self-help

Real Talk

CREATIVITY, MENTAL HEALTH AND MAKING IT IN A NEW CITY: JESS COCHRANE TELLS IT LIKE IT IS

 
Image:    Jess Cochrane

Sipping coffees from her local cafe on a rooftop in a suburb of London’s South East, I caught up with Jess Cochrane, the Australian boundary-pushing artist known for her arresting artworks that blur the lines between what society deems ‘beautiful’ and reality. Her work is an exploration of pop culture, the idea of feminine beauty and how different parts of ourselves are so often disguised by this idea.

Using a mixture of paint and photographic imagery, Jess creates incredibly moving and interesting works that will have you questioning your beliefs long after you’ve left them.

RT: You’ve been away from home for four months now, living in London, how has it been?

JC: Man, this trip has been so eye opening. I’m the kind of person that is so up for jumping in the deep end with my life, and I do that a lot but there’s always a whiplash effect. And the bigger the distance, the deeper the pool (and the bigger that whiplash). I’ve had moments wondering what the hell is happening because it’s such a big thing, but the best part about it is that I’ve had so much reflection time. My ability to deal with my mental health, over the years has become so much better as I’m more self-aware and I’ve actually had some interesting break throughs.

RT: Can you share any?

JC: Well, so often creatives want to be constantly doing (I’m no different), but if there is no solid plan in place, we’ll tell ourselves that we’re not doing enough and we’ll begin to unhealthily compare ourselves to others. I suffer from perfectionism and am so prone to comparison. At the moment that’s with two creatives who are older than me and British, who’ve grown up in London and have built up huge networks and successful careers. So at the start of my trip I tried to match pace by going to see as much art as possible, meet as many people as possible and attend all the right events. This quickly led to burnout and frustration. When I finally got my studio and settled into a routine, I realised that it’s all the same recipe, same method: I know what I need to do but it’s so much slower here for me than in Australia. At home I’m recognised, people know me, which is so cool that there’s recognition. But here I’m a tiny tadpole in the world’s biggest pond. The needing to approach people and getting to know them is more difficult. So I’m trying not to compare myself to people literally born and raised in London and I’ve realised it’s ok to go at a slower pace, it’s still happening. There’s a pressure you end up putting on yourself that’s unhealthy, and I need to constantly remind myself, just to chill.

RT: How else is it different from home?

JC: Being in a big city like London, you realise how small Sydney is (and Australia for that matter). Sydney is not a big city! Coming here puts things into perspective. Realising just how huge a market it is to crack is very humbling and makes you realise how hard everyone works. It’s a tougher and slower process to start somewhere new but that’s ok. It’s really easy to get dejected and think I’m nothing in this city, but you get to a point where you realise the new city has so much to offer, and you start to block out the unnecessary stuff so you focus on the things you want to get out of it.

As a creative that always wants to be doing the most, and constantly needing validation, it’s funny how all those things play on your mind when you’re in a bigger, new city. I think it’s important to reflect on things like this though, so in hindsight, I’ll be able to look back and wonder what did I spend so much time thinking about, what mattered, what didn’t, what came out of it. One things’ for sure I’ll never complain about Sydney traffic again!

RT: How do you feel about social media - how have you utilised it in the past and now in London?

JC: This trip, I’ve loved it and hated it. The main thing that I use it for is as a business tool. I don’t really use it to compare myself to others, more to look at art, what’s going on, scout photography subjects and I tend to see it more as a Pinterest-type gallery so in a lot of ways I have so much love and support for it because it’s helped my career so much and given me so much access to new things. And it’s so easy. But at the same time, in a lot of ways, in the way someone would use it for personal reasons, it’s affected me more. I love photos – taking them and posting them to create a memory board and I think I’ve spent a lot more hours on it personally than for my business because this trip I’ve taken a step back to reassess what I’m doing with my work.

 RT: What are some of the challenges of making a move like this one?

JC: One of the biggest things about being away and being in a new place, like starting a new school you have to make new friends, find your place. It took me about three years to really get that in Sydney and now I’m here at the beginning again which is going to take time. Another thing that’s been interesting is the discovery of London through social media. It’s been easy to feel like I’m not fitting in and trying to learn about it. It’s given me a lot of things to think about – differences between English and Australian culture and different city culture. It’s been a bit of a mind fuck – all the different ways people dress, the music. I’ve felt so out of my depth and not cool enough which is so silly but it’s a lot of life stuff happening as well.

 RT: Also when you’re home you pick up the phone, call a friend or your mum and get through it, but here, it’s much harder.

JC: Yeah exactly. For me, the thing I’ve experienced is a combo of starting my career here coming in from the side and also starting my life here. Trying to figure out the ins and outs of working relationships and where I want to be, what I want to be doing, and my place in it all. I definitely had a point, last month where I was so over it, I was so tired and had so much to process. When you’re putting your trust in a feeling of “I want to be in London, and this is what I want to pursue…” it’s quite scary.

RT: What’s your internal chatter or mental state around this?

JC: A constant push pull scenario that can be really draining! It’s an internal battle and in a few years I know I’ll be so much stronger for it. It’s hard but then I always think of the alternative: I don’t want to sit on a couch at home and be dissatisfied and wonder what might have been. Unless it’s fully happening to you, it’s difficult to understand, the stuff that runs through your head. And people tell you the process should be enjoyable, which it is, and I’m not ungrateful, but I sometimes wish that people would step into my shoes and give me some credit, for moving my entire life overseas. It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows. There’s a pride to it. And the dollar is so weak!! Rough patches teach you so much but they’re so hard to get through mentally. You need to constantly ask yourself, “how much do I really want this and how much am I willing to put up with the shit?” You have to do it because you love it.

