Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Saying yes to launching a new venture.

A couple of full-time opportunities have come my way over the past two years as a freelance designer. Each offer has tempted me, more than I care to admit.

Money buys pretty things!
We could do so much with that steady paycheck.
Am I being a ridiculous dreamer?

So I sit down, close my eyes and try to imagine myself accepting that position. How does it feel? Am I happy, fulfilled or challenged? Do I see myself working there for the next five years? Ten years?


Instead, I’m saying yes to launching a new business.

It’s called Organized Creatives, and I’m teaming up with my husband, Ryan, to make it all happen. When our creative talents combine … well, I don’t think Captain Planet will fly through laser beams, but it’s going to be really, really good. I met Ryan at the agency where we used to work together. When it comes to both creativity and organization, he’s the peanut butter to my jelly. 

Our goal is to turn organization (typically a non-sexy subject) into a motivating and entertaining experience for fellow creatives.

We’re in the middle of designing our virtual headquarters (ahem, website), writing a book and checking off a very long to-do list. Organized Creatives is scheduled to launch in the next few months.

What does this mean for Paper Fort? has been my place to experiment, play, collaborate and figure out my voice. It will always have a place in my story. Once our new business launches, the content on Paper Fort will be transferred to Organized Creatives. We feel it’s important to embrace change and honor its heritage by keeping it intact. Moving forward, all content will reflect the new direction.

What about the Passion Printables newsletter series?
I owe this series big time. Seventeen printables later, it has inspired the direction that we’re taking with Organized Creatives. We want to create simple, playful and well-designed tools that influence creative people to pursue their passions, try new things and be intentional in their daily lives.

Organized Creatives will feature worksheets, books, digital products, video tutorials and a lot more that we’ll reveal later. In the meantime, Paper Fort newsletter subscribers will receive two final Passion Printables, for April and May. 

Will you continue featuring Fear Confessions?
The Fear Confessions series has been on a break, but we’re excited to spill the beans that this is only the beginning for this collaborative series.

What’s next?
It’s going to be quiet on the blog while we work behind the scenes to prep for the launch of Organized Creatives. I'll be sharing sneak peeks on Twitter and Instagram along the way.

I just wanted to say that I truly appreciate all of the support that everybody has given me as my little Paper Fort has come of age, and I hope you’ll join me (and Ryan) for the adventures ahead.

Friday, March 21, 2014

10 Tips for Overcoming Creative Burnout

Creative people are scrappy. Drop us into a desperate situation and we'll MacGyver a solution out of wire, two hot dogs, a dozen llamas and rain boots.

We adapt well to change because we're problem solvers, dreamers, risk takers and inventors. These natural superpowers should protect us from harm, but most of us (at one point or another) find ourselves stuck in the predictable and uninspiring wheel of the daily grind.

It's so common that we have a name for it – burnout.

Five years into my career I was in a bad place. Not only was I burned out but I began taking out my frustrations on those around me. A low point was when I made a coworker cry. A friend.

I blamed the industry, the crazy clients, the lack of support … everyone but myself, but the moment I made another human cry I knew it was on me.

Older generations tell stories about paid overtime, pensions and stability, but the world is changing and burnout isn't something that we have to endure for 30 years.

It was scary to leave a full-time job to work for myself. Imagine the scene from Beauty and the Beast when Belle is traveling through the enchanted forest and she has to chose between a sunny, well-travelled road and a wild, overgrown path.

I stood at that crossroads for a long time.

Was I strong enough to do this on my own? Even if I didn't believe it when I took the leap, I believe it now. When I was dropped into a desperate situation, intuition helped me to build a new career out of the scraps around me.

As expected, this path hasn't been easy. For every ten steps forward, I fumble through six of them, but moving forward is infinitely better than staying stuck.

- - -

10 Tips for Overcoming Creative Burnout

Try something new that has nothing to do with your career.
Take an archery lesson, try a new exercise class or learn how to play an instrument.

Turn off your work email.
Nonworking hours should be just that, nonworking. You’ve earned this time away.

