As I sit here writing this…in the second week of January…I can’t help but be thankful that 2018 is over. It was one helluva rollercoaster year.  There were some amazing experiences and some down right terrifying ones. It was a year of growth, that’s for sure. To start, how about a quick overview of the year?

  • I was awarded a Lasher ATH handcycle and participated in my first 5K
  • My sculpture, Big Wook the Pigeon Carrier Dog won 1st place at the Maine state Veteran Create Arts competition
  • I celebrated being 1 year seizure free and ran a promotion for small animal sculpture commissions in February
  • I presented at my first speaking engagement – the Brain Injury Association of America in October
  • I reset my seizure free streak in November
  • I was selected to receive a service dog from K9s on the Frontline
  • My husband got carbon monoxide poisoning and had to switch job paths as a result
  • I had to issue my first refund as a result of over extending myself on the small sculpture promotion
  • I participated in my 2nd 5k – Miles for Mills to raise money for the Travis Mills Foundation
  • I attended a week long workshop at the Haystack Mountain School of Craft for the Veterans in Craft week
  • I was selected to be a teaching artist leader with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI)
  • I re-branded my art business and have an amazing new logo
  • I struggled (and continue to struggle) with depression and PTSD – more than usual
  • I was face with numerous bouts of symptom exacerbation/mini-flares of my myasthenia gravis

Like I said…it was a helluva rollercoaster year. Those are just the highlights that I can remember off the top of my head.

Lessons Learned

One of the biggest lessons learned was that I wasn’t giving myself enough time for self care. I pushed too much because I had HUGE goals and dreams that I wanted to accomplish. Those huge goals don’t matter if I don’t take care of myself to ensure I have the stamina to reach them.  My race is a marathon and not a sprint.  And I think that is one area that entrepreneurs (or artrepreneurs as the case may be) see the push and flashy ads about the “hustle and grind” and we get sucked into it.

The second biggest lesson of 2018 was to be authentic and true to yourself.  My friend Steven Kuhn runs a podcast  called The H.I.T Show.  H.I.T. stands for Honesty, Integrity, and Transparency. All last year I thought I was being transparent…especially with my health issues.  And I may have been…but I failed to be honest with myself about the realistic expectations on just how far I could push and produce. As a result, I failed my collectors. Many of them waited well over 6 months for the small commissions they reserved when I ran my seizure free promotion..and a few have waited nearly a year…

Which leads me to my third lesson of the year – DO NOT MAKE PROMOTIONS LIMITLESS!  I was so excited to be celebrating one year seizure free that I didn’t cap the number of commissions that could be reserved at my killer promotional pricing.  As a result I had more than 15 in my que. I WAY over promised and under delivered, which led to some serious anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed.  Lots of apologies, and yes, even one refund. Lots of hard pills to swallow…

But lesson #3 led to lesson #4…which was my acceptance of my need to condense my focus.  I was still trying to find all the things that spoke to me and I was essentially “throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck”, as my business coach Lisa Robbin Young would say. I decided that my focus would be on three topics – sculpting, speaking, and teaching. I need to take the time to sculpt MY work – not just commissions.  I didn’t have any new work that was not a commission last year so I had nothing to submit to the state Veteran’s Creative Arts competition this year…  the same one I won first place at last year. Sculpting also means taking on commissions only when I feel I can complete them in a timely fashion and NO MORE than one per month.  Speaking entails going to conferences and workshops and discussing my views on arts accessibility and creativity in health (art as therapy). Teaching encompasses both of those elements.  The three key areas work well by themselves but together as a whole.  They have helped to shape my vision and my direction.  And as such… things have already started falling into place.

Lesson #5 falls right behind lesson #4, and that is making sure I pick and choose how to invest in my business and myself.  Personal and professional growth will be paramount as 2019 continues. 2018 showed me where I have a lot of deficiencies… 2019 is the year I tackle them and strive to improve.

2018 was a year of growth.  Lots of ups and downs…but without them I would not have learned nearly as much as I did about what I’m really capable of… what my limitations are.. just how important down time is for me.. I am ready to grow.  Ready to learn. And ready to make an even bigger difference. 2019 is going to be an AMAZING year!  And I’m so happy to have you along for the ride.