Category Archives: Growth & Development

My typical day in the studio

Last month I participated in the Shoreline Arts Festival for the first time.

Shoreline is a city that’s located just north of Seattle. The Arts Festival is their long running annual summer event (it was their 26th annual festival!), and I had a great time! Everyone I interfaced with, staff, volunteers, and people in the community, were very welcoming and friendly. I got the vibe that the community supports arts of all sorts, and it was so nice!

Shoreline Arts Festival Honeyberry Studios booth
Me and my booth at the arts festival!

As part of their marketing for the event, the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council wanted to feature participating artists, and I got the honor of being interviewed for their blog article.

Their questions were really great, and it made me reflect on my inspirations, routines, and creative process. I don’t normally take the time to think about those things every day and wanted to share them with you! (I modified the original interview for the blog.) Perhaps it’ll inspire you to reflect on these yourself… 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

-Describe a typical day in the studio. Do you have a routine? What do you listen to when you do your creative work?

I work out of our small apartment in Columbia City (a neighborhood in SE Seattle) and my studio is usually my dining table 🙂

I usually get up between 4:30 and 5am every morning and meditate for half an hour to an hour. I sit quietly and focus on my breathing. My mind tends to wander, thinking about my day and what I need to do. When I notice my mind going elsewhere, I try to bring my attention back to my breathing and how I’m feeling in my body. Often my mind keeps wandering the entire time I sit, but it still helps me to start my day with calm and quiet mind.

After my meditation, I go to my workout class at the gym in the neighborhood or do some writing on days I don’t have my workout class.

I tend to do more of a “brain” work in the morning, like writing, marketing, and doing the finances etc., as I don’t naturally enjoy those tasks, and it takes more focus, and mornings seem to work better.

I often work on my creative/art work in the afternoon. I like to switch things up from doing a lot of the computer work in the morning to doing work using my hands in the afternoon if I can. I often doodle or sketch ideas in my sketchbook for fun, and I get most ideas for my art products (i.e. greeting cards and art prints) from my personal drawings. It can happen anywhere – at my desk in the home office, my dining table, or on the couch 🙂

Although I occasionally do writing at coffee shops, I hardly ever do my art work outside the home. Creative work feels more vulnerable, and I prefer to do it alone in the comfort of my own space.

I also set aside a couple of hours in the afternoon every week to read articles or do some learning, like watching a webinar. These are “fun” things for me and kind of a reward after taking care of my “business-y” tasks!

I make a point of not checking my email and social media until after my morning routine of mediation, workout, some writing, and breakfast because as soon as I dive into my email and social media, my mind gets cluttered with information. I have all the browser tabs and notifications off during the day so I don’t get distracted. I do manage my email and social media throughout the day when I have a small window of time between my other tasks.

One of the perks of being an independent artist is you have a lot of flexibility! Since my husband is also self-employed, we often take a break during the day to run errands or do some work in the gardens. When I had a regular job in the office, I would come home exhausted and then worked on my art after dinner and weekends, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time together. I really appreciate being able to be around him more 🙂

I work until 5:30-6pm or so and make dinner if it’s my turn to cook.

As far as what I listen to while I work, I either don’t listen to anything or play some easy music on Pandora (my favorite is Laid Back Beach Music station) while I write. When I do more visual work, I listen to a couple of podcasts related to business or storytelling podcasts, like This American Life and Moth Radio.

-What is your artistic medium of choice? Why?

My favorite artistic medium is pen and ink, markers, and watercolor. I use Sakura Pigma Micron pens and Koi Coloring Brush pens a lot for my drawings. The Micron pens work so smoothly and consistently. Their Koi Brush Pens come in a wide range of beautiful colors, and I enjoy layering the colors to create subtle hues. They’re portable and easy to use when you’re on the go as well! Perfect to take with you when you’re out and about and do a little sketch.

I’ve always enjoyed painting with watercolors, too. I love how they create softness and radiant light on paper.

I also block print on fabric and paper. I love the whole process of drawing, carving, and printing. It’s very tactile, and I find the block printing process to be meditative.

-Who or what inspires your work?

I often find my inspirations from nature, animals, and food. I love to eat!! 🙂 I notice little things when I walk around the neighborhood, like leaves on the ground or beautiful flowers in my neighbors’ gardens. We also grow some veggies at our apartment and a community garden, and it helps me stay connected with the soil and seasonal changes.

When I notice small everyday things that make me happy – like blueberries in our container garden glistening with morning dew or my cat happily napping in his favorite chair in the sunshine – I try to remember that feeling and express the joy in my artwork.

-What do you consider your biggest artistic achievement or accomplishment?

I’m a self-taught artist and began my practice in my early 30s. I was drawing and painting for several years as a hobby but never thought I could be a “real” artist. But last summer, I took a leap of faith and quit my day job to pursue my passion full-time!

It’s definitely not easy to make a living from your passion – I’ve experienced many ups and downs in the last year! But I feel so privileged to be able to follow my passion. I’m learning something new every day, and growing my creative business has been so rewarding.

-If you could only use one color for the rest of your artistic career, which would you choose and why?

Wow, what a great question! I would say black (though it’s not really a color…) if I had to choose one.

I love to create simple pen and ink line drawings and have phases every now and then where I create art with just black pen or sumi ink on white paper. No colors added. I enjoy the clean lines and how expressive simple black and white line drawings could be!

-What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about being an artist?

A few years ago, I was studying Graphic Design at Bellevue College. At the time, I didn’t believe I could be a working artist and wanted a more practical “job” skills that were also creative.

While I liked learning designs, I also had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t something I loved. 

On the last day of my portfolio review class, my instructor noticed how much I incorporated my drawings and illustrations in my portfolio pieces. She said I wasn’t a bad designer, but I should follow my heart and pursue art if that’s what I really wanted to do.

It’s kind of silly, but that one comment she made gave me a permission to follow my heart. It finally clicked for me that what I wanted to do was to make art, and that it was OK to do so wholeheartedly.

 

3 advices my business mentor gave me so I won’t go out of business

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I met with a SCORE mentor the other day and got a few helpful business advice. (And no, it has nothing to do with banana split… :D)

SCORE (https://www.score.org) is a non-profit association that provides free or low-cost resources for small business owners, including free one-on-one mentorship from an experienced business owner.

I’ve known about them for many years but never used their services before. I just recently decided to take advantage of their offerings after reading a very informative newsletter from Meighan O’Toole and her positive experience working with the SCORE mentors.

I’ve been feeling a bit lost in my creative business lately and thought talking with an objective business mentor would be a good thing!

So I contacted them through their website and made an appointment to meet with a volunteer business mentor, Bernard, at their downtown Seattle office.

Bernard has been a mentor for 13 years and has built a very successful real estate business. I was a little surprised to be matched up with someone whose experience is in a totally different area. But he’s helped his wife grow her art business and has lots of artists in his family, so he was familiar with many of the struggles I’ve been experiencing as a new-ish creative business owner.

You might remember in January I spoke with a business coach and decided to focus on increasing the sales of my art products this year. (I talked about my process in this post if you’re interested.)

Though I still prefer making and selling art to be my main income source, I quickly realized running a product-based business is very expensive!

