Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: March 2011

Safety, self-reliance and other lies

(my “guard” dog)

It's a funny thing.

There are all kinds of things that make us feel safe, that don't really provide long-term safety.
There are all kinds of meanings and definitions and feelings that accompany safety: rest, peace, relaxation, freedom, want.

Safety's my theme this year, so I've been paying attention to it.
Noticing when I (or others) use the word.
Noticing when I feel safe.
When I feel unsafe.
How I react and what I assume without thinking.

After three months, here's what I got so far (I promise it relates to business, eventually):

Safety = the ability to create my own escape?

After the break-ins (all three happened when we weren't at home), I used to lay in bed and run through escape scenarios. What would I do if someone broke in the back door? The front door? Would I have time to snap the dog's leash on him or should I just haul him out the window and let him run away? Would I go out the window or the door? Who's house could I run to? Is my cell phone charged? Should I just hid inside and call 911?

I came to think of safety as self-reliance.
If only I was smart enough and strong enough and worked hard enough, I would be ok.

But the self-reliance was getting in the way of my best work. When I thought, “I have to do this“, I get cramped and tight and unable to see big and clear (which is one of my gifts, the engine that runs this business).

In this self-reliant, tight space, I trusted that I could sell enough to pay our bills (my husband was tragiclaly underemployed for most of the last year). I knew that I was smart enough and strong enough, if I just worked hard enough.

And that's gave me some peace…as long as I kept pushing.

But all that cramped pushing covered up my true strength, my true safety: connections + creating.

I can't do it alone.
I need people. I need clients and students and friends and encouragement and mentors.

My best work (and thus, my place of safety) occurs when I tune into my connections (to my clients, to my friends) and I create what they need.

When I make the yarn you ask for.
When I create the classes that answer your questions.
When I create clarity for a confused IdeaStormer.

I thought my ability to work hard enough, to create enough to sell enough was keeping me safe, but it's not.
Not  in a vacuum.
Not when it's alone with my stress and my fear.

The safety I felt  was there, it was just a layer deeper: it was knowing that I was creating and that I was in relationship with my people, my world, your needs.

Even though I was in connection and in creation, I didn't realize it. I thought it was the self-reliance, the ability to do the thing I needed to do. So I built systems that made it easier. Systems for creating, selling, connecting.

These systems are useful (and most of the businesses need a few more systems)…but I eventually turned the system into the point of it all.

Completely missing the point.
Good systems can help you connect with your people and create a space for your creativity.

But I was using them to disconnect. To keep working harderharderharder.

Letting go

Now that I know that's not where my safety (and sustainability) come from, I've decided to take a step back from those systems.
To create (or not) as it comes to me.
To connect (or not) as I have the energy for.

This sabbatical will give me time to find the truly supportive systems and to work with the inner taskmaster who is convinced that we will die destitute if I don't keep working harderharderharder.  It's an experiment: will I become desitute (unlikely)? Will my businesses collapse?

I don't have any answers.

I wish I could sum this up with some answer.
Some sure thing.

But isn't that point?
There's not a sure thing.

There's just me and there's you and there's what we create for each other, to help each other or to delight each other.



Sabbatical 2.0

Last December I had good plan. I was going to take 2 weeks away from my “public” work and write and plot and read and refill.

I called it a sabbatical.

But then my house got broken into while I was Seattle. And we suddenly packed everything we own into a storage space and moved our little family into a very tiny, very temporary space. Oh, and there were the holidays. And travel. And no one bought anything for 3 weeks (a never-before streak that freaked me right out).

My sabbatical was more work and hassle than working.
It wasn't a rest, it was a marathon of stress.

And when it was over, I jumped right back into everything.
Big wholesale orders. Big classes. Big sales.

But as my latest class comes to an end and I start to plan the next thing, I keep pondering that sabbatical. What could it have been like?
What would that mindful stepping-back have felt like if life didn't jump in?

Can I have a do over?
Is that allowed?

A question of permission.

As the World's Best Boss (my mug says so!), what do I allow in this business (life)?

I'm allowed to

  • take short breaks
  • take long breaks
  • to keep working on the stuff I love.

I'm allowed to try this sabbatical again.
But this time, with a better container (length of time, specific experiments). I won't keep myself from the stuff I love. I will figure out what, exactly, I want the sabbatical from.

What's the stuff that I love?

  • My CraftyBiz Kitchen. Working with them one-on-one, teaching a class each week.
  • Talking, sharing, tweeting, being social.
  • Yarn: spinning, dyeing, designing.
  • Writing.

So what do I really want a break from?



Is that all?

Yes. The planning, organizing and all the work associated with selling. Classes, yarn, patterns, books. All of it. I just want to make make make.

Ok! We can do that!

As the World's Best Boss,

I hereby grant permission to take a sabbatical from all selling until June.

Really? Is it that easy?

Well, there may be questions, concerns (chief among them…can I really afford to stop selling?) and weirdness. There will be exploring (will I have more time? more energy?) and experimentations (what would it be like if I just made what I made and then put it up, without fanfare?).

Why June?

