Way back in 1999, I started my business, Fighting 15s, as a wargames figures painting service, painting to commission. It did quite well and actually earned me a reasonable amount of money that supplemented my income as a freelance sub-editor, largely working on trade magazines. About four years ago, however, my eyes went, for want of a better word, poot!, and my working world fell about me in tatters. First, I couldn’t see computer screens well enough to edit, and I largely blamed it on the fact that the freelance almost always gets the ropiest computer monitor. And then I stopped being able to focus and to concentrate on the toy soldiers I enjoyed painting.
Fate had been cruel enough to strip me of reliable use of the one sense that allowed me to work and that permitted me to enjoy my work. I carried on, though. My sub-editing got worse and worse because I stopped being able to see spelling mistakes or even notice missing words; my figure painting just stopped. I was lucky in that a non-reading production job cropped up with the late Games International magazine, and that a financial group of magazines clearly still thought that I was better than other freelance sub-editors. But the rest of my editing work dried up.
I spent two years going for tests at the children’s section of the eye department at St Mary’s Hospital in Newport – the bit that tends to look after children with lazy eyes. It didn’t help me get better, but told me what I knew: that my eyesight was variable and unpredictable in how much it changed from test to test. Eventually I was told my sight had stabilized enough to warrant a prescription for new glasses with stronger prisms: prisms in essence kick your line of sight inwards or outwards so that both eyes focus on the same spot.
The new glasses were great for general use, but I still couldn’t concentrate at reading distances. And that meant no reading, no editing and worse no painting.
About two months ago, I started changing the way I work. Rather than work till everything is done, I set myself a financial target. If I pack orders equal in value to that target, which is based on my annual average for a day, I stop work and go and do something in the house or garden. After a few weeks I decided I felt like painting toy soldiers again, and resolved to paint for an hour or so if I felt like it in the evening. I actually managed to complete some units and finish a commission that I had stopped two years earlier. In short, I stopped working myself all hours of the day and began to relax more.
Last week I felt so great I tried using my old, weaker glasses. They appear to be sufficient, and the newer glasses seem too strong all of a sudden. For the Isle of Wight Festival I even managed to wear only non-prescription sunglasses for the event, with none of the headaches I usually suffer. This week, optically I feel great, and almost hopeful that everything has returned to normal.
I’m not going to push it. Painting when I feel like it is very much the order of the day. I doubt if I can ever again manage to paint for longer than two hours. But it’s absolutely great to be able to do something that I love again.