A QUORA QUESTION ANSWERED: How to Write???

Why can’t I just start journaling??

My best guest: Because you are trying to do it perfectly.

Because despite being inspired by someone else’s words, loving them, wanting to be like them, when it comes to being yourself, you freeze.

Here’s what turned me around:

When I started out on a new journey in my life, I had some doubts and confusion in my heart. An online friend gave me a coaching session. The game-changing question she asked me was, “Are you a perfectionist?” Yep, I have that tendencey. Her reply?

“When we are a perfectionist, we are full of knowing, and nothing new can come in.”

WOW. That blew me away. It still amazes me, years later.

I decided to trust my heart. To move forward one step at a time, to ask “stupid questions”, to be open to something new.

It changed everything.

So back to your writing block:

Every writer on the planet has—or has had—a writing block at some point in their life. (Okay, PROBABLY every writer.) There are many reasons, but I’m guessing most are afraid of doing it wrong. Afraid it won’t matter. Afraid it won’t be good enough.

I’ll share what often stops me:

Not believing that what I have to say matters to anyone else except me.

Not believing I can sort out my thoughts, and tidy/tie them up into a pretty little package with a bow on top.

Not believing I can figure out where I’m going, let alone how to get there.

And right now, not having a paid work commitment with deadlines, which FORCES me to write SOMETHING, even when I’m having these thoughts.

But what I’ve learned over the years is, this is a time in history, when no one can stop us from having a voice in the world.

Your gender, your color, your religion, your views on life, cannot be used against you from writing, nor from publishing your words online: On Facebook, on Twitter, on Reddit, on your blog. (Unless, of course you use your words to incite violence, to slander/libel, to scam people.) (I’m assuming you don’t intend to do that?)

And then what helps me is to start writing. Even if it’s “I just don’t feel like writing today.”

Because then I go into, “WHY don’t I feel like writing today?” Oh yeah…because of that thing that happened, or what that person said to me, or how I’m feeling ‘less-than’ today.

I write that down. And I keep recording my thoughts, even when I get frustrated and simply write “blah blah blah” a dozen times.

Sometimes I have a point to make, and I get this all sorted out in my head before I even begin.

But sometimes, I have no idea where I’m going, and writing is how I get there.

My goal started from a writing support group that required I write three pages a day, even if it were only several hundred “blah blah blahs”. Now, I just make myself write one page.

In your case, aim for 100 words, maybe.

In my case, I realized I need to get it all out, then edit to get it more clear.

So stop reading “how to” stuff, just for now.

For now, just write down what’s in your head, and listen deeply to what’s in your heart.

If you really do freeze up, write down ONE SENTENCE that describes how your feeling.

Every day.

Be yourself.

Be the scared, uneasy, feeling less-than person you are right now, and be your authentic self.

Write about where you are right now, what you want to do differently, where you want to go, and where you want to be in a week, six months, a year, a decade.

Because YOU are the only YOU in the world.

It’s not about having an audience, it’s about having a voice.

TODAY’S QUORA QUESTION, ANSWERED

Luann Udell

Seth Godin, a long-time marketing blogger, often writes articles that are less than 100 words.

Captain Awkward, one of my two top fave advice columnists, will write as much as it takes to thoroughly address someone’s issues, and walk them through every step. A thousand words or more. (NOTE: Most people can read about 200 words per minute. So even a thousand words is just a 5-minute read.)

Me? I’m known for being very….um….wordy.

Go with what works for YOU. Do you tend to write sparingly? Make your points clear and don’t worry about it.

Do you tend to go long? That’s okay, too. Make it a great story, and most people won’t mind.

And if your piece gets TOO long, then break it up into a small series of posts.

As for what the average is, I have no idea, and I don’t think anyone really cares.

I suspect you’re either a) just starting out, and aren’t sure what’s “too much” and what’s “not enough”, or b) you wrote an article and someone criticized you for writing too much.

If the answer is A, just write until you’re done. Edit to make it clear, and let it go.

If the answer is B, ignore the trolls who are merely out to get your goat. Delete their comments if they didn’t have a real point to make, or information to add, etc. Or respond to their criticism with adult-iness and good will, making the point that you don’t have to go to every fight you’re invited to. Then block ‘em! 😀

MY WONKY CREATIVE CYCLE

There’s no single right or wrong way to be creative. It’s what works for YOU!

I beat myself all the time when I hit a slump in my creative cycle.

I think, “What’s the use, nothing’s selling, everyone’s telling me I’m doing it wrong, I’m out of ideas, NOW WHAT??!!”

