Soil Tilling, Soul Fulfilling


I began my garden (creative biz) on a whim while on maternity leave with my son. I had little idea what I wanted to plant or what type of garden I was looking to create, just that I wanted to be home with my son and to plant lots of fun stuff. So I started a blog and an Etsy shop and I began “planting” things. Whatever struck my fancy- seashell crafts, sewing bits, upcycled stationery, etc. I met other gardeners online who were planting amazing things and creating beautiful gardens, and I was inspired to try new planting ideas and techniques- printmaking,  digital stationery and prints, greeting cards, surface design.

Things were fine, but it was all happening very haphazardly. I’d get an idea, I’d just stick it in the ground. Another blog was started, another Etsy shop was opened.

Along the way I encountered folks online peddling products and methods that were going to help my garden grow by expanding my readership, attracting new customers, etc. It all sounded wonderful and promising, so I read their blogs/books, enrolled in their programs, and tried applying their forms of business fertilizers.

It was sort of working. My garden was expanding, but it never really felt like it was thriving.

Then a major storm of grief came through and my garden and creative desire suffered major damage. After several months of neglect, signs of new growth began to appear, as did hope for my little garden.

And then another major storm of grief and loss hit last year and I all but abandoned my garden.

Now, almost a year later, my garden is an overgrown mess of weeds and dried up plants. As I slowly start to clear the debris, I see what poor condition the soil of my garden (and the soul of my creative business) is in. Much of what I planted over the last four years was in soil that hadn’t been properly prepared and then nurtured along the way, which also contributed to my garden’s demise.

At this point, I feel I need to start this garden over from scratch, which is as disappointing as it is exciting. Part of me feels like the last four years got me nowhere, but then I remember it’s not really from scratch.  I have the experiences of those years to till back into the soil and help nourish my garden (and my creative soul) this time around.

Here’s what I plan on doing with my garden over the next several months:

  1. Weeding out, thinning out, pulling up dead plants- I’m pulling products and shelving projects that have burnt out or died off from lack of enthusiasm or attention from me. Everything has its season and “not dead” isn’t the same as thriving and often only ends up sucking nutrients (my attention, time, energy, creative efforts) that could nurture other more promising ideas and projects later on. After I see what’s left in the garden, I decide what projects could use some pruning back or thinning out so as to strengthen their core and help it come back stronger in the future.
  2. Tossing out a lot of the fertilizers in favor of composting techniques  I’m clearing out  my Google Reader, unsubscribing from email lists, ditching business books, deleting digital downloads, unfollowing folks on Twitter whose intended purpose currently does not nurture my garden’s needs. Those folks  and resources that provide enrichment, connection, support, inspiration, motivation will be incorporated into my garden’s soil as (creative) soul nourishment (This OMHG community definitely nurtures my soil and nourishes my soul!!).
  3. Do some green fertilizing- Green fertilizing is the planting of crops between seasons for the purpose of revitalizing and nurturing the soil. For me, that’s spending some time getting back to creating for the sake of creating rather than feeling like it somehow needs to lead to money making. Of making things as a means of play and exploration and experimentation and trust that the business opportunities will reveal themselves in time.
  4. Take soil samples- I’m looking at what skills come naturally to me, traits that I can use to my advantage, what I enjoy learning and improving at, and what kind of work schedule I can realistically maintain. I’m also considering ways to work with my weaknesses rather than fight against them. Doing more to develop my artistic style will also help determine what’s likely to thrive in my garden in the future and where I need to grow my skills.
  5. Create a landscape plan- Once my soil is healthier, I can design and start planting my new garden. It’ll be based on what I’m really excited to grow (products and projects I’m passionate about and eager to nurture) and how much space (time and energy) I have to devote to it. New plantings will either need to compliment or replace what’s growing so as not to spread nutrients too thin. Regular composting and green fertilizing through genuine engagement online and offline, dedicated time to creative play and experimentation will provide regular nourishment to the soil and nurture my garden.

So we’ll see what happens. It feels good to be getting back to the earth and seeking new roots to nourish. Now that I made and accepted this decision, I find myself actually motivated to start blogging again, so you’ll be able to see some of what I’m up to over the next few months at Three By Sea.

In the meantime, what about you? What could help your garden now (be it creative practice or business) in order to thrive in the future?


  1. .tif smith says:

    Aaah. Thanks for this post. It’s like you just wrote straight from my head and heart, too. I’m so there with you right now, and your gardening baby steps are the path I need to be following too.

    • @tif_smith:disqus I am so happy to see this comment from you Tif! I was thinking of you as I read Nicole’s post after our #OMHG chat yesterday and the metaphors you brought up of pulling thorns/weeds to start again. Sometimes our creative gardens become overwhelming and overgrown but I love this analogy so much because at any time we can turn those weeds under and make them compost for new ideas and roots to flourish. There is always the opportunity for redemption and growth-whenever we are ready to start that reclaiming. I’ll get my hands dirty in the garden with you ladies any day!

  2. Darice says:

    #2 Tossing out a lot of the fertilizers in favor of composting techniques – so hits home for me! I have gotten my email subscriptions down to the essentials + recently emptied my recycle bin of 1.5 Gb of downloads, because I found myself reading ‘helpful advice’ and then questioning everything I was already doing…I felt like I was in a perpetual cycle of doubt – based on other people’s ideas of success + the right way to create.

    It sounds to me like you have a few perennials peaking up through the old soil. Here’s to your garden – may it grow wild, free, and happy alongside your soul! 🙂

  3. I love your 5 step plan for your garden! I think it’s something that we can all challenge ourselves to do on a regular basis. I love #2 and #5 specifically! The analogies are super! I definitely need to get working on a more thorough landscape plan. I pretty good at making real life landscape plans, but when it comes to my business, I need to get better about actually planning out the future and going for it!

    I second Darice – here’s to a wild, free, and happy garden that nurtures your soul!

  4. Jacquie says:

    This was so well written and thought out! I love the article and the metaphor of the garden! It’s really where I’m at in life too so it really hit home and was very inspirational! Thanks and best wishes with your “gardening”!

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