“Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible. We can be unanimous in our lack of feedback for the invisible one.” ~Seth Godin
Seth Godin wrote a post a few days ago called For the one person who didn’t get the joke. As is typical of his posts, this is a short, quick read that still makes a profound point. (Yes, that’s my encouragement to take a moment to go read it for yourself. It’s worth it!)
There will always be someone who does not appreciate each creative thing I may make. This is true of my writing, the jewelry I make, the things I crochet, the food I cook, the way I dress, my style in decorating. I can’t please everyone.
I’ve gotten to the point where I very seldom listen to music at home because I so value the silence. So today I’ve been going through my extensive CD collection in an attempt to weed it down to a more reasonable size given how little it is used. In the process, I’ve been listening to some of these old CDs again today to help me choose the ones to keep and the ones to get rid of.
As I’ve gone through this exercise today, I’ve been fascinated to discover the impact I’m noticing on my creative work as I have music going in the background. I’m so used to writing and creating in silence now that I kept finding even the quietest instrumental music to be a distraction!
Several months ago, Seth Godin wrote a blog post on Association in his trademark style of short posts that pack a punch. (It’ll only take a few seconds to read it, and it’s worth it!)
As a creative, I think his point is particularly true. The people that we choose to associate with will powerfully influence the ideas that we encounter that will feed our own creative work. In addition, their attitudes toward creativity will make a difference in our own confidence (or lack of it) in engaging in creative work ourselves.
“Genius develops in quiet places, character out in the full current of human life.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I work best in quiet places, particularly if I am writing or doing creative work. People, noise, social media, and often even music are distractions that keep me from focusing the way I need to in order to dig deep enough to find what I am trying to say or to create. So while I have long recognized the value of relationships and human contact for emotional health, I have focused on increasing the degree of solitude when it comes to my creative life.
Building in more opportunities for solitude has indeed helped, and it gives me the space and energy I need in order to increase my creative work. I’ve seen positive results from this approach over the last few months, but I’m also realizing the picture is incomplete.
I enjoy writing, and words usually come fairly easily for me. (At least, they seem to in comparison to the struggles I’ve heard other people describe for their writing process.) But the last few weeks have felt really dry and flat for me as I sit down each evening to write my blog post.
I know I’ve been stressed and busy with wrapping up the semester, preparing for the holidays, getting as many items up on Etsy as possible for holiday shoppers, finishing the yard work preparations for winter, and attending holiday functions. I know that some of my struggle to find new ideas each night is simply exhaustion. But that’s not all of it.
I tend to think of simplicity (at least in part) as being a reduction in the number of things I own—a reduction of clutter and excess. And I tend to think of creativity as the production and proliferation of new things—new ideas, new products, new creations.
I am currently working on reducing the amount of “stuff” that I own, AND my creative work is also exploding. This means that I am constantly bringing home new tools, supplies, and equipment. In fact, my entire dining room table (normally an empty space) has now been entirely taken over by jewelry making “stuff.” I now have inventory to store and keep organized (of supplies and of finished items).
So I’ve been feeling a tension between these two parts of my current experience. I am cleaning things out and letting things go at the same time that I am stocking up and bringing home new things. And while I can argue that one is related to my personal life and the other is related to my business, I am still aware of the tension between the two.
I’ve always been mystified by the zodiac and the identification of various animals and creatures from the stars whose points of light make up each sign. I could never see the how the ancients came up with the pictures they saw when they looked at the stars.
But now I find myself staring at my bedroom ceiling each morning and find myself picking out animals and people from the shadows created by my bedside lamp on the textures of the ceiling. Not unlike the game of identifying objects in cloud formations, I am well aware that I would have great difficulty getting anyone else to see the items that appear so clear to me. In fact, I often find that if I look away from the spot, I may never re-find the same item again until it magically reappears some other morning when the light is again just right.
And so, this early morning game on the edge of sleep and wakefulness has become my own practice in finding my daily zodiac reading for the day. If nothing else, it is a constant source of wonder and an exercise for my creative mind.
I tend to be a bit hard on myself. (OK, OK, I tend to be a lot hard on myself, but that’s beside the point for this post.) One of the things that I’ve found myself often criticizing myself for recently is the diversity of creative ideas and projects that I am engaged in.
I write. I make jewelry in an ever-increasing number of styles, techniques, and materials. I crochet several very different kinds of items. I make a number of homemade versions of cleaners and bath and body products. I am re-engaging with woodworking. I’m playing with ideas for re-using and upcycling various materials that would otherwise be waste. I cook in more creative and less recipe-dependent ways all the time. And I’m constantly investigating new possibilities for creative work, like polymer clay, basket weaving, and metal working.
Talk about scattered! How can I ever expect to become any good at any of these if I am dabbling at them all? (At least, that’s what my inner critic keeps saying to me …)
I have a number of things I need to get done this weekend, but I decided to spend a little time making jewelry this morning because I haven’t had much chance to do that work during the work week this week. I decided to start playing around with making necklaces, which is a new thing for me.
The next thing I knew, half the day was gone and I was completely unaware of time passing. Fortunately, I also had several completed necklaces to show for it, so it wasn’t at all a waste. But I’m still fascinated by the way time just seemed to disappear while I was working.
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.