It requires certain up-front cost to have an inventory of products to sell, and it could take a long time before you actually start making a profit.

My sales have been increasing gradually over the last year (yay!), but I’ve been constantly running out of money to restock my products on the shelf (boo!)

It feels like I have an expensive hobby rather than a thriving and profitable business. Yikes. 

I knew I needed to shift my focus and try to meet my short-term financial goals so I’m not actively going out of business!!

I shared my thoughts and feelings with Bernard, and he validated what I was going through. And that validation right there helped ease my anxiety quite a bit. I tend to think and analyze things very deeply in my head, and it gets overwhelming! Even one small external validation helped take the pressure off my overworked brain and offered me a sense of clarity.

After hearing my pain points, he gave me 3 pieces of advice:

Advice #1. Expand teaching to increase the cash flow.

Doing more client work is one option to fix the cash flow problem. You do the work, get paid, and move on, right? It’s a lot more straightforward than building a successful product-based business for sure…

But I hate client work.

OK, hate is a strong word… it’s just not my favorite. I talked about my high sensitivity and the struggles I have with conflict and rejection in this post, but making art that needs to align with someone else’s vision is very stressful for me.

I love working on a commission where the client trusts my process 100% and gives me a total creative freedom. It happens, but it can be a lot of work to build that kind of relationship with a client, and I sometimes wonder if it’s worth all the stress…

Teaching can also be a good source of income for an artist. 

And teaching is definitely a better fit for me. It gives me an outlet for creativity and also satisfies my need to help people 🙂 As an independent teacher, I have a lot of freedom to decide what/when/how to teach, and I can experiment to improve my students’ learning experience as I see fit.

[My Follow-up Action] I’ve reached out to a few more art schools and art supply stores to inquire about teaching opportunities. My block printing workshop has been my bread and butter lately, and I have more ideas of what I could be teaching in the future. Helping people realize their creative potential is so rewarding!

Advice #2. Have my greeting cards and art prints available at more retail shops. 

Bernard suggested I identify retailers who serve my target audience and pitch them my products to provide more buying opportunities to my potential customers. It turns out his wife is a jewelry maker, and he’s done in-person marketing and promotion going to galleries and shops door to door to sell her work.

Making cold calls/visits give me an anxiety – you know, I’m an introvert and am NOT comfortable with that kind of marketing! 

I’d toyed with the idea of wholesaling my goods before but never took any action to move it forward. I just didn’t feel ready. I felt overwhelmed thinking up all the “what-ifs” – what if a major retailer wants to order thousands of my cards?? I can’t afford to fill that big of an order! And what if nobody wants to sell my products?? Sad face… 😦

While it’s fine to be cautious, I realized neither scenario was likely… 😀 I realized I had to start somewhere. I can start small, which has been my motto since I started my art business.

[My Follow-up Action] I’ve made contact with 5 retailers (galleries, gift shops, art museum etc.), introduced myself, and dropped off samples or emailed them my product info. And I already got 2 wholesale and 1 consignment accounts that want to carry my cards and prints! YAY!

It felt awkward to walk in to someone’s space and pitch my work at first, but really, you’re just asking a question. AND if your products are a good match, you’re actually helping to make their customers happy, which is what the retailers want! So it’s a win-win 🙂

I reached out to retailers that I’ve been admiring a lot – they carry beautifully designed, unique, and high quality products for home and gifts. And when they tell me they like what I create and want to carry them, I feel like I’m walking in the clouds 🙂 Such a nice validation and a confidence booster!

Advice #3. Lower the cost of production to increase the profit margin.

This is like  – duh, but something I’ve been putting off tackling because it’s overwhelming to think about.

Since I don’t have a ton of cash to invest in up front, I end up just ordering small quantities of my products from the printers and keep ordering more as I sell more. I also want my products to be high quality, so the cost of production tends to be higher. Naturally, my profit margins are pretty slim especially when I do wholesale or consignment where I usually get 50% of the retail price.

I don’t want to compromise the quality of my products and can’t afford to have a huge inventory right now.

If I could order my products in thousands at a time, it will save on the cost per unit… It’s a conundrum, and I don’t know what to do about at it… :p

[My Follow-Up Action] Well, I haven’t really done anything with this except to casually think about it and then forget about it… I know it’s important for me to figure out the solution, though. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I won’t be able to effectively scale up, or worse, I’ll definitely drive myself out of business!!

I need to sit down and do more research on manufacturers and some serious number crunching. Two things I’m not excited about…but it’s not an option if I want my business to thrive! And if I work on my advice #1 to increase my cash flow, it will naturally help.

Our meeting was short and sweet but very helpful. I left their office feeling motivated and energized! 

Support from family and friends are great – I couldn’t do this without them! No doubt.

But often when I get an unsolicited advice from people I know, I get annoyed and defensive. It’s not that their advice isn’t helpful – it’s more that I’m not ready to hear it. I get vulnerable and insecure. My focus isn’t on what they’re saying or how valid they are. I instead start wondering why they’re giving me the advice when I’m not asking for it. Uh oh, do they think I’m doing a bad job?? Do I need saving??

That’s why I find it so valuable to get an advice from someone who is not emotionally invested in your success.

First of all, I’m less defensive and more willing to listen when I’m actually seeking for an advice. And it’s easier for me to not react emotionally to their feedback when there is a clear expectation of our roles (i.e. a mentor and a mentee). I can accept their input as an objective observation and nothing more. It’s very refreshing!

SCORE has 320+ chapters throughout the US, and you can find your nearest SCORE location here. You can meet with your mentor multiple times, and if your first mentor is not a good fit, you could request to meet with someone else too. They’re there to help!

I’d definitely go back and use their services in the future when I’m faced with new challenges or need a sounding board outside of my regular circle of people again.

Here is to our growth!!

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

 

How to deal with criticism when you’re a Highly Sensitive Person

 

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Hi, my name is Yuko. I’m a Highly Sensitive Person.

Did you know that it’s a thing? I mean Highly Sensitive Person with capital letters was a thing??

I only learned about HSPs recently when my good friend sent me a link to The Highly Sensitive Person Podcast several months ago. I didn’t have to listen to any of the episodes to know it was for me – with titles like, Decision-Free LivingScary Movies? NOPE, and Anticipatory Grief, I knew it was talking about me.

According to Dr. Elaine Aron, some of us (about 15-20% of the population) have a brain that’s wired a little differently: HSPs are more aware of subtle changes in our environments and reflect on the information a little more deeply than others.

It’s an innate trait for many people and goes beyond the stereotypical definition of “being sensitive” e.g. crying at the Super Bowl’s puppy commercial or being hurt easily etc.

Kelly O’Laughlin, the host of the podcast I mentioned earlier, pretty much sums up my experience on her website:

“We think about things deeply. We analyze information and don’t like making wrong decisions—in fact, we can have a hard time making decisions. We become overwhelmed easily by all the stimulation and information around us. We are incessantly bothered when our physical environment is uncomfortable. We are empathetic to the feelings of others. We are startled by noises easily. We are strongly affected by violence, horror, and abuse, in movies, TV, and in the news and this causes us to sometimes avoid it. We are often affected strongly by caffeine. We can be moved deeply by music, art, and nature.”