While you’re at it, go on vacation.
It doesn’t have to be far away or expensive. Put on the big, fluffy robe and order some room service.

Go on an artist date.
According to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, an artist date is “a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you.”

Don’t be so hard on yourself.
There are enough jerks in the world, don’t be one to yourself.

Ask for help.
Enlist your loved ones to help you get out of this funk. You could also reach out to a fellow creative that you admire and ask them about their experiences with burnout.

Do something for others.
Helping another person is a good way to get out of your head and gain a new perspective.

Make messes and play.
Bring up that dusty box of art supplies from the basement and jump in.

Revisit your old work.
Where you’ve been may guide where you’re going.

Follow your intuition.
Forget what everyone else has to say, because at the end of the day the only voice that matters is your own.

What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Plant Lover's Garden Plan

I think we can all agree that winter is no longer welcome here. Now that the snow is starting to (finally) melt, I'm anxious to spend more than five minutes outdoors without getting frostbite.

In this month's Passion Printable newsletter, I open up about planning my very first garden. Not knowing where to start, I created this printable for myself and hopefully you'll find it helpful too.

A Plant Lover’s Garden Plan is for all types of gardeners. From newbies like me who grow things in pots, to seasoned gardeners who till that soil like nobody’s business, everyone can benefit from planning their dream garden.

Use this printable as a guide to plan your garden. Sign up to receive A Plant Lover's Garden Plan, part of my Passion Printables series. This printable is only available for free to subscribers until April's printable is released. Happy planting!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


After buzzing off all my hair in November, I decided to let my locks just do their thing. If they want to poof out in a million directions like Medusa, so be it. No trimming, no sticky products and no hairspray fire hazards.

I’ll admit, this hands-off approach isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard to walk around in public with a Chia Pet growing out of your head. People stare, children point, dogs bark – it’s all a big mess centered around my awkward stage.

This unruly hair experiment has me thinking about the many stages of our lives that reflect those clumsy, brace-face-with-glasses years. I’m going through a similar growth spurt with my business. It feels awkward, unsure and pointing in a million directions.

The difference is, I’m not allowing my business to just do its thing. I’m a natural planner, schemer and strategist when it comes to my work. I want everything to make sense and follow a straight line all the way to my bank account.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always follow these rules. The awkward hair days greatly outnumber the runway-ready days. Our homes more often resemble a high school locker room than a magazine spread. 

We need to let our muse run free, while still making sure the left-brain planner has a say. This is one challenge of running a creative business – that sometimes has me tearing out my unruly hair.

What do you think? Are you the type of person that allows your business (or life) to just do its thing?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

When I decided to be a designer

I was sitting in 4th-hour AP English class when my brain exploded.

Not literally, that’d be gross, but in that moment it felt like five thousand record players were coming to a screeching halt. My teacher had asked the (deceptively) innocent question:

What are you going to major in when you go to college?

How was a sixteen-year-old supposed to have their entire life figured out? Junior year was stressful enough with marching band practice, advanced placement classes, club meetings and rehearsals for our fall musical. Call me a nerd, I could handle that without flinching, but catch me unexpectedly with a pop quiz about the future and my younger self spiraled into a dark abyss.

A girl in my class, Jamie, raised her hand high and answered with these two magical words: Graphic Design.

Art had always been an important part of my life, but I hadn’t thought of it as a career choice. When my parents bought our first PC, I’d stay up late messing around with Microsoft Paint. Over time I advanced to using Paint Shop Pro and the Hex Editor for my virtual Dogz game. I was already on my own path to design and didn’t realize it.

When Jamie mentioned those words in English class that day, it sparked something inside me. Over the next few months, I toured art schools and researched what it meant to be a graphic designer. I didn’t know where it would lead me, but I knew this was the right path.

Thanks, Erin, for inspiring me to write this post.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tackling the Grocery List

Are you a grocery shopping zen master or do you do the aisle-by-aisle mad dash?

