January 2024 Journal
how to be quiet
I’ve been running my little business for over 12 years now. Without fail, the run up to Christmas is hectic. It begins with calendar launch in September and ends when the calendar sells out at the beginning of January. I love it, it is such a buzz. It is also quite relentless. I’ve finally realised (maybe because I’m getting older and the energy is less?) that a busy time needs to be balanced out by a quieter time. That might sound quite obvious, but it is hard to work out exactly how to create quiet times when you are self-employed. Carving out intentional quiet time means saying ‘no’ to work (and therefore income) which takes bravery. It’s not like times are easy for independent businesses. But I felt that if I’m lucky enough to keep doing this for the rest of my working life, I need there to be different paces, rather than constant go-go-go. So, this year, I have had an intentionally quiet January.
Firstly, I’ve decided that there’ll be no more January Trade Shows (big events where you sell directly to retailers). I used to do one in Glasgow every January. A brilliant opportunity to catch up with buyers, meet new shops, make connections. I wouldn’t have the business I have today without the January Trade Show. But it meant finishing new products and producing a catalogue amidst the Christmas chaos, designing and assembling a stand, four days away in Glasgow (on your feet all day long), and then processing and fulfiling orders. It also, inevitably, always either snowed OR my car broke down. I found being indoors (with no windows) and having to talk to people all day long BEYOND exhausting. But everyone else seemed to be managing fine, so I just thought I was a bit weak and pushed on. Recently, I’ve realised that everyone has different capacity for different things. Finding something hard doesn’t have a moral value. It just is what it is. The choice I am now making is not to do the Trade Show so that I save some of my capacity for other things.
The next thing I decided was to close my Etsy shop once the 2024 calendars sold out. They sold out on the 5th of January so I popped the shop on Holiday Mode. This meant that I would spend much less time fulfiling orders. One of my favourite things about running the business is putting together customer orders. It is almost meditative – selecting the right size of mailer, packing the items and ticking them off, writing a note, weighing the package, printing a shipping label, stickers, taping it up, popping it in the mail sack. I listen to the Archers on Radio 4 and pack pack pack. But it does leave precious little time for anything else. So Etsy had to go for a month.
I also made a decision to be less busy. A mindset change, rather than a practical change. Sometimes busy is a fact, sometimes busy is an attitude (I’ve attempted this mindset change with Tired, too, but being woken every hour is being woken every hour, regardless of mindset).
So what did I do with my quiet?
I DREW. Lovely quiet drawing time. No hectic dashes in the studio while Trix napped. Instead, sitting at the bunker in the kitchen DRAWING. That made me a calmer mum when she woke up.
I also caught up on admin, replied to some ancient flagged emails, tidied out some drawers. Nothing spectacular. Tuesday is my full day of work each week. Usually I am aiming to be at my desk before 9. That was not my January vibe. I could fold some washing, play with the kids, potter a bit, before starting.
I noticed, journalled, looked at things. I read a book (almost).
This is the 30th of January. Time to start thinking about re-emerging. I’ll open back up a little, but winter is not over, so I shall continue to be as much of a hermit as possible. I’m going to try to take my newly found sense of quiet into the next few months. Wish me luck.
Sketchbook images below: New Year’s Day on the beach at Coldingham with the kids; a snowdrop bulb from the woodland at the beginning of January; a blackbird eating the berries on the cotoneaster outside the kitchen window; blackbird (yellow beak); coal tits and our Big Garden Birdwatch results; a journal page