Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: October 2013

6 thoughts on the New Domesticity


6 thoughts on the new domesticity

This weekend I read Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity, and the short version is: I liked it! It knits together some threads of our current culture that I hadn't really put together – the rise of: “handmade”, lifestyle blogs, Etsy, foodie culture (organic, homemade, free range), and attachment parenting and contextualizes them in the economic reality my generation of college-educated, woefully underemployeed peers experience.
Here are some of my thoughts as I read:

1. This book is not about an individual lifestyle, but about a cultural phenomenon.  I had to remind myself of this a few times because it's odd to read the very first book about my generation and the movement I've been a part my entire adulthood. It's odd to find that it's not just my little underground society of makers – but it's a huge sociological shift. Not everyone interviewed is representative of myself or the makers I work with…but it's not about me. It's about the bigger picture, and the author really does a great job of painting the bigger picture, covering massively successful bloggers and I've-never-sold-a-thing Etsyians, homesteaders and attachment moms.


2. Lifestyle blogs featuring domestic pursuits + the success of some Etsyians set wildly unrealistic expectations. From the jewelry artist who lists a few things on Etsy and is disappointed when nothing sells, to the blogger who thinks she can run a profitable business while “staying home” with the kids, to all of us who look at the perfectly appointed (and clean!) homes and the massively prolific quilters, knitters and writers and think “I'm just not doing enough!” – the internet is warping idea of what real people DO and what we SHOULD be doing.

This bums me out because it takes something that some people are genuinely passionate about and turns it into a measuring stick for other women, who have no interest in it. I want to hug you all and encourage you to follow the thing the makes YOU happiest – if that's Thai takeout + marathon quilting sessions – go for it! If it's home-crafted meals (and no time to craft) – go for it! The bloggers you love, and small business you admire are NOT doing it all (trust me, I've seen their houses) – so you don't need to either.

(I've written more about this here and here.)

3. “The importance of financial independence often seems to get lost in our eagerness to ditch our boring jobs or pursue our passions.”

I was thinking this over and over as I read stories of women who left the workforce to pursue homesteading or housewifery (their word!), so I was delighted to read the author state it plainly in the last chapter. Being raised by a single mom and spending years as the unintentional “breadwinner” in the family (yes, even after quitting my boring job), I can not stress how important financial independence is for everyone (men and women!). Your spouse is an absolute gem, but what will happen if they (or you, if you're the bigger earner) get hit by a truck tomorrow? What if he gets downsized? Do you have the skills to care for yourself and your family for the next 4 decades?

I am deeply devoted to helping artists, makers and writers create financial independence for themselves. This is why I focus on defining success, creating plans, and building a sustainable business (one that you can keep doing for years). It's not enough for you to quit your day job or do what you love, you have to be able to keep doing it, no matter what life throws at you. (And having a traditional job is a fantastic way to keep that kind of security, while you build something else.)

4. “Opting out” of having a career is NOT the same as opting out of the traditional workplace. I was disappointed that the author seemed (especially in the blogging and Etsy chapters) to conflate the two. Just because you leave an office job doesn't mean you can't build a career for yourself. In fact, it's what I've spent the last four years doing – building a career as a teacher and a writer. This would be impossible in a traditional job given my French degree and the options available in my small Southern town.

5. Thus, being a “stay at home mom” is vastly different than being a “work at home mom.” Some mommy bloggers and certainly Etsy's messaging pretends that it's all the same thing, and that building a bill-paying blog or business can be done easily during nap times. This is another one of those unrealistic expectations. I'm not saying you can't build a business that allows you to spend more time with your kids, only that the two require prioritizing two different sets of tasks. And depending on the age + needs of your kids, the age + needs of your business, you'll choose one over the other at different times. (In other words, you may get childcare help, or choose to build your business slower).
You're not a failure for doing so. In fact, all of the successful bloggers and business you admire are doing the same thing. The book refers to Dooce as a “stay at home mom”, but she's quite clear that she works full-time, in an office in her own home. I love this post, from a mommy blogger who comes clean about the help she has in order to work full-time.

This issue comes up a lot when I lead Pay Yourself  – women take a good look at their profitability and their scale and then they spot what needs to change, or what they prefer to prioritize (sometimes it means they stop building their craft business, and they find something else that suits their family situation better).

