Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: April 2010

Clarity, now.

Last week, I made a change: I turned my bricks+mortar yarn shop into a mobile, traveling yarn road show.

Before I made the decision, it felt huge.
And so important.
Important to me.
Important to my family.
Important to my customers.

I struggled with it, internally, before I could tell anyone else.
It wasn't the decision that was hard to make (that was actually super simple), it was the telling. The making public.

I was, well, afraid of the reaction.
Would they be disappointed? mad? annoyed?

And through all this wondering, I realized:

None of that matters.

While I certainly value my community, their (whoever they are) reaction can't make the decision.

It is my business, my life and my decision.
I can't let other's (percieved) opinions decide.
I have to decide.

I know what is best for my business, for my community, for my personal work of making handmade, eco-friendly yarn, for my life.

But, before I could announce it, I had to get really (really!) clear with the why and the how. I had to know that it was right. I had to be strong in my decision.

Once I got there, it wasn't so hard to announce it.
So I made the announcement.

And I was shocked.
Everyone is happy.

My family.
My community.
My customers.

Why the big difference between what I thought the reaction would be and what it actually was?

Because I came to it from a place of certainty and peace, I can pass that along.

The after-school special lesson?
If I choose love.
If I choose honesty.
If I choose openness. With myself. With others.

If I do that, I can share it.
Love, honesty, openness, peace.

Getting tangled in the but what will they think, keeps us all tangled together.
Clarity in my work can bring clarity to my community.


Something very odd went very wrong with my website this week.
Something about Domain Name Servers pointing to the wrong thing. My host (HostDime) had superquick customer service that helped me fix it, but it took another 48 hours to “resolve”, so even though you may have been able to see it, I got nothing but a sad 401 message for a few days.

The timing couldn't have been worse, as I just announced a BIG  decision (and change) with my yarn shop, A Novel Yarn.  I had hoped to talk more about that decision here, in this space, this whole week.

I worried that the decision, coupled with my broken website would look…wrong. Like something was wrong. Like I was absent. Like I had just left.

And then, I realized (again and again).
What's a big deal to me and in my business is not a big deal to my customers. Or my friends.

What seem disasterous to me and in my business barely registers for you (if you even notice at all).

What seems like IS a gigantic decision to me is just mildly interesting for the “public”.

And this is good to remember, for the future:

  • It's probably not ALWAYS going to be a big deal
  • It's probably not disastrous
  • It is probably not going to rock their world as much as it rocks yours.

Or, the Twitter version (which I tweeted as a self-reminder during the decision-making:

Unless you have the nuclear launch codes, this will probably NOT result in DOOM doom DOOM!

Not on a Monday

Today isn't Monday.

Oh, sure, you are reading this on a Monday. But I am not writing it on Monday.

Because I don't work Mondays.


Because everyone needs to rest.

And not just a midday nap (although I'm a fan!).

A real, totally clear, totally un-eventful day of rest.
Without expectations or appointments or changing out of pjs.


Remember my theory of the Cycle of Creativity? Our creativity needs a fallow period, in order to, well, continue to be creative.

But so does our…everything. Our body, our mind, our spirit, our energy.

Everything. Needs. A. Break.

The fallow periods of the creative cycle always force me to take a creative break.
But I've learned that if I wait for my body/mind/energy to force me to take a break, it's too late. Usually I get the flu or a sinus infection or just an overarching listlessness.

But it's more serious than that.
If I don't take a break, my work suffers.
I go slowly.
I get distracted.
I make mistakes (not easy to do with yarn-making, but tragic in bookkeeping!)

Taking a day off, really, truly off, means that I return to my work on Tuesday with a freshness. Usually a few new yarn ideas, a new blog post and the energy to spin, photograph, or (heaven forbid) spreadsheet all day long.

Why a whole day?

Well, I was raised (and still practice) honoring the Sabbath.
The Sabbath meant, for us, Sunday. We'd head to church, go home for lunch, do the dishes and then lounge.
Reading, napping, crafting were mandatory.

My fondest childhood memories are of Sunday afternoons spent at the park. Eating take-out on a quilt, playing frisbee, walking the trails, laying in sunlit patches with my book held up to block the sun from my eyes.

And just because I'm an adult with 2 businesses, some co-owned sheep, and a pile of dishes doesn't mean I need to give up that time of rest and lounge-y-ness.

In fact, all those keep-me-busy to-do-list items proves that I need the sabbath more than ever.

Why Monday?

A Novel Yarn is open Tuesday – Saturday. Sometimes, on Sundays, Jay has to work and while he works (after church), I head to the coffeeshop and catch up on computer-work. Monday is the only day of the week we can both take off.

Even when he does have Sundays off, I end up working or we make plans with the family to hang out at the farm or run some errands (which is hard to do in a town that closes down on Sundays). In other words, Sunday never ends up being a day where I can lay around in my pjs if I wanted to.

And pj-wearing is a mandatory part of my Official Day Off.

Why so strict?

I used to let my day off be determined by what was going on that week. If we could lay around for part of Sunday, I'd count that and get back to work on Monday.

But, oh. That does not work. I ended up doing a little work every day and feeling like I was getting nothing done.

It's much easier to honor my day off if I set up clear boundaries around it.

No work email, no shipping, no work photography, no work writing, no work spinning, no answering questions or moderating comments or applying to craft shows. No bookkeeping or checkbook balancing or bill-paying.


What's left, with good, strong boundaries, is a big open field to run around in.
I can go exploring.
Or sip tea on my porch.
Or watch movies.
Or lay in bed.
Or meet a friend for coffee.
Or lay on a blanket in a sunny spot and read with the book held aloft to block the sun from my eyes.

