Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

My First Space, or: The 90s Were Rad

When I first decided that I wanted to create animated films, we lived in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment in central Phoenix. We had a toddler and a baby on the way. If there was a space in that apartment that didn’t have wipes and stuffed toys in it, I don’t know where it was. Maybe the tiny patio.

I don’t know if you know anything about making animated films, but a crucial part of the process involves the use of a flat surface, bare minimum. Also a chair, if you’re really serious. Being short on those things, I had to make do with our kitchen table and sometimes a coffee table and no chair. We also had a computer and a desk, but because this was the 90s, our computer monitor was the size of a VW Beetle. Not a lot of space left for drawing things.

I had to make something work. The only option was to just not do it and since I couldn’t imagine myself working as a bank receptionist into my 30s, I made a space for myself. Thankfully, Jenni was supportive and knew that I needed it. So even though my working surface shifted around, I had a little file box dedicated to my drawings and ideas. My animation studio was housed in a little magenta accordion file thing. I still have it somewhere.

Getting that file box and making it mine was a little thing, but it made me feel like I was really going after my dream. After a few years of hard work using any available flat surface and my file box, I got a couple films into festivals, did some freelance gigs and eventually got hired at Nickelodeon.

Start With Your Space

When you’re starting a side hustle or business (freelancing is a business), it’s tempting to think that you first need a business plan, or maybe some capital, or like all really real businesses, a Costco membership. You don’t. Those things are for later. You can get stuck in those steps because they’re big steps. 

The first thing you start with is your space.

Tell it to Your Brain

When you start by creating your own space, you’re basically telling your brain that yes, you really are doing this and no, we can’t get a Costco account yet, no matter how much you would love a 10-quart jar of pickles.

Maybe you tell yourself that you’re going to start your thing every hour of every day. That’s great, but the problem is that your brain doesn’t believe you. Your brain yawns and says, “Mmm, pickles.”

When you plant your stake in the ground, when you carve out your own space for your thing, your brain wakes up a little and says, “Oh, you were serious about this! Well, that pickle jar is really too heavy anyway.”

No Desk, No Problem

Maybe you have the wherewithal to dedicate an entire room to your thing. That’s awesome and you should take advantage of it. Get rid of those funny beer cans you kept from college and make it your space.

If you don’t have an entire room, it’s totally okay. You can still do this. Hey, I had an accordion folder, and those things have come a long way since the 90s. Okay, actually they haven’t changed at all but if that’s what you’ve got, you can make it work.

You might have to share a room with a sewing machine or a yoga mat and that’s fine, too. The important thing is that you claim your territory. Whatever it is that you choose, it must be dedicated to your business. Tell your brain you’re really doing this.

Sacred Ground

Now that you’ve claimed your space, it’s time to burn some sage in small, concentric circles to get rid of the bad jou-jou. Just kidding, although if that’s your thing, go for it.

You don’t have to do a ceremony or host a ribbon-cutting (although that could be fun), this space is now officially yours.  

It’s a good idea to tell the people around you that it’s off-limits for other activities. Establish rules right up front so there’s no confusion. This also tells the other brains in your home that you’re really doing this thing. You will likely get more respect and support, and possibly even help carrying that 10-quart jar of pickles when it’s time.

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