Before my husband, Ryan, and I created the grocery list system that we use now, grocery shopping was a big pain in the butt. Our grocery list was haphazard, we'd forget things all the time and meal planning was done on the spot, in overcrowded aisles.

The system we use now has helped us to plan better and make grocery shopping a chore that we knock off the list quickly. Now we'd like to share it with you!

Sign up for Paper Fort's Passion Printable newsletter series and you'll receive these free editable grocery list pdfs and insider tips on how we've mastered the art of organized grocery shopping.

Use this printable as a guide to organize your own grocery shopping system. Sign up to receive the Grocery List, part of my Passion Printables series. This printable is only available for free to subscribers until March's printable is released. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I'm afraid of success

I don't know how many of you out there have dealt with this fear of mine (which I recently uncovered). It's actually a fear that I tend to push to the side and pretend doesn't exist. I even started out writing this post by talking about another one of my fears instead of this one. It's weird because I feel like I'm going to be totally judged by putting this out there, that people are going to say, "what's wrong with you, you're crazy!" However, I'm trying to let myself be more vulnerable and open up a bit in order to push through my seemingly whack-a-doo fears. So here it is.

I'm afraid of success.

Bizarre, right? I only really realized this in maybe the past six months but the more I think about it, the more I realize this is the thing that sneaks into my head, psyches me out and keeps me playing small. Believe me, I would love to be wildly successful, to be living out my dreams and having a life of abundance. It all sounds great when I think about the plus side of success … to me, that would be more freedom, more travel, more abundance and an awesome second home in Vermont. Things would be fantastic! The thing that scares me about success though, is the idea that in order for me to be truly successful, everything would have to change.

Okay, that might be pushing it. I know that not everything would have to change but there would be some rather large adjustments to be made, which makes me kinda queasy. I'd need to re-examine my work schedule and most likely switch from a predominantly 40-hours a week, employed-by-another-person schedule, where I can still do my own work at night and on weekends, to a part-time employed status paired with a full-time self-employed status. All of that right there is super scary to me.

I know plenty of other people who've done it and are in the process of making the switch, and I know it wouldn't be that hard for me to do that myself, but damn, I'd have to become self-sufficient! I could no longer rely on that steady, somewhat reliable income that's flowing through the doors. I'd need to hustle like I've never hustled before in my life. And then what? Does my life become just about my business? Will I lose all sense of what it's like to have a social life and interests outside of my business?? These are scary prospects!

Then onto another scary idea … if I become successful, does that mean I'll need to hire people to help me? Will I lose out on doing the things I love to do because I need help to stay on top of everything? What if I'm so busy but still can't afford to hire people? What if I suck at being a boss? How in the world is my business going to grow if I'm scared of it becoming bigger than me??

Oh man … my palms are totally sweaty just thinking about it! And I feel like that bit of stream of consciousness may have clued you into the monkey chatter that immediately starts to bombard my thoughts when I see things with my business begin to grow.

Actually, after writing out all of this, maybe it's not so much I'm afraid of success but that I'm afraid of change and the unknown (even though I do fairly well navigating the waters with both of those things). I have a really difficult time trying to fathom what things are going to look like in 18 months to 5 years. And a lot of that anxiety comes from not knowing how ANYTHING will work out. Although I guess that's also what makes things exhilarating.

Note to self: the future is exhilarating. Let's get that queued up as a daily mantra now, shall we?

Erika Dillon is a petite gal with a petite studio who loves a behemoth of a letterpress. She's a lover of cats, IPA, cheese and has now entered the uncharted territory of planning her 2015 wedding.

Follow Erika on Foxtrot Press, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Fear Confessions is a series of essays that encourages honest discussions about facing our biggest fears. Read more from our Fear Confessors. Would you like to be a contributor? Let me know.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I'm Afraid of Barfing

“You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”
—Nineteen Eighty-Four

Anyone familiar with George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel remembers Room 101 – the torture chamber in which a prisoner’s worst nightmare becomes his or her method of punishment. I’ve given my own Room 101 a lot of thought, and over time it has developed into a perfect vision of Hell:

I’m on an airplane, in a window seat next to a child who’s suffering from acute motion sickness. As I leap onto the lap of the guy in the next row, an unpleasant flight attendant orders me back to my seat. When I refuse, an air marshal tackles me in the aisle and cuffs me as I lie on the soiled floor. (So sue me for having a flair for the dramatic.)

