Exposing the underbelly
After a veritable fever's pitch of intensity, things are winding down here now that the Western New York Fiber Arts Festival has been here and gone. All the pretties have been made, and the hustle is done. All the crazy chaotic creative energy that begged to be funneled into brochure media and collaboration logistics and graphic display elements and proper product packaging is spent. Mommy hashed out an elaborate plan for children, and by god, it actually worked. The agonizing task of sussing out gridwall setup and designing displays is done. All that remains is to breathe and pause, and indulge in a bit of reflection on a job well done. It's a lovely, albeit unsettling denouement, after such a frenzy of work. And while I'm reveling in the calm after such a whirlwind of activity, I find it a bit anti-climactic, too.
So, what's a chaos addict to do with free time on her hands? I'm tackling all of those tasks I've set for myself this year that I've found reasons to avoid. Update the website (can someone tell me WHY SEO optimizing has to take so much work? If it's THAT important, seems like someone should hash out a streamline for that). Tune up the wheels. Clean the studio. Renew my subscript to Ply. I have no reason to not have a subscription to that. Seriously. Photo shoot all of my inventory. All. of. it. And then edit it and NOT PUT IT OFF until later.
Why? No, I am not a complete anal retentive detail freak. No matter what my mother says (Hi mom! loooove you :))
Because not having proper photos is a really good excuse for not being able to march my little heiney into that brick and mortar with a line sheet and invite someone to reject me.
We all hear "Adulting is hard." It's a cute thing to say. We can all relate. Coffee mugs everywhere. But truth...Adulting? Not that bid of a deal. Self-promotion. Self promotion is hard. I don't care if you're talking social media or face to face. There is nothing quite like subjecting your tiny soft little core to the deliberate and calm perusal of other people. On purpose. Combo that with the ever pervasive Impostor Syndrome that almost every creative person I've met seems to carry around like monkey's fist on their shoulder, and you have a David and Goliath situation on your hands. Ego, meet Id. Id, smash Ego into teeny tiny little pieces.
But, here's the thing. I believe that if you want to build a truly full creative life, a joyfully expressive life, an independence (of sorts) from the mundane, and create rooms within your world for exploration of art and beauty through the mastery of a skill or craft, it's not enough to have a passion to create. Your calling has to find a way to serve itself. Unless you're fortunate enough to be provided for, or independently wealthy, the realities of life will infringe and infringe slowly until you are pulled away to the business of living. Making do. Getting by. Earning a living. Accepting reality (that one there's my favorite). And the garden inside of you slowly loses its vibrancy from lack of tending. Maybe I'm wrong, and my personal history has injected an element of the mercenary into my take on this (I hope not, because that's not a very attractive personal trait to come face to face with while composing a blog). But it's the truth for me. Frankly though, I can think of less noble pursuits than the goal of building a creative life that provides for me and mine, and fuels my reality as well as my inner landscapes. Isn't that the dream? Right? The deliciously odd artist on the lonely moors, enigmatic and answerable to no one but their muse and their own nature? Sorry. It's fall and I've started reading Bronte again.
I am fortunate in that I've found a calling that excites me and moves me. Through hard work and diligence, I have developed my skill to a point where I can exchange my art for re numerable compensation with good conscience, which is no easy thing. I have no interest in spending any more of my precious days in this life in service to someone else and carving out desperate, small blocks of time to pursue that which makes me a complete person with what's left at the end of a day of post industrial modern day serfdom. So, the hard truth is that self promotion is a necessary task.
So why is self promotion so hard? For everyone? Everyone I talk to hates it. Is it an innate fear of not being taken seriously? Is it a secret fear of not being as good as the next person? Is it an ennui born from generation after generation of disconnect from that maelstrom that we access when we are genuinely in touch with our personal power? Or is it just plain, dollar store variety fear of judgement? Failure?
I think self promotion is hard for many reasons, and not just because we are taught very early on not to promote ourselves, lest we come across as too arrogant, or "loud." To not take up too much space, or run the danger of stepping on toes and offending patriarchal egos? (I've been reading a lot of Jung and Estes, lately. Does it show?) I guess that may be true, in a certain sense, perhaps, but it's too easy of an answer.
As you can probably tell, Blubird's journey is helping me work through a lot of pretty heavy stuff. Bear with me. I have decades of really questionable life choices to blog my way through. So it might be awesome, or it might just be really uncomfortable. Either way, this could end up getting really interesting. Sometimes I will blog about the fiber arts. I promise. Really. But not today. Or only in the loosest and most infuriatingly evasive way.