6. The food you cook, the home you decorate, the way you parent, the job you do, the passion you follow – it is not a measure of your moral worth. {Click to tweet this!}

I want to tattoo that on your forehead. Don't let society, even a DIY-celebrating society, tell you have to do something to conform – whether it's shopping at Wal-Mart + eating meat or it's shopping at the farmer's market + being vegan. Choose your own definition for success for your family and focus on that. Let yourself obsess (in the fun way!) over what you care most about and give yourself a free pass on doing everything else.


In case you're curious, my own brand of New Domesticity looks something like the picture above: I knit + watch TV or read while my husband prepares massively fancy vegan dinners (check 'em out on Instagram)…on the weekends.  I quilt while he watches baseball. Jay does all the grocery shopping, and I do most of the dish-washing. We split all other domestic chores, usually on Friday nights (literally: I make a list of everything that has to be done and we each pick half of the things on the list). If it's not Friday, the house is as messy as it is. I bake when the urge strikes.

We both work full-time, Monday – Friday, 8:30-4:30. (I could work whenever, but this is when I work best and it gives us weekends and evenings together.) We eat a lot of weeknight dinners of bean dip or spaghetti (store-bought sauce + noodles, maybe with homemade vegan “meatballs”) or homemade veggie burgers.

If I were defining our Ideal Domestiticity it would value equality – in housework and in passion-following and in financial decision-making. We value small and local over big and corporate, but we get nearly all of our clothes from Target. We value homemade but we equally value rest and time to pursue hobbies…so if “homemade” means hours of unpleasant work, forget it. (This shifts on a daily basis. Sometimes homemade pie crust sounds like fun, and sometimes it sounds like torture.) And above all, we remind ourselves (ok, I ask Jay to remind me) that our choices in the domestic sphere do not indicate our worth as humans. 



It’s time for Holiday Sanity

Too many cups of coffee later: the Digital Kit is done! Formatted, uploaded, buttoned.  And $5 to Red Cross Disaster Relief. #sigh
I hate to be one of those people that talks about the upcoming holidays and incites panic in your heart. But really, did you know Christmas is only 61 days away and Hanukkah is in only 34 days!?

I honestly didn't know that until I started working on this year's version of Holiday Sanity, my annual Let's-not-get-overwhelmed adventure (now it's fourth year!).

But if you run a handmade business, or are planning to have all the family over to your house, I bet you've already started to think about (or get anxious about it!).

I'd like to invite you to take a deep breath.
You really have plenty of time.
Yes, even if you have a zillion orders to fill and a thousand craft shows to vend at – you have plenty of time. It's just a matter of laying everything out (business and personal) and figuring out when you're going to do what.
And then doing it.

It's simple, but it's not easy.
To help you (and me!) make this plan (instead of just thinking oh, I should do that), I'm happy to have a brand new Holiday Sanity Kit to help. It's got a Guide to walk you through creating a plan, a Playbook to help you keep track of all your favorites (recipes, music, memories), and a gentle weekly email to remind you to, oh yeah, DO the plan you created.

This year, there's a brand new bonus: you can check in, stay accountable, and cheer each other on, with a private Facebook group. If you'd like to try the accountability and brainstorming of the Starship, this is a super-affordable way to do that.

Get the entire Kit, for just $29 here.


Choose Yourself, even after others do



While reading Choose Yourself  last night, something clicked and I suddenly spotted the connections between conversations I've had with publishers, teachers and workshop-holders.

First conversation:  I was working with a book publisher a few months ago (on her business) and she despaired that her authors seem unwilling to take charge of their own book marketing. They seemed to believe that after she agreed to publish their book, they were off the hook for all marketing and sales. I was flabbergasted, because every author, no matter the size of the publisher, is responsible for their own book's success. All of the New York Best-Selling Authors? They hire publicists (like this guy, who wrote a great book) with their own money.  Being chosen with a publishing deal does not guarantee your book will sell. 

Second, and seemingly unrelated, I was talking to the Studio Manager where I held my workshop “Create + Market Your Craft Class”. She despaired that teachers expect her to do all the marketing to fill their class. I was flabbergasted, because if you want a full class, you have to spread the word to your audience, which is full of people likely to take it! (How to do this was half of what my workshop covered.) Being chosen by a venue does not guarantee your class will fill. 