What would you do on your day off?

In which I confess…

Lean in a little closer.
I have a secret to share.

Don't tell anyone, but I have a super-hero alter-ego. You know her as the Blonde Chicken.

And no, she doesn't fight for chicken rights (although we are both vegetarians).
And she doesn't dress like a chicken (because that would be ridiculous).
She's the Blonde Chicken for a totally adorable reason (if you don't know the story, go read it here), that hasa nothing to do with chickens (and only circumstantially with being blonde).

Even if you don't know it, you've already met her.
Well, you've met her if you thought you were talking to me, at a craft show or at TNNA, or on Twitter or on Etsy or anywhere that has anything to do with yarn.
(If you ran into me at the grocery store, then yeah, it was just me)


For the past, oh, 4 years she's been running the show.

The Blonde Chicken started by approaching a local yarn shop (in Dayton, OH) and offering to dye some custom  colors (I was busy managing a paint-your-own-pottery studio at the time). Then she photographed more yarn and put it on Etsy.

When I moved to Tennessee and got a desk job, she was NOT detered.
She took the yarn to an art gallery and did a spining demonstration during an Art Walk (the nerve!).
She's the one that applies to craft shows (and then has the guts to actually GO and talk to STRANGERS) and twitters and heck, lots of the time she writes what you find on this here website.


The Blonde Chicken is strong and brave and silly and passionate about eye-popping brights and socially-responsible fiber.

And when I first ventured online, as a dreamy girl with a teeny tiny business idea, I was too shy. Too shy to post on a forum. To shy to blog. To shy to tweet.

I know you wouldn't believe it if you've met me at a craft show, but I am painfully shy.
Turn bright red and stutter-kind-of-shy. Painful!
I put off applying to craft shows because I could not imagine the horror of talking to people. real! live! people!

So I called upon Blonde Chicken. She jumped in with both feet; making friends, snapping pictures, writing, dyeing, spinning.

Everything that seems too too. Too overwhelming. Too scary. Too out-there.

All those things, the Blonde Chicken does.
With silly music blaring and dye pots bubbling and chat a-chattering, we do it together.

That's just weird.

Yeah, I know.

But the thing is…it's helpful.

Helpful to not feel like I have to put myself out there.
Helpful to ease my way into it.
Helpful to remember that somewhere in me is the ability to do epic stuff.

I've been thinking a lot about the role of the Blonde Chicken in my business because now that I have a real, in-person yarn shop and teach real, in-person classes, a lot more people are meeting me. Tara.

And I realized that, in the beginning, I needed Blonde Chicken. Needed her to go out and biggify the us and the yarn.

But now, thanks to growing with Blonde Chicken, I'm not so shy. I'm not so afraid to say “Hi, I'm Tara, I make yarn.

I'm tempted to end this with a sappy “If you're nervous about biggifying…find your inner super-hero”, but, well, that's too sappy.
Instead, I just want to say, in the words of a multi-national corporation I don't even buy from: Just Do It.

Find the thing (Victoria-shmoria can help with that) and do the thing.
Put yourself out there, share your thing, be brave.
And if you just ca not imagine doing any of that, make up an alter-ego.

It'll be fun.
And weird.
I promise.

PS. Ha! I'm not the only one! The super-smart Maryann has an (imaginary) assistant, Tina! Love the hair, Tina!

The Cycle of Creativity

I have a theory:
Creativity is cyclical.

In my own work/life/business, I have these crazy full-of-ideas periods, followed by amazing get-stuff-done periods, followed by…today.
Stuckness, tiredness, I-don't-wanna-ness.

The cycle affects individual ideas (let's make a Learn to Knit kit!) and my  general, day-to-day creativity.

It starts with an idea, then a flow of ideas, then I get in the flow of making the ideas happen. This revving-up is my favorite part of the cycle. I would live here if I could.
I would camp here and do nothing but generate ideas and journal and plan all day long.
But then I get anxious to DO, to implement.

At the apex of the cycle is not just the flow of ideas, but the production, the work, the actual doing. In other words, creating.

But after that apex, as the projects continue to roll forward and the rush of ideas turns into a rush of details, sometime in the midst of doing, I slow.

And soon, the slowing is the overwhelming characteristic. No longer creating the thing, I'm either brunching (introducing the thing to the world) or I'm slowing down in the middle of the thing.

Following the slowing, comes the fallow period.

Despite being raised in the agricutural heartland, playing in cornfields, my days measured by the height of the corn: I haven't recognize or respect the fallow period until recently.

What does fallow even mean?

  • cultivated land that is not seeded for one or more growing seasons
  • undeveloped but potentially useful

I tried to ignore it.

Who wants to be “not seeded”?
Who wants “undeveloped”?

I tried to go right from the slowing, back to the doing.

But something in me resisted.
The ideas dried.
The inner pushpushpush halted.

I thought about napping.
I read for hours.
I baked, cleaned, strolled.

Before I recognized that this is a stage in the cycle, I kept pushing.
Pushing to get ideas.
Pushing to work on projects.
Pushing to work work work.
Pushing to get out of the un-doing and back to the doing.

But pushing got me nowhere.

Inexplicably, inexorably, unequivically the ideas came back.
First, just a trickle, then a stream and then a rush and I am back.
Back to doing, to planning, to creating.

Whether I push or not, my creativity cycled.
And, as Teresa said on Twitter today:

When you stop pushing it creates a vacuum that will fill back up with better ideas than you'd been pushing for!

When I recognize the fallow period, when I respect it, when I rest in it, I create a blank space, a well that is soon filled with ideas and energy.

Today, this week, I'm in a bit of a fallow period.
But it's ok, it's just part of the cycle.