It seems like enough time to really take notes and experiment. 2 weeks was way too short. 2-3 months seems better. Also, June 3rd is my birthday and it's the anniversary of this site. I have ideas for celebrating.

NO selling?

Here's the thing: you can always buy this stuff if you need help in your CraftyBiz. More stuff (like a book) may even quietly join that stuff. And I'll always be adding yarn to to the yarn shop (because I can't stop myself from making it) and sending my yarn to shops and craft shows.

But what I mean is that I won't be spending time planning how to sell something. I won't be consciously selling. In fact, I'll be consciously not selling, just creating + refining. When I start to sell again, I hope to be more clear about what I do, how I help and what exactly I want to spend my time doing.

It all comes back to safety

Tomorrow, I'll talk about how not-selling is safer than selling. Yeah, weird.

Irony alert! I have 3 spots in the CraftyBiz Kitchen, the only place to get the classes  and books I make for the next 3 months. I thought I should tell you (I know a few of you have been waiting since December): You can grab a spot here and have an inside look at how this not-selling is going to work.

Craft Film Club

Do you know about the Craft Film Club Mercedes started?
It's not too late to join!

This month I'm the hostess, which means I get to pick the movies and encourage y'all to share your thoughts, creative inspirations and projects.

March's Picks:

Amelie (on Netflix, on IMDB)
Umbrellas of Cherbourg (on Netflix, on IMDB)

Ok, the French major in me has to point out that their titles are SO much more fabulous in their native French! So if it's not terribly pretentious , I'm going to refer to them by their French names.

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain

I first saw this gem on January 4th, 2002 as an enthusiastic sophmore French major with my adorable boyfriend (who grew up to be my husband) at a little art theater in downtown Dayton. The Neon only has 2 screens, but they have a fantastic coffee bar, wine beer and fancy popcorn and plush velvet seats.

I remember feeling delighted (and a little shocked) throughout the whole movie. Who knew movies could be this drenched in mood and color and bonhomie?

I was smitten.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg

I've only seen this movie once, on the recommendation of Jane Brockett in The Gentle Art of Domesticity. Coloful, bright and yes, a musical. Completely, delightfully bright (and parapluies is just a fun word to say). Parapluies!

Why these movies?

I picked these two movies because of their use of color to illicit mood (and because in 7 years of studying French I watched a zillion french movies and want to share a few of them with you). I also think that Amelie had to  be inspired just a little by the magically musical world of Parapluies…and maybe a bit by Catherine Deneuve's style.

I can't wait to see what crafty projects they inspire for you!

I plan on making at least a yarn inspired by each of them…what are you going to make?



Postscript:  An update for you who have been waiting!
I'm deep in writing mode on the Guidebook for everything-I-know-about-marketing-your-handmade-goodness (yeah, I don't have a name for it yet). You can get first dibs on it (along with getting it first, you'll also get to help me write it) by signing up here.

Note: If you're in the Bake Sale Marketing class, you're getting it as part of the class.

Podcast: How I roll

Remember how we talked about reassessing at the beginning of the month?

Right after I wrote that post, I felt the need to record a podcast.
But a wood chipper showed up outside my window. And then I had to walk the dog.

But then I came in, maybe 30 minutes after the initial idea and recording my first podcast! It's rough and unedited with no music, but I'm embracing the freshness of it (knowing that if I wait to edit, I'll never post it).

podcast photo

Download the podcast here.

Things I mention:
My Reassess post
KnitCast (Dude, it was longer than I thought! I started podcast-dreaming in Feb 2005!)
Leonie's Donkey


Please remember:

I didn't fancify the audio at all. It's a bit quiet and it won't show up all pretty in iTunes, but let's embrace that as part of the lesson: ride the donkey, friends.

I may do this again, I may not.

I definitely need a name for the podcast that I may or may not ever start…can you help me come up with one? Share your ideas in the comments!


cutest driving companion ever

This isn't what I was going to write about today.

But it's the first day of the new month.
And spring is coming.
And this morning I read Leonie's Guide to Wild Donkey Secret Productivity and Tara's Get Started + Fail post and well, I'm thinking about getting things done.

Or rather, how I get them done.

Leonie and Tara pretty much summed it up: when I have an idea, I ride it.
I work it.
I take all the creative energy and I just give in to that part of the cycle.
And (just as importantly!) when I'm done, I rest. I do nothing. I putter and sip tea and recover.

But the part that they both left out is that I am always always keeping track of every stray idea.
Writing down.
Listing, scratching, gently non-planning.
(More on this later this week)

And reassessing.

Every once in a while (like the beginning of a new month?) I go back through and reassess. What's a real idea and what waits for later? Did the donkey I rode in on get me where I want to be? Or do I want to go elsewhere?

What's the big picture?

So today, on this most lovely of new months, let's take a look at what 2011 has been so far:

What steps have you taken towards your Big Dream for this year?

What has improved?

What important thing have you forgotten about?

What is most exciting to you this very moment?


Feel free to answer in the comments or in your journal or on the Facebook page. I'll be sharing my answers in the coming week.