on working and not

I have a lot going on. Just yesterday, my friend Jessie and I launched a brand new website-blog-thing (Synchronized Swim) that we’ve been secretly chipping away at for months now. So weird to click a button and then, poof (!), it’s online! Done! Out in the world! Already I’ve been back over it changing little errors here and there, things we missed. Impossible to completely proofread a thing before sending it out into the world, the draw from the “publish” button is just much too great! That’s why I’m constantly editing my instagram captions after posting them, and I’m not sorry. Honestly, that’s what all these crazy projects are about, I think. In a way. I’m trying to learn my rhythms, figure out what I’m good at and what I’m not, what comes naturally and what doesn’t. Man, we’re learning by DOING and it feels kind of good and kind of terrifying. Sometimes I look at my instagram feed and worry that it’s sort of allllllll self-promotion. But then I remember, like, what in the WORLD is instagram if not the ultimate platform for self-promotion and nothing else! Not self-demotion, that’s for sure! Constantly trying to remind myself to keep it the realest of the real while using the tools that are available to me, that are good things but can quickly become bad if used improperly. (Social media terrifies me, it really does.) I’m trying to not pretend to be anything that I’m not. And what I am is tired but happy-ish, excited, driven, drained.

I don’t know what Synchronized Swim will turn into, or even what we want it to turn into! It’s really interesting to work with a partner because I tend to struggle somewhat with collaboration–I crave creative control. Our partnership is strong, as is our friendship and the ways we are different. I am proud of the way this particular project is beginning–I just have no idea what it will look like in a month or a year. Which is exciting! And terrifying! There’s so much I want but also don’t dare to want! There’s so much I hope, secretly, in the bottom of my soul, and also so much that I don’t know yet about myself and the world and what is actually good for me. So in all the uncertainty, I’m throwing myself into all sorts of work, shaking myself up and seeing what good comes out, and what bad too. Big things are on their way, I can only hope. Or if not big things, then medium things, or just things, no size qualifier. I have plans, tiny ones, emerging from my depths.

I think the long and the short of it is that I’ve caught the creative small biz bug, and I’m carrying the idea of starting my own business someday every which way, mostly through doing everything I want to do for no money at this point with the knowledge that, in the future, I will need to get paid for at least some of the things I spend my time, money, and energy on. Will that be the quilting, the writing, the sewing, the something I’m not even working on yet, WHO KNOWS? I have hopes and even plans, but it’s all in a big not-yet bucket at the moment and I know as well as anyone that the best-laid plans of mice and men are la di da di da, etc. I was listening to this episode of the Have Company podcast this morning feeling all the excitements and tensions I’m feeling, all of it at once. Because I’m so excited about what is possible, but I know I need to learn more. I want to start right this minute, but it’s severely not the right time! I want to make something creative my livelihood, my job, but I need money now and businesses take time (lots) to cultivate. AH. So much not enough. So much not yet. So much adrenaline set aside for next time, a rainy day, I don’t know when. I guess this is all just how it feels to be twenty-three and ambitious. Hopeful. Worried that maybe I don’t deserve it. Worried that maybe I do. Worried that it’s going to take a long time. Knowing that it’s going to take a long time.

The plan as it stands is to keep working and learning without a distinct next step. I love all the creative projects I’m working on and I don’t want any of them to fall away, not yet. I’m trying to take steps toward at least a little bit of more formal learning in certain areas, and I’m also taking on more work and responsibility in other areas, all self-imposed, all self-directed, all self-funded. I’m becoming a bit of a creative workaholic, not necessarily a good thing but sort of a necessity at the moment in order to keep all my balls in the air. If I’m not writing, I’m sewing or quilting or researching or hoping. When my brain can’t do it anymore, I sit by the heater and either stare into space or scroll Instagram, either feeling hope or worry or both! I don’t feel as anxious or as depressed as I did before in some ways, but I’m not sure if the relief is only temporary, and I’m not sure that my near-constant working is sustainable either, but it’s what right now looks like, and it’s wonderful. I’m still looking my husband in the eye as much as possible, remembering to stare at trees sometimes, leaving my apartment, eating meals, watching netflix, laughing, crying, taking baths. In a lot of ways, I’m really happy. But also not. I want more. (Cue Belle).

I feel really laid-bare talking about this here. This stuff is close to the bone for me, and I think I’ve been keeping my plans close to my chest because I’m afraid about either encouragement or discouragement, both! Do you know how that feels? Where you kind of want no input at all about the thing you’re mulling over and hoping for because you feel so unsteady that anything could topple you over? But if any space is my space to keep things real, this is it, and if there is anything that I know about the thread connecting all of my projects it is that for some reason I have always, always, felt compelled to share myself and what I’m thinking and feeling with folks outside of myself and my immediate circle. There are things about me that are only mine, private things, but the line between private and public is grey and fluid and I sort of like it that way. The artists and makers that I admire most are the ones that attack the fourth wall, “who go at their life with a broadax” as Annie Dillard puts it in Holy the Firm. It’s a self-destructive impulse, I suppose, to write one’s life, but it’s the impulse that drives me and keeps me making things, hoping, sharing, weeping. I don’t know, I really don’t! I should probably quilt in my living room and say nothing about it, but that’s not what it is for me! I want to talk about it, all of it! I only want to quilt if I can talk about it too, if I can tell you the story about the making of the thing! Because it’s not about the thing necessarily, it’s about the making it, the me making it! Objects are meaningless without the humans behind them! I want to say how it makes me feel! And I want most of all to make someone else somewhere feel like I’m another small person in the universe too and we are sort of alike, there is something we can be for one another even if we don’t know each other. That’s how the people I admire are for me. Madeleine L’Engle, Annie Dillard, Carole King, these women have touched and shaped my life in such meaningful ways, and I have to thank them cosmically for the broadax they took to their lives to sharpen mine.

All this to say, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m making it up as I go. Sometimes it’s wonderful, sometimes it’s painful, and it’s always a dance. But there is more coming. I am only beginning. If anything about what I’m thinking or feeling means anything to you, then I’m so happy. And if it doesn’t, I’m going to keep doing it anyway. I have to. There’s a broadax in my hand and I’m going to use it carefully. And maybe it will make me better. Maybe it will keep me hopeful. Maybe I’ll get some lovely quilts or clothes or even some money (for food and fabric and things) someday out of it. I have no idea. So I’ll just get back to work.

One thought on “on working and not

  1. I really relate, I feel the lure of the creative small business too! I think you’re a great writer and I’m sure will be a great maker too. There’s so much interesting out there to learn and I think it’s a process, and you have to be in it to be in it! good luck. X


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