Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: October 2014

Social Media for Introverts {PODCAST}

Social Media for Introverts

Social media might seem like the perfect way for an introvert to connect (you can do it alone! in your pjs!), but I've found it's easily a distraction from your real work. In today's episode we'll talk about:

  • The distraction of social media
  • Three steps to combat the distraction and stay focused
  • What overwhelms people and how to avoid it.

Links mentioned

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.


How to make Social Media easier (aka, how I schedule things)

Many clients find it hard to be consistent with their social media messages while also being consistent in making, listing, shipping, and writing content. The solution? Systems. At TaraSwiger.com

(Psst… Make sure you read all the way to the bottom – I've got a FREE gift for you that's going to take the stress out of scheduling social media posts!)

One of the basic tenets of any marketing strategy is consistency. You need to show up wherever you connect with potential customers with consistency, both in time and in content. But many (MANY!) clients find it hard to be consistent with their social media messages while also being consistent in making, listing, shipping, and writing content. The solution? Systems. The more systematic you make things (ie, you don't have to think about them each time you do them), the easier it is to be consistent. I'm still learning this lesson in a lot of ways, but when I shared by current system with the Starship, they really loved it. So I wanted to share it with you, if it'll help.

Remember what I said last week – you need to keep your goals front and center. My goals for social media are to be helpful and spread love and silliness to my people. That's it. I want them to like clicking my links, so they trust me to provide good stuff. That's it. (In other words, I don't worry about time, reweets and I kinda hate favorites (they don't do anything to spread the post at all!)). Because my goal is to be helpful and loving, I don't measure my success by outward signs (followers, retweets), but by the conversations it sparks and the number of new people who join my world because of it.

With that in mind, let's look at the specifics:

I do three kinds of sharing on social media:

  1. My own content published elsewhere (my blog and podcasts, and interviews, guest posts, etc)
  2. Useful links + ideas (from other people) that I know my readers will love
  3. Snippets of my own life (a kind of “behind the scenes”)

This balance changes all the time, but my #1 goal is to Be Me, no matter where I am or what I'm sharing.

Here's how that works:

1. Sharing my Content

I installed CoSchedule recently and now, after a post is all finished and scheduled, we scroll down a bit and set up social messages.

Here's my checklist for each blog post:*

  • Schedule tweet for when it goes live (The title, edited to sound like a real sentence or question)
  • Schedule tweet (with picture) for 7-8 hours later (For podcast say: New on the podcast: {title})
  • and again for 2 -5 days later
  • again 2 months later – give or take – (on a Monday morning)
    (Make sure each tweet is different every time – I don't want to “say” the same thing over and over!)
  • Schedule post to Facebook page as a “text post” (without the link). Quote the entire blog post (or the best part!) for the day it goes live
  • Schedule another post to Facebook as “image post” with link back to post, for 9 days later (so Tues posts would be scheduled for Thurs, and Wed for Friday (ie, days I don't have fresh content))

*And that's another system: Checklists! I have checklists for: blog posts, emails, launching a new class, Starship Boarding, Starship Welcoming…just about anything that happens more than once, so that every piece of content gets the same love and every student gets the same experience. (I try to keep an eye on what can be automated, like the Starship Orientation, and automate it after I experiment with what is working). This helps tremendously when I'm sick, or doing a big project like the CreativeLive class – it makes sure I do everything something needs, and I do the bare minimum (because the checklist just has to be marked off, not thought of anew, each time!).

2. Scheduling Useful and Interesting Stuff

Lately I've been so busy with students and projects (1:1s, writing, recording, etc) that I haven't been taking the time to find good things to share on social media (Twitter + Facebook mostly). This is a huge reason why people follow me (at least, it's what they say!), and I don't want to post just my own stuff (see above!)…and I've found when I just “look for stuff to post,” I just click around reading what I want to read, and don't share anything.
So now, I have a system for it! 

  1. On Mondays, I set a timer for 25 minutes.
  2. Open up my 10 fave sites for small businesses (rotating list)
  3. Scan 'em
  4. If I see something that I think would interest YOU (everything I ever write/post is with YOU, my readers and students, in mind), I read the whole thing and if I still like it, I use the Hootsuite* bookmark to grab it. I write a recommendation (or pull a quote), schedule it, and then post it. I keep my CoSchedule calendar open, so I'm sure not to overlap (I aim to have at least one thing in between my morning and afternoon self-tweets each day).
    I schedule at least one thing per weekday (or stop when I get to 25 min). If I find other things throughout the week (which always happens!), I schedule it for the afternoon (after my last self-tweet).*Several students use and love Buffer.