RT: And it’s always good to remember that life is life and you find that issues are the same no matter where you are.

JC: The amount of days I want to have the day in bed. But haven’t allowed myself to because the guys I live with get up and go do their successful careers and deal with the city like it’s not a thing, and I think “I’m exhausted”… maybe because I’m constantly trying to match their pace. Then I think hold on that’s stupid, I’m trying to go at their pace, not my own.


“Rough patches teach you so much but they’re so hard to get through mentally. You need to constantly ask yourself, “how much do I really want this and how much am I willing to put up with the shit?” You have to do it because you love it.” - Jess Cochrane


RT: Tell me about the mini series you were involved with for the ABC.

JC: ABC approached me and seven other artists to be in a miniseries, exploring how the self connects with your work – self-portraiture through different practices. It was a real journey through my mental health, which was at its most tumultuous point, and I ended up having a real breakthrough with my art. It allowed me to shine a light on my problems, helped to see myself properly. It was almost like I couldn’t tell people how I was feeling past certain words, but when I painted this thing, it was visualised and I was able to communicate it. People could recognise it and relate to it, that it was from the self and from the heart. I realised that what I was feeling was not uncommon; so many people feel this way so it really resonated. It was hugely therapeutic and cathartic.

RT: How did your art develop growing up?

JC: My dad is an art teacher, I was always art inclined, so many days were spent life drawing and learning traditional art techniques and art history, where women definitely looked certain way. But then I would sit in my room and read every single Vogue magazine and look at the really skinny models, and all the different looks that were in like suddenly it was cool to be rake thin. I spent so long trying to figure out why I felt so inadequate not only as a person but as a woman and also an artist. It felt hard as a woman. We’re fed such contradicting words. We’re just conditioned to feel self-conscious. And making my art which was combining the two – something very glossy and commercialised (how we’re supposed to look in the eyes of the false advertising world) versus the honesty and imperfections of painting and moving paint around, was very interesting to me. It was a meeting of the two binaries, it was my life visualised – it was like I didn’t really realise until this happened, until I had my graduate work. Everyone commented that it was strong, but I wasn’t trying to tick boxes, but rather trying to connect the dots in my own life. And that to me is what makes a good artist. Their work is connecting dots in their own life. It’s always about the artist and the self. So it was interesting. The process of moving on and being in a different city changes the way you work and see things. If you’re away from home, you’re always going to be thinking not just about your own life, but about your work. So it’s a part of being a creative, you’re always putting pressure on yourself because you’re constantly questioning everything. We’re programmed to self-critique: “why is this like this, why am I like this?” If you add your own mental health or insecurities into it, or allow them to take over, it can be really overwhelming.

RT: Do you think it’s important to speak up about mental health in a public arena?

JC: I think it’s important for platforms like this one (Real Talk Project), which is a safe space where you won’t be judged. It’s so easy to feel so much but we as creatives are still always tapped as overly emotional types, like we don’t have real jobs. The stereotype is that we don’t work that hard, but we have to work twice as hard, we have no stability and are putting our whole selves into our work. There’s no switch on and off, making it very easy to get too in your own head. Especially on this trip, I’ve had moments where I’ve just met someone, and I’ve felt like I wanted to pour everything out, which can be a lot to put on people, so you need to be careful. It’s hard being emotional and putting yourself into everything you do all the time. Which is why it’s so important to have safe spaces where there’s no judgement, and you can tell the truth.

For me, if people can look at my work, and what I have to say and can think, “I can relate” and “you’ve helped me”, then that’s all I want. But at the same time, there has to be a balance. Especially this year, I’ve been doing so much talking but not much making that’s relevant or personal enough for me. So in speaking about it, I still don’t feel like it’s enough because I’m not delivering all I want to deliver. So it’s a catch-22. But it’s really important to have the safe spaces to put your whole self on the table and get it out of your body, which takes a lot of bravery and courage. Creatives are the last people to say that: they’re the hardest on themselves. If you’re feeling too much, too overwhelmed or very self-conscious about what you’re doing in a new city, it’s easy to not feel like you can make anything. I had a few weeks of not knowing what to do. You have moments where you overthink everything and forget that it’s something that comes naturally.


It’s a part of being a creative, you’re always putting pressure on yourself because you’re constantly questioning everything. We’re programmed to self-critique: “why is this like this, why am I like this?” If you add your own mental health or insecurities into it, or allow them to take over, it can be really overwhelming. - Jess Cochrane


RT:  What’s one of the biggest challenges of being a creative dealing with mental health?

JC: One of the cycles of being a creative is that if I’m loving what I’m doing, I end up overthinking it, then fear what others think. Then I realise I don’t care so much what people think so I go back to making it and it becomes a cyclical thing. And the further from home comforts, the more intense it feels. It’s ok to feel drained though. Going on big trips or doing big things, it’s all self-discovery really. Sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself to be doing everything in that moment, but really the benefit of that experience is only felt post-experience. So you leave it and reflect, and look at everything that’s happened, then you have the capacity to create. It’s real time research.

