I haven't blogged in ages. I haven't read anyone's blog in ages. I've been, quite frankly, too busy. But earlier this evening I read this inspiring post by Sarah Miles of Paper Swans, and was reminded of a quote which I love by Sara Henderson...
"Don't wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel. Stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself".
And that's it isn't it? The difference between luck, serendipity - and actually making things happen. It's the difference between deciding to do something - and getting on and getting it done.
And perhaps the best ideas are those borne of a fundamental desire to change - met with circumstance which doesn't absolutely fly in the face of ones enthusiastic schemes, hopes and plans.
Because I don't believe there is ever really a 'right time' to do anything. If we waited for that moment we'd in all likelihood be waiting till the day we died. I started working for myself - designing and crafting bespoke items of jewellery - when my daughter was little over 6 months old. There was nothing 'right' about that timing whatsoever - but twiddling my thumbs creatively, I happened upon an idea, the basic skills to begin to put it together, and the self belief that if I knocked on enough doors, somebody would give me a break.
And they did - small scale local business happy to support small scale local craft. Handmade and locally made is currently very much in demand - the craft industry in the UK is enjoying a renaissance the likes of which we've never seen, as consumers become sick to death of mass market and mass produced. For those in the handmade/homemade/organically made market - now - more than ever before - is the hour.
And once you've knocked on the door to find it hasn't been automatically flung shut in your face, the laws of cause and effect tend to dictate that more doors will open, as long as you simply keep marching across the room. What began as personalised costume jewellery has within 2 years catapulted a decision to leave my career of 12 years and set myself up at home, on my own, as a freelance graphic designer and storybook illustrator.
That journey isn't a completely random one. I've worked within agencies as a graphic designer since graduating from university. But for the last 5 years I've been treading water, unmotivated, uninspired, daunted by the changing nature of industry technology, and rarely - from one month to the next, learning anything new. Maternity leave, a daughter who napped a lot during the day, a desire for change, and a simple basic idea - together kickstarted a small but profitable cottage industry which reminded me I was creative, I was hardworking and I was capable of taking matters into my own hands. I dreamt of being able to leave the job I'd outgrown. Making a small success of a small jewellery enterprise, gave me the confidence to take the much bigger step of leaving a salaried position, launching my own business, Ellie Illustrates, and utilising the skills I'd been practising for years.
It's not rocket science. I'm not the most talented artist in the world - and I don't need to be. I've learnt the skills to produce a creative product in a contemporary style. And the more I doodle the better I'll become. The more books I paint and illustrate the more I'll learn about the painting and illustrating process. The more doors - in all logical theory - will open.
It's hard work. Yes - of course it is. I'm no longer a cog in a machine. I'm designer, artworker, salesroom, admin and accounts. I see a lot of my apple mac and I no longer have the luxury of leaving the office at 5pm and totally switching off.
But it's my office. It's my hours and it's on my terms. The responsibility may be all mine but so is the credit. And it's very early days. If tackled well this steep, sometimes stressful learning curve, could in time level out to a happy, manageable plateau which I'll have carved out to suit myself.
I'm 38 years old and a mother of 2. And motherhood teaches us a plethora of valuable skills. We become flexible, expert multi-taskers - we recognise strengths and colours of our character which we didn't know were there. At no other time in my life have I been surrounded by so many talented women who are taking chances, opening doors and making things happen for themselves. My friend Joanne bought one of the very first customised necklaces I ever made. She told me she was in awe of how I'd created a product and created a brand with a daughter who was only 6 months old. Joanne is a mother of 4 and in the last 12 months she has launched her truly inspirational Little Art School which has recently been short-listed for 'Most Innovative New Start Up' by the Association of Scottish Businesswomen. If Joanne isn't in awe of what she has achieved for herself, then she absolutely should be.
My mother once told me 'this is no dress rehearsal Helen - it's the real thing'. For those of you with a glimmer or spark of an idea - but too many closed doors in the way of making it happen - remember it only takes for you to tentatively nudge open the first. All bright futures begin with baby steps. We needn't let the lack of a finely-tuned masterplan prevent us from lighting our very first match.
It's not about luck and it's not about waiting till the time is right. It's about self belief and deciding today, right now, to let your ideas fly.
The light at the end of the tunnel is a damn sight closer than you think.