Rebecca McMillan, artist and owner the Wildflower Illustration Company and the Wildflower Paper Club, regularly breaks the online business rules by taking time offline to create more calm and joy.
In this episode we discuss:
Pressing Pause Episode 83 The joy of connecting online and offline with Rebecca McMillan
Welcome to Pressing Pause. I’m Gabrielle Treanor, a mindset and positive psychology coach and writer, exploring how we can create, find and feel more calm, ease and joy in our daily lives.
Before we get stuck into this episode 83 I just wanted to mention the Facebook/Instagram/social media outage that happened at the start of this week, as I’m recording. While I don’t think those platforms are about to disappear any time soon I do think they are becoming less reliable as a way to connect. Every day I hear about accounts being frozen or even lost for no reason and these are people like you and me as well as the famous folk. Even if your account is fine it’s so hard for your posts to be seen if you don’t interact with and post in the exact way the platform wants you to. I took all of August off social media and it felt so good that I’ve not spent much time back on the platforms since.
Where I’m putting my energy is my weekly emails as that feels like a much lovelier way to connect with you, as well as here of course. I share ideas, inspiration and actions to help you bring down your overwhelm and feel more calm, confidence and joy and it’s where I share my news and any special offers first. There’s none of the noise you get on social media, email is a direct line between you and me, a direct connection.
Now, allowing me into your inbox is not something I take lightly so I don’t send stupid amounts of emails, I make it clear how you can unsubscribe if you decide they’re not for you and I offer a range of free resources which you can choose from as a thank you. There’s a guide to creating your own mental health first aid kit, a set of three guided meditations and a guide to overcoming overwhelm as an introvert.
So, if you’d like to keep in touch, get support from me and be the first to know about exciting new stuff, take a look at gabrielletreanor.com/free to choose your free guide, or get all three if you like!
Okay, so today’s guest feels quite fitting after that intro! For a while now I’ve been subscribing to the Wildflower Paper Club and as it gives me so much calm and joy I thought it would be a great idea to talk with its creator! So, In this episode 83 of Pressing Pause I’m chatting with Rebecca McMillan, artist and owner of the Wildflower Illustration Company, all about connecting on and offline, how it feeds into the calm and joy we feel, and juggling it all with a business and a family too. So, let’s dive in…
[00:00:00] Gabrielle: Hi, Rebecca. Thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:00:03] Rebecca: Hello. Thank you so much for having me here.
[00:00:06] Gabrielle: So I wonder if you could begin by just telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
[00:00:10] Rebecca: Yes, of course. So I run Wildflower Illustration Co with my husband, which is a stationery and greetings cards online shop. We also sell art prints and we have a monthly subscription service, kind of all based around watercolour illustrations that I create mostly inspired by nature.
[00:00:33] Gabrielle: Fabulous and seeing as how people listen, they can’t see, I can vouch for how beautiful your illustrations are. They are absolutely gorgeous indeed. And all of your creations are just lovely. So I’m imagining that drawing and painting, can be, it’s a very calming, very joyful activity. But you’re doing it for a business. And I know that the practicalities of running a business can sometimes get very stressful and not be at all calm or joyful. So how do you protect the, the lovely, calm, joyous, act of creating from the pressures and the strains of running a business?
[00:01:17] Rebecca: So, I wouldn’t say that I’ve absolutely cracked it yet, but over the years of doing it, I have kind of realised that I do need to be quite strict with my time and really carve out the time when I am creating. And actually for me, It doesn’t really matter what I’m creating it for. So I can sit down and know that I’ve got to create illustrations for that month’s paper club or well, the next month paper club.
But it doesn’t really matter. Once I start painting, I kind of forget about everything. So painting is a huge release for me. It always has been. And you know, I’ve, I’ve been kind of painting or drawing for well, 20 years kind of, quite consistently. It was my great uncle who kind of, started off my love of painting and, art, he was an artist and, he always used to send me greeting cards with, uh, you know, his illustrations, his paintings in the post. So that was where it all started. And he always used to, he gave him the advice, paint or draw something every day. And so from an early age, probably about 10 or 11, I did kind of set that as my goal. I had it written on a notepad and I used to do a little sketch every day.
And that was when I realised that I really did get a lot of calm and joy from it and just opening up the notepad every day didn’t matter. It, it takes the stress away from what you have to create. The goal is to open the page, it takes it away from what you actually create. It takes any pressure away from what you’re creating.
So I’ve been doing some sort of painting, or drawing like that for a long time. Since becoming a mother, I definitely don’t paint or draw every day, but I kind of retained the, the philosophy of the painting as this kind of sacred, sacred act. So what I do now is when I have my kind of workdays for the week, I will set one of them aside as a creating day and one of them aside as an admin day, and I really try to keep quite strict in terms of not letting the admin seep into the painting day. And sometimes that comes at an admin cost, but I kind of see that as the higher good being that actually I do need that space and that whole day to just create. And, you know, there’ll be some times where. I don’t necessarily feel like I got as much created as I wanted to, but, um, yeah it’s really important to me to protect that space.
