Business and Art: Finding Your When

The Business of-2

“So when do you find time to work?”

The question is a simple one, but for some reason it always makes me want to laugh, perhaps even chortle (though I’ve never quite figured out what a chortle sounds like).

The phrasing of that question is spot on, because the time to work truly has to be found – it rarely ever finds me.

Since bringing two of our children home to homeschool, my time has been more limited than perhaps ever before. Homeschooling requires me to be fully present for several key hours of each day, which I don’t mind because I’m shockingly enjoying the process. But it does mean that I need to be strategic with my time.

Lately I’ve taken to getting up early to work. Early morning has always been my favorite time of day. I love the hum of the settled house, the smell of coffee, and the buzz I get as my brain starts churning with creative juices.

Getting up early means fatigue, though. Sometimes I’m so tired that by the time we get through our school day, and I get the toddler down for her nap, I have to lay down myself, which cuts into some of my potential work time.

Truly it’s all a dance.

Some days I wake up bursting with energy and manage to get a ton of work done. Other days, I drag myself from my bed only to stare at a blank screen in a sleep deprived stupor.

The final, and perhaps trickiest, component to turning your creative hobby into something more is designating the hours needed to work your business.

Whether you have kids in school all day, grown children who have left the house, or still have small people home with you at all hours, finding the time to work takes effort and discipline.

There isn’t a formula for this part of the equation. I wish it were that easy. But each of us has to manage our time within our own unique circumstances.

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I know women whose creative minds come alive at night. They knock out mounds of work as soon as everyone in the house is settled and then go to sleep fulfilled.

Some women, like me, thrive in the quiet, early mornings. As the sun thrums just below the surface of the horizon, we early birds find our worms and gear ourselves up for the long days ahead.

Perhaps you have some time in during the day while kids are in school, which you can earmark as your creative hours.

Or maybe you hire a sitter to come in a few afternoons a week so you can sneak off to a local coffee shop and knock out projects uninterrupted.

The point is it will look different for all of us, but one thing remains consistent across the board: All working mothers must find the time. It doesn’t appear magically, but rather has to be mined from the insanity of each changing day.

Making a business of your art requires tenacity. You have to know what you’re working for and why, and then you have to believe in what you’re doing enough to make the sacrifices necessary to do it. And make no mistake, when you take your creative hobby to the next level, you’re taking your family with you, so let them in on the journey.

Let the people closest to you in on what you’re working toward so that they can be a part of the journey. Don’t make them watch from the periphery, wondering what’s going on and why you’re suddenly a little more dependent on coffee.

Let them become partners in your journey, helping you find the time to chase after your passions. Because there is no more beautiful sight than that of a Renaissance Mom who indulges in the art of life with her little ones by her side.

The Business of Art

This concludes the five parts series on making a business of art. It’s been a brief, but I hope helpful, glimpse into the ways that busy moms can take their creative hobbies and turn them into something more.

What steps will you take today?

 

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LC-BookCoverThis series is inspired by my upcoming book Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom. *

Co-authored with Wendy Speake, this book is specifically for the creative mom who wonders why on earth God designed her creative, and then gave her children. It’s full of encouragement and stories of renaissance moms who are impacting the world with their art, oftentimes with little ones by their side.

As a special incentive, if you buy your copy by the end of September you will receive a free pdf downloadable that expands more on how to turn your creative hobby into a thriving business. Offering practical tools that will help you take your art to the next level, this is the encouragement you need to move forward toward your creative pursuits.

Purchase your copy of Life Creative now, then come back and fill out the form to receive your free pdf downloadable.

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Life Creative Order Bonus: 5 Steps To Turn Your Creative Hobby into a Thriving Business

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The Magic of Exploration

Our little house sat nestled on a five-acre field, the sprawling Wisconsin woods providing the backdrop to what was a pretty idyllic scene. I was a child, so my memories of Wisconsin winters are filled with nothing more than magic. Hours spent tunneling through the snow, building igloos, eating snacks inside our burrowed out snow caverns in six and seven foot drifts.

