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.
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 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.