My thoughts on being a full time creative and the challenges with health...
I tend to feel pretty blessed at the idea that I can literally make art on a daily basis to put food on the table. I mean how many people can say they absolutely love what they do? I can. But it doesn't mean it is easy, or doesn't feel like work. The reality of your passion being your full time gig, is that it ultimatley will feel like work at times.
Being a tattoo artist and painter is easily romanticized. It is not the perfect industry to work in, it has its challenges, it has its rewards, and there are still all the boring things (at least to me) that comes with owning an art & tattoo business. This industry is not necessarily for the extreme introvert anymore, sales means connecting with people, serving and taking the time to create for others and to hopefully create the best tattoo and/or art experience for the viewer/client. It is what I love about tattooing and painting, but it is also what is the most exhausting part of the art business (in my opinion). Owning any kind of business is not for the faint at heart and was always a dream of mine... no matter how hard or challenging it would be. I was so excited to be a business owner and making art every single day.
Over the past 9 months I have been forced to reflect on how I manage myself, the art, the clients, and the boring admin stuff that comes along with the business. With a forced pause due to health, I had no choice but to make major changes. My body would not let me work at the pace I was anymore. This has been extremely difficult for me, as I am someone who stops at nothing to achieve a goal, and feels the need to be creating or producing something at all times.
Forced stops are whispers (or loud screams) from the universe to take a step back and look at what is serving or not serving you physically, spiritually, and mentally.
Before the big health scare, I painted, I was drawing, or tattooing everyday. Then I was managing, cleaning, or doing tattoo admin for the business. I allowed myself only one day to turn it all off (Sunday's). Which if I am being totally honest, I never really turned it off. My mind was constantly planning and thinking about the next project, tattoo, or must do for my business.
Stress was building up in my body and even though I thought I was doing self care, like kayaking, yoga, massage...I wasn't mentally clearing and releasing, or resting for that matter. The affects of all the hard stuff about the business was weighing on me.
Ultimately art should be healing...but it wasn't doing that for me anymore. I was completely stressed, my creative brain was on overload and my body said no more.
I still don't know quite yet what is happening to my body. The diagnosis is still a mystery to me, in the beginning it was possibly cardiac, then anemia, possibly autoimmune, questioned if it was MS, now it is Fibromyalgia. I have seen 5 specialists and 2 GP's, and what every Doc I visited said to me was "Naomi you need to reduce your stress, and make the appropriate lifestyle changes."
Regardless of what the diagnosis is, what I have learned is the way I was doing my art and tattoo practice before is not going to be sustainable for me any longer. I have no choice but to reduce my stress.
I guess this post is really about finding a balance (which in my opinion NOW is almost impossible) and accepting that my art and tattoo practice can't look like someone else's or what it was. I have to find what ultimatelly feels good for me inside and out. This also doesn't mean that I am unsuccessful as an artist or tattooer. Success for me and success for you can look like two totally different things. I say this because I ultimately felt like a failure when I had to sell the tattoo business, take care of just me, and work part time. It almost felt like I wasn't "strong enough" or "man enough" to push through the stress and health challenges. Even though I have been transparent about the decision, I have felt ashamed and like a total failure. This has been very painful for me.
I am not looking for a pitty party here, this is life, and life is ever changing. I did however needed to accept the fact that I had to move on from this idea about myself and begin healing, spiritually and physically (because there is not one with out the other). I have been doing this through my art; how my business is changing, the new projects I am choosing to be involved in, what I paint, or tattoo and also through travel. Allowing myself time to explore who I am, the things that I love, and giving my body space to fully heal. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done, true self reflection and true change, but a very important one.
As a full time creative it is easy to put unnecessary pressure on myself to be the best, do the best, and create the best AND I am one of the lucky ones who gets to make art and pay my bills with my art FULL TIME or in whatever time I choose.
I don't ever want to lose that gift... but I also don't want it to ultimately be the thing that destroys my health either. So long story short, I have found that making space to heal by NOT making art, is just as important as utilizing art to help HEAL.
AND letting go is just as important as giving life. The body WILL scream if you don't listen to its whispers from the get go.
The space in which I tattoo may not be my business anymore, but the space I am in is still filled with my love, light, and soul. Something of which I am so grateful to share. I encourage, you, who are reading this, to take the time to create space in your life for YOU. Listen to your body, listen to your soul, and listen to the whispers.