You Don't Have to be an Either/Or. You Can be a Both/And

Lately, I’ve felt a pull between writing and hand lettering. I want to be a writer, and I’m slowly building up street cred to do that, but people are actually paying me cash dollars at this time to do hand lettering through my Etsy Shop. When I’m writing (or, really, breathing. I think about this all the time.), I want my words out in the world, and I have this desire to say something, but then I get to the keyboard and my brain freezes. I say all the cliche things that any person who has ever tried to write anything ever says:

“I’m not original or authentic. I’m already too old. I missed my chance. I’m a hack. I have nothing interesting to say. People will think I’m better than they are. People will get mad at something I say. People will think I can’t say those things and still be married to a minister. People will make fun of me because I’m married to a minister. I’m too nice. I’m not nice enough. I haven’t parented long enough. No one wants to read about my life. I’ve never written a novel before. What makes me think I should write one now? Oh look. The kids are up.”

And then I close the laptop.

I do all of that, and yet I still want to write. Clearly, writing is important to me. I love to write. I can’t not write. I cannot process all the tangled thoughts in my brain without writing them somewhere. So, even if I never become the author of best-sellers or a fancy creative person who makes money on the internet, even if I never make a cent from writing, I will still write.

With hand lettering, I say things like this in my head to my potential customers (I’m perfectly lovely and kind to my actual customers): “You know this is just my handwriting, right? I’m not doing anything fancy except making part of the letter thicker. You know this is just a canvas drop cloth that you get at Home Depot and some Sharpie markers, right? I mean. Thank you for this fist full of money, but really? You will give me money? For something to put on your table? That I made? Again, thank you. I’m super grateful and all.”

I enjoy hand lettering. It’s fun and soothing, and when I’m hand lettering, I feel like I’m a kid again, hanging around my dad’s office or the local newspaper office break room where my mom worked, passing time after school by coloring and writing things in bubble letters until we could all go home. I love making gifts or finding the perfect gift for a friend, so I enjoy doing that thing for others.

But, would I still make handmade table runners compulsively, even if no one bought them? No. I would doodle with my kids or on the margins of my receipts when I’m bored, but I would not make table runners because they are my life blood. See the difference?

I had coffee with a wise friend yesterday, and she reminded me of the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a short book about writing that I need to read again, but my friend reminded me that we can’t always force our creative endeavors to make money. In the same vein, we shouldn’t feel guilty for taking a job that doesn’t fulfill all of our hopes and dreams in a creative life. Or, we shouldn’t stop doing a hobby that makes us happy but doesn’t make money. Creativity and money can’t always talk to each other. I like this particular excerpt from Big Magic:

“But to yell at your creativity, saying, ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”

This pull I’m feeling to stop writing and to only focus on my Etsy Shop would not benefit me in the long run because I need to write and shape narrative. Writing is part of my soul, and it’s something I must do to feel like I’m a person. And yet, I don’t need to close up my Etsy Shop either because 1) it makes some extra money, 2) I enjoy making things for people, and 3) I can run the shop while hanging out with my kids in my pajamas.

I’ve been debating this from an either/or attitude, and what I’m slowly learning is that I can be a both/and. I can do both things without fear or guilt.

Consider this Saturday morning look inside the folds of my brain as permission to examine your own. Do you love doing something, but it doesn’t make money? Keep doing that thing and love doing it. Are you doing something else because it makes money you need to feed your face, but you wouldn’t do that thing if you weren’t making money? That’s totally fine. Keep doing that thing and don’t feel guilty for making money for yourself and your family. You can be a both/and, too!

Enjoy your weekend my friends. I’m off to sew a table runner.

Kelly WiggainsComment