As I mentioned last week, I checked a biggie off my bucket list by visiting the Lucketts Spring Market. (I promise I will share my finds soon; I spent some time today uploading and editing photos. Sorry for the delay in posting; it’s been a busy week with school visits and preschool graduation and planning for a big party this weekend.)

Anyway, I’m taking forever to get to the point of this post. Burying the lead, as they say in my former profession.

At Lucketts, I had the chance to meet Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, who has been one of my blogging idols and inspirations.

Miss Mustard Seed and Mini talking to a customer at Lucketts Market

Marian is not only talented, but also she has a teacher’s heart — and she’s so authentic and honest. I think those are the reasons that I check into her blog every night, sitting in my recliner with my iPad in my lap after everyone else in the house has gone to bed. Her projects leave me in awe, but more importantly, her words have so resonated with me. I have so many times identified with Marian she has written, as she shared her doubts and goals. Her accomplishments and success have been a true inspiration to me. What perhaps was more inspiring to me was to witness how fulfilled she seems to be after making the choice to take the risk of starting her own creative business and following her dreams.

I said a quick hello to Marian at Lucketts, then let her get on to the business of selling her beautiful wares. But when I returned to the show, I sent her an email in response to a post-Lucketts post she wrote about feeling overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and achingly similar stories others shared with her. I wanted to tell Marian my story and to share with her how much she had inspired me. In my email, I included an excerpt of a “manifesto” I’d written earlier this year about my own creative journey and goals.

Well, Miss Mustard Seed reads her fan mail (unlike all those teen heartthrobs I wrote to during my formative years Are you reading this Mr. Shaun Cassidy?) And she replied to mine and said that what I was feeling was very much what she was feeling when she started her business/blog. She asked if she could share my manifesto because she thought it would resonate with her readers. Of course, I said yes! Marian’s post — which includes my manifesto — is here. Now, I’m overwhelmed. Miss Mustard Seed has given me another gift — the chance to inspire other moms like me who are searching for something more or something different in their lives. Wow. Just wow.

I thought I’d expand a bit on the circumstances surrounding the “manifesto,” or my “Jerry Maguire moment. Never thought of it like that, until Miss Mustard Seed made the connection, but it’s so analogous!

My back story is this:

I started writing for newspapers when I was 16-years-old, working for my hometown weekly paper. I earned my degree in journalism in college and worked as a full-time reporter at newspapers in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina until 2004. While I was working my last newspaper job, I had the opportunity to write a business book about Krispy Kreme (which was a super-hot company at the time.) (If you want a company to lose its hotness, hire me to write a book about it. Think I should take aim at Mr. Zuckerberg’s creation next?) I was newly married and pretty burned out with newspapers, so I decided to leave my job and strike out on my own, doing freelance writing and public relations. Over the years, I had the opportunity to write four more business books while also keeping busy with various PR accounts, many of them in the home furnishings industry.

I had my son in 2006 and kept up what I must say was a pretty frenzied pace, trying to be both a full-time self-employed person and a stay-at-home mom. My own mom would come babysit my son for me a couple days a week so I could work; many times, I’d dash home from my office or a client’s office to breastfeed him. This pace (minus the breastfeeding, of course) has continued and over the years I’ve gotten less and less joy or reward from my PR work. So many times, I’ve discussed with my husband the need to “make a change.” But I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

Well, about a year ago, we moved into our dream home, and I started getting very hands-on in furnishing it. I learned about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and went crazy painting furniture to fill the extra square footage. I was making wreaths, styling vignettes and crafting up a storm, spending every free moment in my garage working on some project. (One of the reasons we moved into this house was we wanted a 2-car garage that we could both park in; that hasn’t happened.) I started exploring Pinterest and blogs and was constantly inspired. I started resenting even more the time I had to “work” because it was taking me away from my creative endeavors.

For quite some time, I had been stuck in a rut. Burned out. Going through the motions. My PR business was going well, and I was taking on more and more clients, saying yes to more projects. But the reality was I was doing too much. I was trying to fit a stressful, intellectually demanding full-time job into part-time hours, since it was important for me to be home with my son after preschool. It wasn’t working for me. I didn’t feel that I was doing a good job as a mother, wife or in my work. I was tired. I was cranky. I was miserable. I was beset by self-doubt. I felt like I was drowning in obligations and responsibilities and endless to-do lists.

