To answer a fairly frequently asked question, no, I do not "make a living" from having a web site about HSPs!

Whereas I do get a few dollars from kind people who contribute a few dollars to my virtual "tip jar" (thank you!) along with a few dollars from The HSP Bookstore (do visit it-- handpicked books for HSPs!), HSP Notes is basically a "labor of love," and has been since its inception in 2002.

Alas, we all have to pay the rent and eat and in the current social structure that tends to require money. When you're a Highly Sensitive Person, the challenge comes in finding a way to "do something for money" that doesn't involve selling your soul to some soulless organization where your contribution does little to further the betterment of humanity and the world. Which tends to leave you with that other thing many HSPs-- and especially the self-employed-- seem to loathe: self-promotion.

Like many who reinvent themselves, my background is not at all related to what I do for a living: I have a degree in Finance and Marketing with a minor in English. The closest I have come to using my education "appropriately" was owning an import and retail business followed by some years as a technical writer in the IT field.

After learning I was an HSP-- in 1997-- I started reorganizing my life (and lifestyle) towards something more "HSP friendly." Central to this was the insight that I was never able to work well "in public" without experiencing an eternal background current of anxiety... much of it caused by a dynamic of wanting to do things well in environments that primarily valued doing things fast. Hence the need to do something that would allow me to work from home.

My life today consists of something I like to call "Patchwork Economics." That is, working with a variety of things that-- by themselves-- could not earn me a living wage, but when added together becomes something close to "enough," even if they do not amount to any serious degree of what the world might consider wealth or "success."

As a child, I was very keen on stamp collecting. No, not the stamps made of rubber... the ones you put on letters. Unlike many kids who give up their stamp collections in their teens, I never gave up mine. By the time I reached my 30's, I had gained a fair amount of expertise and lots and lots of contacts... so turning my old hobby into a sideline business was not a stretch, and it represented my first steps towards employment independence.

These days, my Scandinavian Stamp Specialist business provides a modest but steady income-- by no means enough to support us, but certainly enough to make it worthwhile... and the great thing is that I get to do something I really enjoy tinkering with. To a large degree, I can thank the development of the Internet for making this (as well as my other) business possible... without the advent of sites like eBay and ecommerce in general, it would not have been possible.

Working with old postage stamps is actually a very "HSP Friendly" field: It's a largely solitary and very quiet thing to do, and I get to use "attention to detail" (among other things) to my advantage.

Walking on the beach and picking up rocks, shells and other interesting objects has been a favorite pastime since I was a child. I have always felt drawn to water, and to the beach-- I find peace while I am there.

In 2006, I moved from Austin, Texas to Western Washington, and settled in the small coastal city of Port Townsend. Soon I fell into a regular routine of walking on the beach for relaxation-- a "walking meditation," of sorts. As I have done since childhood, I would pick up interesting things I found along the way.

Every day, as I would walk, I would think to myself and daydream about how amazing it would be if I could only get paid for walking on the beach.

Then-- quite by accident-- I met a woman who made jewelry and art with sea glass and old pieces of beach pottery, much like the things I'd been picking up for years and years. One thing led to another, and soon I discovered that there was an entire cottage industry of artisans, jewelers and craftspeople who worked exclusively with found and "upcycled" objects. Not only that, but many of them bought their materials from "pickers," rather than beach comb, themselves.

Out of this, my second business North Beach Treasures was born... and for almost 10 years, it has supported a substantial portion of our living needs.

Once again, we are talking about a very HSP-friendly was to make a living. I get to spend many hours on the beach, walking with only the sound of waves and seagulls as company. Of course, it's not for everyone because I am out there in all sorts of weather... including an occasional snowstorm in winter, and not everyone is up to walking 12-15 miles across rocky terrain to get to an almost inaccessible beach. For me, however, it is wonderful!

In her book "The Highly Sensitive Person," Dr. Elaine Aron mentions that one of the common traits of HSPs is creativity. Many of us are drawn to the arts-- whether it be painting or sculpture, or performing arts, or something similar.

I spent many years "wrestling" with my creativity or, rather, what I perceived to be a lack of creativity. I always considered myself to have zero artistic talent, and whereas I can appreciate music, I always seemed to have 12 left thumbs when it came to learning how to play an instrument.

Eventually, I consigned myself to the reality that my "creativity" had to come in the form of writing... even though I was no good at fiction or poetry or anything that even remotely resembled literature.

I hadn't actually thought about it as "art" or "creativity," but I have drawn small "doodles" on pieces of paper since childhood. It was "something to do" during boring moments. To be honest, it was something to do in school when I wasn't paying attention... which was most of the time. In time these mandala-like geometric designs became more and more complex.

A few years ago, Sarah "wondered out loud" why I didn't try putting my designs on rocks... since we had a multitude of them around the house, brought back from our beach combing trips. So I did.

It has been a very long creative journey from those first scribbles, to the first stone (literally decorated with a Sharpie marker!), to today's very colorful stones, as pictured above. If you click on the photo, you can see a larger version.

Anyway, I call them "Alchemy Stones" (a play on taking something very plain and ordinary-- a stone-- and turning it into a "treasure;" as Alchemists of olden days would try to turn lead into gold) and they are my latest venture, and hopefully one that will end up substantially contributing to the way we make our living around here.

What is particularly significant about the Alchemy Stones is that I finally found a true creative outlet that filled a "hole" where I used to believe I really wasn't creative, at all. Not only does painting the stones offer me a way to express creativity, it also is my "happy place" and my meditation... and there are other benefits, as well... but that's another story for another time!


  1. Thank you for this lovely meditation on art, making a living, putting yourself out there...I think of these issues all the time myself and it was refreshing to see the creative ways you are playing with this ongoing process. I love your Alchemy stones! They are just beautiful!

    1. Hi Emily-- thanks for stopping by and commenting, and for your kind words!

  2. I am 32 and am fed up with the unpleasant call centre job n people n environment, planning to pursue a career of film making .would it be an ideal career?

    1. Call centre jobs are probably some of the worst for HSPs-- no private space at all, and generally a very competitive atmosphere.

      Whether film is "ideal" for you or not really depends on you. The key is whether it is something where the rewards for being involved are greater than the effort and energy you put forth... while also making a living. I don't know much about the film industry, but I have met several HSPs who were involved in making documentary films, and were very happy with their work.

  3. Peter,
    I'm a nearly-30-yr-old, recently-discovered HSP. After my husband and I made a huge life-changing turn last year (Austin, TX is our new home) by leaving behind everything (mostly a lot of unhealthy baggage), I decided to go back to school to pursue my bachelors in psychology. I thought it was my ticket to a better way of life but it's been miserable instead. I've spent weeks confused/overwhelmed about what to do. After reading your life story, there was a feeling of relief. I keep trying to fit into "normal" standards of work because I hear other HSP's are doing it but it's never been for me. We left behind that mindset to start a new path for ourselves but I haven't up to this point allowed myself to go for it. Thank you for sharing your life with others so that some of us can be encouraged to take that step outside the realm of "typical life" when we are bombarded by a culture that tries to tell us differently!


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