For me, I think I've come to realize that I don't like people to look at me too closely. I like the razzle dazzle. I am the proud and extravagant lion, who is never happier than when I have an audience; but only if it's a gullible one. I've spent a lifetime not taken seriously by those around me. And because it's only recently that I've learned the value of defining myself by what I think I am, and to insist that I am defined on my own terms, and that my reality is what I say it is, that I realize I have spent a lifetime not taking myself seriously. I abdicated so much power and responsibility by defining what I was and what I was capable of by other's perceptions and standards that I really was a shell of who I was capable of being. A shade, if you will. My life lacked that sense of gravitas that seemed so automatic to others because I wasn't giving myself the power to lend seriousness to my pursuits. I didn't have appropriate or healthy expectations of what I was entitled to from other people. I was dishonest, in none of the obvious ways a person could be dishonest, but in all of the really important ones.
I could (and would) gnash my teeth all day long about inequality, but what I lacked was the fundamental knowledge that I really was an equal. No better, no less, and entitled to every respect that I gave others. And when I grasped that truth? My world opened up. My creativity (for lack of a less hackneyed phrase) bloomed. I found that I wasn't a disorganized, slightly odd, unreliable misfit. I didn't need to be "taken care of." I was sharp. and Strong. and wild, and capable of amazing things. I didn't need permission to be authoritative and in control of my environs. And a lifetime of passive learning began to unravel. I found that I had no reason to expect to fail. In fact, failure wasn't an eventuality anymore. It wasn't even an option. All things became possible in my knowing who I was. And Finally, Blubird was born.
I realize at this point half of you have stopped reading and moved on to something less linguistically masturbatory. But for those of you still hanging in there, good on you! Thanks! You're awesome. I've almost come circle on this. The end is in sight and I promise it will make sense.
The trouble is, when you find this knowing, you find yourself surrounded by people who still define you based on those conceptions that you no longer internalize or accept. Boundaries need to be created. And enforced. You find yourself protecting this new sense of self, fiercely. And you find yourself advocating for those basic entitlements from people who don't even realize that they haven't been affording them. And that's really uncomfortable.
Empowerment and enlightenment isn't rewarding, or pretty. It's grueling, hard work. It shakes the very foundations of the connections you have with those around you. It redefines your history, your relationship with your children, and with your partners and families. And this is not comfortable. You shine the light on your mistakes and your preconceptions, and your shadow self and you drag all that dark out and start whipping it into shape, and sometimes (read: usually) it fights back. But you know what the beautiful thing about fighting for your boundaries is? After a while, people become more honest with you, probably because you become more honest with yourself, and subsequently, with them. And those boundaries you create aren't moats or burning spear lines anymore. They are shining battlements. Being a warrior isn't just a hackneyed Instagram hashtag. It's legit battle. And let me tell you, I grow some kickass demons. When you smash your mountains into molehills, one at a time, the earth shakes.
This year has been a year of almost feverish growth for both Blubird, and for me, and sometimes in my push to promote and brand and conquer and build a solid foundation for the business aspect of Blubird, I lose sight of the grace and and the genuine joy that what I do provides for me. I am no longer standing with my nose against the glass. I am real. I am #blubirdflying. And I am so very grateful to those who support me and accept me as I change and grow, perhaps into someone that they don't understand.
Self promotion, man. Who knew it was such a existential landmine? Here I thought it just because I was worried everybody would realize I'm secretly a big fat fraud.
And so, as I find myself with time to spare this week, you'll find that my website has been whipped into shape, my books are meticulous, and those pictures? DONE. I'll send those unsolicited marketing kits to retailers. I'll hand out those cards. I will send those beautiful skeins to Rhinebeck. And I will create. Because I've been lucky enough to discover a path to my own personal power, and once you've tasted that, you can't go back. It's kind of like stuffing an air mattress back into the factory box. Doesn't work. Don't even try.
In the words of the inestimable Ron Burgundy, That escalated quickly. I didn't start out this morning expecting to bare my soul to all and sundry. As uncomfortable as it is for me to share this level of intimacy/insanity with strangers and (worse) friends and potential customers, I don't feel that this blog entry is a mistake. A divergence, perhaps, from the vision that I had for Blubird's blog at the outset, but not a mistake. I hope that this serves as an inspiration to those who are also seeking a way to ground themselves through exploration of the arts, in any form, and fiber in particular. It is archetypal. It really is primal. That's why it's so satisfying. The spider woman, the weaver, the fates, the old stories; they're all evidence of how deep the connection that these arts go in all of our psyches, and they can help us unravel our conflicts and manipulate our realities. Sometimes that's not any fun. Like learning to spin boucle. Miserable. Awful. Makes you cry. But, oh....when you get it, you feel like you could conquer the world.
Speaking of boucle, did you know I have one teeny tiny boucle play pack left in the fall collection? ;) See? Self promotion. Important stuff. Cheers.