Remember last time, when we talked about FOCUS? That is, when I rambled on and you politely read and nodded a hearty "AMEN!" at regular intervals? (That's right, no salutation here--we introverts have little patience for social graces. We jump right into the deep end. I trust that you are well.) :) Turns out I have no idea which spinning plates to drop. I like my plates. So I'm looking them over, and asking some questions. Join me, won't you?
Passion is part of focus. It's also a word I don't like. Feels self-indulgent. Like I'm forsaking all responsibility because I'd really just strongly prefer to do my favorite thing and let other people take care of all other realms of life. And it feels myopic. Like I've burned bridges with everything for which I can't muster a "passion." Like I'm going to remain willfully ignorant of all that does not naturally light my fire. And anyway, whenever I'm asked what I'm "passionate" about, I never seem to know, because as a part-border collie, I'm always thinking about what I'm supposed to do.
And if you're like that too, maybe it would help to consider this question: when you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing (the dishes, filing papers, weeding the flowerbed), what are you doing? If you are truly a part-border collie introvert, you are constitutionally incapable of intentionally wasting time, so I know your answer is not "I play computer games and scroll through Facebook." It's more likely "I write little haiku poems" or "I invent muffin recipes" or "I practice my violin." These are clues to the real you!! The fun, creative you! The (still-not-an-extravert) labrador side who knows how to have a good time! Some people claim to be uncreative, and I'm just not buying it. So I encourage you to take it a step further--start a "haiku-a-day" Facebook page, bake muffins for your co-workers (don't let me catch you making "chocolate chunk" muffins with bits of ExLax either...), find a jug player and somebody with a washboard who can strum along to your bluegrass rendition of Hungarian Rhapsody! You don't have to feel...you know...passionate if you don't want to. But if you happen to start making more & more time for it, so much the better. Maybe it's a plate worth spinning.
When it comes to "knowing thyself," sometimes it's easy. I have over 4455 photos on my phone. There are 4455 stored on the extra memory card, and more stored on the phone itself, plus I took more this morning. The vast (talkin' vaaaaaaaast) majority are of dogs. Well, you can see why--I mean, look above & below this post at the level of adorability that occurs in my house on a daily basis. You don't expect me to walk past that, do you??? It's an embarrassment of riches-- *IF* you are, dare I say, *passionate* about dogs. And photographs. No one ever has to bug me to take a picture of a dog. ("Did you take a picture of the dog yet?" "Um, no, I took 300 pictures of the dog.") If ever I dare to indulge in a fun activity, gleefully leaving dishes unwashed, laundry piles teetering, and supper components undefrosted, you can bet the fun activity is taking pictures of dogs. I've driven over 100 miles, one-way, to photograph dock-diving dogs. I developed a form of tennis elbow from poring over dog photos on my phone and computer (scrolling, scrolling, swiping, swiping). It kinda feels like passion. Except for my elbow. That just hurts. But I sure am having fun. And fun pretty much ALWAYS turns into artsy projects, so I'll let you know (and see) what happens! Promise me you'll make room for what makes your heart hum...you know, in case your heart is introverted too and doesn't like to sing out loud. :)
Remember that guy on the Ed Sullivan show who used to spin all the plates on sticks? And then "keeping all the plates spinning" became a metaphor for "burning the candle at both ends," which was apparently our pre-electricity metaphor for being WAY YONDER TOO EXCESSIVELY OVEREXTENDED? Yeah, me neither, but I do remember when Bilbo Baggins said he felt like "butter scraped over too much bread." (At this point please fondly recall whichever metaphor works for you and go with me for a minute.)
Spinning, burning, scraped, way yonder--that's where I've been. That's why even though I've cranked out more dog poems, dog photos, dog paintings, and jewelry, I haven't been having very much fun, and I can't seem to crank out more than a quarterly blog post! And that won't do. As some of you can attest, when you start a little business that revolves around your creativity, there are so many hats to wear you wish you had five more heads. This is especially true if you are dreaming up, designing, developing, manufacturing, selling, shipping, marketing, and doing the dreaded record-keeping that goes along with it. And teaching yourself how to solder. And how to use graphic design software. Can you anneal silver plate, or will it melt? Which kind of epoxy will hold the pin backs to the backs of the pins? What's the best way to digitally watermark my photos? How does one hold an awesome Dogfoolery contest or give-away in compliance with all the laws of the natural and cyber universes? It can really suck the fun right out of your dream job. But hang on--I'm not just venting; I do have an actual point.
