At this early stage in my artistic career, I'm often inspired by other artists and creatives who are doing their thing, especially while balancing the challenges of parenthood. I want to highlight some of them here and learn more about what inspires them and how they make it all work. If you or someone you know would be a fit for these posts, please send me an e-mail with the contact information.
I’m so excited to share my first inspirational artist with you today. Sara and I met in college where we bonded during an amazing retreat experience. I’ve always known Sara as an artist. Recently, Sara has taken a big step by starting a website called “The Open Life” and she has published a new ABC book, with her own beautiful artwork and words. The girls and I actually read it during breakfast on a regular basis and it has sparked some great conversations. Sara has been an inspiration to me, and more than that, a bit of a life coach. We were able to talk a few months back about my new ideas and adventures and she provided me with some amazing words of inspiration and advice. I asked Sara about her art and her life and this is what she shared! You can find Sara's website here and her book here.
Tell us first a bit about you and what you do.
I am a mom of two girls, 8 and 5. I live in my hometown of Smithton, MO. I moved home after 11 years in St. Louis. I am divorced, and remarried to a wonderful guy, Dyarl Lewis.
I struggled in the past with my career path and feeling like I could give myself permission to figure out what I wanted, who I was, and where I was going. These last few years have been full of self-discovery and growth.
Today, I can boldly say "I am an artist, writer, and self-declared catalyst for change." I self-published a book and I am in the process now of creating training and workshops (both live and online, with something for all ages) to go along with it. It's exciting and scary and I love every minute of it.
When and how did you discover this outlet? Tell us about the shift from idea to action.
I was an art major in college. Always loved art, and was good at it even as a kid. But when I graduated college I quickly lost touch with my creative side. Nobody was giving me assignments anymore! It's as if I thought, "Ok Sara, that was fun but now it's time to grow up and be responsible!" I would do art "in my free time" occasionally but that trailed off as life got full with house, kids, and extra busy work I filled my life with.
I lost track of myself and made it all about everyone else. I lost myself. I will be honest it was my dark period, and I finally hit my version of rock bottom.
In 2012, I started from scratch and I have made a LOT of big life changes in the past few years. I realize now that my own self-care and creative expression are essential to a joyful life, (for me and for those around me!) I started dreaming again. I wrote down ideas for books, and workshops I wanted to create. The problem was, I would just dream about things, and not take the action.
I still felt like I needed to make sure everyone else was ok before I would pursue "my stuff". Slowly, and with some hard conversations and self-reflection, I continue to get more comfortable taking time for myself and my interests. I did however get a "kick start" last November, when I got a call from my sister in law. She said her sister had written a children's book and only wanted ME to illustrate it. I was the only one she would trust to do it. My initial thought process went something like this: "What?!? I haven't done art for so long! I have never even illustrated anything before! I'm not the one. Frogs?!? I CAN'T DRAW FROGS!"
But then. Something amazing happened. Through the butterflies, and the goosebumps, and the heaping pile of self-doubt, I SAID YES. I said, "I'll do it. I'll figure it out." "Great. And oh," she said, "She wants to give it to her kids for Christmas."
I illustrated a 22 page book in 3 weeks, scanned the whole thing to her with the best case of butterflies I had felt in years, and she loved it. I made some funky little frogs and they are not perfect but they tell the story and the author loves them.
Wow. Lesson learned. Just do it. "Follow the butterflies". (That's one of my new mantras) It means, say "yes" when it scares you. From there I realized that my own ideas I had for children's books were valid, viable, and waiting for me to honor them. I picked my favorite and gave myself permission to dive in. I didn't really come up for air for about 2 months. I created, and created, and had lunch and maybe a shower, and got back to creating. It was inspiring, exhilarating, just amazing.
The FROG book kicked my butt awake, and my willingness to let go of perfectionism allowed me to spring into action. I had to draw some BAD FROGS to get that book done. I had to write and paint some bad first drafts (without judging) in order to get a final product created of my own book. Then, I had to follow the butterflies to actually put it "out there" to the public. So far it is just amazing the reactions from people and that is fun. It is like confirmation that I'm on the right track.
How do you manage your time and energy? How do you make your art a priority?
I'm still working on that. Some days, I feel like the day just got away from me and I don't feel good about what I got accomplished. Part of my lesson is to forgive myself, keep my goals top of mind, and give myself permission to go after them. When I see my work as offering a gift of service to the world, it's easier to make that a priority!
What struggles have you faced and how have you overcome those struggles?
I went into that a lot above, so here I'll just say that I struggled and still struggle with that annoying self-doubt. It can be insidious. There is a voice that says, "What are you doing? You are never going to succeed. Everything you do eventually flares out. You may have talent somewhere in there but you are too disorganized to do anything with it. How messy can one person be, you are an adult clean yourself up, you have stacks of papers everywhere and laundry to do, get it together." If. IF I CAN rise above this putting myself down, get in touch with my true nature and love myself just as I am, then I can get some real work done and feel good about myself. But get this. Waiting on the other side of better self-esteem is this other voice. It says, "Who do you think you are? Do you think you are better than everybody else? You think you can earn a living doing something FUN when everyone else is out here slaving away making an honest living? You sure are getting big for your britches. You think you're hot stuff or somethin'?"
Really. It's crazy.
Now, I would be worried you all will think I'm insane except for I know for a fact, we all do this to ourselves.
Quiet both voices by having a clear goal and purpose for what you are doing. Write it down. Post it where you'll see it. Listen to and read supportive, affirmative content that puts your mind where it needs to be to do the work you are meant to do. I am a work in progress but I would say both of those voices are quieter than they've ever been. Seeing the effect and joy my work brings to others is a great silencer of both voices.
Who or what inspires you?
Some of my "guru's" I guess you could call them, are Marie Forleo, Mastin Kipp, Steven Pressfield, Oprah, Brene Brown, and Martha Beck. All. Amazing. Then in my personal life, my girls, Lily and Maya, my husband Dyarl. My husband is an amazing guitar player and songwriter and being around him and the conversations we have about creative expression, freedom, authenticity, have fueled my process, no doubt. We have our own little creativity mastermind. I have that energy flowing with my entire family really, including my parents, siblings, and even my in-laws. There is a creative energy among my siblings right now that is astonishing even to us! My brother was never musical as a kid, he wouldn't sing in church or any of that. He picked up the guitar, taught himself some chords, and started writing the most touching and powerful songs! Again, it goes back to giving yourself permission to play in that game, and when you surround yourself with people in the same game, there is power there.
What impact does your work have on your children?
For one, it makes me a better mom in general. I'm less stressed, more patient, and more positive overall.
My hope is that I am giving them an example to follow of belief in themselves. I now believe I can do anything and I believe they can do anything, too! They will still have their own journey and who knows where their path of self-discovery will lead, but by watching Mommy do this kind of work and have the kind of conversations Dyarl and I have around them, my hope is they will hold on to that child-like freedom of self-expression that is natural for them at this stage.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Community is everything. You can define that however you like. Online community counts. Choose wisely who you associate with. Then stay in touch. They say we become like the 5 people we spend the most time with. Surround yourself with the people and conversations that uplift and encourage you.
Let go of what's not working. Even when it's hard to do, forgive, move on, let go. Keep working toward your vision.
You are enough. In my book, The letter "E" is for Enough. You don't have to prove yourself to anyone. What we want is the real authentic you. Give the world that special gift of YOU. Shine BRIGHT!
Love and Light,