We lived at the top of a large hill, so the neighborhood descended upon our back yard daily to sled. We’d bring out pitchers of water at the end of each day, and build up a ramp of snow, sprinkling it with water between each layer. By morning, we’d have a frozen solid launching pad for our toboggans.

My bedroom was on the second story, and I’d wake up each morning to look out over the stark white landscape, a wonderland of possibility for my imaginative mind. I didn’t need a wardrobe to reach Narnia. It waited for me in my backyard.

It’s easy to remember those Wisconsin years with great fondness. I was a child, and my only responsibility was to bundle up and give in to the imagination. As an adult, I shudder at the thoughts of frigid winters and snowy fields, but as a child?

I lived for winter.

When I was little, there were few things I enjoyed more than exploring. My brother and I would wake early and make plans to traverse the woods behind our house. Of course, during hunting season it was imperative that we wore bright colors and made enough noise to not be mistaken for deer, but in the summer, when the snow finally melted and the trees turned vibrant, we’d spend hours and hours in their shade.

There’s magic in exploration, and I miss it.

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There are days when the mundane feels like a blanket over my head. The predictability of life presses down, and I find myself longing for those early years  when I was nothing more than the girl in the trees, swinging from one grand adventure to the next.

There are other days, however, when I’m completely smitten with this life I’m living. As the cooler Florida weather kisses my bare arms (I’ll take a Florida winter over a Wisconsin winter any day of the week now), I watch my husband and kids play in the backyard.

The boys kick the soccer ball, whooping and hollering in delight with each scored goal.

Tia flips and tumbles over her mats, the very same mats upon which I used to flip and tumble in my Wisconsin yard as a child, and I feel her delight as she takes in the world upside down.

And Annika tromps through the yard, high stepping over the areas where the grass is a little too high. Her face is filled with that rapturous delight that only toddlers possess when they’re given the freedom to roam unhindered.

All the sights and sound assail my senses, and I realize there’s plenty of adventure left. Some of the adventure is awesome, the imaginations of my small people lighting the path for grand adventures.

Some of the adventure I could do without – like broken bottles of nail polish and shattered snow globes, and everything else the rambunctious toddler longs to attack inside the house.

It’s all an adventure, even the monotony. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective, and a willingness to use your imagination. Because the truth is, we were made for adventure. We weren’t made for monotony because it leads to complacency, and there’s no power in complacency.

If you sit back and think about it, I imagine you’re seeking adventure just like I am. Maybe you’re an obvious thrill seeker, always open and game for the next wild endeavor.

Or maybe you’re a homebody, content to stay nestled inside your comfort zone.

But I imagine you still long for adventure. 

So what does adventure look like for you? Is it the challenge of your work? Is it the delight you take in watching your children grow? Is it travel? Do you find adventure in a good book, or in the creativity of your every day life?

What is it that breaks you free from the monotony of the day to day? When was your last adventure?

Has it been too long?

Helen Keller told us that “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” If this is true, and if you believe it, then what are you doing to enjoy the ride?

Happy Tuesday, friends. Make today an adventure.

 

Take the First Swing

“There will be many times in your lives – at school, and more particularly when you are grown up – when people will distract or divert you from what needs to be done. You may even welcome the distraction. But if you use it as an excuse for not doing what you’re supposed to do, you can blame no one but yourself. If you truly wish to accomplish something, you should allow nothing to stop you, and chances are you’ll succeed.”

The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles

I opened up the attachment, and immediately my eyes began to burn. The photo was everything I’d imagined, and nothing I ever allowed myself to dare dream. It was a colliding clash of conflicting emotions, and it all washed over me in a giant wave.

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When I first dared to dream of writing a book, I was twenty-one years old. I was told it was an attainable goal, and I believed that fully and without doubt. I had no reason not to believe it.

I didn’t understand how difficult the process would be, though – how hard I would have to fight to tell the right story in the right way. I didn’t know that I would sweat and labor and toil, and I had no idea the effect all that fighting would have on my confidence.

All around me, it seemed other people were living out my dream. People launched books, and they all seemed to do it accidentally, never having really wanted to publish in the first place.