I’m also so aware. I wish sometimes I was less aware, I’ve never been at a point in my life where I’ve questioned so much and thought so deeply about things. It’s all happening at once and is so full on. I feel like I’ve lived two separate lives – going to a foreign place is very liberating, I had a huge overwhelming sense of freedom when I first arrived, free of everything people think of me, but at the same time I went from the elation of freedom, to complete isolation, because everyone’s so busy here and I can’t see my friends, and it’s the rat race. It’s almost like bipolar, you feel everything in full effect, the highs and lows. You learn to balance out the feelings but it’s so hard, especially in constantly “on” cities like London. It’s hard to find the balance and neutrality to just stop.

Image:    Jess Cochrane

RT: What’s next?

JC: I’m not sure what my life is going to look like – it’s blurry. It’s a funny feeling like I don’t have a clear path of what next year looks like, I’ve been trying hard to figure it out, but I just don’t know, the unknown is scary, but having said that, I have a goal in mind and that’s to get back to London as soon as I can. I have so much to do in the meantime, which is terrifying and exciting all at once.


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

THE LONELINESS OF SOLO BUSINESS

 
Real Talk by Kitiya palaskas.jpg

As a solo business owner, there are certain parts of the job that can get a little lonely. Many nights and days are spent hunched over your computer or phone, hustling, making connections, wearing all the hats and all the while remaining the ‘effervescent and impossibly fresh’ face of your business, championing it till the cows come home. This is tiring stuff!

Having someone to bounce ideas off, splitting tasks, dividing accountability so you can bolster each other up are things I dream about. Of course there’s amazing things about going it alone – you can take things in any direction you like, whatever you make is yours and you only have yourself to rely on. But there is definitely a sense of isolation that comes with it. I’ve found that the single most important thing to remember in combating this kind of solitariness is to look after yourself. If it’s just you then you’ve only got you to worry about taking care of (besides all your clients and networks and family and friends of course!) But before all them, you come first, because if you’re not on top of your game, you have no chance of doing the same for those around you. I’ve put together a few of my go to coping mechanisms below:

  • Constant journaling: I write everything down. Whether it’s a task on my to do list, a note to myself, or a quote I like. I try to regularly (mostly it’s down to weekly unless I’m on a roll), journal about how I’m feeling, what’s happening for me and what I think about certain situations and events happening in my life. Getting it down on paper and out of my head definitely clears out a lot of the thoughts that swirl around making it hard to concentrate.

  • Talking to people: call a friend. Call your mum. Whoever it is that you can talk openly and freely about what’s going on for you, call them! Or visit. Or meet for coffee. There is something so comforting about human connection, and simply having someone that you trust hear what you’re saying, relieves you of so many burdens. Knowing you’re not alone is a very powerful thing. And I can absolutely say with confidence, you are most certainly not alone.

  • Following on from that, I think it’s important to surround yourself with trusted people that you know you can rely on for advice, help, support or just an ear to listen. Humans were supposed to belong to tribes, so it’s no wonder we thrive on having one around us. Find yours and utilise it.

  • Let yourself feel things: so often we feel an emotion arise and we’re either too busy or too embarrassed to let it just come out, in all its glory. I always try to let myself feel an emotion as it comes up. Even if it’s just for a short time, I find that if I let myself feel it, I can more quickly move through it. It also is great practice for understanding your emotions and triggers. Feel the feels.

  • The last one is to try not to be too hard on yourself. This one is, funnily enough, the hardest one for me, as I am typically extremely critical on myself. It’s in our nature to compare ourselves with others, which is totally fine to do, but when it consumes you, you can run the risk of losing yourself in the process. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with what I’m doing/not doing and what everyone else is doing/not doing, I take a literal step back (I stand up from my desk and step back, sounds silly but it works), and take a look at all the things I currently have and what they’re allowing me to do (what I’m grateful for having currently) and I remind myself that I am not other people, that I’m unique and they’re probably going through the very same stuff at the same time about someone else. Everyone’s just on their own ride and we’re all trying to work stuff out.

Whatever you’re doing, whether you’re doing it solo or with others, remember that you’re doing an amazing job and you’re going to be ok.


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

SURVIVAL TIPS FOR BUSY PEOPLE

 
We visited the Seven Magic Mountains installation in Las Vegas. Very inspirational and a great way to get into holiday mode!

We visited the Seven Magic Mountains installation in Las Vegas. Very inspirational and a great way to get into holiday mode!

Hey everyone!

I'm writing this from a little apartment in Mexico City, where I've just woken up to my first day of a 4 week vacation around this amazing country. I've just spent a week in LA and Vegas, and while it feels like I have been away for much longer, it still feels surreal to be on holiday. Maybe this is due in part to jetlag, but mostly because my mind is still well and truly stuck in work mode. I feel guilty at the prospect of being away from my business for so long and for my work flow to suddenly come to a halt when I'm so used to riding that momentum from one job to the next. 

I think it may take some time to shake this mindset off and decompress from what has been a truly insane few months. From July to October it feels like I literally did not stop once or come up for air. I barrelled through project after project, juggled multiple insane deadlines, and pulled countless all-nighters to get stuff done (something I hate doing), all while working my day job 3 days per week. I literally feel exhausted just from writing that! Now, I'm not attempting to glorify this extreme workload situation, nor would I ever want to promote busyness as some kind of badge of honour. This scenario is just a reality for a lot of freelancers, or those balancing design work with other life commitments. Sometimes shit just gets crazy! 

This is a fake ceiling in an underground mall at Caesars Palace. It doesn’t sound like it would be a relaxing place but it was surprisingly serene!

