Today’s *shared stories* come from Jen Slutsky and Paula Joerling


Jen Slutsky

I absolutely love being creative whether it’s making art, shopping for supplies, visiting blogs, baking cookies, decorating my home, playing with my girls, etc.. But I don’t “make a living” from being creative. I have a not-so-creative career that I “locked” myself into at a young age when I still didn’t “know” myself, especially my creative self. And with student loans to pay back and a family to support, that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.

Over the years I’ve dreamed of a more creative existence. I’d follow countless artists on their blogs and wish that could be me. I’d read the stories shared here on Do What You Love and wish I had a great creative “success” story to tell. I would always focus on the fact that I had a not-so-creative career that stole time and energy from living a creative life. But then things changed. Did I change careers? Nope, I still have the same “day job” and I still struggle to find extra time and energy to be creative as I juggle work and family and household chores, etc. But what has changed is my outlook. I do have a creative “success” story to tell.

Last year I realized that I have a choice. I can choose how I view my world, my life. I can choose to focus on the fact that I’m not “making a living” being creative OR I can choose to focus on all that I do have: two precious little girls, a loving husband, a supportive family, good health, and a beautiful home. I can choose to wait for the perfect job to be happy OR I can choose to be happy right now. I can choose to look to the future OR I can choose to live right now. This “simple” realization gave me the power to love my life, creative dreams and all.

So I may still be working the same “day job” and be juggling the same commitments, but each day I do my best to celebrate all that I do have, including all of my dreams. And rather than plan for happiness and fulfillment when I’ve “achieved” my dreams, I have now found happiness and fulfillment in the process of dreaming and chasing after those dreams. 

[All images courtesy of Jen Slutsky. Find out more about Jen on her website here.]


Paula Joerling

I am a freelance illustrator living in Atlanta Georgia. My designs are primarily used for the gift and tabletop industry. Typically, I work in watercolor and collage and enjoy incorporating fabric, stitched paper and found objects in my art.

This obsession to work for myself probably started in grade school. I hated that I had to be there between certain hours and on certain days, I didn’t mind the work, it was the schedule that got to me. At some point, deep within my little sub-conscious, I must have realized that a life of regulation wasn’t for me and I better figure out how to keep my freedom. Fortunately I was creative and recognized that this was a possible outlet.

It is very difficult to put into words what it means to get up in the morning, walk the 10 steps to my studio, and create all day. Although there are deadlines and I work pretty much 7 days a week, I am in charge of my schedule. There’s no time clock, no office politics, no cubicle and no one telling me that I can’t sing out loud. It is pure heaven, it really is, just typing these words puts a smile on my face.

Coming from a long line of creative types, I come by my abilities naturally. My grandfather taught me to paint and my grandmother taught me to sew and knit. When a holiday rolled around my sister and I were commandeered by my mother to make a plethora of decorations, cards and gifts, some of which I still have. 

I don’t think it ever occurred to be in anything but a creative field of some sort and although I have always freelanced in creative jobs; I got started rather late in life as an illustrator. Sometime around my college years I began to suffer from anxiety and had a horrible lack of confidence. Thinking back on this always saddens me and I wonder if things would have happened a little faster had this not been the case. If I could go back in time and give myself a gift it would be a big basket of confidence. Confidence and faith in yourself are really the two most important things that a person needs in this field. I am happy to report that I now possess these two gifts in abundance (perhaps at some point I did time travel).

The most difficult part of being a freelance artist is financial. You are never quite sure when or how much money will be coming in so you have to be pretty frugal (my husband is also an artist so neither of us has an unvarying income). I would choose this creative lifestyle over financial stability any day.

Everyday I learn more and get better at my craft. I hope that I can keep doing this on my own terms and that my best days lie ahead of me. My hope is that I can find a way to inspire others to take a deep breath, move beyond the fear and do what you love doing.   

[Images courtesy of Paula Joerling. To find out more about Paula visit her website here]


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