Focus. Focus is the point. Some of the juggling is just part & parcel of having a business. It is a "busyness," after all.
But some of my busyness has been self-inflicted. And here's the thing: you can't become great at something if you have too many irons in the fire (add blacksmithing to the pile of metaphors). Is this earth-shattering news? No, but it is dream-shattering news if you are a creative person who loves to learn how to do new things and who *might* (without the tough love of a dream-shatterer) just go on learning new things forever without ever cultivating a long-term relationship with one of them...which I most certainly would do, and was doing, and thought would be great fun, until it became not fun, and became just a tangle of unsatisfying loose ends, and I realized:
No focused passion, no intimacy with your LIMITED number of art forms
= no greatness
= no fun.
Let's observe a moment of silence while we sweep the shards of our shattered dreams into a dustpan shall we? All those cool things we're never going to learn to do...All the cake-decorating and quilting and wood-carving and herb-gardening and French-speaking and piano-playing and Pinterest projects that we're never really going to get good at. You can still have hobbies...if you like that sort of thing...the sort of thing one does with no intention of getting better at it. I don't like doing things I'm not good at if I'm not actively engaged in getting better at them. I may be part border collie.
Back to FOCUSING. Introverted Creative Peeps, I bet I'm not alone in this: I tend to have really good beginner's luck. I pay attention to instructions (because I'm a part border collie introvert and am not there for chit-chat), and then, voila*, I can swing a golf club or cook a turkey or drive a tractor or carve a rubber stamp with reasonable success. Right out of the gate. When you have good beginner's luck, people call you "talented" and get in the habit of telling you, whenever they see anyone doing anything creative or crafty "Hey, look what So&So is doing. You could do that." Some article comes out about some dude who lives in a cabin and sculpts perfect likenesses of famous composers out of empty toilet paper rolls and now he's going to be featured in a museum, both for his artistic skill and his environmentally-friendly practices (I'm making this up, but I bet that dude exists and it's only a matter of time before he gets his 15 minutes of fame), and your well-meaning friends say, "Get a load of So&So--you could do that!"
And you think to yourself, "But I'm already doing Thus&Such. And I just took an online class on Thingamajigs, and taught myself how to make Whatchamacallits from a book! Is my Thus&Such so totally useless and inconsequential that I'd be better off being a cheap imitation of So&So??" Of course not! These people are just trying to give you the compliment of saying,
"O Beloved Quirky One, we who do not make stuff think it is cool or at least cute that you make stuff, and this reclusive unkempt socially-awkward cabin-dweller made us think of you--what we mean is, we think you can learn how to do anything you put your mind to. And if you picked the right thing, then even though it's not a real job at least you'd be famous--uh, we mean, we LOVE you and that...um,...stuff you do. Don't change a thing (unless it will make you normal)--HA HA! LOL!! XOXOXO!!"
This is where a couple of wise quotations should ring in our heads, such as:
Be yourself; everyone else is taken.
-Most frequently attributed to Oscar Wilde
Don't compare your insides to other people's outsides.
-Anne Lamott (God love her.)
So, my advice to myself, and to you if you feel pulled in too many directions, is to drop a few plates, snuff one end of the candle...have some buttered toast...and let the forge..cool down (what?)
Me, I'm going to focus on what I do best and what makes this little micro-company wonderful! And Lord help me, I'm going to try to write more on this here blog--more often, and more briefly!
*Yeah, somewhere there is supposed to be a little accent mark on "voila," but let's let the fact that I am not taking time to Google a keyboard shortcut be my first step toward freedom, shall we? (Let's face it; I'll look it up later. It's not like I can go through life just not accenting things that need accents. My inner border collie would yelp. But it's not like I'm buying a Teach Yourself French kit either--THAT would be an iron in the fire that I don't need.)