I have noticed that scheduled posts (both my own and shared links) get far less engagement (on both Twitter + FB) than when I just say random stuff, spur of the moment. That said, I need to spend most of my time NOT being spur of the moment (keeping my head in the game of producing good work), so I'm OK with that.

3. Snippets of life

These are unscheduled and spur of the moment – usually pictures on Instagram that also go to Twitter and Facebook.There's no schedule or plan here, although I try to take a photo a day, just because I want photos of my everyday life! (I scrapbook, remember.)

Just because these are unplanned doesn't mean they are entirely unthoughtful – I often rewrite a tweet or Instagram caption in my head several times, to get the wording and tone just right. No matter what I'm sharing, my goal is to be either helpful or encouraging, so you won't find many angry, disappointed, or snarky social media messages from me. It's not that I don't feel these things (and rewrite them over and over and in my head), it's that posting them doesn't serve my goals for these tools. (Trust me, I have plenty of tools for dealing with the un-fun, not-nice side of life.)
And that's it!

You'll note as you read that there are really multiple systems at work here:

  • Blogging
  • Podcast recording system
  • Finding links and sharing them

If you're just beginning to share your work, do NOT let all these systems overwhelm you – they develop naturally over time as you become more and more effective at doing what you do. The goal isn't perfection (My system changes every few months!), it's improvement. Just start with one system and continue to improve it as you learn more about what works for you.

This is the system that works for me, but it is in no way “optimized” to be the perfect, most traffic-generating thing ever. Keep your eye on your own goal, and find a system that works best for you! 


To help you do that, I've created a FREE checklist you can use to schedule your own social media! This easy format will remind you of all the steps, until pretty soon it'll be an automated process for you and it won't take much of your time at all to make sure you get the word out about your new posts + products. Enter your e-mail below and you'll get it right away!

How to use Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest in your creative business

How to use Facebook Instagram and Pinterest in your Creative Biz



I get asked about this all the time, so it's time I answer your questions about how to use Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest in your creative business. You'll learn about the pros and cons of each and how each one can help you reach your specific business goal.

In this episode:

  • The three things you need to before  you start using a tool.
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the platforms I get asked about most,
  • The most effective ways to use these tools

Couldn't scribble notes fast enough? Get a transcript of this podcast episode when you sign up here

Links mentioned:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).


Adventures in Business with Fiber Artist Sasha Torres

Today I'm sharing an adventure with Starship Captain and fiber artist, Sasha Torres. Sasha Torres is a cerebral-yet-whimsical yarn maker, dyer, spinner and knitter who loves the ocean, really good vanilla ice cream and the smell of raw wool. Her passion for all things wooly led her to start her yarn company, Sheepspot, which sells breed-specific, hand-dyed wool yarns and fibers for those craving sustainable stash from happy sheep. Find her at sheepspot.com.

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a fiber artist. But what's a normal day for you really like?

Well, I still have my day job, so I spend 3-4 days a week largely focusing on that. The other days I spend on Sheepspot.

I try to start every day by meditating for about fifteen minutes and writing in my journal. Both are ways of checking in with myself, partly to figure out priorities for the day, and partly to see where I am emotionally. The business, and the things I need to do to help it thrive, often really scare me, and I’m trying not to let my fears run things without my knowing that’s what’s happening. So I basically start the day by asking myself how I feel and writing about that a little bit. Some days I feel fine, and I’m just eager to get to work, so I just let myself do that.

Then I do a quick triage of my email and check in with my Ravelry group and social media. I’ll respond to any questions or comments, and If I have items going up on the website that day I make sure that the posts I've scheduled in advance to go to my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts look OK. I’ll also post the new stuff on Pinterest, in my Ravelry group, and perhaps on Instagram.

Then, if it’s a Sheepspot day, I head to the studio. I usually start by immersion dyeing a batch of yarn that doesn’t need to be watched that closely, so that I can re-skein whatever I've dyed the previous day and get set up to dye more complicated colorways. I find that with my current studio setup I can comfortably do three batches of yarn or fiber a day. Once all the batches are finished and drying I usually head back to the computer and deal with shipping or marketing stuff. It’s a long day, but fortunately I like all the different parts of it.