This is a fake ceiling in an underground mall at Caesars Palace. It doesn’t sound like it would be a relaxing place but it was surprisingly serene!

As I have previously mentioned, craft-based design is a niche job with a laborious workload that tends to fluctuate a lot. Sometimes I don't have that much on and can be a bit more chill about producing work, but other times I get inundated with great design opportunities that I really want to take on, and no matter how organised I am, how we'll I've managed client expectations, or how fast I work, I all of a sudden find myself with a bunch of big projects on the go, all with competing deadlines. 

This is when I slip into what I call "Deadline Mode", which can kind of feel like a survival challenge. Deadline Mode involves one or more of the following things:

  • All-nighters

  • Abandonment of regular sleeping, eating, washing laundry, seeing friends, hydration, grocery shopping, exercise, free time, and most other daily human tasks

  • Extreme swings in mindset from motivation, determination and enthusiasm to stress, frustration, panic and a whole spectrum of other feelings

  • Emotional breakdowns

  • Binge eating (hate you/love you Uber Eats)

  • Binge watching of Law & Order SVU (let it be known that this is actually a positive, not  a negative)

  • So much craft mess, with no time to clean it up so I'm basically living in craftermath for the entire deadline period

  • Numerous other gross things that adversely affect my mental health 

I know I can say no to jobs to try to minimise this happening, and I know this way of working is very problematic but it does seem rife  across the creative industry, and I often wonder why it is so common. Perhaps this forms part of a greater conversation about why so many of us encounter this way of working so regularly; why we let it happen, and how this could be related to the bigger picture of how creatives are valued; and how there can be a discrepancy between demand for quality output vs the time (and often money) offered in return. (I touched on these issues a little but in my recent interview on the Never Not Creative podcast.

Parks like this one in Mexico are a great place to decompress.

Parks like this one in Mexico are a great place to decompress.


Perhaps this ("Deadline Mode") forms part of a greater conversation about why so many of us encounter this way of working so regularly; why we let it happen, and how this could be related to the bigger picture of how creatives are valued.


Regardless of why this is happening to me (and believe me I'm working on trying to shift the way I work to avoid it) the reality is, sometimes things get stressful, and when that happens it's good to have an arsenal of tools you can use to combat it. After many Deadline Mode experiences I've learned a lot about the way I work, and how to minimise stress as much as possible so these experiences don't overwhelm me or get in the way of me getting the job done. Like everything, this is a work in progress for me, but I thought I'd share some of my current survival tips in the hope that they can be useful for you when you're next feeling under the pump. Here goes!

1. Trust that it will all work out

If you're like me and have experienced many busy and stressful periods, it could help you to remember that you've been through it all before, and you survived! Sometimes just the simple knowledge that you've overcome seemingly impossible situations can reassure you that you are capable of doing it again this time. You got this!

2. Manage expectations 

While it's important to be open with your clients/collaborators  about the realities of your availability and how long a project is going to take to complete, it's also super important to be honest with yourself as well. Be realistic about what you can achieve each day and try to spread the load. Overloading yourself with epic expectations that may be physically impossible to achieve is a sure way to increase stress and make you feel like you're failing before you've even begun.

3. Set boundaries and stick to them

Before heading into a stressful period I find it's helpful to identify my limits regarding how far I am willing to physically and mentally push myself to get the job done. It's really easy to push too hard when you have a lot on, which can lead to burnout, breakdowns, and even physical illness. Setting boundaries for yourself (for example, "I will get at least X amount of hours sleep per night, no all-nighters") can help manage the expectations I spoke about in Tip 2. No job is worth compromising your physical or mental health! This should be a daily motto for all of us. 

4. Learn from past experiences 

After countless creative projects I have learned a lot about the way I work. For example, I know that I spend a lot of time in the planning and development process, with the actual making part happening in a short and super efficient burst towards the end of a project timeline. This happens because it takes a while for my plans to crystallise, but once they do, everything is mapped out to the last detail, leaving only the physical execution to be done. I used to get so stressed about this way of working, viewing this long development time as procrastination, feeling like I was that shit person that always left things until the last minute. But now that I recognise this as my unique way of working and NOT me being lazy, I can ditch the stressing and self-criticism and get on with the job.

5. Use lists as your lifeline

Stress for me can often occur when I have a million to-do’s floating around in my head and no clear idea of how or when they are going to get done. So lists are everything to me! You might not be a list writer but I encourage you to give it a try because they can really help with time management. I like to map out my entire timeline before a busy period begins and assign tasks to each work day. Getting it all out on paper allows me to sort of switch into autopilot and just methodically start working through the list like some kind of craft robot. The key to lists though is being flexible with them and open to the reality that you may need to shuffle tasks around and might not get everything done each day and that's ok. Also, it's REALLY satisfying to cross something off a list, right?! Use a fat red pen, it feels even better!


Sometimes just the simple knowledge that you've overcome seemingly impossible situations can reassure you that you are capable of doing it again this time. You got this!


With a bit more of this, I think I can finally start to relax…

With a bit more of this, I think I can finally start to relax…

6. Make yourself comfortable 

When you're stressed, the last thing you want is to feel uncomfortable in your work environment. This is not conducive to getting shit done! When I'm in Deadline Mode I always move my work home instead of staying at my studio. Because I often work late, it's way more comfortable to be home rather than at the studio which is in an old warehouse that's quite creepy and desolate at night. While it's not always great to be working on big, messy projects in my little bedroom, at least I am somewhere safe and cosy. Whatever your scenario is, and however you want to do it, making yourself as comfy as possible will help you be more productive!

