>>> Advance notice: This post is long. If you’re a skimmer/don’t have much time, I’ve highlighted the key points. If you decide to hunker down and read the whole thing, thank you, may I recommend a beverage, and I hope it brings you something useful, reassuring or otherwise interesting in some way. <<<

Before

Last week, I shared a recent painting that in both process and outcome reflected a feeling I’d been experiencing for some time – that I had nothing to say. It felt vulnerable and uncomfortable to share the experience, and I edited and hesitated for many days before finally pressing publish. {Thank you by the way to all who commented in support and recognition.}

By ‘nothing to say’ I mean that everything I was feeling and thinking was simply not translatable into words, not without diminishing and squeezing it into a neat package that might be more easily digested but would almost certainly be misunderstood. And more uncomfortably, the increasing intensity and persistence of this feeling as the days went by was edging out my connection to the work I’ve been doing and the way I’ve been doing it.

I’ve been sitting with that feeling, rolling it over in my mind and heart, writing privately about it, trying to understand, to see more clearly, to uncover the real purpose for my decision to take a break a couple of months ago. It feels inaccurate even to call it a ‘decision’, such was the feeling that it was a compulsion coming from somewhere beyond my small self.

I have worried that I am just a quitter, especially once I realised that the break was not a temporary one in terms of how I’d been showing up in the world with my art and my work here. I have worried about letting people down or that my apparent inconsistency would suggest a lack of commitment or integrity or ability to stick with something.

What about the wonderful people who have invested time and money and love into working with me, through mentoring, taking my courses or simply by connecting with me here on the blog or on social media?

What about my own time, energy and love that I’ve invested into creating something valuable and meaningful? Does that not mean anything any more? {The answer is it absolutely does and I stand by everything I’ve created. Devaluing what I’ve done because I’ve shifted insults both you and me.}

The push pull has been confusing and frightening. No neat packages here. No obvious outcome, only the increasing understanding that there may well not be one.

 

Now

I only know one thing for sure right now, and that is that change is here. It’s inside me and around me, it’s showing up in my deeply shifting desires and compulsions, my processes, my art, my writing, my way of being in the world, my inquiries into what life is for and how best to live it. And it no longer supports what I’ve been doing in quite the way that I was doing it.

I would love to tell you what exactly it DOES mean, but I’m not quite there, yet. 🙂

However I do, today, have something to say. {If that wasn’t already obvious. 😉 }

If you run an online business you will recognise at least some of this; if you don’t it may shed some eye-opening light on what goes on behind the pretty face of a website.

There are things you need to learn about running an online business {if you want it to be ‘successful’, which obviously tends to mean financially and in personal fulfilment terms}:

  • You must market, and online that means social media {often multiple platforms}, blogging, email newsletters, guest posts, interviews, challenges and whatever else you can think of to spread the word about what you’re doing and who it’s for.
  • It means learning to write ‘compelling copy’, learning to communicate your message so your right people hear you and feel seen and inspired to work with you. Every sales page, blog post, social media post, article must align with your voice {which you must uncover and cultivate; I’ve yet to see anyone find this easy}.
  • You must create a brand, so people can recognise and begin to know, like and trust you. Your brand isn’t just your logo, colours, fonts etc; it’s also your tone, message and language. It’s your public face so it needs to be consistent and strong to catch and hold attention.
  • You must know who the work is for. Specifically. Intimately. In {what feels like} insane detail. You must talk only to that person in your posts and emails {because you will find that you are then talking to many people who feel like you are talking only to them}.
  • You must know your why. Without an underlying purpose it becomes very hard to keep going and evolve, as well as to know what to create. And it can’t be vague; ideally it needs to fit into a couple of sentences.
  • You must be consistent. Not necessarily constant but consistent. That tends to look like weekly blog posts, weekly, twice weekly or monthly emails to your ‘list’, regular social media posts, developing relationships, and also a consistency of creative output. So you need to be creating a lot, but not so much that you don’t have time to put it out there in the world. {See the first point.}
  • You must keep track of the money. Ideally you’ll also be projecting earnings and expenses. You can hire someone to handle the money {and in fact many of these things} but generally that’s difficult when you’re not yet earning enough. You must learn to wear All The Hats.
  • You must plan. Without a plan {and I can testify to this} there is more freedom and there is also more stress. Winging it is a great way to ‘fail’ {make no money} or burn out from all the stress and last minute panic marketing.

Then there are the invisible/personal things:

  • You must find a way to be comfortable with putting yourself out there, repeatedly. If your work is what’s often referred to as ‘heart centred’ or intensely personal, or if you are introverted or sensitive or all of the above apply, that’s going to mean feeling like a crab without a shell a lot of the time. Not comfortable. Very vulnerable.
  • You must take good care of yourself in order to maintain the energy and passion required to keep creating products, posts, gifts and connections. That means not sitting at the computer all day every day, as tempting and necessary as that often feels. It means really taking care of yourself, not just paying lip service to the idea of that. And for many women especially, that in itself is a whole area of learning.
  • You must not let the inevitable doubts and fears – about your abilities, your worth, the point -paralyse you.
  • You must be prepared not to be an overnight success, which as I understand it only ever means the person in question was slogging away for years in obscurity before ‘success’ hit. That means you must be prepared for your efforts not to be reflected back in numbers of any kind {students, clients, followers, pounds/dollars} for quite some time.
  • It can be very hard not to get caught up in numbers, especially on bad days – of readers, followers, likes – things you know don’t matter but feel like they do, especially when they decrease or don’t grow.
  • It’s common to find that the creative side {the reason you started} gets squeezed into a corner while the marketing and ‘putting yourself out there’ takes centre stage and a lot of energy.
  • You must find a way to do all of the above without getting stuck doing ‘what everyone else is doing’ even if it doesn’t work for you. {Harder than it sounds sometimes.} You literally must create your business’s path by walking it.