For me, the answer wasn’t simply simplifying. I didn’t want to just take things off my plate. That’s simple enough — delegate chores, hire help, yadda, yadda, yadda.  No, I was desperate to explore my creativity and to create things because doing so gives me energy.

So, late one night in February, I sat at my computer for what must have been hours and wrote a manifesto/business plan/pour-my-heart-out letter to myself. Seven pages of getting things off my chest and dreaming big, without limits, something I learned from Maxine Clark of Build-A-Bear Workshop in my past life as a journalist/business book author. What emerged was the idea for Atta Girl Says, the blog and the crafty business.

After writing my manifesto, I took the scary step of sharing it with my husband and two friends. (That part wasn’t so scary because I knew they would support me and would honor my feelings and dreams, and that they wouldn’t judge me try to invalidate me.) My friends told me was that they shared many of my same feelings and that they also longed for a creative outlet in their lives. Pretty quickly, the idea for Atta Girl Says transformed from dream to reality.

Once I’d made the decision to pursue this dream, I was able to offload some of my PR work, focusing instead on working with those clients who I am most passionate about. In doing that, I realized why I was having so much trouble keeping up and why I was feeling so ineffectual and demoralized. I was overcommitted. The scope of work I was expected to do for my various clients amounted to a full-time job and then some. And I was trying to squeeze it into 20 hours a week, plus lots of late nights. I can breathe so much easier now, and I’m doing much better work, I think.

And I have time to pursue my dreams: to build up Atta Girl Says; to create and make beautiful things with my hands and to build a fulfilling and happy life that includes time for family, work, passions and rest.

Writing — and sharing — my manifesto was an important step in my journey. It was something I desperately needed. If you’re feeling lost, adrift, overwhelmed, unsatisfied, in a rut, depressed, worthless, less than what you dream of being, I would encourage you to write your own and to share it someone else. Sharing it was the most important part for me. Sharing it made it real. Sharing it made me feel not so alone in my feelings. Sharing it put things in motion.

Finally, thank you to Marian, the inimitable Miss Mustard Seed, for the inspiration and the shout out.

 



Comments

  1. Very well said! I look forward to seeing where your vision takes you!

  2. i read MMS,every nite too…and she as inspired me with the things she makes…I have has some tough times too…but contentment and a happier life is what I have reached…I loved your works and think you are on the right track….all the best…
    The only one who can make us happy is ourself.we have to decide to take the steps ourselves,and start making it happpen.

  3. Hello Amy! I have found you via Miss Mustard Seed and want to say a huge thank you for sharing your story. You have encouraged me to write my own manifesto which I plan to do over the next few days. Reading your blog-post has spoken to my heart so much. My life is not as pressurised professionally as yours has been , but I could so relate to how torn your felt and how your heart longed to fulfill your God-given creativity. Thank you so much. Just as I too love curling up with Miss Mustard Seed at the end of the day, when my child is asleep, I look forward to spending many hours with you too. Thank you and bless you! Shirley xxx (Australia)

    • Thank you so much, Shirley. I am so very happy to meet you and I would love to read your manifesto, if you’d be willing to share it. And I can’t wait to visit your blog, as well. I’m constantly reminded of how universal the experience of motherhood and womanhood is; here we are, living on separate continents, and yet we can relate to what the other is going through. There have been many times in my life when I’ve been going through things where I felt so very alone, but I’m learning now as I open myself up more that I’m not so alone after all and that even when my immediate circle of friends and family can’t relate, there’s someone out there who can. I’m feeling a Disney moment coming on — it’s a small world after all…

      I hope Laura and I can provide you with some interesting nighttime reading… We have some projects in the works.

