Category Archives: Self-Help

Loss & Gratitude

[👉 trigger warning – I talk about loss of a partner in this post]

Hey friend,

Loss of a spouse is popping up in my life a lot lately – not my own, thankfully, but it’s showing up in a podcast I listen to, a Netflix show I watch, artists I follow on social media, a book I’m reading, and recently, a friend of a friend.

I haven’t had death in my close relationships yet but know it’s inevitable.

Like the writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, joked about in this podcast episode, death rate has kept it up at 100% since, well, always. Yet we’re still flabbergasted and appalled when someone we love dies.

I’ve been reading the book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resiliance, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

This book had sat on my “for later” shelf in my library account for a few months, and honestly, I forgot what it was about.

I was jolted awake in the opening scene where Sheryl’s husband, Dave, dies suddenly and unexpectedly on their vacation in Mexico.

(Pretty much my worst nightmare.)

I have a tendency to fantasize about terrible situations on a good day, and loss of close loved ones has been on my mind a lot lately.

My Dave makes fun of me that I have such a morbid imagination and I “pre-mourn” stuff.

He’s Mr. Silver Lining – always looking for positives in life and doesn’t spend whole a lot of time and energy thinking about the negatives.

You may agree with Dave and think it’s unhealthy for me to dive deeply into the world of loss and grief when things are fine in my real life.

I can understand the argument. It does seem unproductive and harmful to intentionally picture your spouse dying suddently and experience the loss and grief on purpose.

(Granted, it’s an “imagined” loss, which cannot be compared to the real thing. I acknowldege the real loss would be 1000x more devastating and horrifying and life-changing.)

Yet, I can’t help but wonder, how would I survive such a loss? Would I ever be happy again? Could I feel true joy after you lose someone you love?

From what I’ve been learning (and from my experience working with domestic violence survivors for many years), it seems the answer is yes, even after you experience a tremendous loss and trauma, you can still be happy again.

One thing I want you to understand is when I’m in my dark fantasy world, I’m not feeling depressed.

Rather, I find overwhelming gratitude for what I do have in life.

Clearly, Dave is alive and well today. I don’t want him to go anytime soon but even if he did (sorry Dave!!), I’ve had wonderful 12 and a half years with him. It could’ve been 3 years instead of 12. Heck, maybe we would’ve never met if the stars hadn’t alighned in the first place!

And let me state the obvious that I’m choosing to imagine this situation. If this were real, I’d have no choice but to live it.

I do believe in silver lining. It’s just that I need to fully embrace the bad before I can appreciate the good. It’s not helpful for me to jump right into the positives before giving time and space to honor the negatives.

Only then, I can move on to celebrate the good things that surround me. And my art allows me to express joy in life.

Thank you for letting me share what I’ve been thinking a lot about 😘 I know it’s not very easy to hear or think about loss.

I hesitated to write about this today but did it anway in case you’re struggling with loss and grief, whether it’s from death, divorce, illness, or rejection from your family.

I wanted you to know I’m thinking of you. You’re not alone.

xo

ps. I highly recommend the book and podcast episode I highlighted above ☝️if you or someone you love is experiencing grief. Great resources.

pps. I’ll be back next week to tell you about my new collection! 🥳

 

Does it speak to you?

When I’m at shows, I often see my customers carefully go through my prints and cards and have an emotional reaction.


I hear:

“Oh…this is so true.”

“My sister needs this.”

“Your art is so HAPPY!”

And occasional (and my favorite)

“I’m dying of cuteness 😆”

I also hear:

“Your cards say exactly what I wanna say!”

YES!

What that tells me is my messages feel more authentic than the ones you find at big box stores.

It makes me happy because I do care a lot about what I say on my cards.

Art is important, of course. And the message is equally as important!

When I craft my messages, I pull a lot of inspirations from my past work in social service.

At the domestic violence organization I worked at, we were trained to be non-judgemental listeners and supporters of the DV survivors.

Not an advice-giver or tell-them-what-to-do-er.

That approach was perfect fit for my personality. Everyone’s situation is so different. I don’t even wanna pretend to know what’s best for other people!

Instead, I let them know I saw and heard them. I wanted them to know they were not alone, and that they didn’t have to prove anything to me.

No matter what you’re going through or how you feel about yourself, you deserve respect and dignity.

So when I create messages for my work, I ask myself, does this feel respectful? Would I actually say that to someone I care about?

Or would it be helpful for me to hear this?

Because when I dig deeper – and making good work always requires you to dig deeper – I’m the one who needs to hear those messages the most.

I’m no better than you. I don’t have it all together. I need to be reminded of my worth every day.

Art heals, and to be honest, I’m just as much of a recipient of its healing power as you are ✨

Art also connects people.

Even though I’m severely introverted 🙋🏻‍♀️ I still need connection to other people to thrive. And my art has helped me to share myself and connect with so many awesome people (like YOU ❤️).

I’m super grateful that you’re at the receiving end of my creations, and I hope my art is helping you to connect with your loved ones, too 🌈

Thank you for being amazing!!

xo

ps. do you wanna come enjoy my art and connect with me in person? I have shows and markets coming up! Click here to see my show schedule.

pps. a friendly reminder – price of my 8×10″ prints go up on June 1st. Purchase them now to take advantage of my current price.