So as I was reading Choose Yourself, I realized that the connection between these stories is that people worked hard to be chosen by a publisher or a class venue, and then they thought their work was over. They thought that being chosen was the point, that it provided all the validation they needed. They thought the Chooser (the publisher, venue, gate keeper) would suddenly swoop in and do all the hard work of making their creation a success.

But this isn't how it works.

There's not a point in your creative work where you get to sit back and stop marketing.

(Remember: marketing = every communication with your customer.)

Sure, after you build a community of raving fans, you can shift your focus to serving them beautifully (instead of pursuing new people)…but you have to keep showing up with your best work, and you have to keep talking to them. (Which, by the way, is exactly what you do in order to get fans.)

If you're holding out hope that you'll suddenly reach a point where you can stop reaching out, communicating and connecting, you're missing out. You're ignoring the most valuable asset you have: the lessons you're learning as you grow. You're missing what your customers are telling you they want right now. And you're only going to be disappointed, because you never are going to reach that imaginary point of success. 

I've had clients and students that had massively huge online followings, that  had mutiple-book deals, that sold thousands of dollars in products each month. And each of them still, long after the “success” came, continued to communicate with their customers on a regular basis.

No matter who chooses you (press, publisher, customers) you have to keep choosing yourself, doing the work, over and over every day.


Don't despair.

This is actually brilliant news (although if you've been telling yourself you hate “marketing” you may think otherwise), because it means that you have the power. You have the power to make an impact with your book, class, product. You don't have to wait around for anyone to recognize your genius. You can start today, and instead of looking forward to being done, you'll create a sustainable system that can last years.

Have you been waiting around for someone to choose you?

(Or for the chooser to do your work?)

How to embrace what you can’t control.



We had just completed map-making in a two hour live workshop.
The students had taken one idea, split it into all of it's individual parts, picked a three month goal, set mile-markers, listed to-dos and reorganized it all into a map, a plan they could take action on the very next day. We had even talked about how to make time for each day, to actually do all of their to-dos. We were wrapping up, when one stylish woman with a thriving art business asked me,

“I have a list of things I can do, but a lot of this depends on other people's responses. It's completely out of my control. What can I do about all those things I can't control?”

I burst out laughing, because, oh, this is the question of my life.

I like to have everything under control. I like to make a list and mark it off. I'm into accomplishing stuff, just for it's own sake, just for the feeling of having made progress. (My highest rank on that strengths-finder test was “Achievement.”)
But a business is (tragically) full of things I have absolutely no control over. The number of people who beam up. The press releases that are published. The speedy response to an important email.

Note: Most creatives that I work with vastly underestimate their power over some “uncontrollable” variables like sales, response, customer delight. You can do a lot to impact these areas.

So when the student asked how you deal with the things you can't control, I had to laugh because I wish there was something I could do to take all of the unknown of it.
But her question (and my answer) has stuck with me the past few weeks – it's something I am always dealing with, and I need to remind myself of it regularly.

How to deal with what I can't control:

  1. Acknowledge that there are things that are out of your control and this is not a personal failure. If you need to, write this down: “I am not in control of the entire universe and I'm ok with that.”
  2.  List all of the things you can do to impact results. (You can write your email with a clear ask and strong call to action. You can create a strong offer, take amazing photographs, create your best work.)
  3. List all of the things you can't directly do. (You can't force people to respond to your email or offer. You can't control their reaction. You can't control their thoughts, feelings, or judgements.)
    Double check that you are taking responsibility for what you can control – the quality of the work you create, the way you show up in the world, your generosity, your time building your business, the number of people you email.
  4.  Let go of the list of things you can't control. Take a deep breath and commit to just letting it go.
  5. Recommit to do what you can do. Make sure they're broken down into real to-dos (things you can accomplish in a day or so) and create a plan to make it happen. Commit to doing the best you can do.

When I find myself paralyzed, stressing over all I can't control, making this list helps center me in my own power, and I usually realize I have more to do than I thought. I also recognize that time and space are (sadly) outside of my control. Some aspects of business growth and project success just require (loads of hard work and) time.
You can't rush it.
You can only show up each day and do your best work.


How do you deal with the uncontrollable?

