As I continue the process of listing my creative work on Etsy, I’m learning that knowing my craft well is not enough. In addition to continuing to improve my actual craft skills, I’m also having to learn how to write good descriptions, take good pictures, edit those pictures effectively, find optimal pricing, select effective keywords, optimize shipping options, determine how to best group items (when appropriate), and figure out effective marketing and advertising campaigns. It’s a bit overwhelming just starting out.
The place where I’m encountering the greatest challenge is in getting good pictures, and good pictures are really critical for selling things online. I’ve learned an incredible amount about picture-taking and photo editing in the last couple of months, but I’ve got a long way to go. I’m still often shocked when I download the pictures onto my computer for editing to discover that they look much worse than they appeared when I was taking them.
I’ve spent most of my life thinking that I was not a creative person. I thought of creativity as some magical talent that only certain people had. I don’t think that any more.
I am increasingly convinced that all creativity stems from the ability to see life with fresh eyes. And every single one of us can learn to do that, including me. It doesn’t even matter what one’s preferred creative outlet is. It still all comes back to learning to see life with fresh eyes.
I love words. I always have … or at least I have for as long as I can remember. My mom says that from the time I was old enough to sit up by myself, she could keep me occupied just by giving me a page of the newspaper. Apparently I would stare at the words in rapt fascination for long stretches of time that would allow her to fix meals or get other things done around the house. I still love the sight of printed words—in any language. It’s still a marvel to me that we can capture thoughts from our minds with scribbles on a page. I suppose it’s no surprise, therefore, that I grew up loving to read and to write.
I also love the sound of words. Sometimes the sound of a certain word will capture my attention, and I find myself marveling over the sound of each letter and each syllable, how those sounds fit together, and how the word feels in my mouth. This happens with new words (to me) and to words that I use all of the time. In those moments, it’s as if they are suddenly highlighted by a spotlight in my mind that makes them exotic all over again.
I’ve been on a major creative roll lately. I’ve never known anything quite like this. I have more ideas than I have time to work on them, and these ideas are for creating things that don’t come with a pattern. That doesn’t sound like much, but this is unprecedented territory for me.
I’ve never considered myself to be creative. I only cooked dishes for which I had a recipe. I only made craft projects for which I had a pattern with clear instructions. I never colored outside the lines.
“Writing makes a map, and there is something about a journey that begs to have its passage marked.” ~Christina Baldwin
There are times I wonder why I am so attached to writing, both writing this blog and writing my daily morning pages. I’ve long known that part of the reason I write is that it helps me to figure out what I really think. It is in writing that discover what is lurking below the surface of my mind. It’s how I process what I’m experiencing and learning.
But it’s more than that.
I attended a fall festival today at a local orchard. There was a corn maze, a hayride, games for kids, live music, food and drink available, lots of produce and products made from produce (like apple cider, jams, jellies, butters, and more), and a collection of artists selling their wares.
One of the vendors that I talked to was from Niger, and he produced lovely silver jewelry. He commented that he was a sixth-generation silversmith. It’s hard for me to imagine the amount of time and practice he must have put into his craft as he learned it from his elders. It also made me wonder whether he ever wished he had been born into a different line of work. Or did he grow to love this craft as his skill grew and his creations improved?
My conversation with him reminded me that it’s impossible to create well without investing in the time and practice needed to learn the craft of the kind of thing one wishes to create. There is always a learning curve (some steeper than others). Everyone has to start out as a beginner even when born as a descendent of generations of that craft.
I get a kick out of making products at home that I would otherwise by at the store. In fact, my first attempts at this started when I was very young. I remember trying to mix up various things I found in the bathroom in the attempt to make some new, grand potion. I’d mix shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, powder, conditioner, and whatever else I could find in a puddle in the bathtub, mixing it carefully with a cotton swab. The fact that it never succeeded didn’t stop me from trying again … well, until I got caught red-handed and they realized that it was not my younger brother who was to blame! That put a stop to it.
My next attempts took place outside where I figured I was less likely to get into trouble. I remember crushing the dark purple berries from poke weeds and mixing them with various substances that I’d smuggle out of the house in an attempt to make paint. I did, in fact, manage to paint a number of rocks with my concoctions, but I never could figure out how to make it waterproof. These early attempts at creating potions were probably part of what led me into making my first career as a chemist.
I recently needed to take a trip to my local craft supply store to get materials to complete a project. Just being around all of the supplies re-opened the door to all of those jewelry-making ideas that I’ve been trying so hard to squelch. Ever since that trip, I find myself mentally creating new bracelets of all kinds, all using different materials than I’ve ever used before.
I’m just dying to buy the materials and equipment I would need to try these ideas so I can experiment and see what works, what doesn’t, and what new possibilities might come from having the materials in hand. There are two big problems with this, though.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what causes me to be so hesitant to create. I’ve explored all of the usual fears about failure and success, and I am aware of how those fears do get in my way. But I’ve always been aware that there’s something more holding me back that I haven’t been able to identify.
As I’ve wrestled with this today in preparation for writing tonight’s post, two intertwined gremlins in my thinking have surfaced that may explain more of why this is such a struggle for me.
“The creative person is willing to live with ambiguity.” – Abe Tannenbaum
I don’t like ambiguity. In fact, that’s quite an understatement. I really can’t stand ambiguity. I’m slowly learning to live with it a bit better just because it’s an inevitable part of life, but I still don’t like it one bit.
I don’t like surprises. I like to know plans ahead of time, and I want those plans as detailed as possible. I like to know what to expect—from people, from situations, from things, from the weather (yeah, I get disappointed a lot on that one). I want to know exactly what I am getting myself into before I commit to anything.