I never thought of myself as a creative. My friends were creatives. They could paint, draw, and design the interior of their homes like professionals. I was the friend who couldn’t draw a straight line, rarely decorated, and drooled over spreadsheets. I was too literal to be creative, in my own opinion.
It’s funny how wrong we can be about ourselves.
The entire time I thought I wasn’t creative, I was blogging to keep friends and family updated. I wrote poetry and short stories. I learned to cross-stitch. I made clay figurines with my children. Many weekends, I painted watercolors with my toddlers.
Years later, I look back and see that it’s not that I wasn’t creative. I was stifled, depressed, and overwhelmed. My environment and bad choices didn’t leave room for creativity. Everything was survival, denial, and chaos. Alcohol became the crutch that I used to function and quiet the demons.
My life crashed and burned in a fury. My husband and I separated, and I asked for a divorce. It felt sudden, but it was actually a slow burn that hit a can of gasoline and exploded. Everything crumbled into ashes. It was a wake-up call, and it was devastating.
I didn’t even know where to begin to rebuild my life. All I knew was that I had to get out. There were no goals, no dreams, only survival. It was all I could do to get out of bed. The divorce was high conflict and highly traumatic, and it took a lot out of me.
I fell into web design and development by “accident” (I don’t believe in accidents). God put a man in my life who eventually became my husband, and he owned a technology services company. He was a programmer who also managed IT services for other businesses.
For about a year, I was going on job interviews and doing any extra work I could find to support my children and myself. His work intrigued me though, and it was fun to watch him program. The problem-solving aspect was attractive to me, and the logical creativity involved jumped out at me as well. I had dabbled with coding and customizing free websites over the years, but I had no idea what it really was.
Eventually, I wanted to try it myself, and he encouraged me to do so. The ability to learn a new skill at my own pace, with a mentor who had 15+ years of experience (and was successful with it) was too good to pass up. I wasn’t anywhere near mentally ready to learn full fledged programming, but I started small.
Over the next year, I quit drinking altogether. By early 2016, I had almost a year of sobriety under my belt. My fight-or-flight instincts had calmed significantly.
I began to dive into building websites with a renewed energy and focus. I already had about a year of experience, but this time I had some experience plus an intense desire to learn more.
I found podcasts about WordPress while searching for web design podcasts, and an entire world opened up that I didn’t even know existed. WP Innovator was one of the first podcasts that I listened to, and that led me to other incredible people, tools, and resources. Every day, I learned something new that I could put into practice right then.
For addicts, instant gratification is a pretty big deal. In recovery, we have to learn how to take things slowly and let God control the outcome. We only control our actions and decisions, not the outcome. Learning to delay gratification requires a completely new mindset, and it came into play with web design.
While building websites, I could get both instant gratification and take things one day at a time. I could build a page in a day, but the overall site still took time and patience. Small results were visual, and that satisfied something in me. One day, I would learn how to create a widget, and the next day I could learn how to adjust the header logo image. Every day it was something, and they all worked together to build the overall product.
Over time, I moved into to learning more about the strategic part of building a website. I studied content marketing, SEO, design, user experience, I could go on and on but I won’t. It’s been a challenge to narrow my focus, because I love something about all of it, but I’m getting there. Every piece of it has something that I love, something that satisfies both the creative and analyst in me. Every project was a little different, and I need variety to keep my engaged.
Learning a brand new skill taught me a lot about myself and life:
- We are all creative in some form or fashion. Your accountant, web developer, and financial advisor are as creative as your photographer, author, or musician. It’s all different levels and parts of the brain. Don’t compare yourself to others.
- Problem solving isn’t always preventing a negative. Often, it’s proactively looking at a situation and making it better, or changing it completely. Things don’t have to be falling apart before you fix a problem. Chasing urgent problems all the time is exhausting.
- Instant gratification isn’t always a bad thing. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and like I’m not making any traction, it’s ok to pick a small task and complete it to get that “win”.
- One bite at a time. I get more done by focusing on winning the small tasks, rather than completing the big tasks. Duh, right? That’s where “one day at a time” and “eat the elephant one bite at a time” comes from, but it’s still a mindset I have to cultivate myself.
- People may love you, but they still won’t buy from you unless it benefits them in some way. At first, I was frustrated that nobody would just come to me for a website. Didn’t they know I needed the money? How silly and self-absorbed I was! I started talking about how much I loved certain results, sharing newly completed sites, and gushing about my job in a genuine way (because I seriously love my job, it’s like playing all day). People started to remember what I did, messaging me for questions, and sending referrals my way because they remembered that I do websites. Not because I was spamming them with sales offers. You still have to speak to the right people, not expect your friends and relatives to fund you.
- You can’t perform your best when your life is in chaos. You can and should persevere, but give yourself time. If you are struggling with depression and anxiety, get help. There are situations that take time to resolve, and some that can be fixed with better decisions and boundaries. Getting a clear outside perspective can help.
- Self-care is as much of a financial investment as it is a time and emotional investment. I ran on empty for years and years. Now that I’m taking better care of myself, I see a huge difference in the days that I don’t do as well. I’m more tired, I can’t think straight, and I’m rarely very productive. When I’m eating healthy, exercising, keeping clutter at bay, and taking first things first, I’m ridiculously productive.
I’m so thankful that I found work that fuels me! Building websites allows me to challenge myself daily. It hones my writing skills, technical skills, love for analytics and design all at once. If you have dabbled with WordPress or have wanted to, don’t be afraid to jump right in. It’s a valuable skill, and there is so much support out there.
Whatever you want to do, we are living in an age that allows us to learn just about anything with the click of a button. Hone your skills, learn something new, and keep moving forward. There’s so much opportunity out there! Get ready, and take life by storm.
About the Author
Ashley L is a writer, mother, self-improvement junkie, and Reese’s peanut butter cup enthusiast at Bloomin’ Ash. If you are a parent in recovery, sign up at my site to get access to my resource library just for you!