Busy. Slammed. Overworked and feeling like I might be on the verge of burning out. But I keep pushing forward. I can’t stop. Because it’s survival mode now. Nothing like a little pressure to motivate you.
I can’t really tell you what has happened over the last few months. Not just because my memory sucks – something I like to refer to as my beer soaked brain – but because I have been going pretty much non-stop. When I’m not working a full time job during the day as a tech for theater (building sets, hanging lights, cleaning up other people’s mess, etc.) I’m taking whatever free time I have to build up… well… what has become the family business. Which isn’t out of the ordinary. The biggest difference is that everything feels like it hinges on the success of our separate, yet jointly created ventures. Our feet are in the fire now.
Here are some things I’ve been working on behind the scenes…
Over the last three to four years I’ve been plugging away at this art business in a moseying pace. Sauntering in the way retired hobbyists do for pure enjoyment of a thing that keeps my human setting on tolerable instead of obnoxious. That was pretty much the course we followed when, earlier this summer, my wife quit her job. Now, urgency is how we operate. Like the way that a bathroom can be urgently needed when a bowel movement won’t wait. One savings account has been depleted and we are living on single mediocre income in the one of the most expensive counties, in the most expensive state, perhaps, in the world. Rent is about to go up. Probably will do again soon after that. Cost of living is steadily rising at the same pace as global warming and has a similar impending doom feel about it.
Still I’m not worried. Anxious. Tense. Sleepless – absolutely. But we’re not to the cliff’s edge yet. And we have experience in this sort of thing: post recession we tightened our belts and pulled together what we could to make ends meet. It was stressful, but I think weathering the storm made our marriage even stronger. Made us tougher people which will come in handy as the strain grows, and it most definitely will. We’ve only just begun to hit hard times.
In the last few months my wife has opened five shops under three brand names, posting two or three dozen products of her own. She’s been by my side at many of the flea markets, art walks, or craft fairs that I’ve attended this year and she has been working every day to work on building her product line.
Time for a plug here: you can see her shops on Etsy, Society6, and Redbubble under Come To California and I Love The Unknown. Or follow the links here:
Sure I’m tired. However, without that tiny, minuscule earning we are earning the hard way we might not weather this storm. It’s our tiny life boat. A raft in the in cold, trashing ocean. Got to bail the water out. Or sink.
So when I say I have been busy it’s actually true. Not just something I say to blow off our friends, but an all out war against the lies that the economy is recovering. Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to not only ramp-up my efforts to put up new prints, but create things to help my wife’s business to gain some traction. I’ve made a Pop-Art dinosaur, some reclaimed wood decor, display tables and shelves. I’ve enrolled in fairs and markets as a partner to my wife. All while holding down a job that doesn’t necessarily have a constant schedule. I am one hundred percent business and we spend a lot of time talking shop when we are not working.
It’s odd to be here. I’ve heard the war stories from other creatives who say that when you don’t have a fallback you work harder. Well, now here we are. No Plan B. Without a safety net. Or at least, a safety net that looks a little threadbare. Maybe it can’t take the full weight of our fall, but it’s best not to think about that. Concentrate on reaching the other side. It’s with that determination that I keep working. Normally I would be too tired to keep drawing. This is the busy time of year for me when the day job takes up a lot of time and energy. Luckily there has been a little bit of space to breathe in, but I’ve had a few days here and there where I don’t feel like doing anything.
Then I pick up the axe and go right back to swinging. Dark bags under the eyes. Shoulders bunched up like knotted Christmas lights. Barely able to recognize mistakes. Which I’m making more of. Before this autumn I would have told you that I didn’t have the strength. That I would have let the flame die out. I’ve surprised myself. My wife stepped up too. I knew she would. What makes it hard for her is that we keep hearing how the economy is doing better, but we’re not seeing it anywhere. Approaching one hundred applications to underpaying jobs and several interviews and temp agencies teasing opportunity only to pass on actually hiring through a gutless email. Pile on top of that a heap a lackluster sales and you might begin to understand the low feeling it brings. Can’t stop though. Not now.
This is the sort of thing people don’t really share on Facebook. If you looked at our photos and posts online you probably wouldn’t know that we are having a hard time. I don’t see us starving any time soon. We’ll get through this for now. Yet when times are tough you buckle down and dig in. You don’t quit. And I think that’s the thing that gives me hope. That by doubling down on our dreams we might be able to tunnel our way out of this mess. To feel the warm sunlight on our faces again as the storm clears. Stronger, better people for having survived. We are fighters after all, seasoned by a harsh environment and used to pulling double duty.