Share your own list of outside- and inside-my-control in the comments.





The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the finds on Fridays, and you’re invited to join in.
You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

The happiest table at the farmer's market. #yayfall

I can't stop myself from taking leaf photos. #iloveautumn #foundwhilerunning

Gorgeous morning run. #foundwhilerunning (I officially started training for a 1/2 marathon.) #eep #6monthsaway

Yesterday's amazing apple crumble. (Very little left today.) #vegan #whatveganseat. Recipe from @isachandra (link in her profile)

I am so grateful for:

  • The opportunity to teach through Handmade in America. I have met so many amazing, delightful and creative entrepreneurs these last 3 weeks.
  • Cool, sunny runs
  • Autumn is really, truly here!
  • New brakes + new insurance for the car. It isn't glamorous, but it feels fabulous to feel safe.
  • Roasted butternut!
  • The invitations sparked by my request.
  • Lovely thank-yous of local wrestlers when I made them an entrance.
  • Apple crisp! (this one, with brown rice syrup+ maple syrup replacing the sugar)
  • Big shifts and tiny steps towards the Next Thing


The finds

“no baby, if you’re going to create

you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses

3 Things I’ve learned from teaching 5 workshops in 2 weeks

Over the last 2 weeks, I have taught 5 live workshops to over 75 students in two different states.3 workshops were in partnership with Handmade In America, at North Carolina community colleges. The other two were in partnership with friends + students in Boston, MA.

It wasn't planned, it just happened through a fluke of scheduling, but this packed schedule was the best thing for me. You see, just a few months ago, I was nervous about teaching live, to an audience that didn't already know me. But this total immersion in live teaching, new students, and  unknown venues has cured me of any stage fright I ever had. (Have I told you that the entire reason I didn't go to grad school and become a French Professor as planned was because I couldn't stand up in front of the class without puking? Yeah, it's ironic.)


Creating "market your class" workshop for Cabot St Studios in BOSTON! #cantwait #mapmaking (details on site)

Along with becoming a braver, more adventurous teacher, I've learned three big lessons that I don't want to forget.

  1. It's not about me, Part 1.

    I've created a lot of content in the last 3 years of writing about business and I've systematized how I think about businesses. (I have a system for turning your ideas into action, a system for creating a sane holiday, a system for improving your profitability, a system for your overall marketing).

    But the most valuable thing I can offer is the experience of everyone else. You see, I'm in this unique (and delightful) position of having talked to, worked with, or worked in hundreds of small businesses. My own experience running a handmade business pales in comparison with all I've learned from working with a copywriter, a retailer, a tech start-up in addition to what I've learned in hundreds of solo-sessions with smart and successful artists, authors and makers, mixed with the deep conversations I've had over coffee with friends and strangers about what works for them. This massive database in my head (and my connection-spotting superpowers) allow me to answer student questions with real-life examples of what's worked for someone in a similar situation. (From knitting-book launches, to magazine submissions, to press releases, to finding more profit, to changing your business model drastically – my students, clients and friends have done it all.) It's not about me, it's about what works for individual situations. The longer I do this, the more individual examples of success I amass + the quicker I can give you examples of what worked for someone else (and brainstorm ways to morph it into something specific that will work for you.)

  2.  It's not about me, Part 2.

    Two years ago someone told me that their favorite part of my classes were the massive amounts of worksheets that I make you ask you to fill out. Hearing that shifted everything – it completely changed the way I was writing the book (it's more of a work-book than a reading-book). When I teach a live class, I'm actually doing very little teaching. Instead, I'm presented some ideas and then forcing asking you to work with them by applying it to your own business. Instead of using live events as an opportunity to spread my own ideas, I think of workshops as giving you the time and space to work though an aspect of your business. Because let's face it, most of us do not put into practice what we learn. We just file it away for “when I'm not busy” and then never get to it.

    It's not enough for me to talk at you about business (or life) principles, I want you to start putting it into practice and shape it to fit your situation, right now. So I regularly stop and say, ok, fill out your own answer to that question on page 5. And this is by far the biggest aspect I get feedback on. People love the worksheets. And they love that I gave them two hours to think deeply about their business.

  3. Everyone has the same questions.

    You really, truly are not alone. The  HIA workshops have included a huge range of students – from party planners, to new bakery owners, to massage therapists to personal stylists.