  4. Amy, Thanks so much for your thoughts. Marian’s and your stories reall resonate with me. I am at home with 2 young children (almost 3 and 1) and have lots of other weekly commitments with our church, our home, weekly activities, etc. But, the underlying feeling is that EVEN if I just simply gave some of the activites and responsibilities that are keeping me so busy up, I still think I would feel unfulfilled. The problem is that creating and being artistic is ME! It is who I was made to be, a talent, a gift. If I don’t make the time for creating then it is like a part of me is missing and no amount of rescheduling is going to change that. That is why I have been so inspired and refreshed by Marian, and now you, and others who have made this journey and are sharing about it. Scheduling and priority is important but in some (whether it be small or big) way I think we all need to make sure we are being ouselves and doing something we truly love and feel called to do. For some it might be taking the risk to go big and change their entire line of work. For others it might simply be skipping TV one night and starting a weekly craft night (for themselves or with some friends). Either way, we need to do it or we will be stuck in a state of feeling off, ucky, confused, lacking, etc. which can make us dread or resent our life (our job, our responsibilities, even spending time with family and friends) because in the core of our being we are feeling underwhelmed. We are feeling like a part of who we are is missing and that can’t be satisfied by taking something out….it can only be satisfied by adding the “right” thing in.

    • Jessica. I couldn’t have said it better. And I think you’re right in feeling that just giving up some of your activities won’t give you the fulfillment you seek.

      As moms, we sometimes feel so guilty about taking time or doing things for ourselves. And there will be people in our lives who may try to make us feel guilty about it. But I think moms and dads — all people, really — kids included — need to have “something” about which they’re passionate. Something that fuels them and energizes them and excites them. For me, it’s creating things with my hands — namely crafting and decorating and remaking furniture. My 5-year-old son has dinosaurs, and my husband — I’m ashamed to say — has pro wrestling.

      I’ve been guilty of failing to take time for myself and my passion. And I’ve also seen too many friends drowning in a sea of responsibilities and perhaps feeling that they don’t deserve to do pursue something that brings them joy. But we all need that and we all deserve that. And like you said, it doesn’t have to be big or life changing. But we do need to add that something in — a craft night, daily meditation, prayer, an exercise class, a book club, improv comedy — whatever works for you.

      I’m looking forward to visiting your blog and getting to know you better. You seem like someone I would click with in real life.

  5. Hi Amy,
    I found your site through Miss Mustard Seed. I read your Manifesto and was so touched! I think we may all go through feeling like that some point in our lives. I the best thing you can do is act on it and follow your passion. They always say if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life! Thank you for sharing your journey! I am a new Blog Lovin Follower!

    • Thank you so much, Jen. Nice to meet you, and I’m humbled that i was able to touch your heart with my manifesto. I have to say I feel so much freer, happier, more relaxed and more present in my life now that I’ve decided to pursue my passion. My house is messier than I expected it would be, though! I’m a crafter and a painter but I don’t like cleaning up after myself! Oh well!

  6. Good for you, Amy! That Miss Marian is one inspiring lady, isn’t she? I know what I want, but a million “what ifs” pop up in my mind before I even dare to share my dream. You and Marian have both given me a lot to think about!

    • Bettsi,

      I agree that Marian is so inspiring. And so sweet, too. And talented. Quite the trifecta.

      Try not to let those “what ifs” derail you. There’s no harm in dreaming, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about either. Just choose wisely in who you share your dreams with. Don’t share with people who won’t encourage you. This is a time for cheerleaders, so pick the nicest person you know and go for it.

      Please let me know how it goes, too.

  7. Marisa Franca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Amy, I read your manifesto and I am ready to DO something rather just than going from day to day until one day there is other day. I am in my sixties and I still love to work on crafts, decorate, ready, etc. I have boundless energy but more so when there is a project that I’m excited about. I believe in new beginnings and I think I’ve found what I want. Miss Marion is a treasure. I have never “met” anyone who is so generous and giving. She takes the time to answer all of her email and I’m sure there are days when she doesn’t have a minute to herself.

    • Atta Girl Amy
      Twitter:
      says:

      I agree with everything you have to say about Marian. She is so generous and some genuine. And I hope that you do follow through with your plans and that you’ll come back here and share them with me. I’d love to know what you decide to do with your creativity and energy. (Wanna come help me? I could use an extra energy burst now and again!)

      Have a wonderful day.

Trackbacks

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