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: