There seems to be a romanticism around the notion of supporting yourself, earning a real income, from your creativity. Whether it be music or painting or sculpture or design or writing or photography, the drive to make these things your career and be successful at them, financially, is a strong one. I know I feel it myself. There's a sense of pride at being able to tell your friends and family that your ideas and creative skills are considered that worthy. That people value your work enough to pay for it. That you somehow found the continued energy to work day and night to make this thing happen.
We know that it's extremely difficult to turn that creative urge into a career. And that it's fraught with all sorts of dilemmas and challenges that force us to learn to put our urges to one side and deal with the other aspects that being in business entails.
I don't have the words to describe how it feels to achieve that. It's both exhausting and exhilarating. It's addictive.
But there are down sides, too. Especially if like me, you're the only wage earner in the family, with a child to support.
Any solo wage earner, creative or otherwise, will understand how that responsibility eats away at you. If you're in a steady, reliable job there's more security and less worry over managing to cover the bills or put food on the table. But self employed people don't have that same security. And when your job requires you to think and to make and to have the time and headspace to allow those things to happen, it becomes even more precarious.
We're roughly a year into this legal process that we've found ourselves in. And it's taking it's toll. Nearly everyone on site does something creative to earn their living, and the stress and legalities and decision making and the knowledge that this has been forced upon you doesn't really do a lot for the production of ideas. We're putting all of our energy into fundraising and raising awareness and learning more about the law than we'd ever thought we'd need to. We're all having to consider what might happen if we lose our case, and what we would do if we lost our homes and our workshops and the artwork and our community.
Creativity dries up. Exhaustion sets in. Resentment starts to take over. Anger is no longer manageable.
When you can't create, you stop earning money; business suffers. And when you stop earning money, the stress comes at you from yet another angle.
I'm aware that my earnings over the last 3 months are lower than they have been for 3 years. My business has never had such a drop, and this knowledge is keeping me awake at night. My rational side fully understands why of course - I've not designed or published much new content in the last 6 months; my online presence hasn't been much of an upbeat one and life has spilt over there, too; I've not been marketing the new work that I have managed because my efforts have been put into fundraising; Playful Woolly Toppers had to be postponed and suffered in the process.
That's not to say that all of these are wrong, on the contrary Hatopia was a success and with your help I raised an incredible amount, and for that I can't thank the woolly community enough. Friends on site have been fundraising too, and between us we've been able to ensure that our immediate legal fees are covered, and that's an absolutely huge weight off our minds.
But the balance is all wrong. And unless I somehow manage to get it back, my earnings this winter will be low. My earnings from September through to January keep us afloat for the next 12 months - a quiet winter could mean we'll be struggling for the entire year. I can't just disappear off the scene for months then launch something new and expect things to be back to normal. That isn't how the creative industry works; it's not just about making or doing, it's also about maintaining momentum and reminding folk that you're there; that your work is still as good as it always was, if not better. That in itself takes a lot of energy, and isn't something you can do in addition to creating new work until your energy levels are fully restored and your headspace is your own again.
And for us, we've at least another 6 months of being in limbo.
Trying to find a local job that has steady hours and regular pay isn't much of an option, either. Besides my language barrier and health concerns, jobs are even scarcer here than they are in the UK and wages even lower.
I'm trying not to panic, but it's tough. Today I'm feeling quite scared, but other days are better. My depression is back in full swing, doing it's worst.
I've not quite managed the serious design week that I promised myself in my last post, but I have managed to get something working on the needles, which feels like a pretty amazing achievement. I've got a long way to go until I'm back on track again; I'm not expecting that to happen for some time yet. The best I can do is to keep on trying, to keep casting on and ripping out until my hands find their rhythm again; until I force a clear enough path through all of the madness in my head.
The one thing we can rely on is that if you're a creative sort, it never leaves you entirely. It will come back, eventually.