As, on the one hand some things seem back to ‘normal’ (whatever that was), yet on the other there’s uncertainty about whether we’ll face another lockdown, it feels like a good time to reflect on the impact lockdown had on me and my business.
The initial impact actually happened two weeks before lockdown with the cancellation of the London Book Fair. I’d been really looking forward to the event and had some great meetings lined up to talk about my new signature programme and how I could support publishers. I was looking forward to catching up with contacts new and old, and generally being in the buzz of the fair… But suddenly that was off the table.
I acted quickly and managed to change most of my meetings to video or phone calls. It was great to chat to people, but with uncertainty looming, my signature package was not top of their priority list.
Two weeks later schools and nurseries closed and I had a 4.5 year old at home full time. As a solo parent there was no one to share the parenting/work time, and I now had a lot more meals to cook and snacks to prepare. A lot of things were unprecedented this spring, not least the amount of television my son was now allowed to consume (thanks Glennon Doyle for the powerful video that alleviated a lot of the guilt I felt at this).
I’d just started a big project for an exciting new client, and whilst I managed to continue to a certain point, after a few weeks I just didn’t have the headspace for the next stage, which involved analysis and finding solutions. I’m lucky to work in a child-focused industry, and my client was incredibly understanding when I explained that it was actually getting harder to work with a preschooler around rather than easier.
I kept things ticking over, but turned down a number of new projects that didn’t fit with my mission – projects that I probably would have taken on in usual times, and squeezed in. Lockdown allowed me to think about what I really wanted and what type of projects I do and don’t want to give my time and energy to.
I realised that in order to be able to work and parent, I needed boundaries in place. Early on I was firm with myself that I wasn’t going to work in the evenings. Evenings were now my only child-free time and if I worked then I knew that it would impact my sleep and I’d quickly reach burnout. We were in this for the long-haul so that couldn’t happen.
I also got more consistent in my meditation practice, ensuring it was something I did almost daily. I couldn’t leave the house on my own, so I needed to find the space within me. My journals were an incredible outlet for everything that was happening in my head (and were some great ideas appeared), and I continued with the self-development work I was doing in Keri Jarvis’s Thrive programme. I also maintained focus on my business as part of Gemma Gilbert’s membership group. These groups, and the support from the other women in them, are what kept me going. Towards the end of lockdown I realised that prioritising my wellbeing needed to continue to be a non-negotiable and I worked a daily (short) yoga practice into my day.
I got to enjoy long walks with my son in the countryside near my home (let’s not dwell on the infected tick bite and 21 days of antibiotics that were the result of one of these walks), explore my local area more, spend some time finding some creativity with Draw With Rob, do some craft and plant sunflowers and watch them grow.
What happened next in terms of my business?
I realised that now wasn’t the time for me to promote my signature package, that it wasn’t something publishers could commit to right now, so I developed something different. Something that would still have a massive impact but was more manageable all round. A combination of training and consultancy to support publishers in creating authentically inclusive books. I’m running the beta round of the Inclusion Incubator now, and have tweaked it to make it within reach of freelancers as well, many of whom feel passionate about inclusion and want to be able to do more.
I’m focusing on the work I really want to do and turning down projects that don’t align with that.
I’m developing programmes and packages that can help to transform the publishing industry, but not at the cost of my own work/life balance and wellbeing.
I’m finding a way to make my work fit around school hours so that I can enjoy spending time with my son when he’s not at school rather than feeling constantly called by work. With a bit of luck I’ll be able to take some time off in the school holidays.
The past few months have been incredibly challenging, but I’ve actually learnt a lot about myself, and what I want from my business. But my purpose remains the same. I want to transform the picture book landscape and make it one that is permeated by incidental and authentic inclusion. If you’re aligned with that mission, please make sure you’re signed up to my mailing list to be kept up to date with blogs, offers and new packages. And get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we can work together.