I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, mounds of books, swaying to records, watercolors, sunset walks with our three yorkies, and star-gazing with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just us two (five with Rusty, Lucy, & Ethel) - I hope it brings you happiness as you snuggle in with something warm and delicious and begin reading. Enjoy, friends!

the blog!

If I had to choose:

Finding Joy

Hello, dear friends.

I have been struggling with the idea of what I’m really doing with my very small business. Am I trying to push as hard as I can to build an empire? Or am I okay with just putting my work out there and if people buy things that’s wonderful? Or am I simply a hobbyist?

To give you a bit of a background, this very small business of mine is not booming, not in the slightest. I didn’t sell out of my calendars, nor did I break even (I came very close – thanks to you, dear reader). I didn’t become this “girl boss” website designer, nor did I get overbooked with logo designing and brand consulting. I haven’t had to keep up with watercolor art orders (except when the calendars arrived and I had lots of pre-orders to assemble – again, thanks to you), nor have I been bombarded with commission art.

Is this too honest? I don’t think so. A bit of truth in a world where everyone seems to live this idealistic life might be like a breath of fresh air to some.

Despite all that truth up there, I had the absolute time of my life with the calendar. It gave me a spring in my step every time I finished a new page because I couldn’t wait to hang it in my own house. And of course, hearing other people’s opinions on it always made my day. I shed many many happy tears the day I told you the calendars were available for pre-ordering; my phone buzzed all weekend from the orders coming in and I kept texting Paul new updates while he was at work, completely off-guard by the amount of support you all gave me.

But the truth has also made me think about my “why” for what I’m doing with everything in this very small business. Am I just trying to make money? Do I really enjoy what I’m doing? Do I care about reaching tons of people so I can make money? Is it fun or has it become a chore? If I weren’t making money, would I continue to do what I’m doing? Do I enjoy being on social media and if not, am I simply on there just to promote my very small business? Why am I doing this?

I’ve been bouncing around these questions with kindred spirits, family members, and of course, Paul. Some of them are on the same page as me and instead of wanting to create just to create, we feel this incessant need to make money from our hobbies. I started playing the violin again around Christmas and I kid you not, one of my first thoughts was how can I make money from this. I thought if I got good enough I could create some sort of online course, tutorials, etc. I think there should be a name for this type of thinking, like a disease of some sort. Instead of just enjoying something, I’m quick to turn it into work, a chore, and consequently a burden.

When Paul and I play the “Dream Game” and go back and forth about what dreams we have for our life/lives, my one consistent dream since childhood has been to write/illustrate a book of some sort. But in my head that dream quickly turns into a time-lined project that needs to be posted all over social media and I need to make sure I reach the amount of people needed for a successful book, and yada yada yada yada blah blah blah. It becomes a chore, a looming boulder of burden about to fall on my head.

I crave a simpler life. I need my nights and weekends to be spent doing what I’d like to do and less on what I can do to make money. It’s a deep dark rabbit hole that I don’t enjoy burrowing into. Take this blog for example. For the past 7 years of writing it, I’ve continuously thought with each post I write, will this bring in more people which in turn might turn into more customers? It’s my fault for thinking that way – I’ve let that type of mentality sink in over years from listening to other “girl bosses” who tell people like me to write and create for others, to get people to my blog/website and turn them into dollar signs, to curate my Instagram feed so meticulously so more people will follow me which will lead them to my blog/website which will turn them into dollar signs, to post to social media religiously so more people will engage in my content which will lead them to my blog/website which will turn them into dollar signs…

Enough I say!

So I’ve been digging deep, figuring out what I like best, and determining how I can make it all so much simpler. My guiding question is Would I be doing this if I wasn’t making money? (Money is such “a filthy disgusting word” says P.L Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.)

In short, I’ve removed a lot of services from my main website and am getting rid of Facebook. I rarely post there anymore and when I do, I feel the need to pay for advertising. It was a wonderful platform when I was booking and photographing weddings, but that’s not my priority anymore. (If you’re coming here from Facebook and you want to stay in contact with me and the blog, there’s an area on the right column where you can subscribe with your email (no spam, I promise).) My website is now more of a portfolio for my art and it will direct you to my shop and blog. I still enjoy creating logos so that service is staying there for now. Who knows if I’ll keep it? We shall see.

