What counts as a measure of success – it depends
This time last year I was taken completely by surprise when one order was followed by another and my order diary filled up. I took a deep breath and counted the number of weeks before I would finish and pushed deadlines back. It was in large part an article in a magazine which gave me continued work over the last year. I can’t tell you I wasn’t overjoyed because I was/am still.
No matter how much we are told validation should come from within, when others want your work, your work that you painstakingly put together, which you doubted, hemmed and hawed over every design element, smoothed and softened each careful edge, turned and over in your hands asking repeatedly is it enough? (We all know what that really means, replace that ‘it’ with ‘I’.) Someone wanting that piece/s is like an sprinkling of some kind of extra special fairy dust I can tell you.
I work hard, often putting in extra hours on weekend and evenings BUT I also know many talented and hardworking makers who deserve to make a decent living wage and last year was exceptionally difficult for many I know. I have been on both sides of the fence. So yes, I work hard, so do others and luck AND circumstance always, always count.
On reflection it is a delicate equilibrium to maintain. I’m not going to tell you how many days I had off last year – it wasn’t enough. I don’t want to glorify the cult of being busy. ‘Sorry I am to busy’, ‘Oh I am so busy’. To be continually up to your eyeballs, well, I’m not sure these things are helpful to the body, mind or soul or frankly to people who love you (or who have to live with you, or be near you). Then in a massive about turn in thought, after times of tumbleweed I think I would rather be busier. That’s who we are humans isn’t it, a big ol’ bunch of contradictions. Busy but maybe not to busy. (The perfect balance, easy right? – Life throws in a big old guffaw there).
I love orders coming in, learn and relearn each piece I make. There is a well known equation for this
(I refer you back to the fairy dust validation, paragraph 2 + “oh wow feeling I get to do this for a living” = One happy, fed, grateful to you maker.) (The makers mathbook p53)*
I also know I have to have free time to be creative. Part of that is making sure I have the time to look around. To listen and see and watch and wait. Don’t take for granted the busy or the soft quiet moments. Take advantage of both? Easier said than done.
On reflection, I am proud that I know I can make and make some more, send out pieces, emails and take queries and photos and keep it all together – I know I am capable and that is just great. Equally,I am enjoying carving out new much needed time, working my time better, to give to exploring imaginings again, completing pieces laying forlornly on the workbench pushed to one side. Starting anew. Both sides are essential. Neither extreme is sustainable indefinitely.
I like this story that kind of sums up a measure of success I heard recently.
Maybe (Taoist story)
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
*I might have made up the “makers math book” a bit, the words though are true!
A bit of an add on for other makers and creators.
I know there are a few other makers who read this… So these are some of the things I have learned so far.
For quiet times
Try not to lose heart – it can take time and its a bit of a emotional roller coaster. There’s always a lot of involved in making and selling of creations, some you can control and some external factors are obviously beyond our control. How much time you give it is up to you. No one is failing, only ever trying.
Search out local organisations that might be in your area that can help out. I have been so fortunate to have the practical help and advice here in Cornwall like, Digital peninsula network and Cultivator based at Krowji. Places like these are invaluable and will quickly help you connect with other makers and information.
Have you got a mailing list? Can you get one up and running? Apparently your best customers are ones that you already have – they have bought from you before they like your makings so it makes sense to keep them up to date.
There are apparently three people you should think about when envisaging your customer it can be helpful to think about. If you aren’t sure – maybe start by asking people how they found you. Your ideal customer is rarely yourself!
For busy times
If you are busy – great. Unless you are working 169 hours a week when there are only 168 (fact) in one week and only just making it a little above even then something isn’t right. Have a look at your price points. (btw I think we are all “guilty your honour” of this at one time or another.) Are you valuing your time, materials, creativity enough?
Arrange some time out and stick to it – even if it is just an hour. One of the most useful things is to have something prearranged that is downtime. Even if it is fifteen minutes of quiet with a cuppa.
Some things can wait. I know it feels like we always have to be doing but think about the quiet times – You have to have something left for then right? Surely, that blog post can go. Especially, if the thought of doing it makes your eye twitch. I have loads I want to do – you probably do to, that never really changes (your pics will always need updating, the algorithms are always changing) and so you have to find a way to put it all down sometimes. 🙂