P.S. Finally, because it's good for what ails ya, have a dose of dog foolery from Annabel and Murph:
A sun-warm square
of floor is where
the hound prefers to sprawl her
It's 4 degrees
outside but she's
got flowers on her collar
Her tennis ball
sits in the hall
unable to enthrall her
For now she'll laze
and dream of days
when greening grass will call her
©2015 christine philbrick
I hope you're already acquainted with the terrific t-shirts and dog 'danas in our Shop! Just wanted to give you a peek into the making of the shirts because it was so much fun. If you like to make stuff, and you've never been to a screen printing operation, I highly recommend such a field trip, if your local shop doesn't mind. My local shop, Inner Sense Screen Printing, is an unassuming building in Searsport, Maine, where Tim here (pictured above in a blur of highly professional screen-printing proficiency) has built a thriving shop. Tim graciously let me hang around for a couple of hours, which was great because watching each perfect print come off the screen was toooootally addictive. You can't watch just one! If you have read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, you'll know what I mean when I say that this little field trip makes a great Artist Date! Fill the well! Get inspired!
To me there is something about "making a thing that makes another thing," whether it's a screen or a rubber stamp or a mold for casting, that is so very delicious. It's different than just making a mark directly with a pencil or brush, isn't it? Unveiling that "second thing" (the print, the stamped impression, the cast object) is like unwrapping a gift every time! Like turning a bundt cake out of the pan! If you think you could get hooked on screen printing, check out the awesome book Print Liberation by Nick Paparone & Jamie Dillon with Luren Jenison at http://store.printliberation.com/blogs/book
OK, so maybe you don't *quite* have the space for a home screen printing operation. Maybe carving your own rubber stamps is more your speed! Geninne Zlatkis makes gorgeous stamps (and lots of beautiful things), and is kind enough to demystify the process in her online video tutorial: http://blogdelanine.blogspot.com/search/label/handcarvedstampstutorial Once I start carving, I tend to go until every rubber block, scrap, and eraser in the house has been used up! Thank you to my super-fun cousin Meagan for telling me about Geninne!
We interrupt this blog post for a Public Service Announcement from your local screen printer:
(The duct work seems like as good a place as any to post that little word to the wise, right? Works for me!) But wit and charm notwithstanding, I'm really glad I checked out my local screen printing shop because 1) for the quantity of items I could afford to buy (like, NOT 1,000!), I got a better deal than I would have gotten online at a place like Vistaprint, CustomInk, or CafePress; and 2) Tim patiently answered all my questions about fabric weight, dye processes, font choices, how to make the most of the printable area on the shirts, etc. And I knew if there were any problems, Tim would make it right. Shoot, unless your local screen printer is really exceptional, just call Tim! (207) 323-2683!
I now conclude with my favorite photo from my field trip to Inner Sense Printing: Tim's desk. Dude, we are of the same tribe.
Ok, so let's take this Blog thing for a spin. I shall post a poem that came to me just this morning: (ahem)
random bark generator
kitchen crumb confiscator
toasty as an incubator
is my dog to me
on high alert for every smell
full of secrets ne'er to tell
is my dog for me
frank and forthright busybody
visits me while on the potty
mostly good, a smidge of naughty
is my dog to me
velvet ears and ice-cube nose
corn-chip fragrance 'tween the toes
truest friend i ever chose
is my dog to me
by christine philbrick ©2014
I know--this depth of literary quality kinda makes you want to sew elbow patches on your tweed jacket, doesn't it? And in case you are wondering "Where can I get ME some of that dog-exalting, rhyming goodness??" Well, scrunch up your tweed sleeves and get ready to rock this leather wrap bracelet, containing the whole poem, including the line about the potty, with little bone stamps between each line, plus hearts and paw prints, which you'll be seeing in the shop some time soon!! Huzzah for dogs, and dog poems, and dog-poem bracelets!!