Rediscovering my childhood hobby made me a better freelancer

I picked up the paintbrush and remembered why I love creating

Painting by Ebony-Storm Halladay.


This week is a very special issue of TPF, because it’s the first one I’ve ever published not written by me. For the last six weeks, Ebony-Storm Halladay has been working as my editorial assistant, publishing pre-written issues of the newsletter, curating the reading lists and generally keeping me sane while I’ve been off writing my book. To mark her last week on TPF, she’s written a lovely piece about how rediscovering a childhood hobby not only kept her sane throughout lockdown, but also rekindled her professional passions, too.


At the beginning of lockdown, I started watching the Joy of Painting. If you haven’t seen it, the late artist Bob Ross teachers viewers how to paint with a range of accessible materials and brush techniques.

It was my dad’s fault, really. He recorded a bunch of them and suggested I watch them because ‘I used to love painting.’

And he was right. I did love painting. And drawing. In fact, I’d once spent a month in Valencia sketching all of the beautiful catholic architecture. As the first few weeks of lockdown became the first few months, I watched Bob Ross religiously. Was I hypnotised by the hair? Or maybe just the simple poignancy of his life quotes?

Either way, one lazy Sunday afternoon, I picked up my paintbrush again. It had been years since I’d created something purely for pleasure. As the pandemic set in, my biggest contract shrunk, and I was trying to deal with the anxiety of not knowing whether I could continue freelancing. I was scared that the life I’d built for myself wouldn’t be sustainable.

So I painted butterflies, koi carp, and made a plethora of sketches. Learning how to capture the form of the Japanese fish reminded me of how persistent I can be when I’m solving a problem. And though my paintings were amateur, brightly coloured but simply constructed, this observation helped me understand how I add value for clients.

I brought child-like curiosity, enthusiasm, and creativity to my client projects. And every time I laid a bare, white canvas on my easel, I found myself exploring different skills, and coming up with new ways to work with people.

The intention was never to paint in order to stimulate my professional work, yet somehow that’s exactly what happened. When you start painting, you have to consider the entire picture even when you’re working on the tiny details. And once I transferred this mindset to my client work, I began to see where I was adding the most value, and how I could contribute to their end goal. I even managed to pick up a few new gigs along the way.

Revisiting an old skill nourished my creativity, but more importantly, it made me feel less terrible about the state of the world. Earphones in, paintbrush in hand, Pinterest on my phone for reference images.

As we head into winter and things start to feel a bit bleak, I’m going to keep painting. There’s something about reconnecting with a childhood hobby that reminds us of who we are at our core. We can tap into those original skills, realign our intentions ahead of the new year, and remind ourselves how awesome and talented we are.

Our inner child is the basis for everything we do in our lives as adults. And so I guess it makes perfect sense, that by realigning with six-year-old paint-splattered Ebony, I was able to consolidate some of my strongest freelance skills.


The Reading List


Calls for pitches