7. Keep it tidy

Oh man, this one is everything. I am naturally quite a messy person, so I try to reset my workspace at the end of every day during Deadline Mode, no matter how late it is or how much I CBF in that moment. Waking up to a clean, tidy, and organised space, ready and waiting for you to get cracking is a glorious feeling, especially if you're like me and mess = stress.

8. Move your body

Oooh, this one is also a goodie. We know that physical exercise can reduce the effects of stress on our bodies. But often, when you're busy, your normal routine (including time for exercise) goes out the window. Long hours of sitting down with no movement does not make me feel good, so I try to make time for a bit of physical movement every day when I’m busy, even if it’s just a walk to the cafe for a coffee before I start the daily grind, quick breaks throughout the day to stand up and stretch, or time in the evening for a little home yoga session to decompress before bed. Do whatever works for you!

9. Pre-prep meals

When I'm super busy my healthy eating aspirations tend to be replaced by desperate Uber Eats binges or late night scrambling under mountains of craft debris for those 3 crackers I know I left there 2 days ago (and this may be all I eat that day).. These are not good habits! I love a good batch meal prep, so I've recently started doing this when I know I'm about to go into a busy period. It's been really good because I can cook something super healthy and filled with nutrients to help fuel my body so i can survive Deadline Mode, and all I have to do each night is heat it up!

10. Take a break

Sometimes I can become a bit of a martyr to my work, which I hate. When I'm in a busy and stressful time I often feel guilty for even considering resting when there's so much to be done. This is dumb because recharging my brain and body is the key to productivity! If you're a bit the same and find it hard to rest when you're under the pump, it's OK! As weird as it sounds I find that scheduling breaks into my timeline (add it to your to-do list!) is a way for me to make sure I get some rest and gives me the permission to do so, so I don't feel guilty about it. For a mini brain break on the go you might also like to try our mindfulness meditation, it's great for busy people! 

11. Practice self care

I love the concept of self care! It should really be a daily thing for all of us but I feel it's especially nice during busy and stressful times. It can take any form you like. For me, I love a luxurious shower or bath! Water is very cleansing for me, so during Deadline Mode I'll end each day with a super hot shower, then do something nice like put on my most bougie body lotion, light some essential oils, get into bed, massage my feet and wind down from the day. Make time to treat yo'self every day, it's the best!

So there's my top tips for ya. Stress is inevitable, and also a natural part of life, and it's unrealistic to try to eradicate it from our lives completely. I think we should instead figure out ways to at least minimise it a bit and work around it so that it doesn't hinder us from doing our best creative work.


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

WHAT I'VE LEARNT HAVING A DAY JOB AS A BUSINESS OWNER: RUBY BROWN

 
Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas - Ruby Brown image.jpg

Ruby Brown is a curious woman. As an entrepreneur and long-time owner of a boutique nanny recruitment agency, her curiosity and hunger for new experiences saw her starting a full-time job while keeping the agency running on the side. We were lucky enough to chat to Ruby and hear some of the insights (aka: pearlers) she’s had about this experience.  

RT: Can you tell us briefly what you do (what’s your business and what’s your day job?) – how long have you been doing them for?
RB: My business Nanny Match is a recruitment agency focused on quality candidates and good relationships. Nanny Match has evolved over 7 years, mostly as a side-business. In 2017 I took a leap and worked on Nanny Match full time for a year. After a year I scaled back and took a full time job in a tech start-up.

RT: What made you decide to get a day job?
RB: I had decided to work full time on my business because I really needed to know how far I could take it. I'd thought about it before but never committed. One day, I said "fuck it" and took the leap to work full time. We were profitable and growing. It was exciting!

After about a year, legislative changes in the industry meant I needed to restructure my company. It was at that point that I assessed the road map and realised the changes I needed to make didn't fit with my values. So I restructured and stepped back.

I had developed new skills and realised what parts of business were most interesting to me. I took about a month to restructure and guide all our clients and employees through the change.


“It’s rewarding to know that business owners are extremely valuable employees” - Ruby Brown


RT: How did you choose it (did you get poached, did you apply via regular recruitment process or did you know someone?), were you specifically looking in the same field as your business? If so, why stay in the same industry?
RB: Before I made the change, I booked a session with a mentor. She helped me to realise what's important to me: autonomy, control, caring, learning, integrity

I went on a traditional job-hunt, seeking companies and roles that reflected these values. I specifically looked for roles within recruitment, HR and sales, and I ended up working for a tech company in the childcare and education space—a great fit!

RT: What have you found most challenging part about your working situation currently?
RB: I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person, so I'm struggling to split my attention between another company and my own side-hustle. I'm going through a process of accepting that I'm giving my time and energy to someone else's dream. This is challenging because I so deeply believed in the value driving my business. It's easier to believe in something that you fully understand and something that is all yours. I'm grateful I've found another values-driven company and I'm definitely finding alignment there. It's just a process. Learning how to work in such a different environment has been challenging, too. I've switched from a quiet home office to a buzzing, open-plan office in the CBD. A few things that have helped with this change include noise-cancelling headphones, open communication with colleagues, mediation (brightmind.com) and Work by Thich Nhat Hanh.