(I’m definitely not an expert on HSPs, so if you want to learn more, you can check out the research here. You can also take a self-test here if you suspect you might be an HSP.)

I appreciate many aspects of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

First of all, I’m easily inspired and deeply moved by small things in life. I believe this helps with my creativity.

Every time I catch a whiff of peonies on my kitchen counter, my heart sings. When I see a big smile on my block printing students’ faces after they printed their very first design on a fabric, it makes me want to cry. When I hug my cat and bury my nose in the fur on top of his head and smell the sunshine, I’m filled with happiness and joy (I know you totally smell your kitty, too!!)

I suspect many artists and makers are somewhat on the spectrum of being highly sensitive. After all, first step of creating a great work is to open up your heart and feel the feelings, you know?

It also makes being an artist more challenging.

Probably my #1 obstacle is my anxiety around being criticized.

I know all artists struggle with this somewhat whether you’re highly sensitive or not. When you pour your heart and soul into what you make, putting yourself out there and not being fully appreciated can feel extremely vulnerable.

My fear of being criticized has made me shy away from taking on more commissioned art/illustration work. It’s not that I don’t appreciate objective constructive feedback to improve my work – it’s the anticipation of getting criticized and receiving more subjective, unhelpful feedback that I get worked up about.

In order to mitigate this, I try to have a thorough conversation with my potential clients about my creative process and what type of inputs are helpful (objective vs. subjective) for me to do the best work before I taken them on as a client… And only when we agree on the process, we move forward with the project.

But still, when I hit “send” to deliver my work to the client, I get pretty stressed out.

Even though I know I did a good job, I hear a little voice telling me maybe it wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t quite diligent enough to hit 100% mark for the project. And so when the client tries to push my boundaries and get me to be more “flexible” with my creative process, I become pretty overwhelmed.

When this happens, I take a deep breath.

I don’t always open emails from clients right away when I sense there might be some bad news… I need to mentally prepare myself for that 😀 I might skim the email first just so I’m not missing any urgent issues, or maybe they’re totally happy with it (gasp!). And then if they are asking me to change something (“We love this! But… “) I walk away and think about it for a little bit before responding.

I take some time to feel whatever feelings that come up and be a non-judgemental observer of the reactions I’m having.

And then once I do a self-therapy/meditation to soothe my anxiety, I read the email again and analyze the list of things my client has sent me.

Once I have the mental cushion, I can be more objective and handle the criticism more calmly and less emotionally.

I re-read the proposal and contract to see if I missed anything or if I misinterpreted the goals for the project. If their feedback is not clear or sounds subjective, I’ll ask more clarifying questions. I include my creative process document with the final deliverables usually but might offer some extra explanations to clarify my decision making process if needed.

I realize 99% of the problems occur because of unclear communications. 

If I overlooked something we agreed on or either didn’t do a good job of understanding the scope of the project throughly or didn’t help the client understand the process clearly in the beginning, I take full responsibilities for that. And I do my best to fix the problems.

But if that’s not the case, and I’m fully confident that what I produced would meet their objectives, I let them know I’m not able to respond to their requests.

Saying no to a client is difficult, but I’m grateful that most of my clients are really awesome and respectful so they understand. If I chose to accommodate every little subjective/arbitrary request they have, my passion would definitely die and I’d be super burnt out in no time!!

I’ve had to grow a thicker skin in order to pursue my passion publicly and professionally, and it’s definitely a work in progress!

Understanding my high sensitivity allows me to be more compassionate towards myself. And knowing what triggers my emotional response helps me to identify and develop new skills so I can grow as a person and be a happy creative professional long-term.

If you’re a highly sensitive artist and have challenges because of that, know you’re not alone in the struggles ❤

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

From the sketchbook: flowers, kitties & house plants!

Hello, hello!

I haven’t shared my drawings from the sketchbook for a while, so I want to do that today. (By the way, I share my drawings often on Instagram if you want to see my artwork more regularly :))

But I have to confess first. I haven’t been making a lot of art for fun lately… 😦

I had a client commission work that took a lot of my time and energy before I left for my 10-day silent meditation retreat, and before that all I did was marketing and promotion for my business!!

I know they’re all necessary and important to grow my business. And I’m learning that things come in waves and phases, so some days I do more marketing and other days I do more creative things.

I get hard on myself when I spend more time on business-y stuff and don’t make time for personal creative work regularly.

It makes me question, “What am I doing?? Why am I not making art all the time??” But that’s just how it is sometimes especially when you’re at the beginning stage of building a business, running the show by yourself. I try to be more patient with myself and try to enjoy the learning process of making my dream come true.

Anyway, I did manage to create some fun drawings and hope you enjoy them!

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Peonies from the farmer’s market ❤ Watercolor & Pigma Micron pen.
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Calathea house plant drawing, Pigma Micron pen & Sakura Koi brush pens.
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Heart Leaf Philodendron house plant drawing, Pigma Micron pen & Sakura Koi brush pens
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Pink & purple poppies, Sakura Koi brush pens & Gellyroll pens.
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Cat faces! Pigma Professional brush pens.

By the way, out of the cat face doodles came the cat dad Father’s Day card below 🙂

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Cat dad card ❤

Along with the lack of personal creative time and energy, I was feeling kind of discouraged about my creative business – wondering if I was cut out for it and if I would see any success – making a living doing what you love is really hard!!

I <3 Lisa.
I ❤ Lisa.

And then I went to see Lisa Congdon at her Joy of Swimming book reading in Seattle at the end of May and was totally inspired by her talk ❤ I came home with renewed energy and more confidence to keep working towards my big goal. So I doodled this the next day.

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I can do this. Pigma Micron pen & Sakura Koi brush pen.

Have a wonderful week, my friend!!!

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

Giving yourself permission to slow down without feeling guilty

it's ok to slow down_poppies_handlettering

I take sabbatical week off every 7 weeks.

It’s a time when I intentionally slow down and focus on things I don’t get to normally. I might work on fun creative projects for myself or reflect on my business goals and processes during my mini sabbaticals.

You can see a couple of my past sabbatical report backs here and here by the way.

What’s great about taking a regular time-off is I can schedule work in advance around it, and it motivates me to hustle and stay productive when I’m “on.”

Because I work very hard on weeks between my mini sabbaticals, I usually enjoy my time off relatively guilt-free.

By the time my 7th week rolls around, I’m SO ready. I can definitely feel the burn and feel my time off is well deserved.

But what about the time when I’m forced to slow down outside of my scheduled time off?

Life happens. You try your best to “schedule” things and stick to them, but it doesn’t always happen according to your plan.

I had to face this during February and March of this year when I suffered a stomach ulcer. And it really forced me to slow down and take care of myself

It didn’t come easy. I felt so guilty slowing down even though I was in a lot of pain.

Before I knew I had an ulcer, I just thought I had an upset stomach for some reason. I’d been on a Candida diet for several weeks prior and just started adding some foods back in my diet again. So I thought it was a natural reaction to the diet change and tried to “wait and see” if it got better on its own.