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

Sheepspot is still very new, so my income right now is still coming from my day job. I expect that this will be my situation for the next 18-24 months, and I'm OK with that.

What new thing are you exploring now?

I'm learning a ton of new stuff every day about all aspects of the business, from the kinds of fibers that my local mills can and can’t work with, to where to buy recycled mailing supplies. But the most intense and satisfying exploration I'm engaged in right now is in my studio. I'm trying to stay improvisational while dyeing. I am finding colorways I love making and techniques I love using, but I'm very conscious as well of the need to keep experimenting. It’s a delicate balance. On one hand I'm trying to work out how to be more efficient, but on the other I want to keep playing and learning.



What's your definition of success in your business?

Everything I sell is either sustainably grown and/or processed in North America. The majority of it is both. Sheepspot exists to provide options for fiber artists who are interested in small, sustainable agriculture, or who care about genetic diversity among sheep, or who are concerned about the quality of life of the sheep that grow the wool with which they work, or who are dismayed about the near-total disappearance of the textile industry from North America. All Sheepspot yarns and fibers have to earn their way into the product line by answering at least one of these concerns. Success? Making a living getting these materials to the folks who want them.

What's the next destination you're working towards?


Every year, Tara encourages all the Starship captains to choose a “North Star”—a quality that will guide our business decisions. My North Star for the year is “sustainability.” I'm working toward building a profitable company that I love working in and that’s friendly to the earth and its inhabitants. In other words, I want Sheepspot to be physically, emotionally, financially and ecologically sustainable.


Would a North Star help to guide you on the path to your business dreams? Sign up to find out when the Starship opens for new Captains!


The Adventures

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

The view

Thanks to our One Car Situation (did you know we only have one car in a public-transit-less small town?) when Jay's appointments went reeeeally late, I got to watch the sun set from my favorite spot in town, over the mountains. #workedoutjustfine
You should just assume every Wednesday morning of fall looks like this: Post-workout hot donut, local coffee and a handknit shawl, it is actually cool enough to wear! #coloraffection #fallshawlstyle
Ready for action!  (I am very out of practice. This was hard work, yo )  #spinzilla #spinning
My autumnal obsessions: apples and butternut. (Last night I made the best apple crisp, by @minimalistbaker) #yayfall #taralovesmornings #minimalistbaker
Oh man. This Sheep Spot Polwarth is DELICIOUS. Dyed by @thecraftyrabbit. #spinzilla #spinstagram

I am so grateful for…

The Finds:

I’m exploring:

When Elise first linked to the Capsule Wardrobe idea, I giggled to myself: the idea of paring your wardrobe down to just 37 pieces you'd wear in a season, well, it presumes that you have over 37 items of clothes. And it presumes you go shopping (I don't, Jay has to convince me to try anything on, and then to buy what I actually say I want/need.)
But when Elise shared her own,  I thought: It would be awesome to know that I was actually WEARING everything in my closet and that it all fit together into grown-up outfits. (I tend to wear the same 3 tshirts/sweaters/cardigans with my 2 pairs of identical jeans – the joys of self-employment.) Off I went to my closet and drawer and pulled out everything I'm not going to wear in the cold weather (sleeveless shirts, lighter dresses) and donate-able stuff (stained shirts, too-big dresses and pants I've been holding on to “in case”.) As I  counted up what was left, I realized that there are some gaps that I've been frustrated about for years, and that I could actually, ya know, fill them. (The gaps: Clothes to meet students/friends for coffee in. I have plenty of “working at coffeeshop” tshirts/jeans/hoodies and enough “teaching in front of a room” dresses (3)…but nothing in between.) I got another pair of jeans, a sweater and a button-down (to dress up my pullover sweaters) and suddenly BAM! I feel a grown-up with an actual wardrobe of options. I also signed up for a Stitch Fix, because, man, I hate to shop (Jay bribes me) and my local options are limited.  (I'm still not up to 37 piece, but I have what I need, and it actually fits together.)

I still don't care anything about fashion and meeting someone else's standards of beauty and “appropriateness”, but as I started to explore my own resistance to buying clothes (I could write many, many more posts about my issues around money, shopping, objectification), I'm realizing that it's possible to look at clothes as another opportunity to feel good, to be myself, just for me.