So I wondered if I wanted it too much. But then I realized, it’s okay to want it, and it’s definitely okay to fight for it. In fact, the fight makes the end result that much sweeter.

I am constantly telling my children that they have to fight for their dreams. Success doesn’t just fall into your lap – you have to work for it.

This week, my daughter got a much coveted skill in gymnastics – the cast to a handstand on the high bar. When she came home after practice, I asked her how she felt when she did it.

“Scared,” she replied. “I was so scared to try it, and the first time I didn’t get all the way up. But then one of the bigger girls told me to do it again, and I reminded myself that I have to just keep trying, so I got up and tried again. And I did it! The third time I tried, I wasn’t even scared anymore.”

Out of the mouths of babes, right?

Friends, big goals and dreams take courage. You’re holding yourself up on the high bar, arms quaking under the strain of desire and fear, and you have a choice to make. Will you cast, or will you jump off the bar?

Maybe you cast and you don’t get all the way up. Maybe you even fall. That’s okay. Cast again. And again. And again and again and again.

Because one day, after all that casting, you will manage to push into the handstand. You’re heart will thump with adrenaline as you teeter high above the ground, and you’ll realize that all that casting was worth it.

It mattered.

Accomplishing goals takes courage, yes. But it also takes hard work and perseverance. You have to look at your dream for what it is – a bar high above the ground, and it begs for you to swing.

So what are you waiting for? Take the advice of my tenacious nine year old with the big dreams. Remind yourself that you just have to keep trying, and climb back up on the bar. Because you can do this, friends.

All you have to do is take that first swing.

 

When Someday Becomes Today, and THIS IS A HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT!

Fourteen years ago, the phone rang, piercing the silence inside my tiny apartment. Lee was at work, and I was preparing dinner, because we were newlyweds, and making food was still exciting to me back then.

I answered the phone, and her voice came across the line all buttery and warm.

“I hear you like to take tea,” she said, and I could hear the smile behind her words.

That was the beginning of one of my most cherished friendships. For the next year, Wendy was my confidant, my cheerleader, my prayer partner, and my sweetest friend. Our love for tea and scones wasn’t our only commonality, either.

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Photo by Tammy Labuda: TammyLabudaPhotography.com

We both shared a passion for encouraging other women through our creative pursuits. I was a writer and a singer, she an actress who penned poetic prose in her spare time.

In those early years, before children rounded out our families, Wendy and I dreamed of all the different ways we wanted to work together in some creative capacity. But as time marched on, babies entered the picture, and our husband’s jobs moved us to different coasts, the dream of working together felt a bit lofty and ambitious.

Until last summer

At our 4th Annual Creative Retreat, Wendy and I began to speak earnestly of our dreams to work together creatively. We spoke in depth of our heart for creative women, and for mothers living this creative life with little ones in their midst, and the time felt like now.

We put together a book proposal, and we met at the Allume conference in October where we found an audience with an agent who caught our vision and agreed to represent us in our writing pursuits.

So we started writing and praying for the right publisher, and the right timing, and the right audience, and…

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This week Wendy and I signed our first publishing contract with Kregel Publishing, with a release date set for September of 2016.

A book.

A real book!

A real book written for women…

Written for creative women like us…

Creative women who are wondering if their creativity has a place in this intense season of motherhood.

Our book (which is tentatively titled at this point) is coming together beautifully. It’s been as much of a journey this past year writing this book as the past fourteen years of dreaming and living it have been.

Our goal is to encourage other creative moms to use their gifts and talents to make an impact in the world.

We’re writing this message as we live it ourselves, seven children between the two of us, while our husbands travel, and the intensity of living creative passions next to the hustle of growing families sometimes overwhelms us.

Kelli Stuart, Wendy Speake Announcement

Next week, Wendy and I will be together again for our 5th Annual Creative Retreat, exactly one year after this long-held dream took root. Our goal is to finish the rough draft of our manuscript, and after our week together is over, our husbands and children will join us, and we’ll all celebrate as one unit.

Because they are friends who have become family.

I’m not going to lie, my friends – this has been such a journey, and it’s not over yet! This is only the beginning of the exciting things to come. Because not so long ago, I surrendered this longing I held in my heart – a longing to see the words that flowed from my fingertips in print – and I committed to write simply for the joy of it.

