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A recap of 2022: about success and journaling tools for reflection

When several people asked me how 2022 has been work-wise, my first feeling was that it was a great year, but not my most successful one. Why? I soon realized that was based on the fact that I took on less client work, which resulted in a lower income than last year. Even though this was a very intentional choice, a part of me felt less accomplished than the year before. Maybe you recognize the the feeling? That success is often measured in bigger, better and more? When you see all the many online business coaching advertisements: financial growth is what matters and what everyone wants. Right?

But when I took the time to really sit down and reflect, I realized it was actually a year filled with growth, amazing highlights and one to be very proud of. More and more wonderful things kept popping up in my head while doing this. So I thought it would be fun to do a little recap blog and also share a few of my tips for you about journaling, reflecting and determining what success means for you.

Bucket list item: check!

First of all, after working on it for more than a year, in November I launched my own line of stationery products with Vaessen Creative. The fact that you can now actually buy products with my name on it, is just absolutely bucket list worthy! And we still have a few products getting ready for production, so the adventure continues in 2023.

Material nerd & creative influencer: check!

I'm also very proud to have continued to work together with some amazing creative brands, like hosting online workshops for Winsor&Newton, edding, Be Creative Shop and making social media content for Royal Talens / Ecoline, Tombow, Uni-ball Posca and Spectrum Noir. I’m a proud nerd when it comes to materials. I love swatching, testing and experimenting with art materials and mostly: translating what I learned about a material into art, blogs, social media posts and workshops. Although the word ‘influencer’ has gotten a bit of a bad name by now, when it comes to creativity, I’m happy to share my knowledge and ‘influence’ people to be more creative!

Working next to the old masters

Definitely one of my favorite collaborations to look back on this year. After working together in 2021, in February the Kröller Müller museum asked me to draw portraits of visitors during one of their expositions. Working in between these amazing artworks and doing what I love most (drawing all day long). That pretty much sums up a dream job to me!

Taking the stage

It was also a year with several great promotional moments! I was interviewed on the KreaDoe stage during both the spring and fall editions of this major event. I did my first podcast interview with Margriet from the Gouwe Klouwe Podcast. My studio was featured in the online newspage In de buurt (a daily highlight btw: I'm still so happy to get on my bike to my studio every day).

A step towards another dream goal

And speaking of interviews: I took another step towards a bucket list goal: I was featured in an online item of Flow magazine about creatives and their art journals! I was very honored to be asked (and will continue to work towards that goal that my work will also be featured in their printed magazine one day ;).

Sharing my creativity and helping others grow

On the verge of the new year I pushed myself to launch a long awaited new online course, sharing my love for portraits and colored pencils. A major shout out to business mentor Yvette for helping me with everything behind the scenes for this! The fact that now almost 100 of you are joining (amongst whom a lot who also took my previous courses) is the biggest compliment as a teacher. Every DM, comment and review saying that people have grown more confident in their drawing skills and surprised themselves that they now learned how to draw is seriously so rewarding!

Stepping inwards One of the reasons I took on less client work was to figure out where I stood creatively. The year before I spend so much time on result driven work. For social media, workshops and clients. Yes, it did result in that seemingly desired growing income. But there was hardly time left to play and enjoy the creative process. The entrepreneur in me thrived, but the artist ánd kid in me felt terribly neglected. So 2022 became the year of a deep dive into my creative journey, with the help of Femke Veltkamp - who I've been working with for a few years now. It gave me so many useful insights, both on a personal as well as professional level.

The most important takeaway for the new year? How important it is for me to make time for the creative process. It’s not a luxury to make time to play: as an artist (and I dare say as humans as well) it’s an absolute necessity! And therefore my word for this year is flow. I don’t want a jam-packed work schedule anymore. I want to be able to navigate the day based on that creative flow and not an endless to-do list (although I love checking off those to-do boxes ;). A very big challenge in this world that focuses so much on output and productivity.

NienkeVletter blog x Holbein pencils_swatches on black

Personal highlights

And let’s not forget a little look at some personal highs this year too. 2022 was the year I turned 40 and threw a party with my family, friends and big balloons (see, never stop playing like a kid ;-). I asked my friends to gift me experiences instead of presents and that was the best idea! From catching up over a 3 course lunch or a yoga class in the sun, to a really fun boat trip and seeing a musical this year. My family and in-laws gifted me money for a painter's easel and weekly painting lessons, which I’m continuing to join this year. The fiancé planned a sunny weekend trip to Porto to celebrate my birthday. Speaking of my fiancé: we started to prepare our wedding (which is happening in 2023) and I got my wedding dress! We ended the summer in September with a dream trip to South-Africa. We visited our friends who run Crossing Lodges, followed by another 10 days in beautiful Cape Town (in this Airbnb with the absolute best views ever).

What a year, right?!

Tips for journaling and reflection

We tend to look back at the end of every year, but a little less during that year! And after 365 days you often only remember the biggest highs (or lows), but not the little things that make life. Like a lovely museum visit, a fun game night with friends, or that time during a family weekend where everyone almost peed their pants laughing because your mom just fell in the water posing for a picture after successfully trying SUP for the first time (true story, sorry mom ;-).

By now it’s scientifically proven that writing 3 things that you're grateful for every day will enhance your happiness. Personally we often do this during dinner, where we name the three things that were most fun that day.

In 2021 I did a monthly review and I'm bringing it back in my journal practice this year. For this I assign one page per month in my journal where I sum up:

  • Highlights: can be both personal or professional and could be anything from a memorable diner with friends to a nice work accomplishment.

  • Projects: to easily remember what I worked on that month.

  • What else?: a short summary on other things that happened that month, which can also be about the not so good things that happened.

  • Next month: take-aways for the next month. Could be good things I wanna keep or want more off, or things I wanna do differently next month.

By keeping all of this short and simple on one page or spread, it’s easy to keep up and to flip back through at the end of the year! Of course you could also do this every week, or how about in a joint journal with your family?

I’m curious to know if and how you journal. Let me know in the comments! And for now, I wish 2023 will be wonderful to you, with all the high, lows and in betweens that come with it.

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