I’m a pessimist.

When I’m at craft fairs, my customers ask me what inspires my art.

I tell them I’m not a naturally positive person so I need a reminder to be happy.

So I make art that’s uplifting and positive.

Often people respond with “me, too!” 🙋🏻‍♀️ or “yeah, it’s so important, especially now.”

I make happy art because it brightens my day and I want to share the joy with you.

Here are some of the messages I think of on a daily basis. If you’re needing a little boost today, soak it in 😘

I have this hanging on my living room wall.

I often take so much for granted – my husband, health, friends, etc.

When I’m in a funk, this message is a great reminder that I still have a lot of things to be grateful for.

I’ve got this in a sticker form and have it on my laptop where I see it every day 🌈

It’s easy for me to feel I’m not _____ (pretty, talented, thin, productive, focused, loving, good wife – you name it, I got it.) enough especially when I compare myself to others (more on that next.)

It’s nice to see this reminder and tell myself that I’m enough the way I am today.

And THIS. This also hangs in our living room.

I use social media, like Facebook and Instagram, every day for my business. I love how easy it is to connect with my friends and community there.

At the same time, it’s made it so much easier to compare myself to other people on the internet.

These are the thoughts I have often:

“Woo, look at her beautiful studio space! My work space is a mess, and I can never show it to anybody.”

“Her shop has so many sales! I wonder if I’d ever be so successful.”

“Wow, she has so many followers and likes on Instagram. Why don’t I have more?”

I still have these thoughts, but this message grounds me.

I remind myself that there are lots of people who have fewer followers or “likes” (or not on social media at all!) and have a very successful business.

(Or HAPPY.)

And everyone’s journey is different. I’m the only person who can know 100% of what’s going on in my life and business. What works for someone else may totally be a wrong choice for me.

It helps me to find peace wherever I am in life.

And if you’re having similar struggles, I hope it helps you, too 😊

xo

My Hawaiian vacation pics!

I love Hawaii!

Oh the sunshine and the warm, plumeria-scented breeze… I could feel every cell in my body relax as soon as we landed.

My mom and I met in Oahu, HI (it’s about the same distance from Japan and Seattle) and spent a week hanging out, eating, shopping, and sightseeing during the last week of January.

Enjoy some snapshots from our vacation 🌴🌺🌈

We went on a dolphin watching tour. We’re holding a fake dolphin skull 😂 We did see dolphins and a humpback whale! It was amazing.

Bishop Museum. Stunning exhibits & buildings.

Beauty of the building itself is worth a visit!

Waimea Valley & Falls

In the hibiscus garden

Waimea Fall. No we didn’t go swimming 😉

Beautiful flowers everywhere at the Waimea Valley Botanical Garden

Ladies on the beach in North Shore. There are lots of wild chickens and roosters roaming around once you’re outside of Waikiki.

Kitty chilling in old Haleiwa town

We watched a beautiful sunset in North Shore. My favorite sight in Hawaii ❤

I made a couple of art inspired by the beauty on the island.

I’ve only been back for a few days, but I miss it SO MUCH 😢 I wish I could’ve stayed there a little longer. Sigh.

I hope I’m lucky enough to visit the paradise many more times. If you go (or live there, jealous!!), soak up the sun for me 😉

Aloha,

3 Free Resources to Empower and Motivate You!

Do you subscribe to any e-newsletters? I bet you do!

I’m on several lists myself – a lot of them for business. Tips on writing, some related to social media, and a bunch of emails from artists I like and admire.

And there are a few I get for motivation and encouragement. I love getting emails from these lovely humans because they help me feel grounded and gives me the courage to live life that I want.

Here are my 3 favorite e-newsletters (They’re all free!):

1. Monday Morning Motivation by Personal Pep Talk

Photo by Andrew Ochoa ©Personal Pep Talk

Stacy and I met in the Master Gardener’s volunteer training several years ago. She’s got such a positive energy, and her smile always puts me in a better mood. Her compassion for  other people and the whole world runs deep, and it shows through everything she does – a true hero in my book!

She’s a teacher by trade  and has started her business, Personal Pep Talk, with her husband Eric this August. I absolutely LOVE their Personal Pepe Talk card decks – I use mine every day to practice gratitude and give myself a little TLC ❤ And her art is so charming and sweet 🙂

In her weekly newsletter, Monday Morning Motivation, Stacy shares tips on how to live mindfully and her intention for the week. What a wonderful way to start your week, right?

You can get a weekly dose of positivity and mindfulness from Stacy here.

2. 100 Uplifting Days by Jessica Swift

© Jessica Swift

I admire Jessica Swift‘s work as a surface designer so much! Her work is so colorful and cheerful, I can’t help but smile when I see her creations 🙂

So when I discovered her email series, 100 Uplifting Days, I wasted no time. I immediately signed up and enjoyed every single email that came for the next 100 days!

Every day, I’d get an email from Jessica with her colorful art and encouraging messages in my inbox (see photos above). Oftentimes, her message was SO spot on for what I was feeling that day, it really lifted up my spirits.