Weeks passed by, and it got worse.

I couldn’t eat very much and was feeling weak. I was depressed because I couldn’t eat (and you know how much I LOVE to eat!) and was afraid to eat because the pain would come after eating. I wasn’t sleeping well due to the pain or the fear of pain.

I was stressed out and scared. Desperate for information, I looked it up on the internet, and it tells you all kinds of potential causes for your symptoms, including cancer…(which I believed wasn’t the case based on other symptoms but still scary.)

Our insurance coverage (we’re on Obama care) is less than awesome, so the potential medical cost would stress me out, too.

I felt bad and guilty laying around on the couch during the work hours.

I thought, my eyes and hands still work, so I should be able to do work.

If I “took it slow” outside of my scheduled time off, I won’t be able to achieve my goals, will I? Nobody else can do what I do for me. And, I don’t have a paid sick leave any more!!

I’d press on even if I was in a lot of pain. I’d try to stick to my regular routine as much as possible.

I didn’t want to admit to myself that I needed to course correct because I didn’t think I could afford to.

Eventually, I saw my naturopath and got the diagnosis. She put me on a treatment plan, and I gradually started feeling better.

Putting a name to what I was experiencing helped shift my mindset. It gave me a permission to focus on healing.

When I thought I was just having a random stomachache, I was so annoyed and tried to ignore it.

But as soon as I learned the official diagnosis, it suddenly made it OK for me to focus on feeling better. It made my experience somehow more real and serious.

Like, finally I had a legitimate reason to slow down.

It’s weird I needed someone with an authority to tell me what I was experiencing was a real thing, and  that I didn’t need to feel guilty about slowing down. But apparently, I did.

My work and goals were important, but it wasn’t worth sacrificing my health for.

I needed to prioritize getting better, and everything else needed to take a back seat.

So whenever  the pain would come on, I didn’t even bother to get any work done. I simply stopped resisting. I just laid on the couch and did things to help ease the pain (heat pad, massage, tea etc.) for as long as I needed.

I also learned to use the time between my bouts of stomach pain to focus on my work. I had a shorter amount of time to work, so it naturally helped me to stay motivated and productive.

Fortunately, I responded to the treatment really well and have been feeling well since April! Thank goodness for that!

Nothing makes me more grateful for my health than having been ill.

You can schedule your sabbaticals, but you can’t schedule when you get sick.

When you get sick and your body is screaming for help, don’t resist it. Give yourself permission to tend to your needs. If you have a hard time doing that, like I do, let someone else tell you it’s OK.

And when you slow down to take care of yourself, stop feeling guilty about it. Guilt does not serve anyone, and it certainly doesn’t help you heal faster 🙂

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

 

 

What I’ve learned from teaching my first block printing workshops

I taught my first Block Printing on Fabric Workshop at IGIMO Art Station in Seattle in April and May.

And it was a blast!

Check out some of the beautiful work my students created!!

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Beautiful student work from my first class!
Block Printing Workshop IGIMO Seattle
What a delightful group of people we had in our second workshop on May 1st!

I was nervous at first that I didn’t know enough to teach people. After all, I just learned how to block print a little over a year ago.

But I’ve also been practicing a lot and knew enough to teach beginners.

Like Sean McCabe says in this podcast episode, you don’t have to be a master to be able to teach what you know.

If you’re level 3, you can still teach level 1 and 2. It’s actually better that I’m not a master block printing artist because I can understand better the struggles beginners might have.

In the spirit of sharing what I know, I wanted to tell you some of the lessons and tips I’ve learned about putting on an awesome workshop!

1. Develop a positive relationship with the venue owner and respect the facility.

I got introduced to Sally, the owner of IGIMO Art Station by a friend of mine late last year. IGIMO is an art studio in my neighborhood, and they offer lots of fun art classes for kids and adults.

When I pitched the idea of teaching the block printing workshop at her studio, Sally was super open and supportive. She made me feel welcome and so generously offered me to use her space in whatever way I needed.

In order for me to continue our positive working relationship, I try to keep an open and consistent communication with her and make sure we’re treating her studio space with respect.

2. Tell everyone you’re offering a workshop. Repeatedly. Everywhere.

I swear, marketing is all I do nowadays.

Because, you know, even if you make really awesome art or offer super fun workshop, it won’t matter if people don’t know about it!

I started promoting my workshop early on (about 2 months before?) on my social media, email list, and posting flyers in the neighborhood. And I did that multiple times.

By the way, I had a great return on investment with boosting my event on Facebook. I spent about $50 to boost my event post for like 6 weeks (roughly $1 a day) and got at least 3 sign-ups via FB (that’s $375 revenue). I’ll probably try that again!

3. Try to answer as many questions as possible up front by providing FAQ on your website.

When I posted the information about my workshop on my website, I just had a basic information, like dates, time, location, a brief description, and cost.

So when a very first student signed up, I sent her a welcome email and asked her if she had any questions. She did have a couple of really good questions I wasn’t thinking about, and I was able to incorporate them into the Frequently Asked Questions list I was working on.

Having some sort of FAQ is going to be super helpful because many students will have the same questions, and it saves you and them time if you can point them to the list instead of replying to their questions individually.

My FAQ includes informations like the day’s schedule, what to do about lunch, what to bring, what to wear, where to park, size of the class, and my cancellation policy.

I keep adding more questions/answers to the list as I go. You can take a look at my FAQ here if you’re interested in learning what I included in there!

4. Send welcome messages and reminders.

I just embedded simple PayPal button on my website (here is the instructions on how to do it. It’s pretty easy) for registration and ask them to enter their name and email. No bells and whistles there.

When I receive the notification for their payment, I send them a welcome message confirming the receipt of the payment, date/time of the workshop, and attach the FAQ in case they haven’t seen it.

Like I said earlier, I have a cancellation policy that’s included in the FAQ and want to make sure my students are aware of that in advance.

This is also a good time to see if they have any other questions my FAQ is not answering.

If I worked on any new block printing project or found cool resources between their registration and the class, I would share the information with the students on the list to get them excited.

I typically send them a reminder email a couple of times – once about a week before and then just a couple of days before the workshop date. Again, I’ll confirm the date/time and attach the link to my FAQ.

I know we all get busy and don’t read every email we receive (or read the email throughly), so I like to remind folks more than once.

I also include my cell phone number in the last reminder so they can contact me directly on the day of if needed.

When I’m setting up for the class in the morning, I’m not checking my email (and I never have my email notification on) so the cell phone is easier for any last minute communication.

5. Provide visual examples and inspirations before and during the workshop.

When you’re working on an art or craft project, it’s always helpful to have reference materials and inspirations handy.

If you’re new to the craft, the blank canvas can seem very overwhelming and your student might not know where to start.

So I’ve created a block printing design inspiration board on Pinterest (you can view it here) and share it with my students when they sign up.

I pinned variety of styles and designs, from intricate florals to simple geometric shapes, so the students who are not super comfortable drawing know that they can still make beautiful designs without any drawing skills 🙂

I also bring my favorite block printing book, Making an Impression by Geninne Zlatkis (it’s the most beautiful craft book I’ve seen!!) and some of my carved blocks to the class for reference.

block printing carved blocks and tools
Some of my beloved blocks ❤

6. Break down your process into small steps and document them.

Although I’m still relatively new at block printing, I’ve had many practices so far and no longer have to think about the steps when I block print.