[00:03:50] Gabrielle: Yeah. And I think that, it sounds like that organisation of this day is for creating, this day’s for admin creates those boundaries that really stops them bleeding into each other. And I think what you said about how the goal is to open the page, is to open the notebook, not to create something, to create something great, to create something really, really amazing that I think everybody can learn from that because that I think can really get in our way sometimes. Whenever we sit down to do something or when we have something we want to do, especially when it comes to creating, because we can get very knotted up in what is considered good, you know, a good creation.
[00:04:27] Rebecca: Absolutely. And I think that even if it’s not your business, if it’s just something that you do for fun. So many of us now post that on Instagram and it’s really, really easy to get sucked into the trap of thinking, oh, this needs to get this many likes or this needs to, you know, this needs to reach a wider audience or whatever.
Like, how am I going to sell products or get likes or whatever. And I think that can be really fatal to art. I think if you’re trying to create something with that in mind, you’re not, you’re not creating your best art and you have to kind of try and move away from that. And I personally have found that as soon as I am able to move away from that and obviously I go through times where I do get sucked into it and I have to kind of remind myself again, but I always, I know now that I create my best work, when I am out of the social media loop, out of the kind of internet loop, not on my phone all the time. When I kind of get back into nature, get back connected to the things that I know make me feel good. That’s when I create my best art.
[00:05:32] Gabrielle: Hmm. Yeah, I think that is so true in the fact that we’ve got this whole added layer of then showing the product of whatever it is that we’ve spent our time on on online and depending on the reaction that then affects how we then feel about the thing. Yeah, absolutely. So, so yeah. One of the reasons that I wanted to, talk with you is because of your, wildflower paper club which is all about you send beautiful stationery to your customers and then they then send them on to whoever.
And as somebody who used to run a stationery business and who used to run a stationery subscription, it is such a joy to be the recipient of your gorgeous stationery. And I certainly have found that it’s encouraged me to connect more offline with people because we can get very much into the habit of looking at people’s status updates and just keeping things online. But it’s really been lovely to be sending actual post. And then I’ve had posts returned to me where people have then been, you know, they’ve been inspired to then send something to me. So it’s gorgeous.
[00:06:34] Rebecca: It’s so wonderful to hear that because that really was one of the motivating factors behind creating it. I’ve got two close friends who I’ve always written to throughout our whole friendship. One of them since we were sort of 10 or 11. So, I really recognise that joy and that, um, there’s something different. There are different words. It comes from a different place when you write it, it just does. You can send a heartfelt message by text, but I believe that it is more heartfelt if it’s through a pen, I don’t know what it is, but for me, it just comes from a different place and I really wanted to help other people experience that too.
[00:07:12] Gabrielle: Yeah. And so how do you see connecting offline in that way as contributing to creating feelings of calm and joy?
[00:07:21] Rebecca: Well, I think for me, what kind of is at the heart of that is that I think we weren’t born to be online twenty four seven. I don’t think that most of us are at our peak when we’re online all the time. And that’s really genuinely coming from a place where I’ve been there. Yeah. I’ve grown up with the internet I used to spend, and I grew up with it, you know, I’m 30, so people will relate to being older or younger than that.
But I grew up spending my whole evenings on MSN and my space and spending hours on my myspace page and, um, you know, I really was kind of, I, I grew up with the internet. And I actually, I love the internet and I’m not, saying that the internet is a bad thing at all, because I really do love it.
And the internet, as, you know, enabled my business and everything and allowed me to connect with so many amazing people. But it took me a long time to realise that I’m actually a better person when I’m not connected to the internet all the time. And I think that I probably only realised that in the last two or three years. I started to get an inkling of it earlier than that, but I really need some time, some complete space from the internet.
And actually it isn’t until I find that complete space from the internet or from being online or connected to something that I then start remembering the simple joys of life, like paper and like writing. And actually when I find myself too kind of immersed in online world, then it doesn’t really, even as a stationery business, it doesn’t really occur to me to write to people.
Um, is there any way that I have kind of disconnected and unplugged a little bit that I think actually that would be really nice for someone to, to receive a tangible item in the post that I’ve touched that I’ve written, that I’ve kind of written from the heart and COVID definitely, kind of added another layer to that because it was like, it’s not even that you can, you’re seeing your friend every couple of weeks.
You literally don’t have or, you know, right in the middle of lockdown, you didn’t have any kind of physical way of connecting with them. And when you don’t have a physical way of connecting with friends, it’s easy to kind of feel more distant from them. And so I think, well I hope that writing became a way for lots of people to reconnect, whether that was with older relatives who were already well-versed in writing letters, but just glad to have more letters or kind of young people finding the joy of writing as well.