But still I hoped. I longed for the day when I could sign my name on the line that validated my gift of words. And I realized that it’s okay to want it.

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Today I placed the signed contract in the mail, and a long held dream finally grew wings.

There is a lot of work still to be done, and so much to learn, but isn’t it exciting? This life of living and dreaming all wrapped up tight with friends and family is a privilege, and I’m thrilled to share this journey with so many of you as well!

Creative Moms, don’t miss the release in fall 2016, sign up for email updates here at kellistuart.com, or over at wendyspeake.com, and we promise to joyfully prime the pump in the next 15 long months with posts purposed to bless your creative hearts. We are really excited about the community of creative moms that God is going to knit together in the coming days!

I’m writing a book!

You Can’t Do It All, And That’s Okay

When I graduated college, I really believed that I was on the path to a huge career. Early on in our marriage, Lee and I sat down and wrote out a list of 100 dreams – because those are things you do when you’re young and married and feel certain that the world is yours for the taking.

My list included such items as:

“Backpack across Europe with Lee” (should’ve taken care of that one before kids came along…)

“Go on an Alaskan Cruise” (should’ve done that when we had income to spare, and practically no bills, and no kids…)

“Own a boat” (we’ve learned it’s much better to be friends with people who own boats…)

“Have 4 kids” (hey look! dreams do come true!)

There were also a lot of ridiculous things on the list – things like, “Be in a commercial, live in the Bahamas for a year, and own an island.” You know, like I actually wanted to buy an island.

Ah, youth.

It’s actually really hard to come up with 100 dreams if you think about it, and for good reason.

This life is so much more than simply living out our wildest dreams. That’s not to say I’m against dreaming. But when you set a task for yourself to write down 100 dreams?

You’re bound to let yourself down.

My career dreams were even more ambitious than my life dreams. I wanted to write and publish ten books and be on the New York Times Bestseller List before age 30 (again, I may have wanted to edit this list when kids started showing up at age 25).

I was going to do all this with my perfect, angelic children by my side. And somehow my life would be spotless and easy throughout the process.

In short, I believed the biggest lie sold to women of my generation – the lie that said we could do, and have, it all.

I watched this video today, and I found myself nodding so ferociously that I thought I would get whiplash. It’s time more women stood up and acknowledged that having it all is just a myth.

I loved when Ally said, “You may have it all, but it will be in different season.”

YES!

Ladies – Moms – Life is messy beautiful. Motherhood is messy beautiful. Careers are messy beautiful. Marriage is messy beautiful.  But you know what? Dreams are simply beautiful.

When we dream, we don’t see the messy. We only see the beautiful. And then the messy shows up, and the dream gets muddy, and we miss the beauty, and we wonder why it’s so hard to do all the things we dream of doing.

That’s because we can’t do it all – not all at the same time.

Everything we do – every choice we make – will require sacrifice. Motherhood will require a sacrifice of time, of brain power, of focus, of sanity. In the early seasons of motherhood, that sacrifice will be huge. But as your children grow, the sacrifice lessens to a degree, leaving space for new experiences.

Chasing a career will require sacrifice. It will require a sacrifice of time, of brain power, of the freedom to get up and go. And if you’re pursuing a career with young children at home, that sacrifice will be greater for a time. But as your children grow, the sacrifice lessens to a degree.

Do you see a pattern?

We can’t have it all at once, ladies. And if someone tries to convince you that you can, you should kick her in the shins and flee.

Make no mistake, that woman you’re watching – the one that you think has it all and balances it so perfectly – is making a sacrifice. She is sacrificing something, and that’s okay. We can’t judge one another, because we’re all doing it. We’re all sacrificing in some area of life so that we can provide in another area of life.

That’s what makes womanhood, motherhood, life in general, so beautiful. And so very messy.

So can you have it all? No, you simply can’t. Not all at the same time. But string the years together and walk faithfully toward the things set before you in each moment, and you just might be surprised when you get to the end and look back and see that you had a great many things.

You may even see that dreams you never dared to dream came true.

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