I've really been out of the blogging loop over the past six months or so; despite my best intentions I seem to have only managed to update the blog very infrequently. It has at turns been a wonderful, exciting, frustrating, difficult, inspiring, questioning, 'up and down' time, and I think that, sometimes, when you have a lot going on in your life, it helps to take time to work things out in your own head before sharing them publicly.
To be honest, I'm still working them out. This year has been a strange one so far. A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about the fact that I was ill for much of the first two months of 2017. This severely hampered my ability to work with any kind of consistency, and as a result I saw my sales drop, which is what often happens. I generally find that the more work I create the more I sell, and at the same time, the more opportunities seem to come my way. It's almost as if the universe rewards my hard work! But the moment I stop for a while, so do the sales and the enquiries. It's bizarre - I would never have thought it would have such an effect, but it really does. Have any of you experienced this too?
I think that this fear of everything slowing down - or stopping altogether - creates a lot of anxiety within me. It takes a lot to admit to feeling like this, but it's true. Even when I feel as if I need a break for a couple of weeks or so, or I want to take the time to develop new ideas or a new body of work, I'm scared to do so. This is the thing with building much of your career via the internet; you need to create new content constantly and post it online all the time to keep people interested and to keep growing your following. It seems to me that if you 'disappear' for even a week - if you don't post any new work online, and don't spend a lot of time 'liking' and commenting on other people's posts - it has an effect. You'll start losing followers, and without getting too technical (I actually can't, because I don't fully understand how it works myself!) it seems to impede your ability to be 'seen' when you do return to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc., due to their various complicated algorithms, which decide how 'relevant' you are and where your posts show up - and even if they show up at all - in the timelines/feeds of your followers. It can sometimes feel that the following you've taken so long to build up can easily be taken away. I wonder whether this is the reason that some of the artists & illustrators I follow online with the largest followings post once a day or even several times a day, each and every day? Maybe they have realised this too, and their diligence has paid off? Personally, I sometimes go for days without posting anything! I try not to do this, but I find that life gets in the way, I get busy, and I want to cherish the special moments with those I love in the real world, without becoming obsessed with social media. Generally though, to become really successful online, you have to be at least a little bit obsessed with social media, but it can feel as if you're on a treadmill at times.
I think it wouldn't bother me nearly as much if I was just doing all of this as a hobby, or sharing parts of my life with a small number of friends and followers online for fun. But for me, it's my livelihood. It's the only way I have of making money at the moment. My very wise fiancé said to me:
"You will never see on someone's gravestone: Here lies the body of xxxxx. He had 10,000 Instagram followers."
It's a good point and it did kind of put it into perspective for me!
So I need to find the right balance between making time to regularly post online and engage with people, but not to let social media or online followings dictate the course of my art and career. After all, there are many ways to build a career. And to create the work I want to create in the future...well, it will take time. I won't go into detail about that right now, but we've been making many plans over the past few months, and I've spent a long time talking through with family and friends which path I wish to take. I've been making some changes behind the scenes already, because what worked 5 years ago doesn't work for me now. I'm sorry if this sounds cryptic; I promise I'm not doing this deliberately! Do you see what i mean about being reluctant to share my thought process publicly - it's hard to know how much to say; what to share and what not to share right now.
I was intending to write more in this post about just how weird 2017 has been so far (the 'ups and downs' I mentioned earlier), and how to cope when you go from an extremely busy period in your career to a quiet or uncertain period, and the anxiety that this brings. Is that something you'd be interested in hearing about, whether or not you're a self-employed or freelance creative? Because I'd be happy to write about that subject at length in another post! I think I'll leave it there for today, but I'd love to hear from any of you with your thoughts and comments, either via Facebook or Twitter, or you can contact me by email if you'd prefer.
Oh yes, one last thing! I have now finally added a shop to the website, where I'll be selling many of my original paintings on canvas as well as the larger painted stone collections! After the success of my Etsy shop (which will remain open in the same way as before) I've realised just how much I love selling directly to my collectors and customers and having that personal contact with them, as well as knowing where my artwork will be going to live, which is something that doesn't really happen when you sell through a gallery. There is also free worldwide delivery on all orders of original paintings through the new shop - if you'd like to take a look, you can find it here: www.natashanewton.com/shop I'll be adding more work as and when it's completed, so please check back regularly and contact me if you have any questions. Thank you!
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