[00:10:05] Gabrielle: Yeah. So I’m definitely getting the theme that you find more calm and joy when you’re offline.
[00:10:12] Rebecca: Yeah.
[00:10:13] Gabrielle: So how do you balance that? Because obviously we do live in a digital world. Your businesses is run online. So how do you balance that? Because you need to be online. You need to be on social media for your business, but also you need to not be online so that you can feel creative, feel calm, connected outside. So how do you balance that?
[00:10:33] Rebecca: Yeah. So it’s, again, it’s not something that I’ll claim to have completely cracked, but, there, there are a few answers to that question. So the first one was just kind of setting quite strict digital boundaries myself of saying, okay, I’m going to turn my phone off at this time. I don’t want to generalise, but I think often we use work as an excuse, but if we were actually honest with ourselves about how much time we’re on our work, it would be minimal compared to the kind of the more fun bits and shopping, whatever. And I think that’s, that’s for me, that’s the problem with having a smartphone all the time is that you say, oh, I’m just going to keep my smartphone on because I might need to reply to an email or it might need to do this, but actually then it’s there. And the moment you get, you know, that tiny little thought into your head, I need to look for trainers for Alba. Then, then I’ll just start looking for trainers for Alba even though I’m supposed to be in the middle of something else. So it’s kind of, um, for me, it really prohibits my intentionality.
I started off just trying to set the screen time feature up on my phone and then realised that I was just literally just overwriting it, just entering the password. I started off with like 15 minutes on Instagram a day and then was just like, no. I’m just ignoring this. I don’t need to answer to anyone. So that didn’t work.
And then, for me it was actually, it was only when I kind of just literally said, okay, fine. I’m just turning my phone off, and so I either turn my phone off or I put it in another, in another room and I try to always just stick with that. It’s a work in progress, but trying to be strict.
I actually, I actually don’t want this to sound like an ad, but I actually just got like a super simple phone as well. You don’t necessarily need this phone that I got, but, I liked the aesthetics of it, it’s called the light phone and it’s a really, really simple phone that just calls and texts.
So I now have that as my personal phone. So what I tend to do is the three days a week that I spend with Alba, I will have just my light phone on. And I actually just find so much joy genuinely every day when, when I just have that phone, when those thoughts pop into my head of things that I could Google or whatever, when you just kind of push through that feeling, you then realise that you didn’t need to do that, you didn’t have to do that there and then.
And also I’ve really noticed since having it, the amount of times in conversations that other people, not to be judgmental, but will unnecessarily look at their phone at a time when we didn’t need to, you know, you might be having a conversation. And then you’re trying to think of a fact or verify something, but it kind of, blocks the conversation sometimes. And then they’ll pull their phone out, but then they’ll get sucked into something else. And you kind of noticed that happening more when you’re not in it.
So, I definitely enjoy that aspect of just feeling more kind of, I think it’s, it’s more like, I’m in charge of my life. And it’s no surprise really because the technology companies are trying to control us, without wanting to sound like a conspiracy theorist, the apps and the phones are all designed to hold our attention. And, you know, because Facebook is free they make money off advertising, so they want to keep you on their app for as long as possible. And it works, like, it really works.
And I think also from conversations with other friends, I don’t think everyone is affected to the same extent. I think we all have to be honest with ourselves about our kind of level with technology addiction and some people actually are quite happy having an iPhone on them all the time. And they know that they’re not super affected by it. And they’re quite good at not checking it when they don’t need to and whatever, but I don’t know whether it’s because, I’m a mum and I spend a lot of time with a small child who I love dearly, but small children can be, you know, challenging and, the things that, that they want to do, aren’t always necessarily things that you want to do, and it can be quite hard to kind of, so I think that I had lots of moments in my day where I felt a bit bored and I wanted to reach for something.
So I’m not saying that everyone needs to kind of give up their smartphone and get the simple phone. But for me, that, that did really help. And that did kind of lead me back to how I wanted to interact with technology. And it, it allows me to use it and the way that I want to be using technology, it allows me to use it, get all the good things about it, all the amazing convenience and connection and everything, but on my terms.
And so I know that when I’m picking up my iPhone, I now want to kind of do all that stuff, but, it just makes me feel more in control. I can’t even remember what your original question was.
[00:15:15] Gabrielle: No, that’s brilliant. And I think that, there’ll be people who will be picking up their phones and Googling light phone, because that sounds, I have heard of that from, yeah, from some books I’ve read around handling your relationship with your phone and social media.
So when you want to feel calm, when things are getting a bit stressy, what do you do? What’s your go-to?