My online shop remains. I love it and I love creating the art for it. I’m adding photographs to sell – something I’ve had on my to-do list for a long time – and am still eager to teach Photoshop through tutorials and webinars. At one point I toyed with the idea of an in-person watercolor workshop, but I know that is not something I would truly enjoy. At least not now. Who knows what will happen in the future? My Instagram will be used for my own enjoyment. No more needing to see the statistics and no more curating. I’ll showcase my art and projects of course, but the sole purpose of it will be for enjoyment without the looming thought of potential sales.

Ahhhhhhhh….now that that’s all out of the way and we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about fun stuff! :)

English Countryside and London | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | nikkitranphotography.com

It’s Paul’s turn to pick our next vacation – I chose South Carolina for our soon-to-happen trip – and that boy got me so stinkin’ excited last night when he was narrowing down his choices. We may or may not be – nothing is official yet – going to Europe next! And it may or may not be – nothing is official yet – places where one sips tea on the regular and visits castles and uses words like ‘loch’…:) :) He’s deciding between possibly Germany vs. possibly a trio of Scotland, Ireland, and England. I won’t get my hopes up, but I’m sure you all know where I’d love to go. :)

And when we’re not dreaming of far-off places, we’re doing the bidding of darling Rusty (he runs the roost over here), trying to defeat each other in Smash Brothers (we bought ourselves a Nintendo Switch for Christmas – best gift ever, the nephews agree), caring for our sprouting herbs, and I’m slowly but surely chipping away at the pile of books I’ve never read/finished. Did you watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? If you haven’t it’s a new show on Netflix that is all about recognizing which items in your home bring you joy and which do not. I love a good organizing method and I immersed myself in her show while going through our own home using her method. My books were the hardest to go through (my closet has only about 20-25 items in it now!) and I discovered after categorizing them, that there were a lot of books I had never read or had not finished. And yet, I have bought numerous new books online or in stores without truly thinking about if I really needed it. So, many of those newer books I bought recently went in the “Donate” pile and I’m working on going through the “Never Read” pile before I buy another book. Because I’m only reading from that pile, I’ve found a plethora of new worlds and new ways of thinking – books have that kind of magic hidden within. Right now I’m reading The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder and I’m becoming even more fascinated by her. I think next will be a good fiction novel, probably the sequel to The Doldrums. (It’s a wonderful children’s book with beautiful illustrations.)

Mark Twain Quote | Nikki Jean Tran Copyright | www.nikkitranphotography.com

I’m learning that one does not need a career to be successful or happy. I was not the type of kid growing up with dreams of being a police officer or dentist or engineer, and apparently I’m not that type of person as I come closer to turning 30. If I can have a job I like and still be able to create and take time to do things that make me happy, then I will have succeeded. Harvesting Basil - Nikki Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com Maybe it’s our generation that feels like we need to make a huge impact and start big businesses and build empires, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that it’s the tiny snippets of life that bring me joy; tea for two on cold evenings, learning a new piece on the piano, painting with zero expectations, practicing drawing while watching movies with Paul, escaping to new worlds with books, writing down thoughts in my diary while Paul plays the guitar, walks with Rusty as the sun goes down, trying a new recipe while the records play, and caring for as many plants as possible.

So, I shall be trying my hardest to simplify my life. Focusing on the good little things and forgetting about the unnecessary, always with the guiding questions of Will it bring me joy and Would I still do this if I wasn’t getting paid. Even Walt Disney said something similar:

“Money doesn’t excite me, my ideas excite me.”

And that should be enough, right?

It’s dusk, friends. I still have to get ready for the day and Rusty is slowly pushing me off of my own chair. Paul’s still working right across from me – I love when he works from home – and soon it will be dinner time. If you stayed with me all the way through this post, you’re the bee’s knees. Thank you for always reading and always supporting. I’ll try not to bring my woes and worries to the blog from now on. Only playing, no working. I like the sound of that. Stay warm, friends. xoxo

  1. LInda says:

    I think we might not only be kindred spirits but perhaps you may be my spirit animal. thank you for your transparency. So much of this post rings true with me as well. Follow your bliss!

  2. Gwen Larson says:

    :) :) :)

  3. Cathy Deiman says:

    I want to stay connected with you! God bless.

  4. Linnea says:

    Isn’t it just the hardest to enjoy the simple things? But there’s people out there that appreciate your endless talents regardless of the monetary value. Although I think you’d make the most LOVELY little book.




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