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By Ruth Thorp Studio, Nov 16 2014 04:30PM

Yet again it has been a long time since my last post, so sorry for that. I thought I would write this post partly as an update on what I have been getting up to and also a post about dealing with creative stress.

Since my last post I have been keeping busy trying to get 'The Squawks' out into the world and this week I reached a major milestone by selling enough books to cover the print costs for my first edition print - so I am now officially in profit! It feels like a massive achievement, which is further enhanced by all the lovely feedback I am receiving from my lovely customers. The Squawks have been spreading their wings and can now be bought on the official Squawks site, Raw Mixture Publishing, etsy, folksy, amazon and Poppy Blue and has been featured on a number of blogs.

Bath Artisan Market
Bath Artisan Market

For the last 5 months I have also had a stall at the fantastic Bath Artisan Market, which takes place on the second Sunday of every month. Alongside The Squawks, I am selling a range of mine and my parent's products which includes cards, notebooks, books, magazines, poetry , artwork and cards. It has been a fantastic experience meeting and chatting to customers and other stallholders and I feel really lucky to be part of a lovely creative community. Links to my parent's sites can be found here: Creative Thorp and 21 Soul. My mum produces beautiful photographic artwork in Pembrokeshire, and my dad has recently published a wonderful new book called 'Soul Manifestos and Pieces of Joy' as well as a new magazine called 'Unpsychology'.

Now to the bit about stress. Whilst trying to keep on top of all this, I have also been working my normal job 4 days a week, which has been busy; as well as preparing for my sister's wedding by designing and making wedding invitations and graphics, creating a hen memory book and making my dress. All very exciting, but consequently, with trying to keep on top of creating new products and designs, I was beginning to feel extremely overwhelmed and stressed. Luckily I have learned to recognise the signs of when my projects and workload are manageable, and when it is all getting on top of me ie. stressing me out! In the stressed out stage, I begin to get very tearful, overly worried about everything, and slightly irrational with a short temper - not a good combo! I also try to take on even more as I don't want to feel like I have failed or am letting people down. I have come to realise, that this is unnecessary pressure that I put on myself and so have learnt to handle it better and quicker than I used to.

My first step is to realise that most of the stress is self created. When working for others, sometimes there are deadlines that you just have to keep to - this is unavoidable, and so these may need to take top priority. The work I do for myself however, is decided by me - essentially I am in control and can set the limitations, parameters and timeframe, and it is important to remind myself that if this slips, extends or changes, that's ok! And so when I start to feel like it is all too much, I just re-prioritise. I make a list. I put the unavoidable deadlines at the top and decide on the projects that I can let slip for a while. I know from experience that I will always come back and finish the projects that are really important to me, and if I don't, well then maybe that project just wasn't meant to be finished. Creativity and design is an ever changing beast and that's what makes it so enjoyable. You don't know what new opportunity may come along next and which direction it might take you, so just stay true to yourself, and if it feels right to persue it, then go for it. Also, if you want to remind yourself and feel good about what you have already achieved, when writing your list, add some things you have recently completed or just about to finish and then you can tick them off straight away! It makes you feel so much better. I also like to put my list away once I have written it, so that when I find it again in a few weeks, I surprise myself with how many items I can tick off, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. It makes you feel like you are making progress!

Sometimes, it is also good to just stop for a while. Over the past few months, although I have continued to make product, do small creative bits and pieces and continue with some marketing, I have also felt like my creative drive has dipped and felt uninspired to start any new projects. I have also been unable to finish my collaboration picture book with my sister. This is very nearly ready to go to print, but those final edits and print production tasks seem to be taking me a very long time. Why is finishing a project often the hardest bit?! So instead of stressing about this, I am just letting myself take a bit of a break and let my mind rest for a while. I have even taken up knitting this weekend - really getting the hang of it now and it's nice to feel like I am still creating and making without the pressure of it feeling like work! And I know that at some time in the near future, my creative juices will start flowing again, maybe they have already started - I've been inspired to write this blog post after all!

On a final note, I know that it is easy when working for yourself to feel like you should be filling every free minute you have with creating and making new things, but it is also important to just enjoy life. Make time for cooking, going for walks, exercise, spending time with friends and family, or just slobbing out in front of the tv. That free down time will make you more productive and happy in the long run and inspiration strikes in the most unlikely places.

So that's a little bit of an update on me. I am getting excited about Christmas and hoping to spend the next few weeks soaking up the festive atmosphere and twinkly lights!

Let me know how you feel about your creative projects. Do they ever overwhelm you? Do you feel like you put pressure on yourself to complete everything at once and then burn out? And how do you deal with your stress?

Christmas cards available in my etsy shop.

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