There aren’t any creative instructions or links to creative sites in this post. It’s all personal, so if you’re looking for a little creative inspiration you may want to skip this one.
I grew up making things. Like a lot of kids, my parents (mother & grandmother) showered me with praise for things I made. But not like a lot of kids, I also heard it from teachers and others who saw my work all throughout my schooling life and into art school.
Before my headache got too bad to affect life very much and when the migraines I’d had since puberty were easily controlled I worked in graphic design for 20 years, spending most of that time designing magazines and ads to go in them. I loved it! I still miss it. A large part of my identity was in being a designer. And as I received accolades pretty often for my efforts, I got real used to external validation.
Another large part of my identity was in being a creative person, in general. I’ve been sewing since I was 5, I designed some of my clothes and accessories, I painted, and I did many types of crafting. Because many of the things I made were either worn or carried by myself, and I went out often, I also got used to external validation of those efforts.
So when the migraine that was to last 2-1/2 years first started, and a long hospital stay didn’t make it any better, I spent a year working from home. I’d been with my company for a few years and the bossman believed in me, so I was allowed to work on the easier design projects from the solitude and darkness of my home. During that time I crafted a few things and opened an Etsy shop. I didn’t push it much, and, honestly, the things I made weren’t my best, so there were few sales. I wasn’t too upset. After some time, I put the shop on hold.
Then the company I worked for closed. Even though I was falling apart, I just couldn’t give up working yet so I took a regular, full-time job with a small company I’d freelanced for in the past. I was still in design but the work itself a little less creative. But it was the hours that killed me, almost literally, as I had to take elephant-doses of crazy meds just to show up each day, and I was floundering (am still surprised I survived that period). After almost a year, they let me go. I was crushed. And that was the last job I had, which ended 4 years ago now. I still keep telling myself that this is temporary, even though I had to file for Disability.
Almost 2 years ago, after I finally found a decent medication that masked many of my symptoms, I taught myself how to crochet. I made many, many pieces and designed a good handful of them myself. Some I kept, some I gave as gifts, but the largest part of them went into my newly reopened Etsy shop. During the next year or so I got a lot of “hearts” and was featured in a few Treasuries, but no sales. I compared my pricing, I shot better photos, I rewrote all the descriptions, I watched several Etsy lectures they post on their site. Nothing helped. And I started falling behind. I was still making things but didn’t have the energy to photograph new things, write those descriptions, and continue to spread the word of my brand and my shop. (I also designed a few things for a print-on-demand online shop and for awhile received several sales, but because of my head troubles I have to limit my computer time.)
After it had been several weeks since I added anything new I had to own up to the fact that I simply did not have the energy to put into a shop. Time, sure, but not the energy – especially with no reward for my efforts. So with regret, I put the shop on Vacation mode, saying that I was uncertain how long I’d be away.
I’m still unable to permanently call that idea quits, too.
My health, which had been better but still quite fragile, has been taking over my attention since the first of April when my doc took me off of the aforementioned medication. She had legitimate concerns, but I’m still not convinced that this was a good idea. I’ve been off it for 6 weeks and am slowly improving, but am still very good friends with the couch and Netflix & Amazon Prime streaming services. And I have to get used to being in pain all the time again. I’ve just started working on crochet projects a little again and finally have control over the kitchen. Just please don’t look at my floors.
So here’s where the “crisis” comes in, and it’s not even about my health, even though it’s caused by it.
I’m left with a history of 2+ decades of external validation of my creative efforts. I can sometimes tell when I’ve made something particularly great, but I also want to shake it in front of people and ask, “Why don’t you like this??”
More than that, because I placed so much of my identity on what I do, now that I’m not doing much I feel quite unbalanced. Who am I? What do I do that matters, besides attempt to keep house? What does it matter that I’m creative if I’m not selling something I’ve created to someone else? I’m not so good with repetitive tasks, and that’s what most of my limited energy is put towards: clean the litter box, do the dishes, keep clothes laundered, sweep the floors.
Perhaps my age has something to do with this. I am in my 40s so there is the possibility that this is a crisis of being middle aged and wondering what to do with myself.
Or it’s all of the things I’ve mentioned above, compounded with the newly aggravated headache & back pain.
I started writing this for myself thinking it would be cathartic, and maybe it will later after I’ve pondered it further. But for now I still have no answers, and I need to start that laundry.