I’m eating: 

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?

Craft Shows for Introverts {Podcast}

craft shows for introverts



Last week we talked about marketing for introverts and this week, since I just did a show last weekend, I want to talk more about how you can best prepare for a craft show, as an introvert. If you find it hard to speak extemporaneously or you feel depleted after you spend time with a lot of a people, I'll help you feel your best at your next in-person event.

In this episode

  • 3 practices to be as ready and refreshed as possible for your show
  • How to prepare, so you know just what to say
  • Introvert Recovery (what I do + what my students do)


How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.



The Secret Power of Craft Shows

The Power of Craft shows

Craft shows changed my life.

(I didn't know it until I started writing this post, but as I started to trace the roots of what I do today, I realized that's where it all started.)

Last weekend I sold my yarn for the first time in over a year (I put my yarn business on hold when I could no longer get packages out on time, thanks to traveling to teach. This weekend I was back in the game with a few skeins of my yarn (and my mom's sheep's fiber). Preparing for the show and helping my pal Misty think through the process brought it all back in a rush.

Even though I help Starshippers get prepared for their first shows (and 50th shows) every month, I had forgotten what it was like to be in it.
To be worried you don't have enough.
To do late night, last-minute labeling.
To get nervous about people seeing your work.

So, to calm my nerves, I searched my own site for advice (the major benefit of having a blog!). And sure enough I found it.

In 2008 (that's 6 years ago!), I wrote about my first craft show here, in 5 1/2 Shocking Facts about Craft Shows.

“You don’t have to (and probably can’t) fake enthusiasm.”

A month later, I wrote about my next show, with even more lessons:

“Be prepared to answer the “Can you make this in ***” question. Know how long it would take you and how you’ll handle payment for a custom order. If you don’t want to do custom, come up with a nice way of saying no, so you’re not taken by surprise in the moment.”

One year later, I wrote about the Pain of Craft Shows:

” I do craft shows because it’s the one place, the one situation in which being a full-time yarnie feels good, normal, accepted. The people get me. They get my yarn. It’s a place to be me: handknit clothes, stripey knee-socks, pink-haired, yarn-making me.”

Two years after that first post and my first show, I wrote this: “That feeling hasn’t faded in the last 2 years of doing shows; in fact, it’s only grown stronger.”

It occurred to me, in reading through these posts that this where I really got clear on the power of following my enthusiasm. This is where I learned that it is OK to be weird, pink-haired, wonky me. Those first shows, while I still worked in a boring office in black slacks, were the first taste I had (maybe ever?) of being myself out loud and connecting with people as that true self. Once you get a taste of that, you can start to imagine the possibility of being yourself, expressing yourself, like … all the time.

And this taste, this experience totally transformed my life. (Very, very slowly.)
For me this meant making more yarn, doing more shows, and connecting with people in the maker community. That led to me spending my days writing, talking, and helping other makers bring more of themselves into their businesses, to craft a life they really want.


But for you, the path will be different. It will lead you in different directions. You can start to express yourself more in how you dress, how you tell the truth and how you embrace all your weird bits.

I totally haven't figured it out yet, and I'm certainly not comfortable being myself all the time, but it's a process. You can kick-start the process by choosing to do things you're enthusiastic about, by doing more of what makes you feel like yourself, and by letting those experiences transform you.


Whether it's craft shows, or making your art, or just starting to take your enthusiasm more seriously — it could change your life.

PS. I made a class sharing everything I knew about craft shows 4 years ago. Currently it's only available in the Starship, but I hope to refresh it and offer it again in 2015. Sign up here to get notified when it's ready.

Marketing for Introverts {Podcast}

marketing for introverts


Talking about your work is hard for any artist or maker, but when you're also an introvert, the idea of “sharing your work” can feel totally overwhelming. In today's episode I'm going to share my tips on marketing for introverts.

In this episode:

  • What it means to be an introvert (it's different than feeling shy)!
  • How to get comfortable with the idea of connecting with your Right People, when you prefer to be alone.
  • How to build a marketing plan that respects your needs.



How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

If you'd like some help crafting a marketing plan that is custom-suited to your introvert preferences, sign up for Craft Your Marketing and we'll work through it together!



