me to this day. He said “in order to make the good work, you have to allow room for the bad work.” I always remember that when I make something that just isn’t working. It’s all part of the process. And it’s part of the process for everybody!!

  13. Great interview!
    I really like what Jessica had to say about fear and negativity. I struggle with letting fear and negativity stifle my creativity. I just need to remember to do it anyway and push through it! It really is the best way to deal with these emotions and use them for good!
    Thank You!

  14. Hey! I’m a creative and I’m a rightie *pouts* Great interview. I really like the idea of intentions. I try to practice something of the sort, but phone calls, emails, real life often get in the way. “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” has long been a practice of mine, ever since I read the book by Susan Jeffers. But I like Jess’ take on it “Feel the Negativity . . .” that’s brilliant!

  15. Great interview, I also liked the casual, conversational style!

    And it’s so funny, my four year old daughter is totally left-handed – and we don’t know where she got it – we’re both righties :) But she is sooo creative, as soon as she wakes up in the morning, she wants to draw a picture – even before breakfast. It makes us wonder, maybe lefties are the most creative of all!

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