So when I was working on a block printing project for Valentine’s earlier this year, I paused every so often and documented every step. I actually got a blog post out of it, so that was even more awesome 🙂 (You can read it here. )

While I was working on it, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who’s not familiar with the tools or processes at all. I also read a bunch of how-to articles on block printing to learn what processes others followed and tried to see if I was missing anything.

Having a documented step-by-step process also helps ensure that your students are getting a consistent instruction.

I also take notes while teaching the workshop on where students get stuck or have a hard time understanding my instructions so I can improve my teaching for the future workshops.

7. Have all the supplies ready and make sure they work! 

When I was planning for the workshop, I wrote down every single item we were going to need for the workshop and researched where I could get them at a cheaper price.

I set a goal to at least order everything a month before the workshop date. That way, if something goes wrong or the shipment gets delayed, ideally I’d still have time to fix the issue… 😀

AND, when you get your supplies, make sure to open the package and see if they actually work. I learned the lesson the hard way with the linocut tools I ordered.

They came on time, and I assumed they were all fine. But the day before the workshop, I decided to take the tools out of their individual box and assemble them just to make sure it came with all the parts necessary.

And I found out 3 out of 8 tools had defects and didn’t work!

It ended up working out OK because I’d ordered extra (another important point!) and at that time, I had 5 students signed up for the workshop. But I certainly didn’t enjoy that “oh sh*t” feeling the night before my first workshop 😀

8. Provide resources and handouts.

I wanted my students to get as much value out of the workshop as possible since they’re paying to spend a day to learn something.

So I put together a packet for each of them to take home. It includes materials list, where to get exactly the same tools and materials we’ve used in the class, overview of the steps, tips, and other block printing resources.

After they learn the basics in my workshop, I want them to go home with confidence and continue exploring the craft on their own.

With the well-organized handouts and resources, my hope is that they will!

9. Walk around and check in with each student during the workshop.

This workshop is pretty hands-on, and students spend majority of their time working on their own project.

Some students are more vocal about their needs than others, and it’s easy for me to know what they need and help them.

I also try to check in with other, quieter students just as often – not because I don’t think they’re doing a bad job, but sometimes people are shy about asking for help, or they might otherwise don’t catch potential problem areas before it’s too late.

For this purpose, and since I’m still learning, I keep the class size pretty small (max. 6 students). I like the intimate environment a small class creates and believe it provides a better learning experience for my students as well.

10. Ask for feedback and testimonials. And don’t forget to take photos!

At the end of the workshop, I hand out a short feedback form. I ask a few simple questions, like what they enjoyed the most, what could be better, and if they’d recommend the workshop to their friends and family.

I also ask if I could use their feedback in my marketing materials, and most of them would say yes.

When the students enjoy the workshop and are excited about what they’ve just created, they are much more likely to give you a great testimonial. And including the question in the feedback form makes it more convenient for both of you!

Your students can also give you great ideas about what other workshops or services you could be offering. For example, a couple of students in the last workshop asked if I’d be offering any “second stage” block printing class or an open studio. And maybe private group sessions for adult birthday party! How fun!

I also try to take photos during the class (with their permission, of course) so I could use them for marketing/promotional purposes. It’s so fun to share the amazing work they do with the world 🙂

11. Send them thank you message.

Finally, a day or two after the workshop, I send a quick email thanking them for their participation and share the photos I took during the class.

I let them know they can contact me if they have any questions in their future block printing practice.

If they indicated on the sign-in sheet that they’re interested in joining my email list, I subscribe them so they can stay informed about my future offerings and updates.

I indeed learn so much by teaching!

And I LOVE it 🙂

I feel so lucky to be given this opportunity and am looking forward to teaching more in the future!

p.s. If you’re in Seattle area, you can join one of my workshops this summer 🙂 Check out the class schedule here.

xo Yuko

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6 Tips on How to Blog Consistently

Honeyberry_Illustration_blogging_linedrawing_lores

I get a lot out of inspiring people through my art and love to help other artists by sharing and teaching what I know.

I’ve been blogging pretty consistently since last summer. A friend asked me for some tips on blogging the other day and thought some of you might also be interested in knowing what works for me.

I actually first started blogging in January of 2014. That’s when I started taking my art a little more seriously, and everyone was talking about how you needed to blog to make your business more successful. So I said, why not??

I didn’t have a clear goal for my business or blog back then and just shared things I thought people might enjoy.

Then I started my 365 Day Happiness Is drawing project in April of 2014 so that became the focus of my blog for a year.

Though I was posting my art every day, my blog was just another social media platform for me to share my art on, so I wouldn’t count that as “blogging consistently.” There was hardly any writing involved.

After I completed the year-long drawing project, I knew my next goal was to write more consistently. You might wonder why visual artists might need to write, but I knew I could build a deeper relationship with my audience if I shared my writing more. I also wanted to help other artists with more practical things, and writing would be a good way to do that.

I’ve written a blog post about why I want to write more here if you’re interested! (<– You can reference your own materials when you’ve written a bunch of contents, which is also pretty nice.)

So here are my 6 tips on how to blog consistently:

1. Have a bunch of posts in queue before you start publishing

I have to say this is the best blogging advice I received and follow to this day. So many people want to publish consistently and have the intention of doing so yet have a hard time keeping up.

Why not have a bunch of posts ready to go before you start publishing them? It helps with the consistency and creates a buffer for when you need it (e.g. you get sick, other life events etc.)

It may be hard to fight the instant gratification of finishing something and sharing it right away, but it’s worth it. I like the feeling of not being on a deadline all the time!

When I was publishing my blog article once a week, I had about a month worth of posts (4-5) ready to go. I still have the same number of articles in queue, but since I post more often now, I would like to build up more reserves when I have time. My goal is to have solid 2 weeks in a queue at any given time.

2. Determine the “why” for your blog

Just like having a clear goal for any other creative practice, it’s important for you to clarify your purpose, i.e. your “why,” for writing.

What do you want to accomplish by sharing your writing on the internet? What value is your blog going to provide for your audience? Is it going to help someone? Is it to help yourself? Is it to document your progress with your goals? Is it to share your life with your friends and family?

And when I say value, I’m not just talking about helping people make money. It could be something to make people laugh or cry, stay healthy, find solutions to what they’re struggling with, help them cook a healthy meal for their family, entertain them with your stories, amaze people with your creations, or inspire them to create a fulfilling life for themselves.

You want to find the “thing” for you. And don’t worry about creating something new that’s not already out there…because…it probably is out there already! That’s not the most important point. The important thing is recognizing you have a unique voice and perspectives on things that only you can deliver for your audience.

Having a clear goal and direction for your blog will help you focus on what to write and makes it easier for your audience to find and connect with your contents.

3. Try to write in your authentic voice

When you’re writing to reach people and connect with them on an emotional level, you want your authentic self to show up and not the formal, grammatically correct self (unless that’s your brand personality!)

