A few years ago I worked on a project that I was totally and completely in love with. A series of cards that I also envisioned as a boxed set and further saw as journals. I dove into the project open-hearted and fully excited. I had an art director at a large stationery publisher who was interested, and I spent a few months fully engaged, totally jazzed and working hard.
The project went for design review, and was rejected.
I spent a bit of time totally disappointed and ended up putting the project aside, thinking, “Huh, well that didn’t work out.” I put all my sketches and finished mock ups in a box and moved along to other things.
Earlier this year, I found the box of sketches and mock ups and got totally excited all over again. I stopped and listened to how I felt. I still wanted to make these cards, that desire hadn’t gone away, and maybe, just maybe, that said more than the initial rejection of the work. I made some changes to the original project and decided to release the cards in my Etsy shop. The format has totally been transformed but the idea is still there – a series of astrology birthday cards (you can find them here) and they are starting to sell. What gives me the most pleasure is the e-mails I have received from people telling me things like: wow, this is just what I’ve wanted to find in a birthday card!
So the thing that I got to thinking about is this:
Leaving aside prevailing trends and the overall market, what is it that makes an idea fly?
Is it enthusiasm and perseverance? If the idea is a physical product, is it about unveiling the idea and then making changes as needed to fit the current market? Is there an aspect of kismet involved? Or is it all of the above, and probably more?
I have found that holding onto a vision — for a project, a collaboration, anything really — can be tricky. There is the need to stand fully behind it, feet planted, sleeves rolled up and an excitement about getting to work, and at the same time to hold the vision loosely in my hands, to see what it wants to become, to see where it wants to go.
I believe that a vision, or an idea, doesn’t want to be strangled, or pigeon-holed; it wants to fly.
I think that anyone who has had a vision for something would say that their vision takes on a life of its own, and being able to allow it to lead you a bit, is just as important as the initial idea. Much of this listening to a vision is also linked to being able to hear your own inner voice. Being able to get in touch with your own self, and listen to the wisdom that resides there. The key for me is to step away from the opinions and the feedback, away from looking at what other people are doing, away from what is trending, and what is popular, and listen to what excites me. Listen to what makes me feel positive and energised.
So here is the current question that I put out to a group of artists and entrepreneurs:
Do you have a product that you created and love, but it’s not moving; or a service that you offer that no one is taking you up on; a partnership that is feeling stagnant, or an area of your business that you are just not reaping any rewards from? How do you know if it’s time to let something go? How do you know if it’s time to cut bait and move on, or if it’s time to be patient and keep working?
We are all bound to hit a figurative wall every now and then. There are too many obstacles to overcome to complete a project that it seems impossible. You begin to dread working on something that you’d normally love. When this happens to me, I take a break. I put it away for a few days, both physically and mentally. If it was something I really care about, I find myself filled with desire to get back to that project. If I still experience that dread or even indifference, I typically let that go because my heart wasn’t in it to start with.
Christen Olivarez is a writer/editor/lover of life.
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A simple truth about me: sewing and fabric make me very very happy. When I began sewing again after a 20 year break, people started asking me to sell the bags and aprons I was creating. I was so delighted by their requests (and it meant playing with more fabric!), so suddenly there were many assembly lines of created items that found there way to my Etsy shop and some in-person shows. With each weekend spent creating the same items on repeat that I was “convinced” would sell at a particular upcoming show (items that might not have been creations I would have made for myself), my love of sewing turned into a part-time job I wasn’t sure I wanted.
Finally, after just breaking even at a big show, I decided to stop the assembly lines and participating in shows for a while. I spent some time away from sewing and began focusing on other aspects of my business. As those aspects began to thrive, I turned to sewing when I wanted to just have fun in my studio. I now believe that the reason I didn’t have success at a few shows in the past was partly because the audience could sense that the joy wasn’t there for me. Now, I take my own “joy temperature” when in the midst of a project and I make adjustments when I sense joy isn’t one of my guides.
Liz Lamoreux is a creator, a teacher, a writer.
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About ten years ago, I had a flash of inspiration to create live paintings at weddings, paintings that are inspired by the special moments and colors of each unique wedding. I mulled the idea over for awhile, and eventually “practiced” at one of my close friend’s weddings. They loved it, and through word of mouth, I did about five more wedding paintings over the course of several years.
Over the past couple years, I’ve had some inquiries, but no takers on the wedding paintings. I’ve realized that as much as I enjoy creating these live paintings, it’s actually a lot of work and a lot of pressure! Perhaps my heart is not totally in it, and this is why the business has slowed down? It’s so important to stay present to where your passion truly lies and remember that this is an ever-evolving process.
Flora Bowley is an internationally celebrated painter, teacher, and inspirationalist, and is currently writing a book entitled, “Brave Intuitive Painting: Let Go. Be Bold. Unfold.”
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I think that a person should only really let something go if they feel dispassionate about it themselves or if it no longer makes them happy. If the product/service/business pursuit is still filling you up with joy and excitement and love, why ditch it? I have faith that potential clients and consumers will eventually pick up on the fact that you’re stoked and then become stoked themselves. So it’s really a question of whether or not what you’re pursuing is good for YOU, if that makes sense.
For example: I created a series of small paintings a few years ago that no one seemed to like as much as I did. But they made me really happy to create, so I kept going with them. Not even a year later, a few of those paintings were recognized in Communication Arts magazine when they did a feature on my work. In fact, the story idea stemmed from one of those paintings!
Penelope Dullaghan is a former art-director turned award-winning freelance illustrator who chronicles her artistic development at her website, Penelope Illustration.
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How do you know? I think you have to make space for knowing. A few months ago I started feeling unsatisfied with a project that’s taken up a lot of my time without a lot of success. At first I wanted to either lean hard into the project, knowing I hadn’t given it my complete all, or just stop, drop, and go after something different. In the end, after some thought and discussion, I went for a different and new-to-me approach: taking a break, a hiatus, without doing anything rash.
That “middle ground” is not, as I’d feared, waffle-y or indecisive at all—it’s actually rich and powerful, a space for me to just be creative without a goal, and attend to other aspects of my life that have been a little neglected. I’ve discovered more in this space than I would have by either keeping going or stopping, including huge inspiration and clarity on said project. Even with that clarity, I’m still sticking with the timeline I’d created for my break instead of rushing back to work, because I don’t know what else I might discover in this process—and I’m loving it on its own.
Maeg Yosef is an artist, illustrator, writer, wife, and mama living and loving in Western Massachusetts.
So, what is exciting you? What is calling to you? Is there a project that you gave up on because of feedback you received, but it’s still near and dear to your heart? What are you being called to create that might not be on a trend cusp so you are hesitating? Perhaps it’s time to stand up (shoulders back) and begin that something, or perhaps it’s time to take a break and listen to your own heart. Whichever is the case, we’d love to hear your stories.