RT: What has been most rewarding so far?
RB: Using the skills I gained as a business owner to find employment—and make a career change—was very satisfying. It's rewarding to know that business owners are extremely valuable employees. We offer very unique skills, ideas, perceptions and experiences. Working in a bigger company means I'm learning and practising new skills every day. I'm surrounded by very talented people. It's nice to shed some weighty responsibility, receive a solid salary and focus on just one aspect of a business for a while. I can hone in on specific skills and I have all the support I need. I think letting go of my ego and getting stuck in with a team has been really beneficial, too.

RT: What have you learnt?
RB: Everyone is hustling and learning.
Business involves risk and creativity.
As long as you follow your values you'll feel more certain about what you're doing.
It's important to share the weight and responsibility of your business with others. This means giving up some control.


“As long as you follow your values you’ll feel more certain about what you’re doing” - Ruby Brown


RT: How does your owner self and employee self differ?
RB: Interesting question! My owner self is more confident because I have a very deep understanding of the business, and of course, I have control over everything. As an owner I feel that I have more control over my time and direction. As an employee I feel that I have more freedom (less responsibility) but less direction. My employee self is nosey-as-fuck, because I want to understand the why behind everything. I'd like to say that as an employee I have more work/life balance, but I don't, because my personality means I'm obsessing over this job as much as I obsessed over my business.


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

SOCIAL MEDIA AND SUCCESS

 
Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

The effects of social media on our creative wellbeing is a topic I could honestly rant about for days, because I have a real love/hate relationship with social media. While I can't deny it's been instrumental to me for brand exposure and has helped me book a lot of jobs, it's also fuelled so many of my creativity-based mental struggles over the years. I'm sure many of you can relate! Social media seems to play a big part in a lot of wellbeing issues actually, so for this reason we'll undoubtedly talk about it again in future themes, but today I wanted to write about social media in the context of how using it can affect our views on success. 

Using social media to gauge success in any way can be problematic at best. For starters, reality is questionable on social media. Is what we're really seeing or reading an accurate depiction of real life? Also, we choose what to share and when. You might come across a feed with hardly anything in it, does that mean that person is less successful than someone with hundreds of posts? They could just be choosing not to share all of their achievements online, all the time. And if you don't use social media at all? If success is defined by what you share and you don't share anything, does that mean you suck? And what about interaction? We know that having a lot of likes and comments can help propel the success of your brand, but with algorithms controlling a lot of social media content these days, can we really measure the success of a brand accurately based on interactions? Like I said, it's problematic. 

When machines define success
So, algorithms. We know they play a big part in how our audiences are seeing and interacting with the content we share on social media. This is an accepted fact. I hear so many creative people stressing about how algorithm changes are affecting their ability attract customers and clients. I have definitely noticed this myself as well, and sometimes when I'm thinking about it, my thoughts spiral out of control and I wonder whether it's actually not the algorithm at all. Maybe people just don't like me anymore? Then I feel really shit and  have to snap out of it because this kind of thinking is NOT productive! We seem to spend an insane amount of time measuring our success on likes, and it seems that less likes = less successful. We know algorithms control likes now, and an algorithm is controlled by a machine. So, are we letting a machine dictate the way we feel about our own success?!  Guys, that's f*cked up! But seriously, laying it all out like that kind of gives some perspective on the whole thing doesn't it? If we can realise just how ridiculous the concept is, maybe we'll attach less importance to likes and other similar interactions. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't define you, it's just a heart on a screen.

Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

Dealing with 'unreality'
You can't scroll far on social media without coming across some kind of unrealistic portrayal of perfection, success or happiness. We all know this phenomenon exists and we've all bought into it to some extent.  I mean, if i had to choose between sharing a picture of me looking fresh and fancy on my way to da club, or my hangover photo from the next morning, we all know I'm opting for fresh and fancy because nobody wants to see me hungover (trust me). We buy into this when we double tap on (or post) photos of impossibly tidy studios, immaculately styled Work In Progress shots, and beautiful hero images of new projects. And why not? In a lot of ways, social media is an extension of your portfolio, and a legitimate place to attract potential clients, so of course you're going to want it to appear at its best. I don't think there's anything wrong with portraying your brand in its best light on social media, or for that matter wanting to look at something pretty rather than something hungover (because there's enough of that in the mirror thank you very much!). It's how you choose to process this content that matters. 

I know that seeing all this perfect stuff on the regular can make us feel inadequate, like we're lacking in some way because our lives don't look like what we see online. This is where the problem occurs - when you start believing that this is what people's lives look like all the time, and that the story stops at the point of posting, at that point of perceived perfection and success. But let's tell it like it is, no one's life looks like this all the time! Repeat this to yourself until it sticks! I can guarantee that just out of shot lurks the studio rubbish bin that hasn't been emptied for 3 months, the 5 other WIPs composed mainly of stick figures, the fuglier version of the hero shot before Photoshop, and any number of other things that were too real to make the cut. If you can take what you see with a grain of salt,  it might lessen those feelings of inadequacy and let you enjoy social media for what it really is, a curation.

Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

Comparison kills creativity
Comparison is an evil offshoot of inadequacy. When faced with an endless scroll of everyone's achievements and accolades it's easy to fall into the comparison trap. This is a really hard one because once you start comparing yourself to someone else it can be really difficult to shake it off. Comparison can also be a total creativity killer. It's hard to produce work you love when you're pre-occupied with comparing it to everyone else's. And not producing work you love will probably make you feel more shit, am I right? This all sounds pretty bleak TBH, so how can we combat this? This is the point where I'll repeat the life lesson I shared in our first article this month: SUCCESS IS RELATIVE!  Stop scrolling, seriously mate stop, breathe, and spend a few minutes reminding yourself of your own incredible achievements. Remember that everyone's creative path is different and that something amazing that someone else just posted has no bearing whatsoever on how successful YOU are. 