When I’m in this part of my cycle, it feels pretty hopeless, and I feel pretty useless.

Today I had an ‘aha!’ moment.

This. Is. NORMAL.

I’ve written before about my amazing experience in Lyedie Geer‘s Theory U workshop. (Theory U represents a business model, but Lyedie’s presentation focused on this also applies to our creative work.) (Also synchronistic: As I looked for a link to her blog, I found another great article that helped me today!)

In any creative cycle, there are periods of intense productivity. And also periods of intense confusion, frustration, trial-and-error, and self-doubt.

It’s only when we define ourselves by that second half of the equation that we lose hope. Lose faith in our process. Lose respect for ourselves, as an ordinary, often brilliant, sometimes lost in confusion as a human being.

During the Covid-19 shut-down, I went into a major productive period during the Covid-19 shut-down (my latest shrine series). I always want to figure out how to make something in my head. Does. Not. Work. Instead, I took a deep breath and went with trial-and-error. It DID work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then some exhibition deadlines came up. More inspiration! And I made two more Shaman necklaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then the deadlines were met, the creative surge ebbed, and I was in a major period of lull.

I went into a major period of sifting and sorting through my supplies: Sorting my artifacts by size, use, and color. Moving on items that I will never use, and won’t need for classes. Organizing seed beads (yup. I KNOW.) was the biggie. And I’d berate myself for wasting valuable time when I could be doing something more productive.

The rewards of this period? I got a lot of sorting done! And it was very soothing indeed.

The downfall? Long periods of sitting and repetitive motor activity resulted in tendonitis, loss of muscle tone, and not much else getting done.

Finally, last week, I told myself, “ENOUGH!” My goal: Make one thing today. One horse. Or an owl. Or a blue bear.

And I did.

But it didn’t swerve me into full artifact-production-mode. I still felt “meh”.

And then, yesterday I had a huge insight/inspiration:

I want to make more Shaman necklaces. The really big ones, with big beads, big critters, statement pieces.

They don’t sell quickly, that’s for sure. And my goal has always been to make at least one a year. To remind myself that the MAKING is what’s important, not the selling. To encourage myself to “go BIG”, no matter what the outcome is.

But I made a big blue horse yesterday. And as I made it, intending it to be a small sculpture, I thought, “This would make a great Shaman necklace!”

There it was. There was my answer, my next step forward.

Today, I’m actually excited to get to my studio again.

Today, I can see that the “fallow” period was not a fluke. It was not useless. It was not a drain of my resources.

It was a period of rest, and restoration. A time to let the next inspiration find ME, instead of demanding it show up RIGHT NOW.

I’m feeling better today.

And I hope I’ve made YOU feel a little better today, too.

What is your creative cycle? Similar? Vastly different?

Do you recognize it when you’re in it? I’d love to hear what other creatives experience!

 

TODAY’S QUORA ANSWER:

Let me start by saying this phrase really annoys me.

Our readers and followers are not fish.

Just like strategies that claim to “drive people” to our websites, etc. or establishing our “brand”, which are both cowboy metaphors, this usage sounds like you are only interested in “snagging an audience”.

Your first reason to write a blog is to have a voice in the world. You have something to say, you have something to share, you have interests and opinions based on your experience and world view, and you want to get them out into the world.

Instead, some people want to have an audience. A big audience. A HUGE audience.

Which is understandable. Heck, I wish I had a huge audience!

But not at the expense of adapting MY VOICE IN THE WORLD to appease others.

There are plenty of experts out there who can advise you about SEO, ads, sites to promote yourself, etc. etc. etc. Know that most of these people may be sharing their own experience and knowledge, but they also hope to make money off YOU. After all, if there were a sure-fire way to grow a huge audience in a short amount of time, we would ALL be jillionaires.

There will be a fortunate few who can gain fame, likes, a huge audience, sponsors/sponsorship, etc. My favorites are the people who have gained great insights in how to live our best life, and how to be the best person we can be. The influencer crowd? Meh.

So follow your own path, but please consider what is really important to you in life.

Wealth? Influence? Adoration?

Or becoming your best, authentic, heart-driven self?

Your choice.

HOW TO SEE THE WORLD Part 1: What Made Me Put On My Rose-Colored Glasses This Week!

Can you tell I’ve been feeling saggy lately? Go figure (says the rest of the world who are also feeling saggy.)

Last week, something happened that made it worse.