Not for nothing do they say that running a business can be one of the most powerful personal growth lessons you can embark upon!

These things are mostly simple to grasp intellectually and – in my experience – not easy to master. There is nothing wrong with any of this; it’s all good advice, essential in fact, and there’s plenty more available for anyone wanting to learn the how to of running a business. And that’s really the point; you have to be all in, or you’ll be wasting your time.

And of course there are many joyful, enriching, exciting and fulfilling elements in all of this too. It’s not all slog and self doubt. 🙂

And yet.

And this is where words begin to fail me, because I haven’t yet learned how to condense the feelings, thoughts, ideas, meanings and images into something human sized.

I am not a natural entrepreneur. I have done all the things I mentioned, as well as running a business before this one, and I find that none of it is quite ‘it’ for me. I have poured my heart and soul and mind into it, and been both deeply fulfilled and deeply frustrated at times, but ‘running a business’, even one that comes from my heart, no longer feels like where my energy is best directed.

Now I’m past the perceived ‘failure’ in admitting that, I honour myself for trying, and I laugh at the freedom admitting it brings. And in full disclosure, I am not bound to continue financially speaking. I am fortunate that it was never about earning a living for me {although I would love that}, but that is not the whole point.

 

Onward

So what now? Something else is coming; it’s just over the horizon but I feel its approach, without knowing what it looks like or what it will mean.

It may not look that different from what you see now {and I don’t really know what that is because I only see from the inside}; it might mean a completely fresh start. I do feel it will be something more expanded, although art and creativity are part of ‘Tara’ so they will always be part of my MO. It won’t be about numbers {meaning I won’t be running it as a business in any conventional sense}, and it may not be consistent. The call for a shift however is increasingly loud and compelling.

So that is what I have to say. That change is inevitable. That allowing it to sweep through us is the most terrifying and liberating thing we can do. And that whatever is coming I hope to be able to share it with you, while trusting that however it comes it will be whatever is most required.

If I’m going to write, I need to write how ‘I’ would write, not how I feel my ‘ideal reader/student/client’ would need me to write. {Which I always felt was a bit patronising and dumbing down for all of us.} I know the internet has shortened our attention spans but if I want to write a chunky paragraph instead of a series of two-liners, then for Pete’s sake, that is what’s going to happen! Some thoughts simply aren’t bitesize.

If I’m going to say something, it needs to be said with as much honesty, truth and clarity as I can bring forth, even if that sounds weird, doesn’t seem directly relevant or might be construed as ‘too intense’, ‘too melodramatic’ or ‘taking myself too seriously’. {Comments I’ve heard all my life.} I’m not perfect; I’m still learning to express myself – and what feels like a greater truth – as best I can.

Ultimately, this means no more packaging. As an artist of course visual delight is important to me, and I love the website that is my online home. I think it’s full of creative and inspiring goodness and I’ve seen it help many people. I hope that it continues to do so. I think of it as a little library where you can come and sit with a cup of coffee and watch a video, take some lessons or read something to encourage or spark up your desire to make something.

But the rest? As much as my ego is having a minor freak out about ‘breaking the rules’, the louder call is to honour what, well I guess what my soul is requiring of me now. {I told you – melodramatic. ;)} I’m not 100% clear on this yet, as you can probably tell, but listening to the universe is more important to me now than boxing up what wants to be created so it makes some kind of sense or is ‘marketable’.

The Soul path isn’t about getting what you want. It’s about giving who you are… without the need for a return.

~ Sera Beak

I am constantly aware of the fine balance of expressing my feelings about all this in a relatable way and falling into tedious introspection. I want what I share to be useful but I can’t attach to that {and am constantly having to DEtach – I am well trained! You wouldn’t believe how often I write blog posts in my head about every little thing}. A huge amount of trust is required to follow this call without knowing where it will lead or even what it’s exactly saying.

If it turns out to be of some use to you, then I will feel the circle has completed, but I cannot be wedded to that. If not, then I will send you blessings and do my best to keep trusting that if anyone needs to hear what I have to say, they will find it.

If you made it to this point, well done! It’s scary to be this open, and there are fears about what kind of response it might receive {my ego has plenty! ‘You’re so self indulgent! No one gives a shit about your inner workings! What about the workshops you haven’t finished creating?! Clearly you’re trying to make a business failure look spiritual!’ Um, Wow.} but I’ve never been one to let that stop me. And the compulsion does not go away, so here I am, pouring my heart out, and we’ll see where it leads. 🙂