Image:    Giphy

Image: Giphy


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

THE CONCEPT OF SUCCESS

 

This is an article from the original Real Talk blog, which is now archived here on the KP website!
Happy reading!

Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

I'm super excited to announce our first monthly theme, 'Success'! I felt this was a fitting choice for our first ever theme because it's kind of what prompted me to start sharing my real talk in the first place. Worrying about whether or not we are successful is a big thing for a lot of creative people. Our view on what success means can be affected by so many different factors - our backgrounds and experiences, other people's definitions of success, misconceptions, inner demons, societal pressures, what the media tells us and so much more. This month we'll be exploring the concept of success, its varying definitions, and some of the ways in which outside factors can affect our personal views on what success means to us. We'll hear from members of the creative community, learn about Imposter Syndrome and how it can skew our view of success, get real about the not-so-real aspects of social media, and so much more. 

To get the ball rolling I wanted to share some things that I used to think about success, things I personally thought to be true, but that I now (with a bit more time and experience under my belt) consider to be misconceptions. These views were actually quite damaging to a younger me, and made me put a lot of undue pressure on myself, which didn't contribute positively to my creative wellbeing at all! Maybe you've thought them too at some point or another. So here they are, along with some rebuttals from an older, and hopefully more wiser me. 

Real Talk by Kitiya Palaskas.jpg

The more money you have, the more successful you are.
Ew, no. Sure, I like to be paid well for my work, don't we all? But to me, my career achievements and how good I feel about them often seem completely separate to how much money they brought in. There are so many aspects of my creative life that I consider successful, and most of those have nothing to do with money at all, so there.

Success is a portfolio of big-name clients
Having big names on your client list is impressive, but it shouldn't define success. Some of the most incredible creative people I know haven't once worked for a big name client, or even a client at all in some cases!  And what defines 'big' anyway? Even that is subjective. 

Success is creativity full-time, having a day job is for plebs
Ugh, triggering. I've done both (in fact I have a day job right now!) and I can safely say, I kicked goals and achieved amazing things regardless of my full-time or part-time status. Everyone's situation is different, and just because you have a day job doesn't mean you're any less valid than someone pursuing their creative career full-time. Both are great!

Success is finding one thing and sticking to it
I hope not, because otherwise I've failed big time! I'm someone who is constantly pivoting in their career. I have so many interests and I want to pursue them all, and no one can stop me dammit. Picking just one of these interests to pursue for the rest of my creative life makes me feel totally claustrophobic actually. Why not dream big and aim for success in all your chosen fields, you don't need to pick just one!

Success is being a martyr to your craft
Gross, no. We've all met a martyr. You can recognise them by how tired and unhappy they look. I know this because I used to be one. I used to feel like if I wasn't working on my brand 100% of the time, I was failing it somehow. But slaving away late into the night, not taking breaks, thriving on stress, not eating, not showering (ew), being too busy for your friends and family... none of this makes you a 'success', it just makes you burn out! We all go through busy times as creatives, it's part of the process. But realising the importance of finding balance, nurturing your mind and body, and not feeling guilty about taking time out will actually make you better at your job, not worse.

Success means constant motivation, inspiration and dedication
No mate. Having these things is lovely and feels awesome, but it's also normal if you don't feel like this 100% of the time. Creativity can come in waves, and sometimes you're just not vibing. You would never consider someone a failure during the times they weren't 100% jazzed about their creativity, so why would you think it about yourself? 

Real Talk by Kitiya palaskas.jpg

I think it's important to say that despite feeling like I don't believe in these definitions of success anymore, sometimes I can revert back to them out of habit, and I have to try really hard to snap out that damaging way of thinking. It's a work in progress!  But if there's one main message I want to convey this month, it's that SUCCESS IS RELATIVE. It means different things to different people, it can even mean different things to the same person (at different times in their lives). Some people might not think about it that much, but to others it could be the driving force behind everything they do. No one person is the same, and no single creative path is the same, so success is going to look different for each and every one of us.  I think it's important to define success for yourself, and try to not let external factors influence this. It's also important to be open to your definition of success changing over time, mine certainly did, and will again I'm sure.

I hope you enjoy the thoughts and resources we'll be sharing in this first month of Real Talk. There's a lot of juicy stuff to discuss, so let's get stuck into it!


Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!

 

Real Talk

WELCOME TO REAL TALK

 

This is an article from the original Real Talk blog, which is now archived here on the KP website!
Happy reading!


Kitiya Palaskas Real Talk Project.png

Hello! Thank you for finding this little corner of the internet, I'm so glad you're here. My name is Kitiya Palaskas and I'm the creator of Real Talk. I am a craft-based designer who has been working in the commercial design industry for the last 8 years. I am proudly self-made and have built my niche career from scratch through a combination of trial and error, persistence, and many, many Google searches on topics like "how to run a design business", "what is an invoice", "marketing tips for total idiots", "how to not be socially awkward in networking settings", and other similar things.

