How I Got Here
One question I get all the time is, “How did you get into this career?”
People are always curious about how one falls into the weird and wild career of being an online creator, and that is completely fair. It’s not exactly like I planned for this to be my life — so how does one stumble into such a strange gig?
Crayon in Hand
As a kid, I was obsessed with art. You could always find me doodling on my homework or filling up sketchbooks with drawings of mermaids and fairies. I continued to push my artistic limits as a teenager, even taking an Advanced Placement art class my senior year of high school.
Despite the fact that I was often encouraged by friends to pursue a career in art, I just couldn’t see it working out. Society had told me countless times in books, movies, and common stereotypes that artists couldn’t make a stable living. So I decided to chase something more responsible instead.
The Real World
In college, I studied psychology and eventually specialized in Human Factors Psychology, a field similar to Ergonomics. But once I graduated, I stalled. I wanted to begin a Master’s program in Human Factors, but it was such a niche program that I had limited options on my school choices. My new husband, Jon, was just beginning his three year journey through law school, so we decided that I would wait to begin my graduate studies until he finished school and became a barred attorney.
I got a job doing research at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois while Jon worked on his law degree. I even got a dinky little desk job at a local business to help pay the bills. It was a nice, neat five year plan. Everything was set out in front of us — all I had to do was wait out my three years, take my GRE, and apply to programs.
Where It Went Askew
A few things happened in that first year of our big plan that, together, completely changed everything.
The Dreaded GRE
First, I realized how much I dreaded studying for the GRE. I had taken it a few times before and didn’t get a score that satisfied me. I intended on using those three extra years to study, bring up my score, and get everything ready for grad school. It was a good plan, except for how much I hated all of it. I avoided studying, avoided networking, and generally regarded the whole thing with a sense of dread. After a while, it occurred to me that perhaps all this dread and doubt gave away my hand that I wasn’t excited about the next step in my career.
Second, I began to get bored and frustrated. Jon was at school all day, and even with two jobs, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I realized that I was slipping from day to day, floating, reacting to the world around me but not working for anything meaningful. I couldn’t put my finger on why I was feeling this way, so I began casting out to look for solutions.
Trying the Bullet Journal
In this new boredom, I decided to try bullet journaling again with renewed vigor. I used a simple, crude version of the bullet journal in my final few years of college, but I never really got into it. But now I was trying to take a crack at my long-standing frustration with organization and planning. I had never been able to keep up with any kind of planner — not even the bullet journal. But I wanted to give it another shot, thinking that if I could only get organized, then everything would be better.
The Morning Pages
I started writing the Morning Pages to see if I could make journaling work for me — yet another long-standing failure that I hoped to rectify. I’d always collected journals, but I could never seem to actually use them. So I plunged into this journaling technique, not expecting much. Little did I know what a difference it would make.
The Website was Born
Finally, I turned my attention to blogging again. I had a website that I started on a whim nearly a year before where I wrote about whatever I wanted: food, crafts, pets, camping… just about anything that interested me. However, no one read it (and I don’t blame them). I lost interest after about six months of shouting into the void.
But around the time I started playing with the bullet journal again, I received an email warning me that the domain name was about to expire. I was inclined to let it lapse and fade away, not eager to be met with rejection again. But Jon encouraged me to try writing a few more posts to see if it might regain my interest again. Bless him.
I humored him and wrote an article about the thing that was on my mind — the bullet journal. And for the first time since I started the blog, it actually got a tiny glimmer of engagement. Thrilled, I wrote yet another bullet journal post. Again, I saw a bump in traffic that completely surprised and delighted me. I decided to renew the website domain and try again, this time scrapping all my old nonsense posts and focusing entirely on this new interest of mine.
Something clicked in me as I began to play with my bullet journal a bit more. I found that I thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to lay out all my pages, write little headers, and add pops of color. Suddenly, like a weed growing from the crack in a sidewalk, the creativity I’d denied myself for years found a place to take root.
Because my bullet journal was a planner first and foremost, that gave me the license to do art while still feeling productive. It was like some mental loophole that allowed me to get out from under the heavy guilt I always felt when doing anything creative. With this loophole, I could explore my creative side at last. I began dipping my toes into watercolor and lettering with giddy enthusiasm. Sharing my progress online to a friendly audience only gave me more fuel to dig deeper.
And thanks to the Morning Pages, I began to make some other much-needed changes in my life. I saw habitual problems that plagued me and worked to fix them. The petty complaints I had seemed fixable now, and I felt a sense of control over my life that I had never felt before. Each day I worked with my Morning Pages and bullet journal felt more like I was living on purpose, not just floating from day to day.
The Next Few Years
After I poured myself into the website for a few months, something big happened. My teeny little blog with only a handful of posts about the bullet journal became massively popular nearly overnight. I never saw more than 5,000 monthly visitors to my humble blog, but after only two months of regularly writing about the bullet journal, that number surged to over 100,000 visitors.
It was bananas.
After a few more months, we saw our first revenue positive month, making about twelve whole dollars. I didn’t care how little we made. The fact that I could even make money doing this had never occurred to me in my wildest dreams.
I only had this new refreshed blog for a year before I made the monumental decision to abandon my career path and focus all my energy on this instead. Jon helped tremendously along the way, learning to code, design our website, manage the business side of things, and do a million other various tasks. By the time he was in his second year of law school, he spent the equivalent of a part-time job on the site.
By the time he finished law school, he had made up his mind to follow me into this wild, ever-changing journey. He graduated and took the Bar Exam to become an attorney, but immediately joined me to become a full-time member of the team.
Growing More and More
We moved from our one-bedroom apartment to a bigger place so we had more room to work. Then, in 2019, we purchased our first home. We worked from home and made a comfortable routine, which only insulated us from the trainwreck that was 2020.
In 2021, we decided that we were done with working from home. Perhaps it was a year of isolation, perhaps it was a need for a fresh start (or perhaps both), but we made the leap and rented our first studio space where we can work and grow even more.
Now, we’re focused on one central goal.
We want to make art and creativity more accessible to everyone.
We want to create tutorials, classes, and resources to help people all over the world realize their artistic potential. But beyond technical skill, one of the things I am most passionate about is helping people get past the mental blocks that stop them from getting into art.
I struggled with feeling unworthy, irresponsible, and guilty about creativity for my entire adult life, and it suffocated me. Now that I’ve broken free of those self-imposed restrictions, I want to help you overcome the fear that’s stopping you from exploring your artistic side.
A Grain of Salt
One thing I’ve learned along the way is to take a five-year plan with a grain of salt. The world offers up some bizarre twists and turns, and no amount of planning is going to make me ready for everything that comes my way.
But for now, you can find Jon and me in our beautiful studio in Urbana, Illinois with our two dogs Summer and Basil. When we’re not working, we’re playing Dungeons and Dragons with our friends, cooking, or enjoying as much travel as we can fit into our lives.