    And everyone of them has the same questions:
    What do I do next? (This is usually answered by breaking down your big goals into actionable steps)
    How do I find more customers? (The answer is usually somewhere in the message-creating process – either by clarifying who you you serve or what the benefits are.)
    Am I doing the right thing? Should I even be trying this? How do I know if it's going to work? Is it my fault it's not growing faster?

After every new adventure, I like to take a few moments to reflect back on what I've learned (I remind Starship Captains to do this every month!).

What about you? What have you learned from your last adventure?


cross_stitchesWant to attend one of my live workshops? 
I'm now planning my 2014 tour. Find out how you can help here. (First stop: TNNA in San Diego in January!)


Explorer Club of Book Lovers – October

I follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. I'd love to hear about your books – please share your own list in the comments!

Writing about this month's reads today. Stack # 1!

What I read in September


Stephanie’s new novel, Removed, is so so good. I can't believe I have to wait for book #2! Totally addictive!
Use What You’ve Got is a funny mix of personal stories-turned-into-business advice. Hilarious and encouraging, even if you're not a real estate mogul!

After watching (and loving) Shawn Achor's TED talk, I put the Happiness Advantage on my list..and I was not disappointed. I've got a whole post on why you're going to love this book (coming soon!), but if you can't wait, listen to Shawn's great BlogcastFM interview!

Writing about reading while working at the library. #meta (Full list on the blog - link in profile!)

October's To Read List

Since the first part of the month required a lot of airplane-time and thinky-thinking (4 live workshops in 8 days!), I've got more novels than usual on my list (and am so happy about that!)

  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette? Recommended by just about everyone, this was the perfect airplane read!
  • Someday, Someday Maybe. Lorelai wrote a book! Ok, so her name is really Lauren Graham, but she'll always be Lorelai of Gilmore Girls to me! (If you haven't watched Parenthood yet, you totally should. It is so much better than I expected!)
  • Grounded, by friend and Starship Captain Heather Ordover. I started this back in September and can't wait to finish it. You can order yours here + get your kit (yarn + pattern) here. (Riin + Heather met + collaborated thanks to the Starship. YAY!)
  • I liked the Happiness Advantage so much, I added Shawn's second book to my list!
  • The Culture Code
  • Turning Pro was a thank you gift from Srini + it's perfectly purse-sized. I've been reading it in little blips of time (the chapters are tiny + perfect for bite-size reading) and I already love it!
  • Steve Jobs has been on my list forever and it finally came in for me at the library.
  • The Art of Being Unmistakable, by Srinivas Rao.

What are you reading this month?

What was your favorite book of September?


Disclaimer-y Disclaimer! I was given a free copy of Stephanie’s book + Srini sent me Turning Pro. But I’m not in any way coerced into saying nice things. Or course I’m biased when my friends write a book, but I don’t mention things I don’t like. (I bought Heather’s book.) Read the usual disclaimer here.



The Boston Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the finds on Fridays (usually) and you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

I spent last week teaching and exploring in Boston, and even though it's not Friday, I wanted to share a few of my adventures while it's still fresh.

I am so grateful for…

The people who made my time lovely, inspiring, and well worth it:

  • The students in my Wednesday workshop. They were funny and honest and brave and helped me remember that we all feel like we haven't made it yet.
  • The entire staff of Gathere Here, especially Virginia – for making it happen -and Maggie for charging my phone and letting me feel like a normal knitter for an hour.
  • Ana, for dreaming up this trip and picking a topic so many people really did want and for taking a whole day to tour me around Salem.
  • Abby, for driving to meet me for coffee and having a fabulous conversation about money, reality, and her vision. Her blog is an awesome resource of big-issue-thinking for crafters – read it!
  • Guido, for taking me on a dog walking tour of Cambridge. There is nothing as inspiring as someone truly passionate and Guido is – about his neighborhood, the fiber community, and his adorable dog. Also, he gave the best food recommendation of my trip.
  • The staff of Veggie Galaxy, for the free milkshake, and for being an excellent example of how to use twitter for your business.
  • Jess, who kept everything running while I was away. I never could have taught three workshops the week after the largest Starship Boarding if it weren't for her flexibility, organization and encouragement!


What adventures did you have last week?