Finding My Work

Many months ago I wrote down some hopes and plans on my chalkboard wall. Almost all have been realized, even if only in small ways.

We get to define our own success. This is not a new idea, but it’s one I like to remind myself of often. When I think about the intersection of my passions and my talents, these are the things that come to mind:

* I am a teacher by nature. I like to share and inspire.

* I like to make things, and I’m creative.

* I am a writer, in that I process my own thoughts best through words.

* I am passionate about inspiring confidence in one’s own creativity and artistic talents, whatever they are.

* Like Miss Rumphius, I hope to add a bit of beauty to the world.

When I think about this list, the three directions in which I’ve been headed seem intertwined. I am working towards offering classes, selling my creations, and taking the Art Together series further. This is my work as I’ve (finally!) defined it. Now, what about success?

I have items for sale in a local store. I consider that a success (although I haven’t sold any yet). But I’m also working towards opening an Etsy store, held up at the moment by the need to get the RI sales tax license squared away, and being right at the end of one fiscal year and the start of another. It’s all a bit more complicated that I thought it would be. Shipping is confusing! It feels like I’ve been moving very slowly on this goal, but I’m getting there.

I’ve been teaching art (and other) classes through our home-school co-op for the past year. Those have been successful, yes, and I’ve been really happy to share my passions with these kids. But I’d like to teach classes I get paid for, too. I don’t need to teach in a big, impressive venue. A local town’s rec. dept. offers so many classes they publish a catalog three times a year. I’ve long thought, “I could teach there,” but I’ve been held back by the sort of thoughts that hold one back: How would I manage child care? Will getting paid as a contractor mess up our taxes? How do I know what to charge, anyway? Suppose nobody is interested?

Finally I just emailed the contact person, who forwarded my email to the coordinator of the arts classes, who I happen to already know because my son has taken pottery from her. So it was a really friendly, easy meeting, and I’ll be offering classes and workshops this fall. She let me know that new classes by new instructors can take time to catch on; if I’m willing to run a class with just a few people, eventually, it will build. Starting small; I understand that. Right now, I count it as a success that I will be offering classes. Start where you are.

As for my blogging about art-making by and with children, I already feel good about that. I already feel successful, because if it’s inspired or reached or helped even one person, that’s a win. The plan to take my Art Together series further, I’ll admit, scares me a little, but in a good way. It feels challenging. It feels important for me to try to do it. I get to define the success, remember. Right now, it’s a success if I pull it off. Stay tuned.

What do you define as your work? And, more importantly, how do you define your success?

6 thoughts on “Finding My Work

  1. Dawn Suzette

    This is a great post Amy! So positive.
    Congrats on the classes coming up this fall. That is exciting!

    I finally just made a “work” folder for my emails so I guess I officially have work. That line has been quite blurry since I left regular paid employment. But now with more irons in the fire that are leading to paid, unpaid and potential to be paid work it is defining itself as time goes by.

    Success is a state of mind for me personally, but it is becoming tied into the all mighty dollar as living on one income becomes more and more of a stretch. I don’t really like it but it is our reality at the moment.

  2. Cameron

    So much to smile about here! Steps forward, even tiny ones (which include mental preparation in my book) are something to be proud of…..watching those steps turn into a dance of celebration makes all the waiting and working so worth it!
    How exciting you will be offering classes this Fall!
    …and with the sales….it is so out of your control….you have the right idea being happy that they are visible and available, at least 🙂

    I’d say I’m not successful yet, my dream is to actually make a living with my art….but, I feel closer to that dream the more I pursue it ;P

  3. donna lee

    To me, “work” has always been that for which I got paid. As I get older, my thoughts on the matter are changing. I still have Work and I spend the majority of my time there each week (fortunately, it’s a fulfilling work). But I also have more creative work that also fulfills something inside. I spin and turn out a beautiful skein of yarn that I put some work into and it becomes another thing of beauty and usefulness.

    And I guess my most important work is taking care of my family/home. Making it inviting and warm and comfortable. That’s probably the one that I value the most.

  4. BElls

    Lately I’ve been wondering what I would do if I could get off the Government treadmill/rat race and like you, I’ve summed up my skills (as in the ones I’m passionate about, not the ones I use to do my dull job) in a rather similar list.

    Even if I never get to use them professionally, I’ll feel successful if I use them in ways that have impact both on my life and the lives around me. I feel like my creativity and my love of reading and sharing information plays out in many ways in life, both for myself, for Sean and for Alice. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way before, so thank you.

    1. amy Post author

      Yes, it does!

      In some ways I’ve no choice but to create my own work. The way my life is set up *at this moment,* it’s been pretty hard to find any paid work someone would hire me for that would also cover the cost of child care, especially given the random travel schedule around here. So what can I cobble together using the skills and passions that I have?

  5. Karen

    how did I miss this post? I’m still trying to find a blog reader that I like since google reader disappears in a few days. I think some posts have fallen through the cracks.
    I can tell you are doing some powerful thinking and work on putting those thoughts into action. can’t wait to talk more about this IN PERSON!!!! yay!

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