the beginnings of a plan (at long last)

I read this post by Kate from Kate's Irrelevant a while ago and, just as Kaelah's post got her thinking about the future, this one got me thinking about it too.
Five Years by Madalynn Priester

I left uni 5 years ago and had no real idea what I wanted to do other than be an artist, which wasn't really a feasible job option. I initially moved to London to be near arty stuff, which didn't suit me very well it turns out, but I have stayed here nonetheless.

My first London job was working as a Learning Support Assistant with an autistic girl in a primary school in North London. I loved that job. It was hard work, the pay was rubbish and it could be very frustrating at times, but it was so satisfying to be doing a job that I knew made a difference, and I learned so much while I was there. She taught me to be more patient, for one thing, and to look at tasks and problems from another perspective when initially they weren't successful. There was an awful lot of 'thinking outside the box' with her.

The job after that was working in a primary school in East London, with a large class of 7 year olds. This time I was supporting a child with behavioural issues. Although I enjoyed the job and loved the school, I was threatened by one of the parents after about 9 months of working there and wasn't going to stick around after that. I felt bad leaving the kids suddenly, but I couldn't work in a job where I felt unsafe, it wouldn't be good for me or for the kids, so I left.

I don't know if you're getting the theme yet, but the next job was in another primary school in East London, working with a class of 11 year olds. This one was the most challenging so far - I guess once they are that age they can have "proper" conversations and have a tendency to ask all the questions in the world. It was encouraging to see their thirst for knowledge, but it was exhausting.

I was getting restless and unhappy and was no longer enjoying the job - I knew I wanted to concentrate on my art, and I couldn't do that with a full-time job as well. I took some time out, travelled round Europe for a couple of months and came back feeling revived.

Your Job print by Rob Ryan

I lasted a couple of months before I went back to work full time. It wasn't that I ran out of money, or ideas, but it was that I was getting kinda bored and lonely - I had no one around to ask for advice or opinions, or just to chat with over a cup of tea and a biscuit. I felt unmotivated, ironically since I was finally giving myself the time that I thought I so desperately craved. It was stressing me out having time to do whatever I wanted, and I ended up wasting it playing on the internet or doing jobs around the house, rather than sitting down and getting on with some drawing. I learned that when I have too much freedom it's just as bad as when I feel I don't have enough time. In both instances I feel overwhelmed - the first by how free I am and how much time I have to do stuff (so nothing actually gets done), and the second by how tired I am and by how much stuff I have to do (so nothing actually gets done).

I've been working at the same high school now for almost 3 years, and it's had ups and downs, and can be very stressful indeed, but I generally enjoy it there. One of the biggest things that irritates me, like Kaelah and Kate said in their posts, was that people seem to think I should be aiming higher - I get asked fairly regularly why I'm not a qualified teacher, and I tell them honestly that I don't think I'd make a very good teacher as I wouldn't be able to have the same relationship with the kids. I have helped them through some tough personal crises, as well as academic ones, and it's made me stronger and it's made them feel more content knowing that there is someone they can talk to at school. It's hard work, emotionally, physically and mentally, but I'm good at what I do, and I focus well when I have deadlines to meet, which in a school is a lot of the time.

Despite the good bits of my job, I have been saying for months that I want to leave, not because of the kids, but largely because of the way the school is managed and run, and partly because I feel as though I am getting too old now to not start following my dreams. It's been 5 years since I graduated and I've hardly done anything creative in that time, I need something to push me to work towards my "dream" job.

I wrote a letter of resignation back in February but haven't given it in, and it's because I still don't know if it's the most sensible option...

I feel as though it would be irresponsible of me to leave a permanent full-time job in this economic climate when I have no real idea how the whole art thing might go. I could stay and continue saving money until I feel confident that I have enough set aside to be able to look after myself and meower for at least a year. I have some savings, but realistically it'll only last me about 6 months, and if in that time I've made few or no sales, I'll be back looking for a job when I let a perfectly good one go only a few months before.

At the same time there is part of me saying, "if you don't do it now, when on earth will you get round to doing it?" and it's frustrating, because for once in my life I can see a problem from both sides. I'm infamous among anyone who knows me for being a black or white kinda gal - I don't see the middle ground in an argument, I'm very stubborn and have quite extremes of opinions. This is probably one of the most important decisions of my life so far and I'm on the fence.

I have written numerous pros and cons lists to try and help me out, but they've been pretty inconclusive. Reading what other people in similar situations are saying is a good start though - it's comforting to see I'm not the only one feeling like this, and it could well motivate me to finally make a decision, we'll see.

Before I do anything, I have a few criteria which have to be met:
  • to have enough money to support myself for at least 12 months
  • to have a proper business plan - proper objectives, proper sales forecasts etc.
  • to have a proper tidy and organised studio from which I can work


I'm not sure if I can manage a 5 Year Plan right now, but should be able to manage a 1 Year Plan. It's been on my to-do list since January, when Kaz pretty much banned me from quitting my job until I had written one. I feel as though I have been given the oomph and the push that I need to actually get one started, and it's pretty exciting! Let's see how I get on!

Have any of you written a creative business plan?
Or thinking of quitting your job to be a creative?

2 hellos:

Siobhan said...

I remember how much you loved working with that Autistic girl - you seemed so very happy in your work - it was wonderful to see. I think a one year plan is good, plans often change but having targets and goals can help you stay motivated (but if they stop feeling right always be prepared to sit down and write a new plan - I've only learned this recently and it has taken a massive weight off my shoulders).

Good luck!

Vixie said...

I think it was my favourite job ever.

I've tried to write dozens of plans over the years, but they're always just fizzled out and been left incomplete. I'm really hoping this time I can write a full plan and hopefully it'll get rid of lots of the anxiety I have about actually writing it!

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