It’s common to get reflective at the start of a new year, and many people use this time to make resolutions and goals for the future. But I like to use this time as a period of reflection, looking back on all that happened in the previous year.
Resolutions tend to focus on our dissatisfactions and what we want to change. And while change is good, it can be unhealthy and unhelpful to focus solely on our deficiencies and shortcomings. It’s good to also notice how far we’ve come, reminding ourselves of how much we’ve improved, and the progress we’ve already made.
This may, on the surface level, seem like complacency but it’s actually the best catalyst for self-improvement. I’m more motivated by positive reinforcement than negative, so this mindset encourages more growth for me. It reminds me of my strengths, drive, and resiliency, which in turn gives me the courage and confidence to continue growing and following my dreams.
So, in that spirit, I’ve written this Might Could Year End Review. Maybe you’d like to make one for yourself as well to start the new year off with both intention and reflection!
6 Areas of Growth in 2019
2018 was a wake up year for me and spurred me to commit to more honesty, both with myself and others. Being truly honest feels vulnerable and scary at times, but last year I made big strides in doing so through my writing. I used these weekly essays to dive into my struggles and share how I really feel, even when I was afraid to admit those things. And often, the essays I was most worried about (“but what will people think?!”), were the ones that got the most heart-felt responses from y’all. Writing honestly about what was going on for me in that moment helped me become more aware and confront my true issues, as well as better connect with you all. Thank you for being supportive of this and sharing honestly with me as well.
In tandem with being more honest, came a need for self-compassion. Once I started really opening up to myself and others, it required me to either criticize myself for my faults (no thanks) or start practicing and aiming for self-compassion (yes please). This has been a process, but I’ve made big improvements here as well, often spurred by my art making. Being accepting and loving towards what I draw and write, inevitably seeps into other areas of my life. My pregnancy and the birth of Butterbean also called for being kind to myself. In the early weeks of caring for her, I was often too hard on myself. But I’ve slowly become more accepting of this hectic time and forgiving of myself when I’m not able to accomplish everything (or anything!) I want to each day. I’m reminding myself that just like drawing, learning to be a mom is a process, and one that is more enjoyable and successful if fueled by kindness rather than judgment.
3. Social Media
My relationship with social media changed for the better this year. I spend significantly less time on all avenues of social media, focusing my time on just Instagram instead of trying to “have a presence” on all platforms. I find Twitter to be too negative, Facebook to be too disorienting, and Pinterest to be a vacuum of attention. On Instagram, I pruned who I follow to only include accounts I find honest, inspiring or encouraging, and unfollowed anyone who spurred unhelpful thoughts for me. This has significantly improved my time spent on social media. I wrote about these ideas in an essay series here and here. These thoughts also became inspiration for growing Might Could Studiomates, to fill my desire for an intimate community of other artists in an environment of positivity and encouragement. My business/life outlook has always been: if it doesn’t exist, build it yourself, so here I am!
4. Asking for Help
The biggest thing I learned from 2019 is this: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I am admittedly quite bad at this. I often don’t ask for help when I need it, and then feel bad/think lesser of myself when I do. But this year… I had a baby. And whatdoya know, it’s kind of impossible to raise a baby by yourself (I have a huge newfound respect and awe of single mothers). After Butterbean’s birth, I was physically incapacitated for weeks, forcing me to accept help from my husband and mom, both of whom were amazingly supportive, encouraging, and helpful. I’m now practicing asking for help when I need it, both with Butterbean and work. This year, Declan joined me to work at Might Could and we recently hired our first two freelancers to help as well. I’ve been running this business completely by myself for over 7 years, so it’s been an adjustment for me to let go of some things and share the work load with others. I have so much I want to do with Might Could and I realize now that I need others to help me achieve those dreams. 2019 helped me to begin practicing reaching out and asking for help when I need it.
5. Book Work vs Personal Art
This year I finally achieved my goal of signing on to illustrate a children’s book with a major publisher! I signed the 4-book contract with Scholastic for Layla and the Bots in February 2019, and was immediately thrown into the world of deadlines, tight turn arounds, last minute requests, winding email threads, and the back and forth revision process. I made my previous book, We Are Fungi, entirely on my own (with the help of the then named Might Could Beta Books version of Studiomates), so this too was an adjustment in working with others. I’ve of course had clients before and worked with editors as an illustrator, but this imprint works extremely quickly and the publishing process was all new to me. As I worked on the first book while pregnant and moving across the country, I was often overwhelmed with the work load. The book is a heavily illustrated, graphic novel early reader with 70 pages and 4 main characters, taking hundreds of hours to create. It had been a while since I had worked according to someone else’s timeline, so I had to quickly learn how to be more flexible with my schedule. It was also sometimes a struggle to continue drawing in my sketchbook when I was pulling 8-9 hour drawing days working on this book. Here too, self-compassion came into play. I wanted to keep up with my personal art, as I believe having a space to play is vital for keeping up my creativity, but sometimes my hand and brain were just hurting so bad I had to allow myself a break. This is where I came up with my idea of compassionate goals for artists, and the belief that drawing consistently is important, but it doesn’t have to happen every single day. Sometimes what we need is a break.