I was sad when the 100 days were over (FYI, you could unsubscribe and re-subscribe to start a cycle  again :D), but Jessica’s been sending out extras occasionally, so I still get her beautiful reminders here and there.

The visual of her email is so yummy. It’s a treat for your eyes and your soul! You can sign up for her email here.

3. Marie Forleo‘s MF Insider E-newsletter

© Marie Forleo

For those of you who don’t know, Marie Forleo is a life coach and entrepreneur, and I’ve been a fan of Marie TV for a couple of years.

Her motivational messages and practical tips for following your passion have been instrumental in my own journey, and I appreciate her sense of humor (and entertaining visuals on the show) when I need a little laugh 🙂

Since I don’t have time or energy to keep track of all the shows and podcasts I love (which there are many!), I signed up for her email so whenever a new content is posted, I’ll be notified.

Even if I don’t have time to watch or read her content right away, I always skim the email to get the gist of it. To me, Marie is a super successful celebrity, but she’s not afraid to share her human side generously with her viewers. When she’s answering questions from her viewers, I often feel like she’s directly talking to me because she makes it so relatable.

If you want practical and entertaining tips for your life and business, you can subscribe to Marie Forleo’s newsletter here.

These women give and share what they know so freely. Their wisdom adds so much to my life, and I hope you’ll find them helpful, too!

(I’ve been inspired to create something similar for my email subscribers, too… Stay tuned for any updates!)

Now, tell me what your favorite e-newsletters are. Please share in the comment and tell me why 🙂

xo

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

 

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

 

 

 

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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My Totally Relaxing Sabbatical Week

I was on my sabbatical week last week, and it was AWESOME.

In the past, I tried to be somewhat productive during my sabbaticals wether it’s learning something new or getting a project done. But this time, I was determined to just do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I wanted to. 

I had no agendas or goals. I just wanted to relax and unwind and that’s exactly what I did  🙂

Here is the report back from my super relaxing week off:

1. I read a bunch!

My husband Dave got me a Kindle for my birthday in January. I’d never had an e-reader before and wasn’t sure how I’d like reading on a device vs. paper books.

Well, it turns out, I LOVED it.

I love being able to get a bunch of books for free from a local library and also buy Japanese e-books through Amazon Japan for much cheaper (and quicker!).

Sadly, they don’t have a very good selection of Japanese e-books at Seattle Public Library, but I got an English version of Haruki Murakami’s book Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and enjoyed it very much.

Normally, I get to read like 15 minutes before I go to bed (if I’m lucky!) but during my sabbatical week, I just read whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted.

I still got up fairly early every morning, but instead of writing, I just read on the couch. It was such a luxury to spend hours reading during the day!

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I also received an advance copy of Lisa Congdon’s The Joy of Swimming the other day and started diving in (pun intended!) during my sabbatical week.

Lisa is one of the artists I admire so very much, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be her friend on the internet. And I’m SO honored to be contributing a book review for this upcoming book!

I’ll write more about this beautifully illustrated book of hers in the coming weeks. But let me tell you it’s so delightful and inspiring ❤ The book will be released on April 17, and you can preorder it now here!

2. Cooking & Eating

You know food is my passion. I’m more passionate about eating than cooking 😀 but in order for me to eat good food, I’m often exploring different ways to cook with fresh, nutritional ingredients.

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Growing up in Japan, I had a close relationship with fermented/cultured foods. Maybe it’s wired in my DNA 🙂 but I love the process of making fermented foods very much. Fermented foods are full of flavors and good probiotics that help your digestive functions.

I’ve been making yogurt, bread, fermented nut/seed spread, miso, pickled vegetables etc. for quite some time. Homemade fermented foods taste a lot better than the store-bought ones, and I feel good knowing exactly what’s in it and how it was made.

Yes you do need to put in some prep work, but after that, you just let them be and let the nature work its magic!

I feel like a little kid on a Christmas day every time I open up a crock or jar of fermented foods for the first time. It’s not always successful but after you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ll get a hang of it. I love how everything turns out slightly differently every time even if you follow the same recipe.

Anyway, I made the vegetarian kimchi above with Chinese cabbage, daikon radish, and carrots, and it turned out yummy!

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I was also able to take extra time to prepare yummy breakfast like this in the morning during my time off.

Funny thing is, I grew up in a household where we ate more western style breakfast (like toast and eggs) but I’ve been getting into eating more traditional Japanese food for breakfast. It’s nice to switch things around depending on my mood 🙂

3. Fun & Unproductive Things to Refuel

The rest of the week, I did things just for fun 🙂

I had a very nice (and overdue) facial at Luminous Skincare Studio using the gift certificate Dave gave me for our anniversary, had tea with friends, had a night out with Dave to watch Academy nominated animated shorts and just enjoyed each other’s company more 🙂

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And of course, this guy really enjoyed extended lap time with his mama ❤

Overall, It was soooooo relaxing and exactly what I needed! I’ve said this before and will say it again – Deciding to take every 7th week off was the best thing I’ve done for myself and my creative business! 

Yay for self-care!!

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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