This is something I struggled with a lot in the beginning and still do especially as an English-as-a-second-language writer. Because I learned proper way to write textbook English growing up, rather than learning it naturally in everyday life, I have a hard time breaking the rules and knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not.

But I wanted my audience to get to know me through my writing, and I want my writing to be friendly, warm, and approachable. I want my readers to have a consistent experience whether they’re reading my blog or looking at my art.

In order to accomplish that, I follow these tips:

  • Write the way you speak. You still want to be careful not to be too disruptive with informal grammar or typos, but you want your writing to sound natural when you read it out loud. If you read your sentence out loud, and you’re tempted to say it differently, you might want to consider changing it.
  • Imagine you’re speaking/writing to someone you know. I pretend I’m talking to a couple of my close friends when I write. It helps my writing to be more personable.
  • I loved Laura Belgray’s 5 Secrets to Writing Non-Sucky Copy! It’s hilarious and helpful.

4. Publish your posts on a consistent schedule

If you want to grow your audience through your blog, publishing on a consistent schedule will help. You want your audience to look forward to seeing your contents and  make your blog part of their routine.

When I set my goal to publish a blog once a week, I decided I’d publish every Sunday morning at 7am. There are many statistics out there about when you get a higher engagement for your blog etc. I didn’t really worry about the stats, though, and chose the day/time based on the fact that people tend to have more time to read on weekends.

Earlier this year, I increased my goal to 3 times a week so I can share more about my art and processes on top of my self-help-y contents. I thought publishing on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays would be a good schedule for me.

I wanted to avoid Mondays because it’s a busy day for most people going back to work etc. and your inbox tends to get flooded with emails that come in during the weekend. So Tuesday or Wednesday seemed like a better option. And by Friday, you’re ready to transition from work mode to a weekend mode, so you’re more likely to consume contents for fun and inspirations.

At least that’s how I ended up choosing those 3 days for my blog. I must say these are not scientific facts… 😀

Even if you don’t officially announce your schedule to your audience, having a consistent publishing schedule helps with your own accountability.

And if you do let your audience know and stick to it, they will learn to expect your contents on certain days of the week. For this reason, I would recommend publishing your blog at least once a week. It’s just easier for your audience to track.

5. Schedule time to write consistently

In order for me to stay ahead, I schedule time to write daily. Especially since I increased the frequency of my posts, I’d run out of my reserves if I become lax about it!

On my typical work day, writing is usually the first thing I do in the morning. Your brain is clear of information clutter and I can focus a lot better in the morning. I usually write 1.5-2 hours per day.

I know some people batch their writing, like for example, you can designate every Wednesday as a writing day, and you take care of all your blog writing that day.

I haven’t tried that method yet as that seems a bit much to me. Like making art, I like to write in stages and parts, then leave and come back the next day to add/edit. It helps me to look at my writing with fresh eyes, and I stay more productive that way.

6. Just start writing 

If you’re wondering what you should write or if you’re a good writer or worried about what people might think of your writing, just start writing something. Anything.

Oftentimes, you don’t know what you should or can write about until you actually start. And the blank page cant be very intimidating!

Like many things in life, starting is the hardest part. Just start writing about anything, like what you ate this morning and how you prepared it. Or how you’re struggling to start writing and how you’re feeling as you write.

Remember you don’t have to share everything you write! Write for yourself. Start journaling about what you do. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. You will start seeing some themes emerge and you’ll find your voice.

And, if you need ideas and inspirations for a blog post, you can get a list of 62 potential blog topic ideas in this Seanwes podcast episode! It’s totally saving my life as we speak!!

Writing never used to be something I enjoyed. I avoided it for a long time because I wasn’t comfortable. Now it’s part of my everyday creative practice, and I get a lot of satisfaction from it. Who knew??

I’m gonna share my writing workflow and tools I use on my next blog post! Stay tuned 🙂

xo Yuko

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5 Things You Can Do When Your Friends and Family Don’t Take Your Creative Pursuit Seriously

let-yourself-bloom_lores

Since I quit my day job to pursue my passion full-time last summer, I’ve been in some situations where I felt my work is not taken seriously.

For example, I visited my old work place the other day, and one of my old co-workers asked me, with a grin on his face, “So, what time do you get up nowadays?” I told him 5:30am every single morning. He was really surprised to hear it. He thought I get to sleep in every morning since I don’t have a job to go to!

Or when my mom and some friends make a comment about how nice it must be to have the slow lifestyle and get to enjoy making art at my leisure.

Or when some people assume I could get together in the middle of a weekday on a whim because I have so much “free” time.

Situations like these bother me.

It bothers me because I feel like people think I’m just having a relaxing, semi-retired life, having lots of hobbies and mooching off of my husband or something!

Or more accurately, it stirs up my insecurity about what I choose do and how well I’m doing it.

I’ve been working very hard. I’m learning and growing. I’m moving forward towards my goals. And many people on the outside don’t know exactly what it takes to actually “make a living doing what you love”. Heck, I didn’t understand it 100% before I started doing it either!

But because I’m not making any significant profit from my business yet, situations like these fuel my insecurity and self-doubt. It makes me question my ability to build a successful creative business. Am I going to make it? Am I really cut out for this?? Or is it just going to be a hobby I spend a lot of time and money on?

I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s scary and keeps me up at night.

People ask you about your business because they care about you and are curious. And since I don’t know how to explain everything that goes on in my business, my vision, and fears in a way that’s reasonably understood in a casual conversation, I don’t usually get in to the hard aspects of it.

I’m worried that my sharing  the “unsuccessful business” story will make them worry about me and my future. 

And if I sense that they’re worried about me, 1) it’ll make me feel even more insecure and 2) I’d feel the need to take care of their emotions. And that’s not something I have the energy or willingness to do in a casual social setting. Especially when I’m caught in a self-doubt downward spiral! Eeek!

So, What do you do when people around you don’t seem to get what you do? Or you feel they’re not taking your pursuit seriously?

Here are 5 things I do to manage my response to these situations:

1. Try not to take things personally and try to appreciate that your friends and family care about you.

You just don’t know what other people’s intentions are and why they do what they do. For the most part, your friends and family are curious about what it’s like to run your own show and want to know that you’re OK. So try not to turn it in to something unhelpful or untrue.

Someone might think your life is stress-free and luxurious, and you get to do whatever you want whenever you want to. Know that it’s merely a projection of their own thoughts and ideas. Maybe that’s what they dream of doing once they’re retired from their day job. Who knows??

Try not to think that it’s a reflection of what you actually do because they don’t know what you do! Remember, it’s not about you. So don’t make it. It doesn’t serve you.

2. Share your successes and what you’re excited about with them.

When people ask me how my business is doing, I immediately translate in my brain that they’re asking me how my business is doing financially. And I cringe.

But that’s not what they’re saying – it might be what they’re thinking, but that’s not what the words say. It’s an open-ended question. You can make your answer about anything you want, and not just about how successful (or not) your business is financially.

In a casual conversation, I try to share a couple of my recent successes or what I’m excited about next. It gets people excited and be happy for you, and it’s a helpful reminder for myself to focus on what’s going well, too!

