Saturday, March 9, 2013

Instead of Giving Up...

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

In this post, I wrote about fighting the urge to give up after too many rejections. It's one of my favorite posts to date, and I thought I'd written all there was to write about the subject.

And then last Saturday happened, and with it, another craft show. There were some good parts to it. The booth looked spectacular, thanks to Mr. Sequin. I got a chance to chat with people I hadn't seen in ages. I made quite a few new friends, and I gave away a lot of business cards.

(I also discovered... The Egg Truck. A food truck that sells delicious egg sandwiches. That truck changed my life, to say nothing of my arteries, and I'm thinking of becoming their very first groupie. Oh, how cute! You think I'm joking...)

But for the most part? The show was kind of... meh.

I didn't sell a lot. I barely made back the booth fee, and even if I had? Honestly, it wouldn't have made up for the stress of preparing for the show or the stress of being at the show. I don't talk about this a lot because I'm still in denial a little, but I have a hearing loss -- one too many ear infections as a kid. Noisy places plus ornery ears, as you might guess, equals strained interactions with potential buyers.

This experience made me realize a few things -- and not just that I have an unhealthy addiction to eggs and cheese. It occurred to me that there's another layer (or six) to not giving up.

Throwing Out What Doesn't Work.

I don't want to give up being a jewelry artist. I love making things. I love experimenting and pushing my creative boundaries. And you know what? I think I'm getting pretty good at it. I know that if I keep going, I'll get even better because I'm good at improving.

But if I think of my career as a machine, it makes sense to throw out the parts that don't work and replace them with parts that do. This might translate to shifting my focus online, or it might translate to something else completely. All I know is, I've got to keep playing around until I find something that works.

I also need to focus more on the parts that do work. I love learning. I love sharing what I learn. I love inspiring and helping people, and I love talking about jewelry making. All of this tells me that my passion is for teaching, so it's time to get moving in that area.

Being Honest.

I know what my strengths are.

I know what my weaknesses are, too. Some of them, like the hearing thing, are things I can't do a lot about. Some of them are things I can fix fairly easily, like keeping track of the time I spend on each piece -- which will help me price my work and stand behind that price. 

And others are a little trickier. I'm much better at relating to people through my blog and email than in person. Some of it's hearing-related, but most of it's just social awkwardness. I have to work on this if I'm going to teach. I have to learn to be comfortable in my own skin and to own all the things that make me... me. I've made a lot of progress in the past few years, but I have a long way to go.

Taking A Break. 
In all my preparation for the craft show, I neglected my health. I exhausted myself both emotionally and physically, and once the show ended, I crashed.

For the next two or three days, I had a serious case of the Blahs, and I was dealing with a complex, and intense, mix of emotions... as well as fantasies of running away to an exotic place, lounging in a hammock, and eating lots of tropical fruit.

Instead, I slept extra late and watched cartoons on the couch. Not as glamorous, but it helped! The thing is, for self-employed people, it's easy for the boundaries between making a living and just plain living to blur, or to not be there at all. There's so much pressure, inside and outside, to keep charging forward. To keep striving for that awesome, epic life. To pigeonhole meaning into every single thing we do -- especially if you're like me, and you follow a lot of blogs written by extraordinary people.

But there's nothing wrong with recognizing our limitations (Being Honest) and acting accordingly. With slowing down and just being instead of doing all the time. It's a sign of intelligence, not weakness, to give ourselves some time off every now and then. 

Besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder! On Sunday, I didn't even want to hear the word bead. On Wednesday, I was ready to go again. Today, my head is so full of project ideas, it's a wonder there's room for anything else! I've fallen in love with creating again.

Asking For Help.

One thing I'm starting to realize is that we don't have to be alone in our quest to follow through on our big ideas. Everyone who has ever accomplished something great has had help. Novelists have editors. Composers have orchestras to perform their music. Lady Gaga has backup singers and costume designers.

And if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me. As I try to get started teaching, to find the best venue for selling what I make, and to tackle my Top Secret Projects, it makes sense to reach out to people. It's scary, just a little. I'm still learning that I can trust and rely on people. But you know what's scarier? Staying stuck.

Celebrating The Little Victories.

It's important to focus on the things that go wrong with my business. I know, that runs contrary to everything we've ever heard about positive thinking, but it's through the mistakes, the failures, the little hiccups, that we learn the most quickly and the most deeply. These things make us stronger, too.

But you know what? Focusing on the successes, no matter how small they might seem, is just as important because it keeps us going. It reminds us that our struggle is worth it, and that our art is worth it. I might not have sold a lot at the craft show, but I did get some amazing compliments. As much as I enjoy my work, and as much as I love many of the things I make, that validation means a lot. 

So does getting awesome compliments on this blog. So does mastering a new beading technique. So does getting mentioned on Think Traffic this week. To use the machine analogy again, the little victories are what keep my fuel tank full. They add up to something pretty huge.

So these are all the things I'm going to do instead of giving up. Now it's your turn: what do you do instead of giving up?

Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and have a sequintastic day! <3

Edit: Megan of Megan's Creative Blog, a fellow introvert, writes about her experience with craft shows and gives us the best reason to do them. I highly recommend this post to people with normal ears!  ;)


  1. I think I know the egg truck you're talking about! It's usually parked near Nathan's building around lunch time, and every time I see it, I want to try it! I'm glad to hear it's delish!

