Here’s a conundrum; What happens when you think you are doing all the right things to further your career and the rug is pulled out from under you?
Over the past year of writing my business-advice columns, I’ve had a few people tentatively e-mail me with this kind of question. It’s never asked this directly, of course, but the queries tend to boil down to similar situations where people are working hard at a job or career that just isn’t filling their creative well and they feel stuck—or worse, they’ve been laid off.
These are tough situations in any economy, but especially difficult in a recessed one. Answers are hard to come by and I’d be a millionaire, even in a bad economy, if I had them. However, I’ve noticed that when an artistic person faces a very difficult hardship (such as losing their job), the situation is often the universe’s way of ensuring survival of the creative self.
Yes, the loss of employment from a forced layoff is devastating for all the financial and emotional reasons we know of. The flip side is that with a little perspective, it can be empowering because there are moments of insight when one is trying to figure out what the heck to do next.
Friends I’ve known who’ve gone through this situation call it by many names; layoff, sabbatical, RIF (reduction in force), etc., but the best description I ever heard is “strategic break”.
I was recently on Facebook when a friend of mine (whom I’ve only “met” through Facebook even though we’re peers in the Crafts industry) posted a link to a blog post where she wrote about the two-year journey she went through after being laid off from an unfulfilling job to taking art classes and regaining her soul. During that same time period, my Facebook friend, Laura Fraderich, also dealt with the sad loss of her father and other personal issues.
Laura’s love of mixed-media lead her to attending an art retreat where she made new friends, which led her to learning about an open job in the Crafts industry, which put her smack dab in the path of her dreams and a great job offer with a terrific company, iLoveToCreate. (This is the abbreviated version. To read the whole story, see Laura’s blog post.
This leads me back to my opening question. What does happen when you feel like you’re beating your head against the wall because nothing is happening as you expect? Have you ever considered the possibility that your expectations are out of balance with your hopes and dreams? That you’ve settled for a way of life that no longer fulfills you and that you’ve possibly decided comfortable is better than unemployed? (No doubt “comfortable” is a strong pull—especially if you have a family to feed).
I’m not saying it’s time to jump ship on the whole career thing. What I’m asking you to consider is, if you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, to look at your work/your life/your art with a new perspective. Where are you in the spectrum? Are you seriously in need of a “strategic break” or maybe just needing a different strategy? The $64 million question is this: Why are you beating your head against the wall and what can you do to stop?
January is all about new beginnings. Humanity has a “do over” switch New Year’s Day and beyond. What are you going to do this year to honor your innate creativity?
On another note . . . I wanted to let you know about a terrific program another artist friend of mine has put together for the New Year. Nathalie Kalmbach started Creative JumpStart 2012, which is a series of daily blog videos from more than 28 visual artists around the world talking about what techniques they use to pull themselves out of creative funks. You can get all this great information for free (including past days if you’ve signed up late) by subscribing to daily e-mails from Creative JumpStart. Currently, there are over 5,000 subscribers. Nathalie asked me to be one of the participants, and my turn for the month is January 17th. I’ll also be writing a post on my blog that day with some more thoughts on art. I hope you check it out!
Artist bio: Jen Cushman is a natural storyteller who found mixed media art a decade ago and never looked back. She is drawn to the imperfect, the funky, the quirky, the artsy and the authentic: be it people or objects or art. She writes a business advice column for artists at CreateMixedMedia.com and also for Belle Armoire Jewelry. She’s also the Director of Education and Marketing for Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin®. To learn more, visit her website www.jencushman.com or follow her blog at http://www.jencushman.wordpress.com.
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