I love seeing other people get inspired by hearing about what I do! So do more of that!

3. Have a safe place to share your struggles and fears 

Inevitably, your business will have ups and downs. Sharing your struggles and fears with family or friends who don’t really understand it or trying to convince someone to see things your way might not be the most helpful thing to do.

But you gotta get support somehow. It will be a rough and lonely road if you don’t!!

Here are some suggestions on how you do that:

  • You can get an accountability partner. Find someone to meet regularly (in-person or on-line) who are on a similar journey with you and check in about your goals, successes and challenges. I wrote a couple of blog posts about my experiences with accountability partners here and here if you’re interested. It’s been one of the most helpful things for me!
  • Work with a professional. You can work with a mental health therapist to get help on a deep-seated fears and insecurities. You can also work with a business or creative coach to get practical help with achieving your goals. (In case you didn’t know, I help other artists individually as a creative coach 🙂 You can learn more about it here.)
  • Join an online community of like-minded people. As a busy, introverted artist, finding on-line communities of like-minded people has been really helpful for me. I don’t have to leave the house or make a special arrangement to ask for help?? GREAT! It’s also helpful for people who live in rural areas and struggle to find your people in-person. I’m part of Seanwes communityBuilding a Better Business in One Year  (though this has been a little inconsistent) and Creative Online Presence with Meighan O’Toole groups on Facebook.

4. Try to focus on the progress you’re making.

I feel low when I get asked how my business is doing when I feel like my business is not doing so well.

For example, I experienced a dip in sales in January compared to November and December, which is to be expected. Holidays are the biggest sales season of the year after all.

So instead of beating myself up about it, I compared my sales from January – February of last year to the same time period this year and noticed a significant growth! It definitely helped with my confidence, and I’ll continue to do so every month from now on.

I also try to measure my progress in other non-financial ways:

  • I track how many followers I gain each month for my social media accounts. Though these numbers aren’t the only way to tell how successful you are, it’s one indicator of your business growth.
  • I document what I get done every day on my calendar. Did I accomplish top 3 things I wanted to today? If yes, then that is a successful day for me.
  • I review my old work and recognize my growth as an artist. Occasionally, I look at what I posted on my Instagram a long time ago or some of my old work on my portfolio and see the progress I’ve made as an artist. Yes, I cringe 🙂 but also feel compassionate towards the artist I was, and it gives me hope that there is no limit to how much I can grow years from now!

5. Say yes to fewer social invitations and schedule them in advance

Your friends and family might think your schedule is super flexible when you work for yourself. And in a sense, they’re not wrong about that.

I do enjoy the flexibility of not having to clock in and out, actually. For instance, my husband Dave works from home too, so we do our grocery shopping during the week avoiding the craziness at the grocery store on weekends. Or I can go in for a doctor’s appointment in the middle of a weekday. Or I can take a nap on the couch in the middle of the afternoon if I’m not feeling well.

These are just a few benefits I get to enjoy while pursuing my passion! And I’m not complaining about that at all.

But I still keep a daily routine and treat it like my “real” job. And because I don’t have a boss to answer to, in a way it takes more discipline and commitment to stick to it.

So while I do have the flexibility and could make time to get together with friends during the week if I wanted to, I’m more intentional about what I say yes to.

When you think about it, your lunch or tea with friends might only take an hour or so. What’s the big deal, right? You have to eat anyway. Why not just do that with someone you like, right?

Here is the thing. You might be spending only an hour or so for the actual event itself, but you also need to consider the time you’re getting ready to leave, get to/from the location, and then transition back into your work mode again.

And if you’re an introvert like me, interacting with people, even if it’s someone you love spending time with, takes energy out of you, and you need to account for the time to refill your energy reserve after socializing.

So in reality, you’re spending more like 3-4 hours per social event you engage in during your workday. And that’s a big chunk!

At the end of the day, what I care about is not so much the time itself, but the loss of focus and flow of the work day. You can sort of get the time back by working extra later or on a different day, but it’s a lot harder to get that focus back. And focus is absolutely necessary for me to produce quality work.

So here is how I deal with engaging in social events during the week:

  • I say no to most of the social invitations. I might say yes to 1 event per week, but usually no more than that. I let the person know I appreciate being asked but can’t make it.
  • I schedule the social events in advance. While I say no to most invitations (especially last minute ones), it doesn’t mean I don’t want to see my friends! It typically means no I can’t do it then. I make sure we plan a get together for a future date and get it on my calendar in advance so I can plan around it. My regular sabbatical weeks are great for scheduling get-togethers with friends!
  • I schedule my events early in the morning or later in the afternoon. I usually like to schedule something at either the beginning of the day or later in the afternoon so my work day and focus won’t have to be broken up too much.
  • I combine the event with other business-related errands. I do this often when I’m needing to go out of my immediate neighborhood to see someone during my work day. I try to hit the art supply or hardware store or get done other business-related errands while I’m out and about.
  • I combine multiple social events in one day. It’s similar to my point above, but if I’m driving somewhere to see a friend, I’ll see if there is anyone else I’d like to see in that area. I might see someone for lunch, and then invite someone else to have coffee with me afterwards etc.
  • Enjoy your time with friends when you’re with them. Once I’m there with my friends, I try to be present with them as much as possible. There is no point in worrying about the work you’re not getting done or the focus you’re losing at that point. Nobody forced you to do this, so let it go and enjoy the here and now with the people you love!

Ok friends, I hope you find these tips helpful! The most important thing for me to remember when I feel discouraged by someone’s comments or behavior is to just appreciate the privilege I have to be able to follow my passion and having people in my life who care about my well-being.

The negative voice I’m hearing is mostly a reflection of my own insecurity. Life is much more enjoyable when you’re kind to yourself and replace the negative voice with the positive one ❤

Know that your art creates value for lots of people even if you’re not making money yet!

xo Yuko

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It’s OK to change your mind

changing-mind_loresHi! I’m back from my sabbatical week off. I’ll write more about what I did later this week! Stay tuned 🙂

I’m actually writing this post before I go on my sabbatical and wanted to share my thoughts on breaking commitments.

Let me back up a little and tell you that one of the ways I keep my focus and motivation is to tell my audience I’m going to do something. I’ll even set a due date and announce it to my audience like it’s a done deal. It’s called public accountability and it’s worked for me in many situations.

It works for me because integrity is very important to me, and I hate letting myself and other people down.

Setting a timeline and making the commitment known to the public give me the extra push when I feel like giving up. It doens’t matter if they remember or not. In fact, my audience is probably not tracking and remembering every single detail I share with them. What matters is that I remember. Remember that I put it out there because it was important enough for me to follow through.

Making a public commitment doesn’t make the process easy, per se, but it does help. It helped me with sticking to a year-long daily drawing project Happiness Is from 2014 to 2015. I also made a public commitment to publish a weekly blog last summer and did that until I said I’ll do it at least 3 times a week a month ago (so far, so good!). I’ve also been publishing a monthly newsletter since last summer, and I’d made a commitment before I started.