I got my husband his dream Christmas gift this year, a little Sharing Library. (It’s like a Little Free Library. Ours is from the same family but a different company, hence “Sharing Library.) It’s been up for six months, and we restock it every week or so. It had just reached the point where people were adding as many books as were taken. Yay!!

Then one morning, my husband sent me this picture while I was at my studio:

No more books :-{Yup. Someone had taken ALL of our books. (Turns out the two remaining were actually left by a neighbor’s kiddo, who saw that they were all gone and generously added two of theirs. Love love love you Nova!)

My heart went to a sad place. Who would do such a thing?? And WHY???

I checked in with NextDoor, and with a Facebook group of fellow Little Free Library members in Santa Rosa.  At least two other people said this had happened to them, too. People shared their thoughts:

 

Was it someone with a mental health issue?

Was it someone who thought “free” meant “take ’em all!”??

Was it someone who realized they could resell them to a used bookstore???

Fortunately, I’d stockpiled some books to move on, and half-filled the library again. But it left me in a bit of a huff. As in, do something kind and look what happens! Ugh.

And then the light poured in.

Someone in the FB group offered to bring us more books. Someone else did, too. Soon we were swamped with offers of books.

One person brought theirs over immediately, and totally restocked the box. I met another person who meant to do the same, and gave me their box to store. More people did the same. Soon people from NextDoor chimed in, too.

Dozens of people offered books, brought books, left books on our porch, and left books on THEIR porch for me to pick up.

We now have enough extra books to fill up that library for months!

So one tiny act of greed/misunderstanding/poopiness resulted in hundreds of words and actions of kindness and generosity.

So what do I want to hold onto this week?

An empty giving library?

Or a little world of good deeds?

Yup. You guessed it!

If this lifts YOUR heart today, too, then I’ve done my work for the day….

When good people do good things.

 

MY QUORA ANSWER TODAY: “What Made You Write That Post Today?”

Today’s answer to a question on Quora:

“What made you write that post today?”

Something happened that triggered me. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way.

It might have been something I read. It might have been something someone said.

It might have been directed at me, or had nothing to do with me.

Or I may be feeling “something” today: Feeling down. Feeling ‘left out’. Feeling ‘less than’.

Or maybe I’m feeling uplifted, relieved, happy.

Maybe I experienced a lovely little miracle, a moment of synchronicity, something that made me pause and go, “WOW!! I needed to hear/see/experience that today!”

In almost every case, writing that post was a way for me to find clarity. Or humor. Or simply peace in my heart.

And whenever that happens, I’ve realized that, if that’s what I experienced today, writing that post was my way of working it through to my highest, best self, again.

And it my words got ME there, then maybe someone, somewhere in the world, would find the same reassurance, the same clarity, the same grounded-ness, for themselves.

Even when I’m feeling down, miffed, angry, sad, scared, left out, unseen, unnecessary, I still want to believe I have a place in the world. That my creative work matters, IF ONLY to help me be a better person in the world.

Sharing those thoughts, those steps, may help someone else feel the same way.

It’s not about the likes, the numbers, the followers, the sales.

It’s not about having an audience. It’s about have a voice in the world.

And encouraging others to have theirs, too.

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #20: Art Events Aren’t About Making Money TODAY

I am reprinting an article I wrote a few years ago (July 13, 2019), because it’s worth repeating. AND should be in this series. What a coincidence that I came across it on Pinterest. And an hour after I read all the bitter, disappointed comments collected for our recent open studio event, Art at the Source.

Creating our artwork takes time. Getting good at it takes time. So does an open studio! And giving up after one slow event–especially in these strange times, when EVERYONE is struggling….well, I’ll just keep my mouth shut. For now.

If money is your only measure of success, you may be missing out on the longer game…

I learned years ago that even a “bad” art event has its value. I had to learn that the hard way, by having a lot of poor sales at shows, exhibitions, fairs, open studios, even high-end fine craft shows across the country.

It started when I first did small local art fairs and craft shows. I never did well enough to go back, if my work wasn’t a good fit with other vendors.

But at each show I would a) have one good sale that paid all my expenses, b) made connections that grew, and c) always got a good tip, insight, experience, that convinced me not to give up.*

I began to realize it took time for folks to “get” my work. It wasn’t painting, it wasn’t pottery. It didn’t fit into any “box”. Almost every visitor did, and said, the same thing. They would stop, come in my space, and gaze at my work for several minutes. When they were ready to talk, they all said a version of the same thing:

“I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s absolutely beautiful.”

So the work was good enough to pull people in, but different enough that they had to really think about it. I realized I was laying groundwork for something bigger, and better, down the road.

