I thank you all for the amazing responses to my creative journey. So many touching e-mails, and it makes me so happy to know that hearing my (very honest) story is moving to you. I’ve got a LOT more to say, I’ll keep posting installments as I’m ready. In sitting down to write the next chapter of my creative journey, it seems fitting that I got lost. I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell the tale in a way that makes sense, especially since I don’t consider my journey over, but rather I’m in the middle of it! Without further ado, here’s the next chapter…
In the first six months after Elizabeth was born I had a lot of time on my hands. I wasn’t working, and my darling girl took 4 – 6 1hr naps every day. This meant that I had little bits of time to scrapbook each day, and I was determined to find a place for myself in the industry. I submitted a LOT of layouts to the magazines. When I say a lot, I mean at least 100- pretty much every page I’d ever made. I also tried my hand at teaching for another few stores. Classes were hit or miss. I never knew what people would like or not like.
Not a one submitted page got picked up, and when I’d give up on a layout and posted it on my 2peas gallery they’d get mild praise, but never the pages & pages of comments I longed for. Shallow and lame of me? YES. At that time though, I was really just looking for praise of my work and confirmation that I had something to offer. That I had something worth sharing.
I spent over 8hrs on the layout above. You’d never know it to look at it, but I agonized and stressed over every detail on my layouts. This one I used foam dots to put a color photo of Elizabeth over a black & white of the same photo. I also hand-cut the title from a font. Looking at it objectively (now) I can see where I was going wrong, but in that time, in that moment I thought it was the best layout I’d ever made, and it was a turning point for me.
If this, my “best yet” layout didn’t get chosen by magazines or flooded with praise, who was to say anything I did would? Who was I scrapping for? Why did I think I needed to be something I’m not? More importantly: Was all this ‘pressure’ I felt to fit in from the industry, or was it all in my head?
The answer, of course, is that magazines or other scrappers don’t pressure a person to fit in. I’ve NEVER actually seen or heard this! But, in my mind at this time I thought I had to try and fit in, I’d pressured myself to the point of having no idea who I was creatively. Since I didn’t have a job, and was under no requirements to create for specific things, I figured out I was lost pretty darn quick. The real question was, how in the world would I figure out where I wanted to go?!
Believe it or not, the rejection (oh there was a LOT) and the lack of my popularity on-line didn’t upset me. I’d been competing (horse shows) since I was 10 years old, and I recognized that it wasn’t personal… I just wasn’t an it girl. I didn’t have a distinct style, and I was doing pages that I thought would please other people, but they didn’t.
I wasn’t enjoying my scrapbook time & process, so how could I expect anyone else to like what I was up to?
The layout above is one I did for a design team call. NOT the photos or look I’d have chosen for myself… but I wanted to win. I didn’t. If anything, I’m glad I got rejected repeatedly. I sent off letters, photos, e-mails, and such to every manufacturer I liked asking about designing for them. I either got “thanks for being a customer, we appreciate your support” or no reply period. Why, looking back, am I glad that I was repeatedly turned away?
It quickly forced me to realized that it wasn’t them, it was me. I was making what I thought “they” wanted… and they didn’t want it! So, logically, I quickly decided I ought to be focusing instead on what I wanted. Looking back this period felt like YEARS, when in fact it happened very quickly over the spring & summer of 2005. What I determined by the middle of summer was this:
- I didn’t want to scrapbook “for” a magazine or anyone else. I wanted to scrapbook for my own joy & albums
- I had NO clue what “May’s style” was
- I needed to get better at title treatments
- My photos were often cause of frustration. Not photos themselves, but placement
- I sucked at journaling. I wasn’t telling stories, I was spouting off canned responses.
- I missed making stuff up and playing as if nobody else was watching. Stuff like my DisneyWorld album.
- Bottom line: I had lost my joy of scrapbooking AND I was unhappy with the pages I was producing.
I wasn’t happy with what I was making, it didn’t feel legit. It was time to figure out what my own style was, and what I liked.
One thing that was going great during this time was talking to (and becoming friends with) wonderful ladies on message boards. Some were working in the industry, others just enthusiastic scrapbookers like myself. I found encouragement, support, and friendship and that was huge. “Scrap-lifting” was (as it is now) quite popular, and I decided if I wanted to try and figure myself out scrapbook wise perhaps lifting some scrapbookers I liked would help me figure it out. This layout with all the ribbons is one such example.
This was one of my favorite pages (again, it was lifted)
You have to understand that I’m a nerd. I was never happy in school unless I knew I gave my very best, and that’s an attitude I use in my approach to much of my life. I want to give my best. If I am doing that, I can be satisfied. I KNEW that I wasn’t doing my best in scrapbooking (hello, many pages with NO journaling? lame!) In search of my own self-paced scrap lessons and figuring out where I wanted to go with my crafting I turned to lifting. The scraplifting helped me with 4 things:
- I don’t like a lot of matted photos! Why I’d been so hard-core in matting I don’t know, but in lifting I discovered I prefered them (mostly) to be placed without the mats.
- I got good at seeing the bones of layouts. Dissecting the pieces and design, figuring out what was so right about pages I admired.
- I started noticing the details that I was drawn to, and finding things that work for me. Things that I said “yes, this feels right” when I was creating.
- I always asked permission to ‘lift’, and I shared my take. Sometimes talking with the original designer gave me new ideas and insight, not to mention the chance to praise a fellow scrapbooker.
I didn’t find nirvana overnight, and that’s ok too. What I did find, was that it started to be fun again. That the joy I used to feel, the carefree feelings I used to have about scrapbooking started to come back. I was still lost, but not nearly as I had been before.
My layouts were still nowhere near polished, I often made key errors, was terrible with patterned papers, and I walked down a lot of wrong roads in the Summer and Fall of 2005. That was ok with me. Why? If there was one thing I wasn’t afraid of, it was failure. You can’t find success without it, and sometimes crazy ideas worked out. I knew this, I’d spent 2 years as a scrapbook store manager trying out various classes and crops and promotions – I understood you had to swing and be ready for it to miss… or be a huge hit.
Mostly, I understood and respected that like anything, I needed to put the hours into my scrapbooking in order to figure out who I wanted to be and what my style is.
I needed to focus on me + my craft.
I started getting this wicked feeling too. That I could do ANYTHING I wanted and to heck with trends and rules. If I wanted to go back to detail cutting photos or make things messy on purpose or… well anything. I could. Shoot – I could start mixing stuff up if I wanted to. I could do ANYTHING if I so desired.
Scrapbook rules were made to be broken.
It was an intoxicating thought. I don’t have to fit into one pre-determined “style”. Nor do I have to use specific brands. While I’m at it, I could just make art journals instead of layouts in the traditional sense. The only person stopping me, the only reason I couldn’t? ME.
I will try and post a new ‘journey’ post each week. I will be talking about process, finding and defining style, rules, and much more. I hope you enjoy and stay tuned. If you have any questions or comments I welcome them!