To be completely honest, when I make a commitment, I’m never 100% sure if I can deliver on the promise. I have the motivation and intention of sticking to it, of course. But things change. Maybe you realize your goals are different now than 6 months ago. Maybe you have more information about a particular situation and need to course correct. I’m still big on keeping my commitments in general, but I’m also learning to be more intentional and strategic about the commitments I keep and don’t keep.

I’m getting better at listening to my gut instinct and usually know if something wasn’t gonna work from the beginning. In those situations, I don’t have a hard time saying no from the get-go. What I struggle with the most is when I have to break my commitment after saying yes with a full intention of following through.

It’s interesting because when other people break their commitments, I get disappointed or annoyed but I’m able to let it go. But when I do it, even if I have a really good reason for it, it’s very, very difficult.

It feels somehow I’m not an honest and reliable person. I feel flakey. And that’s the last thing I want people to think of me as! I want to be seen as a person of integrity and want to be trusted by others.

Trust is so important. If you can’t trust me, why would you want to do business with me? I know my customers and audience won’t be able know me like my close friends and family do, but I want them to be able to trust that they’re going to have a positive experience when they are interacting with me.

If I change my mind and break my commitments, I’m afraid it’s going to negatively affect my customer’s experience. So my first reaction is to try my hardest to prioritize their experience over my better judgement.

But is that really the only way? Would my audience automatically have a horrible experience if I back out on my words?

While it is extremely important for me to do my best to keep my words, it’s also important for me to be honest and vulnerable when things aren’t working. You know what builds trust? You being brave and showing up as a real person. A real person with struggles and challenges.

And I have such a hard time doing it!! I’m afraid that showing up as a less-than-capable person is not inspiring to people. 

I often have to remind myself that when other people share what they’re struggling with, I get a lot out of it. It makes them more human. And if they’re human and accomplishing these amazing things, I can do it, too! It gives me motivation and inspires me to keep working towards my goals even if I hit a roadblock here and there.

In this recent Seanwes podcast episode, they talk about how people are encouraged by the fact that you showed up, not necessarily by how successful you are when you show up. I couldn’t agree more!

So I want to show up here today and share a story of me breaking commitments lately. This is not me making excuses – I’m pretty good at owning my decisions 🙂 but maybe you’re struggling with something similar and it’s helpful for you to hear my experiences. I want you to know that it’s OK to change your mind 🙂


I was planning on offering a creative coaching group in Seattle during April and May. It was going to be like a support group for creatives, and I was really excited about it. I had flyers made and had been advertising it on my website and social media for a couple of months.

But for the last few weeks, I had this nagging feeling whenever I thought about it. The class registration was about to open up on Febraury 15. I had already mapped out the promotion calendar and figured out the curriculum etc. But I just couldn’t get the excitement back when I thought about actually doing it. I was conflicted between wanting to do it and knowing it wasn’t the best use of my time and resources, considering my new focus was to grow the product side of my business (you can read more about refocusing my business goals here).

So I did the self-test and imagined how I’d feel if I cancelled the group. And when I did that, I felt relieved. When I imagined going through with it, I felt very unexcited and felt it was such a drag!

I had a few days before the registration opened and had to seize the opportunity then if I was going to cancel the group. So I wrote an email to the owner of the art school, where I was going to have the group, and let her know I decided to cancel the group. I was really anxious when I hit that “send” button. She’s been very nice and supportive, but I was afraid she was going to be dissapointed and think less of me.

A few days later she replied to me and was totally understanding and that was just that. I felt so much better and lighter!

Another thing I’m backing out of – I don’t know if you remember but I said a couple of months ago I was going to start another year-long drawing project this spring. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I had a really awesome experience when I did it the last time, and it’s continued to give me many opportunities now even almost a year later. I was also itching for a new creative challenge!

Then again, I realized it was just not the right time for me. Doing a regular project like that (especially a daily project) is like having another job. As awesome as it could be, it’s just not the kind of commitment I should be taking on at this time.

When breaking commitments, I remind myself that It’s not just about what other people would think or how they’re going to react to your decisions. You can never control those things 100%. What you can control is how you’re making your decisions and how to communicate your decisions to other people.

It takes courage to say, I was going to do this, but I can’t any more. Fear of judgement often creeps in and clouds your judgement. How do you know it’s not just a temporary feeling of cold feet? It feels scary to back out of things because the biggest opportunity of your life time might have been waiting just around the corner.

You’re right. You don’t always know. You just know what you know given the information that are presented to you at this present moment. So, how can you make the best decisions based on what you know?

My best advice is to listen to that little voice inside of you. Your intuition or gut instinct is there to protect you and guide you to make a decision that’s best for you. Imagine saying no to this opportunity. Imagine saying yes to this opportunity. How do you feel in your gut?

You can also talk about it with someone supportive, someone who is not emotionally attached to what you’re trying to do. It could be your partner, friend, mentor, a coach or a counselor. Even just telling them your situation and having them reflect it back to you can bring you a tremendous mental clarity.

In my recent situations, the big question I had to ask myself was – how is this going to help me reach my goals? It may seem selfish to think this way, focusing so much on what you’re going to get out of it, but you’ve got to. You have so much time and energy in a day to pursue your passion, spend with your loved ones, and to fulfill your other obligations. You want to choose a path that will allow you to meet your needs and needs of others most effectively.

If you’re choosing to do something that you know is not going to serve you, simply for the sake of keeping your commitment, you’re doing a disservice to yourself and people around you in the long run.

At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to deal with 100% of the consequences of your decisions. If I had not cancelled my coaching group, I would’ve had a very unsuccessful marketing campaign because I just didn’t have enough focus and time to promote it effectively. Maybe I would’ve had a very small number of participants sign up but still spent the same amount of time preparing and facilitating the group. And it would’ve taken away time and energy from focusing on my number one priority, resulting in me not being able to deliver the top notch awesome products to my customers this summer. Sad!!

Even if you make a decision to back out of your commitment through a thoughtful process, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people won’t be disappointed. They probably will, and that’s understandable. Just like you’re allowed to have feelings and emotions about changes, so are people on the receiving end of your actions. And if you’ve been cultivating good relationships with your customers and audience, and you’re being honest about the reasons for change, they’ll eventually understand.

I’m learning that nothing terrible happens when I break my commitments. As long as I’m making those decisions carefully and intentionally and communicate honestly about it, things usually work out. By saying no, I’m saying yes to a future me who is happier and more fulfilled. And that future me will produce better work and be able to provide a better experience for my audience long term. And that is something worth being courageous for!

xo Yuko

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New Video: About Yuko

I shared a behind the scenes look into the DIY filming process of my first drawing video tutorial last week (if you missed it, you can check it out here.)

I made a short video introducing myself using some of the footage from that project, and I’m excited to share it with you today!

Here it is, me as a living and breathing person, talking about my work and inspirations.

Not too bad, yes?? Since I’m very new to video making, it took me many hours to put my videos together, but I had so much fun!

I just enjoy learning something new so much. I’m often fighting the “shiny object syndrome,” but I still like to celebrate the new knowledge and want to inspire my audience in new and exciting ways.

I’ll be working on a new drawing tutorial video for Sakura of America next and can’t wait to share it with you when it’s done!

Take care 🙂

xo Yuko

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