Finding my focus (all puns intended ;-))

One of my first blog posts was about “focusing until it feels right” and while this was about focusing my cameras I have found out over the last few weeks that it also applies to my creative, business and ‘social’ life.

During the last two years after I had quit my old job and started my own little business, my life was rather chaotic. My inner child had taken over after too many years of being locked away and it played with everything it could find, continuously shifting focus. I know I needed that time to let my creativity unfold but when I finally fell quite ill with the flu and some following bacterial infections in December (luckily I am slowly recovering now) I had to accept that something had to change. My body was clearly giving me BIG warning signs that I had lost my balance.

Being restricted to my bed and couch, and as we luckily don’t have TV, I suddenly had lots of free time which I could not fill with playing so I naturally (ok, after some moaning ;-)) started to reflect on the last years and to wonder about the future – the present wasn’t really that nice after all :-D. It did not take long before I realized that I had a focus problem. 

While I love manual focus on my cameras I had to accept that for my life I needed something else, some kind of continuous auto-focus or focus tracking. Just playing around was wonderful but in the end nobody likes focus-shift on their lenses. So to keep my health, my creative life and hopefully also my bank account (yes, I also went a bit overboard there) more balanced in the future, some things had to change and I was finally ready to make the following changes.

I want to move from idea gathering to implementation. All the playing around has given me enough ideas for years to come…and any further ones will simply be written down in my new creative notebook which I got for Christmas – yes, a real one with real pens. In that notebook I want to collect, to keep track of and to prioritize my ideas but most of all turn them into actual projects with mind-maps (love those) and drawings (I am a visual person after all). There is also space for any notes with regards to my photos and prints which I will need so that I can improve continuously by learning from my mistakes – and a real notebook works better for me than an app on my phone.

But let’s have a look at the focus areas I came up with…

For my creative life I am going to focus on creating tangible work.

  • I want to make at least one book in the next few months – again all hand-made.
  • Now that my UV Box is safely installed (yay, my boyfriend helped during his holidays) I will finally start with alternative darkroom printing – first Cyanotype, then Argyrotype, then Gum Bichromate and after that we will see…
  • Once my new 4×5 and 8×10 (with 5×7 reducing back) cameras and wet plate holders arrive I will begin to make ambrotypes again. It has been a while since I had my training and I wasn’t sure first if I would continue as I did not have the right projects but I always loved the look and feel (and even smell :-D). Now I have an idea for a long-term project that could not be anything else but wetplate – I will share more details once the planning is done and the details are fixed.
  • I am going to experiment with Direct Positive Paper as I think it would work perfectly for another idea I have… 😉
  • Last but not least I want to continue with my Chinese ink painting. I loved the 1:1 tutoring I had end of last year and it works so well together with my photographic ideas and my poetry…

Regarding my business life I have to focus on marketing my work. I don’t even like the sound of it but I have to accept that one day (in the not too far a away future ;-)) I will have to make some money or this dream will cease to exist… It is now a fact, I will never be a salesperson (not even a bad one :-D) and being 100% introvert doesn’t help. I also simply don’t want to take that much time away from my creative life. I already do my own accounting and maintain my website, blog and Webshop which takes up enough time. So the decisions are to

  • Find a gallery/galleries that might be interested in selling my prints (not sure yet if I will keep the Webshop)
  • Look into the possibilities of publishing a book with a small independent publisher
  • Participate in at least one or two exhibitions (luckily the first one is already fixed, Connected2018 in April)
  • And if time allows, finalize my offer of a 1:1 mentoring about finding your creative vision and turning it into a final image (print, book,…)

If all goes wrong, at least these things will help me to see more quickly if there actually is a market for my work.

Oh, and there is of course my Social Media/Internet life that also needed focus again. 😉

  • I want to definitely spend more time writing. Both my short poems and the posts for my blog help me to focus my thoughts and feelings.
  • I would also like to continue to write for other websites/magazines whenever I am invited as that is so much fun.
  • For Social Media I will focus on Twitter and keep an Instagram account to share photos of my work and behind-the-scenes images. Last year I created a second Instagram account for the last part but I am just not good at keeping 2 accounts up to date and decide what goes where so I will combine them again into one.
  • I really enjoyed participating in 2 podcasts last year but though it is tempting I will not start my own…instead I am hoping for more chances to either be a guest or maybe temporary co-host on some of the great ones we already have…one of those will be recorded tonight and I will participate 😉

Once I had made all these decisions which should help to balance my life with still enough room for my inner child but now also the grown-up side of me, I could finally concentrate on my health … after all, good health is the most important thing if I want to achieve any of my goals.

Now my focus feels right again. 🙂

So stay happy and healthy! Until next time and let me know how you keep your focus in the comments (the comments button is right next to the photo) and I will make sure to reply to each one 🙂





  1. Andrew on January 17, 2018 at 10:26

    I can relate to a lot of what you have mentioned. I probably should complete the same exercise you have and get focussed

    • Isabel on January 17, 2018 at 10:39

      I can recommend to skip the flu part though 😉 I think many creative people are in the same boat…it is just too tempting to follow all the butterflies. Unfortunately when we do that we end up losing them all…so let’s follow the ones we like best instead and some we have to 😉

  2. Miguel Angelo on January 17, 2018 at 11:26

    I had a maybe similar crushing flu like that in 2016. It made me go flat with persisting 40º fever for a week. It is really an eye opener to the fact that we are not bullet-proof and even something so common can throw us off-track really quickly.