[00:15:37] Rebecca: Go outside. Literally instantly. We moved house right at the beginning of lockdown. We moved from a flat where we didn’t have a garden and now having a garden it just is, I will never take it for granted because it’s such a luxury. And just to be able to go outside and hear birds singing and, feel the grass beneath your feet and just straight away have trees around you and nature. It makes me feel so much better.
And I think it makes my daughter feel so much better too. We can be having a difficult day and then we go outside and it doesn’t matter what the weather is it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or cold or whatever, even if I haven’t really wanted to go outside, having dogs helps because you have to go outside. Um, I just feel so much better instantly.
And, knowing that you’d be surprised at the amount of times that I don’t go outside soon enough in the day, but it, as soon as I remembered that magic cure, I do it and I do feel so much better and even better is taking a walk and just, getting properly into nature.
We have, a little nature reserve near us, five minutes away and it just feels like a protected space and yeah, it is a complete tonic and just feel so, so at ease and so much happier, and I feel, I notice myself breathing more deeply and just relaxing and yeah, it’s just like all of my kind of stress just, just goes.
But yeah, it is funny the amount of times that I forget that and go half my day just feeling a bit rubbish.
[00:17:16] Gabrielle: Yeah, I love that you know, so instantly, you are so absolutely sure it is nature and you know what an effect it has on you, you see it in your daughter, you’re absolutely know for sure. And I love your honesty with the fact that actually you don’t necessarily go and do that. And that’s the thing, even though we know things that are really good for us, that will make us feel calm, that will bring us joy. Sometimes we still don’t do them. And I know that there will be people listening, who will be going oh, good, it’s not just me because absolutely I love your honesty. Thank you for that. So my final question for you is what are you going to do today to give yourself a moment of calm and joy?
[00:17:51] Rebecca: So it’s fairly late in the day. So I have already been outside, which is good. And it probably took me too long to get outside, but as soon as I did get outside my daughter was so much happier instantly as well and running around with the dog. So I’ve already kind of had the nature calm, but actually, what I realised earlier on today is that my other magic cure, I haven’t brought out for a while, which is yoga.
We went travelling for a whole year, which just seems like the most incredible luxury, especially now with travel being so restricted. But yeah, before, my past life, I was a lawyer, that’s a whole other conversation. Before my solicitor training started, my training contract had a year between my LPC, which is the kind of final year of education and then starting my kind of real job. And, um, so I had a whole year and Karl took a year off from his teaching, which is what he was doing then. And we went around the world, which was incredible.
I sort of had done bits of yoga before, but we met some amazing teachers mainly in south and central America in Costa Rica and Nicaragua where we just met some incredible teachers. So I really kind of connected with the practice and, it’s kind of on a similar level probably to nature for me in terms of how much of an instant release it gives me an it’s a physical exercise, but it’s, I do it for my brain. I do it for, my kind of mental health, more than my physical health, although it’s also good for that, but, yeah, 10 minute, 20 minutes. Doesn’t have to be long, but just kind of stretching, releasing that tension, especially from painting kind of in my shoulders just a great relief. So, we’ve had a super busy week and I haven’t really found time for yoga. So I think I’m going to do before bed yoga this evening.
[00:19:38] Gabrielle: Oh, that sounds lovely. Yeah. So where can listeners find and connect with you, Rebecca?
[00:19:45] Rebecca: So, mainly on Instagram, that’s normally where you’ll find me. We post on our main business account WildflowerIllustrationCo. But then I also do have, a personal and a home account, just to, uh, cover all the bases. So, posting there on and off. I definitely don’t follow any of the rules and I will have weeks or days off, completely off it.
I love Instagram it’s changed a lot, but for me, kind of the core kind of community is still there. And moving from an office job to completely working for myself, I think I would have felt really alone if it wasn’t for Instagram, but there are so many, amazing creatives on there.
[00:20:28] Gabrielle: And your website address.
[00:20:29] Rebecca: Oh, yes. wildflowerillustrationco.com. The paper club’s actually on a different site, which is wildflowerpaperclub.com, but that’s kind of linked on the site as well.
[00:20:38] Gabrielle: Yeah, you can get to it from your main site, can’t you?
[00:20:40] Rebecca: You can switch from both.
[00:20:42] Gabrielle: Brilliant. Wonderful. Thank you so much for talking with me today, Rebecca.
[00:20:45] Rebecca: Thank you so much for having me.
It was so lovely to talk with Rebecca. I hope you enjoyed our conversation and if you did it would amazing if you could share this episode 83 and also pop on over to iTunes to leave a quick review so that other people can find Pressing Pause and hopefully gain something from it too.
For the show notes and links mentioned in this episode 83 go to gabrielletreanor.com/podcast. And you can also find lots more to help you feel more calm and joy in your daily life at gabrielletreanor.com and in particular my free resource library at gabrielletreanor.com/free.
Thanks again for listening, until next time, lovely people.
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