Esther Wane had a successful career in finance but it wasn’t until she was on maternity leave after having her daughter that she realised how much her creativity had been stifled.
Esther vowed to re-discover her creativity and passion to show her daughter that you can follow your dreams. Here’s Esther’s story…
A career in finance
As a child I was highly creative. I loved to write, perform and read stories. I longed to be an actor and a writer but I was persuaded that it would be hard for me to make a living. I trained as a barrister in the hope that would satisfy me but then struggled to find a pupillage I wanted. By this time I had student debts and rent to pay so I retrained as a Chartered Accountant, then going on to work as a Compliance Officer for investment banks, rising to Executive Director level at Goldman Sachs and UBS.
Yearning for creativity
In spite of my success though the yearning to do something with my creativity had not gone away. During my maternity leave with my first child, my daughter, I had struggled with post-natal depression, which I now believe was related to my frustrated creativity. Seeing this beautiful human being and recognising that she would have dreams and passions she would want to pursue I realised I would have to show her the way to work for them.
Over the next couple of years I performed in amateur productions locally and when I was on maternity leave with my son I grabbed my opportunity. I started taking evening classes at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and wrote the first draft of my novel, “The Way Home” (a love story about a couple suffering the effects of severe PND). I chose to leave my job at UBS and gained a place studying for an MA in Acting at ArtsEd. That was a dream come true and I had the great joy of being there for my 40th birthday.
After leaving drama school I knew I wanted to make a living out of acting and writing. I tried stage and film acting but struggled as it took me away from my young family. While doing some compliance training as I worked to find my niche I met someone who was voice acting from home. When my short term contract ended I contacted her and started the journey that took me to where I am today.
Following my passion
In my career I reached a point of success where I was supposed to feel fulfilled but didn’t. I wasn’t doing what I loved. My business came about because I wanted to create a life and way of working that really fulfilled my passions and gave me creative freedom.
In doing this I have found joy in every aspect of my life and wrote a book about my experiences as well as what I had learned from positive psychology, storytelling and mindfulness practice. This book is my second: “Be Your Own Hero: A Mindful Guide to Thriving in a Creative Life.” Having realised that it is possible to make a living and live in a mature relationship with creativity I want to guide others into their creative life, aware of the resilience and resources they have at their disposal, and ready to become the creative heroes they are meant to be.
I believe that creativity is key to us developing and growing as human beings and as a species. It is treated as child’s play but I believe it is the route to growth and wisdom in all disciplines and in all areas of life.
I had lived my back up plan for many years so I was determined to make my creative life work. I tried a few different ways until I found one that combined my passions and abilities with the ability to be paid for them. My journey is also far from over and I am constantly learning and discovering new areas that interest me and insights that I’d love to share with others.
Creativity & Faith
Creativity is my most important value, the energy that makes us want to make things better for ourselves and those we love, doing what we love with all the skills and resources we have.
Faith is another major value, in ourselves, in our support network, and in our creativity. If we are to step into the unknown with creativity we need to have faith that we will be OK whatever the outcome. Whether we achieve what we set out to do or something else we can always learn and move forwards from where we find ourselves.
The lowest point in my business journey was returning to work after my daughter was born. I had hoped work would take me out of my anxiety and depression but while I’d been away the financial crisis had hit and I returned to a very different place from the one I had left.
For a while I was lost and didn’t know what to do for the best. I relied on friends and family but they couldn’t really find a solution for me. I sought professional help for the anxiety I was suffering and started exploring what might help. After a few blind alleyways I found myself back on stage and my new life grew out of that.
Paying it forward
There have been many amazing moments in my life and business. My proudest one is when I reached the milestone of 100 audio-books and used it to raise money for Temwa for their community library in Malawi. Through the funds raised over 100 curriculum books have been added to the shelves and they are working their magic in supporting education and the community.
I am about to step on to the TEDx red circle at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, the place I first did my professional acting training. I am thrilled to be sharing my story and inviting others to grow up and get creative and this is on 16th November 2019 in London.