    Finding focus is very hard, and to keep on having that focus is one of the hardest tasks that I have experienced. I wish you strength to keep focus on what can bring you enough safety to pursue your dreams and balance in life, never letting go of what you like to do.

    I’m looking forward to see a prosperous journey for your new projects. 🙂

    • Isabel on January 17, 2018 at 13:14

      It was definitely the worst one I ever had and the bacterial “super-infection” gave me the rest…good thing it was the holidays and my boyfriend was home, though also sick just not as bad and for as long 😉
      Now that I have found the balance I will do whatever I can to make it work – talking about it helps and makes it more “binding” 😉
      So thank you so much for your interest, Miguel! 🙂

  3. John on January 17, 2018 at 17:47

    Fantastic that you are finding your balance again Isabel!
    Reading through it all sounds really positive and focused 😉 and exciting 🙂 !
    I am really looking forward to seeing your new projects!
    Wishing you a wonderful creative year!

    • Isabel on January 18, 2018 at 13:58

      Thank you so much, John. I am very positive because I feel I can also achieve something now not just have ideas…
      Wishing you also a wonderful, creative and successful year!

  4. Ivana on January 17, 2018 at 18:36

    I can so relate with the need to find focus! This was like reading my own story 🙂 I was spreading myself thin this past year with many ideas and projects. I wanted to paint, to take photos and keep my graphic design business afloat which pays my bills. And unfortunately not one of them received the attention it should. Stressing about making a living and at the same time wanting to be able to do more of the creative work (instead of the dreaded scenario of an introvert trying to sell, market, network…) I was finally knocked down with a flu which developed into bacterial bronchitis this December 😉

    I came to similar conclusions as you did during my enforced rest and can’t wait to declutter my life and get some clarity about my goals. What I do for finding focus is journal and go for walks to decompress. Apps don’t work for me at all, I need to write things down so that they would sink in.

    I will have to try mind mapping – looks like a great method for us visuals! Looking forward to seeing and reading about your new projects!

    • Isabel on January 18, 2018 at 07:41

      Wow…that is nearly scary! I talked to someone yesterday on a podcast (sunny16podcast – I will inform everybody here once it gets published) and she has the exact same, including the final knock-out in December. We think because we love what we are doing we are kind of immune and these things should not happen but we are still human and our mind needs rest as much as our body does.
      I so agree with what you say, esp. also “not one of them received the attention it should”.
      So funny also that we have the same way to deal with it incl walking which I also love – will also start TaiChi again which helps me to find my inner calm.
      I feel there is a big difference between writing something in an app or really using a pen to write it into a notebook which to me just feels deeper and more permanent. That combined with the visual qualities of mind-mapping (incl. small sketches) really works for me and I hope will work for you too!
      Wishing you all the best on your way, Ivana – oh and I love your work! 🙂

      • Ivana on January 18, 2018 at 19:56

        This IS kind of scary! I started QiGong recently (very similar to TaiChi) and I am loving it. Helps to keep me grounded. Looking forward to listening to the podcast and thank you for your kind words 🙂 All the best!

        • Isabel on January 18, 2018 at 21:04

          wow…! Same to you, great to connect! 🙂

  5. Melita on January 18, 2018 at 20:58

    Take a look at Blurb for your book Isabel. I came across Blurb last year through a webinar they ran with another company. I was interested in producing a book at some point and was impressed that they do different formats and can send you sample papers to give you an idea. You can even place it directly on Amazon to start selling.

    I too am narrowing down my social media as I find certain platforms aren’t working for me and can take up a huge amount of time and energy. I agree its good to take a step back and review your goals with focus, but on the areas for you, and not what the expectation is out there!

    • Isabel on January 18, 2018 at 21:16

      Thank you, Melita 🙂
      I bought 2 books from Blurb some years ago but did not really like the way toned pictures got a weird colour cast. Maybe that improved and I should do a simple test…I can always do that in parallel to looking for a publisher…
      Did you publish your book?
      Yes, Social Media…I already narrowed my use down for the first time last year, stopping basically with Facebook (only keep it as address book for former colleagues and friends ;-)) and G+ and I did not regret it. It feels much better to concentrate on just 2 platforms which also gives me enough time to really interact esp. on Twitter which is my preferred platform as you probably noticed 😉
      Yes, we all have to find our own focus areas – nobody else can help us there. I hope you find yours – keep me posted 😉

  6. Yasmin Qureshi on March 2, 2018 at 16:40

    I’m glad I read this post because it made me realise that being able to focus isn’t something I struggle with alone. I hope you’re successful in finding focus. Reading this post has helped me realise something else – that I need to take a break from social media in order to stop focussing on others and focus on myself. I’ve been toying with the idea of deleting all social media apps off my phone (okay maybe I’ll keep Twitter) so that I can put myself first and stop comparing myself to others. I think I’m going to seriously consider it now because I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

    • Isabel on March 21, 2018 at 07:01

      Sorry for replying so late, but I was completely offline for the last few weeks (see also my post later today).
      I hope you have found a way to focus.
      Comparing yourself to others is always tricky. It helps when we use it to improve or find Inspiration but it can easily turn into a barrier that kills our own creativity and voice. I think as artists we might always struggle with finding the right balance. Sending you lots of positive energy – you know where to find me if you need someone to talk to 🙂

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