What I’m reading: October 2014

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. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list in the comments and find all the posts here.

What I'm reading: October 2014. Details at Taraswiger.com

What I read

  • GirlBoss, by Sophia Amoruso – If you like business biographies, this has got a healthy dose of that, which I think is the best part. Less interesting is her “advice” for young women. On one page she's giving you interview tips, on another page tips for hiring, and it left me thinking: who is this book for? A woman entering the workforce? Middle management? What I was hoping for was a book aimed at US, women who build our own businesses…but the advice was a little shallow for that.
  • The Odyssey, by Homer – I'm sure I read parts of this in High School, but as part of my Great Books Project (details below) I wanted to read the whole thing. I was completely shocked by how gripping and … modern it all felt, especially if you read any sci-fi. I wholeheartedly love it, recommend it, and can't believe it took me so long.
  • Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles – Another Great Book that was actually great. Of course I knew the story, but Sophocles's play positions us so we watch Oedipus discover his crime. My favorite bit from the forward (written by the translator, Robert Fagles), that perfectly explains its relevance:

“Sophocles play has served…our own terror of the unknown future which we fear we cannot control– our deep fear that every step we take forward on what we think is the road to progress may really be a step toward a foreordained rendezvous with disaster.

I mean, right?

  • 10 years in the Tub: a Decade of Soaking in Great Books, by Nick Hornby. I picked this up randomly from the Reading section of my library (geek alert!) and I am so happy with it. It's a collection of Hornby's “What I'm Reading” articles (you know I love that!) for the Believer magazine, which he wrote for 10 years. The articles are funny, memorable, and perfectly express what it is I love about reading. It's a biggie, and I've been reading a few articles every day, stretching out the enjoyment. (Warning: It caused me to add over a dozen books to my To Read list. Beware!)
  • (Some of) How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler. I didn't read it all, because the tone totally turned me off. The author gets snobby (or as British Nick Hornby would say, sniffy) about reading and how to properly do it and while I learned bits, I didn't like his voice or style enough to keep going. But according to Mr. Adler, the only fair criticism is to agree or disagree (with a non-fiction book). I agree with this:

“The first piece of advice we would like to give you for reading a story is this: Read it quickly and with total immersion.”

And this:
“A story is like life itself; in life, we do not expect to understand events as they occur, at least with total clarity, but looking back on them, we do understand. “

What I’m reading


The Great Books Project

After months of waffling, the Great Books Project is finally underway. At your suggestion, I'm holding most of it over on the Facebook page, with discussions of our lists, our progress, and regular quotes from the books I love. I'll be sharing a little update here each month, and you're welcome to join in on your own project, either in the comments, or over on the FB page (the joy of FB is that we can all reply to each other).

My project officially started October 1, but as you can see I got a little excited and hit two of my books already (The Odyssey and Oedipus Rex). This month I hope to plow through Virgil and St. Augustine. Do you have any recommended resources for any of them? (For example, I'll be using CraftLit when I hit Dickens and Wilde.) My entire list is here.


What are you reading?




The Adventures


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

The view

#foundwhilerunning: A little bird (can you see it?) at a crossroads. I'm feeling crossroadish myself and fighting some mighty loud voices of self-doubt.         Song of the Run: Super Bass, Nikki Minaj (I sing along to the whole thing and "chuck the deuce
Playing Settlers of Catan for the first time, with birthday boy @dylan.m22. #Iwon
Roast pumpkin is everything I ever wanted in a vegetable. Served with black beans and garlicky chimichurri, my life is complete. @isachandra (it's her recipe!) is a genius. #yayfall #whatveganseat
Heading to Bristol Rhythm & Roots musical festival with too many knitting projects (3?!) in my @mistydot #drwho bag & my hot pink skirt.

I am so grateful for…

  • Finally reaching a long-time goal (and breaking my own records)
  • Roast pumpkin!
  • Kind words by Libby + Nat!
  • I know I could say this every week (and often do), but I am so so grateful for the fantastically inspiring people I get to work with. And I am truly grateful when they have successes. (An author got an agent! A maker experienced a selling frenzy at a national trade show!)

The Finds:

I’m reading:

I’m eating: 

  • Roast pumpkin over rice and black beans with Chimichurri, from Isa Does It.
  • The very last homegrown basil pesto.

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?

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