Over the course of my career, the internet has been an amazing resource to educate, empower and inspire me to be a boss - there is literally no end to the incredible information out there to help people build and run successful brands or business ventures. Because of this I feel like I can say with confidence that when it comes to running my creative business, I got this. But over the years I have realised that there is another side to being a creative person. It's something I didn't really consider or think was important initially because I was so excited about the career I was building and too busy learning all those business-y things so I could one day become the cooler, more powerful, more ethnic version of Martha Stewart.  I didn't realise that this 'other side' is actually as equally important to having a successful creative career as learning how to run a business. I'm talking about wellbeing

Real Talk Project by Kitiya Palaskas

Creativity is personal, it comes from inside us. It's an expression of our personality, a reflection of who we are. It makes sense then that all the things that affect us on a personal level are inextricably linked to our creativity. I often wonder why it's easy enough to reach out  for support about things happening in my personal life, but then seems taboo somehow for me to speak up about the same issues facing me in my creative life. There seems to be a stigma attached to this kind of sharing. Luckily we seem to be in a special period of time right now where wellbeing issues are more openly discussed than ever before, especially online. A safe, nurturing space is being formed where we can reach out, speak openly about our issues, seek help, and feel better. The walls surrounding these topics seem to be breaking down and being more transparent and open about our experiences is becoming the new normal, which is why I feel this is the perfect time and place for me to launch this project.

But let me back up for a minute. Hands up if you are a creative person that has ever experienced one of the following (keep your hand up if you're like me and have experienced ALL of the following, multiple times):

  • Fear of failure

  • Self-doubt

  • Lack of motivation

  • Jealousy

  • Insecurity about your creative future

  • Creative block

  • Overwhelmingness (Is that a even a word? Well it is now.)

  • Imposter syndrome

  • Guilt

  • Burn out

  • Pressure to succeed

I could go on...

Real Talk Project by Kitiya Palaskas.gif

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a creative person out there who hasn't experienced one or more of these things at some point in their careers. That's because just like in our personal lives, these are a natural and normal part of being creative. For me (and maybe you) however, I haven't always been as willing to admit to them, because up until a few years ago I literally thought I was the only one experiencing stuff like this. Everyone around me seemed to be kicking goals and killing it at their creative lives, 100% of the time. As much as I felt confident and proud about my place in the creative industry, I was scared to admit that I sometimes had other feelings about it all too. I wanted everyone to see me like I saw them, killing it and kicking goals. I also didn't want to whine about feelings and how hard things could be, despite being privileged enough to be able to do craft every day and get paid for it. So I never addressed any of these issues or reached out for help when I needed it. Over time this caused all sorts of turmoil for me, including a mega dose of creative block which crippled me on and off for the better part of 2 years. 

Somewhere in the midst of that gross phase I was invited to speak at a design conference. Rather than showing a highlights reel of my portfolio, which seemed like the safe thing to do, I decided to take the plunge and be honest about some of the things I'd been going through that year. I don't know why I to choose to bare it all for the first time ever in front of an audience of over 500 people, BUT, I had been given an amazing opportunity to share my story, and felt it was important in doing so to shine a light not just on my creative achievements, but also the realities, good and bad, of my creative life. So I did it, and guess what, it didn't bomb! The feedback was so encouraging. Many people reached out to tell me they had been through similar things and experienced this stuff on the regular too! The solidarity that I felt in knowing I wasn't alone in these experiences was so wonderful. Over the years since I have been making more of an effort to be open and realistic about creative wellbeing and how I am feeling. The more I do it, the more normal it feels, and each time I realise I am not alone and that the dialogue I am having with others is helping me to build an arsenal of amazing tools to assist me in leading a happy and healthy existence as a creative person.  

Real Talk Project by Kitiya Palaskas.gif

So, what is Real Talk exactly? Well, it's the culmination of my efforts to be more real about creative life. Real Talk is a safe space for open dialogue about creative wellbeing, structured around a different theme every month. It's a place to share insights and experiences about all the feelings-y things we go through and how to manage them in our day-to-day creative lives. It's also a platform to share inspiring stories and valuable resources from all over the place. I should probably insert some sort of disclaimer at this point so here goes: I'm not a medical professional, nor am I an expert on these topics outside of my own personal experiences. I'm just a gal with lots of feelings trying to make sense of everything so it doesn't get in the way of me making stuff. I'm also not trying to re-invent the wheel with this project. I know there's already heaps of great stuff out there about this so I'm going to try and find all the best bits of that and share it here too. Alongside this I'll be sharing original content (thoughts, opinions, stories) by me and a bunch of creative people I know and love, and also YOU if you're interested (hit me up)!

I really want to form a community around this project, and encourage you to share your own thoughts and experiences by commenting on posts here and on social media. What Real Talk won't be is a place for judgement, or calling out, I want everyone to feel they have a voice within this community and that they can confidently share their stories to a like-minded audience that is willing to hear them. Also, I love an epic rant as much as the next person, but will aim to keep my content empowering and constructive, even if we are talking about things that can be painful, frustrating or negative. If at any time you have thoughts on how we can improve what we're doing here and make it more valuable for everyone, please don't feel shy to speak up. 

Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read our first post. To stay in the loop about what's coming, including an announcement about our first theme, follow us on Instagram (@real.talk.project) and sign up to our mailing list via the form below. 

Thank you so much for being here, I can't wait to get the ball rolling and see where this project takes us!

Speak soon,

Real talk Project by Kitiya palaskas.png
 

Get some Real Talk in your inbox!

Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, written and curated by me! Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing in our articles. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!