I am now an award winning audiobook narrator with over 130 titles and am booked for narration 2-3 months in advance usually. I have published my novel and my second book: “Be Your Own Hero: A Mindful Guide to Thriving in a Creative Life” is in the pipeline.
This second book is based on the hero’s journey and positive psychology along with my own journey. It forms the basis for my Creative Hero Workshops and Coaching for creative artists, leaders, entrepreneurs and teams. Into the future I’d love to carry on having creative freedom to explore my passions of acting and writing as well as guiding others into a mature relationship with their creativity so they can become the creative heroes they are meant to be.
Coping with stress and overwhelm
After leaving drama school I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do first. I had so many ideas. That was when my mindfulness practice started following Penny O’Connor’s advice (my Alexander Technique teacher), “If you don’t know what to do, do nothing.” I used the Headspace app, lay down on the floor in my bedroom and started to meditate, asking myself what I wanted to do next. I’d then listen for an answer and follow what it said. Gradually this became part of my day.
In order to be ready to perform, write and be present at my best I need a strong support framework around me. That is made up of my morning practice of meditation, journaling and reading something inspirational, which takes about an hour. I also look after my body by walking the dog, practicing yoga and strength training in the gym. I try to eat as well as I can and give myself the chance to sleep for eight hours each night.
I have also built up a strong community of support made up of friends, family, other gym and yoga students, actors, voiceovers and writers. I am aware of how important this community support is and have started my own local community, “The Creative Cauldron” in St Albans, to help creative people find each other.
What I think makes a ‘Calmpreneur’
This may seem counter-intuitive but I stay calm mainly because I don’t try to make myself calm. Emotions shift and change all the time and I found suppressing them just makes them wilder and stronger.
If I’m feeling off balance I pay attention to the emotion, consider where it is coming from, lean into the discomfort and let the energy flow through me.
If I’m angry or upset I try to take myself somewhere I can be with that in safety and without judgement so I can interrogate it and decide how I want to respond, rather than reacting in the heat of the moment. This often involves letting myself express my frustration through sounds or words or through copious tears. I’m lucky enough to have a soundproof room to do this in! Once the emotion has been recognised and expressed and I have a plan for how to deal with the cause of it balance returns and I am ready to move on.
A strong practice of meditation, mindfulness, prayer and journaling help me to stay balanced most of the time. I practice gratitude every evening and aim to be present as much as I can.
Also my work of audiobook narration is mindful in itself. I have to focus my attention on the text and the story I am telling, if my mind or emotions wander I have to bring them back to carry on. This has really helped to train my focus and attention, keeping me centred.
Advice to other entrepreneurs struggling with stress and overwhelm
Try not to be too hard on yourself. Early on in my journey I tried to give up self-doubt for Lent and discovered it is impossible. However I did write a collection of quotes (now on my Inspiring Thriving facebook group) where I talked to myself as if I were my own best friend and gave myself a bit of inspiration about how to reframe any negativity.
You are unique which means the business you create needs to be unique too. Have faith in your creative calling and keep checking in to see whether it is what you thought it was or whether there are new areas to explore. Your business is not going to look like anyone else’s and why should it?
Create a structure and plan that works for you so your business can work for you rather than consuming you. You are the most important element of your business and it cannot survive or thrive without you, which means you need to give yourself plenty of attention and treat yourself as your most valuable asset. Whether that is making sure you have time to dance, walk, play music, enjoy a soak in a hot bath or chat with a friend over coffee, it matters. Business success doesn’t happen overnight and you want to be able to enjoy it when it happens rather than being exhausted and strung out!
And finally, a few business tips…
- Build a business around your passions and abilities, not what you think they “should” be but what they are.
- Get advice, training and coaching from wherever you can, never stop learning.
- Recognise a career is not the same as an overnight success and you will need to develop a practice to support you as you challenge yourself and go into the unknown.
- Work on becoming the person you want to be, your own creative hero, doing what you love and shining your light for all to see.
- Have faith that you and your creativity will find a way to build a business and life you can thrive in.
Connect with Esther
Esther Wane, breathing language into life.
Esther is a storyteller and creative coach and is on a mission to inspire and support creative heroes on their journey to greatness.