  2. I give myself a set amount of time to stamp and swear and throw a tantrum. Then I get back to work :-)

  3. I know what you mean. I am retired though and not really trying to support myself but it would be nice to support my "tambour" habit. So when my attempts fail to organize a class or get a lecture spot I just have to realize I am doing what I absolutely adore and keep going!!

  4. Arts and crafts shows are exhausting - I know as I used to do them. So much goes into the preparation and then standing all day talking with people and explaining your visions and art, then at the end to pack everything up and return home. It always took me a couple of days to recuperate.

    I have a similar problem of hearing what people are saying in a noisy place, I've seen an advertisement for a hearing aid that is supposed to filter out the background noises and improves the hearing of conversations. It is something I will have to check into.

    Personally I think when we become disillusioned, most of us tend to pick ourselves up and try to figure out what may have been wrong and then attempt to fix it. We learn early on, even as babies trying to take our first steps, we may teeter and fall but we get up and try again. So as long as you love what you do, find a way to keep on doing it. :)

  5. Another wonderful post, Sarah! Thank you for being so open and sharing how you feel and deal with with these things.

    I, too, have trouble hearing in a crowded room and I am socially awkward. Those are a few reasons why I don't do shows.

    I'm really sorry that you have had some let downs lately, but your attitude is so great. You are such a wonderful example to so many. You're a gift, really. :) We all have those times, it's how we deal with them that separates us.

    Keep on keeping on, Sarah- You're doing great and I know your time will come soon, if not today. :)

  6. Excellent post:) I don't know but maybe it's just the type of life I've lead. I never give up. I plod along doing my own thing and I learned a long time ago not to care what other people think about me. It's just not worth the bother. That sounds a bit conceited but truly I'm the least conceited person you will ever meet:) Plus I'm my own worst critic any way which is bad enough.

    If something isn't working out I set it aside and do something else that I know works. I try not to stress about it because that isn't very constructive. Sometimes it's just a matter of more knowledge needed or better materials or even a whole change of plan. Above all else you have to keep a sense of humour otherwise life can be very dull.

  7. Great post yet again! Thanks for the link to Johnny B Truant's guest post too - his writings are just awesome!

    My last craft show was over two years ago, and it was kind of meh for me too. Since then I've switched gears to focus on writing up and teaching my beading designs, and it's definitely been a change for the better. I kept my Etsy shop and still sell some jewelry in it from time to time, but I really enjoy the process of designing, writing, and teaching, so that's been my main focus.

    When a new design isn't working out, I set it down, try something else, and come back to it later. Sometimes I'll come back to it in a week, but sometimes it'll take five years. Often a new thread path on a different project will be the solution to the unfinished design, but it could also be a new bead shape that wasn't available five years ago (such as the two-hole beads like SuperDuos or Tilas). The hardest part of this process is recognizing when the design isn't working and moving on to something else; I spend too much time for my liking trying to get an undoable project to work out, which can get very frustrating.

  8. yep, totally get the hearing... I have hearing lost and ear ringing, and it does get nightmare-ish sometimes. You feel stupid, asking someone to repeat something 3 times, so at the forth time and still you don't get it, you nod like you finally understood and make a stab in the dark guess... I've tried to be more truthful with people, when I don't understand something the first time, and just tell them straight out I have hearing loss... most of the time people are good about it, I figure for the few who have problems with my problems aren't worth the effort. I was a waitress most of the time during college... I cringe at the thought of trying to do something like that now.

  9. Great post, such a real look at the inner world of a creative entrepreneur! You are an inspiration, for putting yourself out there, your continued positivity, and of course there's your innate talent! Thanks for sharing another uplifting post!

    And..when I feel like giving up, I usually make more art! (and a bottle of wine always helps) ;)

  10. I consider you being able to be self-employed a victory in itself as well. I would give my left pinky finger to be able to say my job is doing something that I love, unfortunately not even an option for me right now so I must live through you and other such immensely creative people "living the dream". I agree with Annie there....I too turn to my sewing/embroidery when I feel like giving up. Even if I may not get the response that I desire from others, it makes me happy and tranquil at the very least and allows me to enjoy what I work on despite other opinions. I occasionally get to fill in for our crazy quilt club leader out here where I live and it fills me with pride that I am asked, but then when my night rolls around and only 3 people show up because I am not her, it is dissappointing, but I know that I would still be doing it regardless and I take comfort in the fact that I was asked. Here is another success for you...because of you I have whipped out my bag of sequins to try adding some of them to my crazy quilting in conjunction with some beads etc. YOU INSPIRE ME!

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  12. You inspire everybody who reads this. Thank you for your honesty and generosity. Doing shows was one of the main reasons I chose not to do more art/craft stuff, and now my spouse is having a whole art career that's basically online, which is great because of his chronic pain issues.

    I was supposed to go to a Stress Management Workshop this morning, and instead I slept in and am catching up on blogs. So hooray for taking a break! You're awesome, Sarah.

  13. Sarah - you are so good at expressing the problems we all have as working artists!

    What do I do to help myself through the blahs? I make lists. Every time I have a major accomplishment, I have a rebound afterwards where I doubt everything I've ever accomplished. I'm come to expect it these days, so I make lists ahead of time of the -simple- things I want to accomplish in the week after. And I try to stick to my list, in between furious bouts of reading which is my favorite method of binging. If I can stick to my list, I can recover a bit more quickly and get back to what I truly enjoy.

    (And I don't do craft shows - the very thought of doing so gives me hives!) :)


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