6. Healthy Business Growth
Last year I had a lot of goals around scaling up Might Could and became much more business focused, which is partially why Declan came on to work with me. But I knew I wanted to grow in a healthy, sustainable, and human way. I didn’t want to become spammy or sales-y or do anything I was uncomfortable with in the name of growth. I’m proud of myself for sticking with this throughout the year, and standing up for running my business in a way I’m proud of. I try to instill generosity, honesty, and transparency in how I run Might Could, which is not always in line with what the top business “experts” recommend. Might Could is a business, and it is my livelihood, not just for me, but for my entire family. This is how we sustain our life and wellbeing, and I want to continue this job for the rest of my career. As our family grows, our needs grow, and the business will need to grow to adapt, but I can do that in a way that aligns with my values and principles.
8 Product Improvements in 2019
- Might Could Essays: Last year I wrote 30 new essays! I also practiced self-compassion and healthy work/life balance by allowing myself to take a couple breaks from writing including my maternity leave and holiday break.
- Sketchbook to Style: In 2019 I moved our flagship course off the Teachable platform, and onto Mighty Networks. This has been the best decision, and has dramatically improved the course. The curriculum and community our now housed on the same platform, making going through the videos and sharing your art assignments seamless. We opened enrollment to the course three times last year, and the artwork and responses from students continue to amaze and inspire me.
- Might Could Studiomates: With the platform move, also came a huge growth in the community surrounding the course. Recognizing this natural evolution and listening to the desires of students, we expanded this community to be a product of its own, separate from the course. We launched new weekly and monthly features including Essay Discussions, Tool Talk Thursday, Weekly Recaps, and Studiomate Highlights.
- Might Could Draw Today: We hit 100 weeks of our weekly drawing challenge! In 2019 I reorganized this challenge to better fit with my values of self-compassion and flexibility, relaxing the guidelines for completion. I also simplified the way it was run on my end, so I could allot more time to Layla and the Bots. This challenge grew a lot in 2019 with over 16,000 posts now! :D
- Skillshare Classes: I held Top Teacher status for another year, with my classes continuing to grow and be featured by Skillshare. I published one class (Artistic Mindset: Making Time for Your Art) on this platform in 2019. Skillshare continues to be a consistent entry point to Might Could. Through these classes, I’ve now taught over 70,000 students!
- We Are Fungi: My first self-published book continues to surprise me with sales and bright reviews from readers young and old.
- Website: Declan revamped our website, making it WAY faster and more user-friendly (for you and me).
- Business-y Stuff: Declan set us straight on the important (but eh… boring) stuff like finances, project management, and organization—we’re now officially an LLC!
3 Intentions of Growth for 2020
Where I’d like to focus in the year ahead:
I would like to continue to strike the right balance between work/play, work/life, book-work/sketchbook, baby/no baby, etc. My life has a lot more moving parts than it used to, and it will take some focused intention on my part to maintain a healthy balance and give each part the attention it deserves.
Along with that balance, will need to come flexibility. I have always been a routine-type person. I love doing things in the same way, I love having a schedule, and I love knowing what I’ll be doing and when I’ll be doing it. Hence, why I work well as a self-employed person. Welp, now I’ve got a lil’ 12 week baby at home, so that’s not always possible or realistic. I would like to focus on being more flexible with my work and accepting the shifting schedule that a baby demands. I need to be more adaptive in when and how I work, so that I can continue to do the things I want to do when I have the chance, instead of when the perfect routine is available.
I would like to continue focusing on being present in whatever the current moment brings. Present with Butterbean and not thinking about work, present with drawing for Layla and the Bots and not worrying about my personal art, present with my personal art and not worrying about Butterbean, present with my time off and actually relaxing.
5 Plans for 2020
What’s coming up this year at Might Could:
- These Essays: I will continue to write honest ~weekly essays on creativity, art making, and life.
- Public Studiomates Launch: We will be opening up membership to Studiomates in February!
- Layla and the Bots: I will be wrapping up this 4-book series by November, and the first two books will be published this year!
- Artistic mindset book: I hope to finally begin working on this book idea I’ve been incubating, which will serve as a precursor to Sketchbook to Style.
- Book Making course: I hope to create and release the final installment of my artistic journey education platform.
Welp, as I had hoped, writing this Year End Review has helped spur a new sense of confidence and courage in me going into 2020. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being hard on ourselves and only seeing the things that went wrong or the things we want to improve, forgetting to notice and remember all the things that went right. I achieved a lot of my goals in 2019, not least of which was signing a contract for an illustrated book series with Scholastic. Oh yeah, and I created a human life… no big deal. ;)
2019 was a year of huge growth for me and Might Could, and I can’t wait to keep goin’ and see what’s in store for us all this year.
Thank you for supporting Might Could, being here, and reading these essays. None of this would be possible without you!
Want to write your own year end review?
Why not start your year with hope and curiosity by writing a year end review of your own? What went well for you last year? What things improved in your life? What goals did you achieve? And what intentions do you want to have for next year?
Comment below to share your thoughts with us or if you’re a member of Might Could Studiomates, join the group discussion here!