A few weeks ago, I hopped on a flight up to Raleigh for Creative at Heart Conference Round 7, and let me just tell ya, if you've ever been on the fence about attending a conference, well hop on over to the other side where the grass is greener and book a ticket. (I realize I totally mixed up my sayings here, but just roll with it.) It's 100% worth it in every way!
Even before being a creative business owner, I have always wanted to attend Creative at Heart. And since this was my very first "official" year going full-time, it seemed like the perfect time to say YES!
Best. Decision. Ever. Y'all I am not kidding when I say I have a notebook CHOCK-FULL of words of wisdom from ladies who "get it" and a whole new tribe of women who I can turn to with my biggest questions in life and business. Honestly, there's just so much to say that I don't even know where to begin, but when it comes right down to it, Creative at Heart inspired me to remember the WHY behind my business and to let go of the hustle. (Yes, saying that still ensues slight panic.)
Action Tip: Give yourself a few more "out of the office" days when you get back to start implementing all the new strategies and life lessons you scribbled in your notebook. I wasn't able to dive right in to working ON my business because I had to get back to working IN my business the second I got home. (Ah, wedding deadlines.) Basically, plan ahead for the overwhelm, fried-brain syndrome and inspiration overload.
And of course you know it's going to be a fantabuluos conference when it all kicks off with THE Lara Casey. I think every woman in the room burst into tears. I consider myself a Stonewall Jackson, and I'll be the first to admit, I lost it. That gal can speak some truths and hit ya deep, y'all. She asked us where we wanted to be when we were 80. Simple question right? But oh-so-telling. I knew right away that I wouldn't be worrying about the size of my email list or chasing after that coveted 'k' beside my Instagram follower count. I'd want to be drinking hot coffee on the front porch right next to my sweet husband and not having to be anywhere. No deadlines, no meetings, no hustle, no stress. Just watching the trees grow. (And maybe there's a grandkid or 7 running around eating homemade cookies because I'm also now a whiz at baking.) And you know what it takes to get there? Not worrying about which hashtags to use, I'll tell you that much. What is the true source of inspiration in your life? Aim your arrow at that.
We listen to everyone else's dreams instead of following our own path. Cultivated dreams last longer than you.
And when I think about aiming my arrow, it looks a lot like making my faith the foundation of my business and serving others well. It looks like carrying on my dad's legacy and loving on my family and friends. It looks like bringing a little joy to someone's day with something as simple as a watercolor bunny.
Katelyn James spoke on the importance of micro changes for macro results. (Equally obsessed with her and her gracious demeanor!) I totally geek out over client experience, and I do everything I can to foster true relationships with each and every client! Southern manners are something I hold near and dear, and Katelyn perfectly explained how to translate those over into your business. I personally send a little client gift to each and every bride I design wedding stationery for, and I have lots of fun surprises throughout the process that I hope makes things easy as pie and memorable too! I also love easing the stress of the big day by sending a photoshoot-ready suite to their planner and photographer to have on wedding day so my fabulous brides don't have to worry about a thing!
But anwyho, enough about me. Here's the nitty-gritty of what I got out of her keynote.
You can slow down, and it's going to be okay. No really, it is.
Slowing down is hard for me. I'm a workaholic by nature, and I will sit in this old wooden office chair (lovingly, yet uncomfortably reupholstered by my Paw Paw) from sunup till sundown listening to podcasts on 2X the speed, cranking out orders and whipping up paintings.
I stress myself out. I put deadlines on things that don't even need them. I sit with my laptop on the couch while catching up on our favorite shows (Walking Dead fans, holla at ya girl) to "get ahead" for tomorrow.
Action Tip: Get a comfy office chair. And then get out of it at 5:00 p.m.
I invest all this time in my business, but what about my marriage? Yikes. I'll spend money to be at a conference, but will I spend money to have a counselor pour into our marriage? I learned that being intentional with my time, my priorities and my gifts can turn my world around. Little changes = big results.
Shanna Skidmore also inspired me to be happy with the enough. I couldn't wait to meet her right away because I was blown-away (and incredibly jealous) that she is taking a year off social media. (I think that one counts as a macro change, y'all. Also still very confused on how she markets her business. Do you tape flyers around your neighborhood or take an ad out in the newspaper or what??!! But I digress.) She asked us to write down where we want to be one year from now. Here's what I wrote word-for-word.
"One year from now it will be August 9, 2018. I'll be 28 years old. I'd like to live in an airy white farmhouse with a garden in the back. (One that I actually tend to!) I'd love to have a studio filled with natural light and a place for everything. I want to sit on our deck every night and watch the sunset with Alex, phone-free. I want my relationship with God to be stronger than ever and to pray out loud more. I want to launch an online watercolor course and create some courses or even a watercolor retreat with my dad. I'd like to snowboard more, take last-minute weekend getaways and bake cookies for the post office."
So minus the snowboarding, how much more money do those things really cost? It's funny, we always want more, but the things we truly desire don't necessarily cost a dime.
If you don't set your enough, you'll skip right past it.
Right now, I'm about to hit my one-year mark of being an artist full-time, and I can't wait to start making these tweaks for year two. It's easy to chase the hustle (and it's a good thing too), but it's hard to be content with the enough.
And that's right where I want to be.
I'm saying yes to holding tight to my why, and I'm embracing the freedom that comes with focusing on gratitude instead of growth. I'm saying yes to saying no. I'm saying yes to stability, purpose, contentment and harmony. (I know that sounds like a bunch of nice words I picked out of a hat, but they're super intentional!) I'm saying yes to turning down the noise. I'm saying yes to giving myself grace in case I completely screw it all up.
And I'm saying THANK YOU to everyone who is helping me get there by sharing your stories and being major encouragers!
So here's to the creatives and all the fabulous girls (and guys) I met at Creative at Heart who have shaped my perspective as business owner, a wife and a friend. You the real MVP!
P.S. I have about 638 more takeaways/revelations I need to share, but this is turning into a straight-up novel, so stay tuned for a separate post.
P.P.S. The beautiful photos are from the incredible Holly Felts who captured every detail!