When asked to write a post about fear, I started a list: scorpions, cobras, scorpion/cobra hybrids, accidentally buying a blood diamond, etc., cleverly avoiding the carsick elephant in the room. It speaks to the depth of my fear that I have difficulty even writing it down.

I’m afraid of barf.

I was surprised to learn emetophobia is fairly common. Not many people enjoy throwing up, but imagine spending a good part of your life avoiding it. Adding insult to injury, people think puking is hilarious, and once alerted to my weakness can’t wait to tell me all their barf-tastic stories.
I would rather French kiss a tarantula while wearing a meat suit in a shark tank than throw up or be near someone else who is. To illustrate how this phobia manifests itself in my daily life, here is a sampling of strategies I employ to create a barf-free environment:

    Be proactive. To avoid the unique embarrassment that comes from being tackled by an air marshal, get an aisle seat whenever possible.
    Be prepared. Always travel with anti-nausea wristbands, prescription anti-emetics, Dramamine and Xanax.
    Be vigilant. When eating out, I’ve been known to feel the temperature of the butter or cream on the table, and if they’re not adequately chilled, request fresh replacements.
    Avoid drunks. If you have a problem with the idea of being left in the gutter, don’t count on me to be your designated driver. I will dump your drunk ass on the side of the road, drive home and sleep like a baby. Guilt does not factor into this equation.
    Plan well in advance. If my husband says he’s feeling queasy, I pack a bag and put it by the front door with my keys and a blanket just in case. If he ends up getting sick, I sleep outside in the truck. In retrospect, this might explain why he says I’m not a nurturer.
    The first step is admitting you have a problem. I choose to believe that drinking alcohol protects me from raw egg cooties, so I do tequila shots whenever I bake. I realize this strategy is flawed, but there’s little point in baking if you can’t lick the beaters. Plus, I get a nice little buzz going.
    Always get it in writing. I’ve been known to make overnight guests promise not to throw up in my house. (I don’t actually require a written contract, preferring instead to use the honor system for friends and family.)
    An ounce of prevention is worth a gallon of hand sanitizer. If I had to choose one strategy with the biggest potential payoff it would be this: Do not have children.
    Don’t be stupid. Avoid roller coasters, raw chicken, small planes, deep sea fishing, unrefrigerated dairy products, spinning in circles, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and children’s birthday parties.

Acknowledging my phobia is strangely liberating. When people discover this part of me, my other quirks seem a little less glaring. Sure, I have hermit-like tendencies and an inability to eat tomato soup without a grilled cheese sandwich, but that’s nothing compared with the decontamination process I undergo after a visit with my nephews.

Unlike Orwell’s fictional version, my Room 101 is all too real. One look at my nauseated husband crawling to the kitchen for a glass of ginger ale while his wife sleeps peacefully in the driveway should be enough to convince you of that. Now, will somebody please get that poor man a cool compress and some saltines? I hear his wife is a real jerk.

“You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” —Nineteen Eighty-Four

Ilene Haddad (aka: Ileenie Weenie) is a graphic designercartoonist, sometimes-blogger and founder of BlogathonATX. In her spare time she watches NCIS marathons and hosts a coworking group for local entrepreneurs. When not hard at work in her office/laundry room, she can be found cruising Facebook and Twitter or in line at the Starbucks drive-thru.

Krystle: I came really close to drawing you french kissing a tarantula while wearing a meat suit in a shark tank, but I couldn't figure out the spider-kissing part without (ironically) gagging. Spiders are my weakness. There were multiple things that made me laugh out loud, so thank you for that. I wonder how many people can relate to your fear. Readers, fess up and share your barf-tastic stories!

More Fear Confessions.