Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: April 2011

In which sparkly shoes and a handknit invisibility cloak make taxes funner

Last week I had to do something really unpleasant (it had to do with taxes).

Even though I knew the worst-case-scenario was not actually all that bad, I still couldn't get over the really overwhelming sense of doomdoomdoom.
And it was manifesting in a crazy case of shaky hands and shaky voice.

I did not want to do this thing with my Minnie Mouse voice. I did not want to burst into tears.
This thing totally did not deserve tears (really, it wasn't that big a deal).

I wanted to feel calm and centered and relaxed.

So I sat in the car, outside the office with my journal and asked (and answered) some questions. Sort of like Havi's stone-skipping questions, but quick and shallow.

These questions could be applied to anything unpleasant and maybe make it slightly more fun.

Can I learn something more about what to expect, so I feel better prepared?
Can I make this any quicker?
Can I make this more fun?
Can I make this more silly?
What can I notice, right now?

My answers, for this specific unpleasantness:

Can I learn more?

Yes, I had all my paperwork ready and knew what to expect…but I still felt shaky.

Can I make this quicker?

Actually, no. I have to wait until they call my name

Can I make this more fun?

Grumpy Tara says…no.

Can I make this silly?

Only in my imagination.
What if my sparkly shoes were blindingly sparkly? What if they lit up the whole room?
What if my favorite Polymath Designs earrings were actually deflector shiels? None shall pass!
What if my handknit shawl was really an inivisiblity cloak? And the people who are stressing me out can't see my shakiness through it's stunning beauty?

My @spiralshannon earrings (which secretly double as negativity shields)
My suddenly-magical outfit.

What can I notice?

The cherry blossoms out the window. I'll take a picture of them when I'm done.


I'd love to know how you could use the questions (or your own!). If you're going through some unpleasantness, share your own answers in the comments.

Liz is crafting a (Martha-approved) business

A few (uh, many) months ago, I read a blog post at Made in Lowell that I just loved.  I know Liz on Twitter, so I just had to ask her more about it. Below is our conversation…

You said, “I had about 20 years prior experience making and selling things at craft shows before the popularity and ease of internet shops existed.”
How do you think all that past experience has informed what you do now?

I think doing shows and trying to sell things for years and years did not dampen my hope that my business would at some point catch fire, but it did give me perspective on how people react to handmade items and their purchasing patterns. I knew that you could really bust your butt and not sell a thing or you could sit back and collect showers of money, each show is a gamble. I learned to take a long view to appreciate the slow build of my business.

Do you consciously pursue PR? If so, what's your plan look like? (I completely suck at this, so I'm fascinated!)
If not, how in the world do you keep getting it? 🙂

Ha! I do not consciously pursue PR. Or if I do, this is my method: I make myself available online, make all my accounts (Etsy, Flickr, Twitter, blog) have the same username.

I try to represent my personality in my online presence.

And I answer every email, every convo whether I think it might be a waste of my time or not.

I graciously, and in a timely manner turn down vending opportunities that don't suit me instead of ignoring them, follow up on every question even if it to politely decline to share technique secrets or to kindly say no to sending a “sample” for a blog review.

I want to be approachable and friendly online because I think people want to buy things from people they like! I know I do.

I hope this doesn't discourage anyone, but a lot of my PR exposure has been luck! For instance, Kari Chapin befriended me on Etsy back in the very beginning of our online market adventures, who knew that would turn into being a contributor to her amazing book The Handmade Marketplace?

And getting a spread in Studios magazine happened after Pokey Bolton from Interweave Press stopped by my studio randomly!

How did you get on the Martha Stewart show? What led to that?

Martha Stewart’s producers regularly trawl Etsy for show segment possibilities! One of them contacted me through Etsy. She said she’d seen my polymer clay eggs and ALSO that she’d seen my name in Kari’s book. That gave her the confidence to approach me.

I still wasn’t in though, it took a month of emails before the whole thing was a lock. A long, nervous-making month! I blogged the experience, if you'd like to read more.

Anything else you'd like fellow crafty businesses to know about what makes you or your biz tick?

I think the heart of my business is craftsmanship; the careful, painstaking time I invest in each item I make is something people can really see.

It also means I won’t be expanding my little biz into an empire, but that’s not really what I want. If you make things beautifully, photograph them beautifully, transmit your personality to the world and make yourself available for interaction, people are going to notice you.

Thanks Liz, for the peek into what's worked for you!

I particularly love Liz's point about responding to every query.
What was your favorite part? Share it in the comments!

(Want to share how you craft your business, leave a comment and I'll interview you)

Good Shtuff: You can do it Edition

Good Shtuff is a weekly-ish (um, except I seem to have taken 2 months off) collection at what I’m reading and thinking about.

This time, it's all about the doing-it. And yeah, YOU can do it!

If I can rewire my dryer, you can do ANYTHING!

Teeny tiny microsteps

The always-brilliant Victoria(shmoria!) makes doing your Thing super simple: Microsteps + Commitment = Progress. Just the reminder I needed.

Can you make a living creatively?

This week I wrote my first (in a new series) guest post for Handmade Success. I answer the oft-asked question, “Can I REALLY do this? And make a living?” Read it here.

Action via attention

My favorite can-do-ologist, Marissa, explains why sometimes you just feel like you've gotten nothing done, even when you've done bunches. Hint: pay attention to your attention.

What helpful bit of helpfulness did you read this week?
Share it in the comments!

Experiment: stop explaining

spring road

In case you didn't notice, I talk about experimentation a lot.

My entire CraftyBiz philosophy can be summed as:

“Experiment to find what works for you and your biz and then do it.”

But yesterday Kate asked me about the natural extension of doing your own thing:

When what works for me is very much not what ‘everyone else' thinks should work for me.

I started to reply about ways to convince the person.
Ways to show them “yeah, that's right, I'm a rebel and I'm ROCKING it.

But then I remembered:

I've yet to convince anyone else that this was a good idea (whatever “this” might be: self-employment, working weird hours, gluten-free baking) if they weren't already willing to trust me.

An example.

M and I are great friends.

But sometimes she doesn't get me or my work. And when I tell her I'm now doing x (taking a sabbatical from selling, dyeing my hair blue, etc) and she starts listing all the reasons I should NOT DO IT OR ELSE I WILL DIIIIEEEE…I get defensive.

I try to explain.
I have thought this through, thoroughly!
I'm a responsible adult!
I have my reasons!
And soon I find myself thinking “You HAVE to understand“.

But, wait. Does she?


Will it change what I do (or what works for me) if she doesn't understand?

What do I need from her?

Support? Flexibility? Encouragement?

I decide what I need (internally!) and then ask her for it.

“Hey, M, I've decided to start work at 3pm from here on out. I need you to not call me from 3-10 because I'll be at work, like if I was working in an office, ok? Thanks!”

When it comes to you, you get to decide.

It's as simple as that.

The people in your life don't have to understand the why or the how.
Trying to convince them with your well-reasoned argument (I LOVE a well-reasoned argument) usually won't help things.

And I mean the things that really are YOURS to decide (examples: what time you start work or the way you do your work or if you wear pjs and a tiara all day).

But for all the you-stuff (which is most everything IN your business), it's yours to decide.

Without explanation.
Without apologies.
With piles of fun and experimentation and an open heart.


This single fact has changed so many conversations. And has released me from so much responsibility (I have to explain!) and so many arguments (Why won't you understand?!).

Try it. Experiment.

Let me know how it goes.