It kept me going, and eventually, I leaped into bigger, juried shows. Those people began to show up for other events: Open studios, art tours, art walks, etc. Gradually, my audience grew. I started doing wholesale fine craft shows, and was juried into a major fine craft show (retail) that same year. I did both shows for years and a couple of open studio events.  My audience grew every year, until I left for California in 2014.

I’m still relearning those same lessons over and over.

Last month, I joined another open studio tour, as the guest of another artist. Attendance was good, but sales were not.

It would have been easy to feel sorry for myself. Heck, I didn’t even get that many newsletter sign-ups.

But I realized I had accomplished my main goal: Introducing my work to a brand new audience. I had rich conversations with amazing people, who I know will come back. Only few dozen people signed up for my email newsletter during the event. But I gave out a ton of business cards and postcards, which paid off.

When I checked in after the event, I found a LOT of people had signed up online. (I think they wanted to see more, and liked what they found!) And I had the rare opportunity to get to know my host artist, and their other two guest artists, better. They are all remarkable people! (We drank a lot of Prosecco at the end of each day.)  (A LOT of Prosecco!)

 A few days ago, I was at the kick-off meeting for this year’s Sonoma County Art Trails open studio event, (Both tours are under the same umbrella organization, but focus on different areas in our large county.)

I was sitting at a table with the new manager of this particular 35-year-old tour. I mentioned that I had few sales at the other open studio tour the week before, not even covering my entry fees, but I was satisfied with it, all-in-all.

Then the new manager said the magic words that summarize this entire article into seven truth-filled words:

“Art events aren’t about making money TODAY.”

Perfect! “I’m gonna write about that!” I exclaimed as I scribbled her words down before I could forget them.

Maybe my very own experience of making something positive out of the ordinary made me realize this early on. How to share the essence of this with others in seven words? Thank you, Tenae Stewart!

Art events are about introducing our work to an audience, especially if it’s a new audience. It’s about inviting our visitors and attendees into our world. Open studios are especially powerful, because they see our work and our environment in full. (Well. It’s a little less messy, but I never get my studio perfectly clean anyway. Artistic mess, people!)

It’s like what a friend told me once, at my old studio space, when I complained about how few people actually came by my studio on an average day. They replied, “It’s not who comes by, it’s who comes BACK.”  And as I look back, I see that the most amazing people DID come by, often when I wasn’t there. But my studio’s sidewalk window let them see a sample of my work, and they did indeed come back.

Now I’m on a crusade, encouraging artists who, for many reasons, don’t like open studios. They may believe their studio is not interesting/too small/too messy/not “professional enough” to open to the public. They may have tried it once, then gave up because it wasn’t worth it.

It’s hard to gear up for an event we didn’t have much success with. But there are events we need to give a second, or even third chance for.

I share my own experiences, how very small open studios tours back in New Hampshire grew from one visitor my first year, to scads of visitors during the second year, who didn’t buy anything, to folks who came in droves the third year—and bought enough to rival my sales from major shows. (And I didn’t have to drive anywhere or set up a booth!)

I share how powerful it’s been to give people permission to “go deep” in my making space. I share how I give them the chance to look while making myself easily available for their questions: (“Hi, I’m Luann, and I make all the artifacts that look like carved bone and ivory. It’s okay to touch my work and pick things up. And if you have any questions, I’ll be right over here!”) Rather than saying, “No thanks, just looking”, people say, “Oh, THANK YOU!!!!” and dive in. When they’re ready to talk, they ask their question, and the conversation begins.

I recently encouraged another artist in my new building to open their studio during our first major event here. They made the usual disclaimers: Their studio is too small, it’s too messy, they don’t have a body of work yet, they’ve never sold a painting, etc. etc.)

I told them their small space might encourage some visitors to realize they don’t need a huge room to do their own creative work, just a spot they don’t have to clear for dinner. They will love looking at that work in progress. It will captivate them, with the photos, preliminary studies, the rough sketches, and the work-in-progress. They will love the subject. Best of all, this artist is comfortable talking to people. They are full of energy and enthusiasm without being overbearing, and visitors will love that.

And last, I said, “Bruce Baker once said, “To regular folks, artists are the people who ran away to join the circus!” Other people wonder and dream about doing their own creative work. To see someone actually doing that work is powerful medicine for all of us in our torn and tattered world.

Open studios aren’t for every artist. Some galleries restrict their artists from participating in them, perhaps for fear they will lose sales, or the work will be undersold. (If you are represented in stores or galleries, NEVER undercut your gallery prices.)

Some artists have privacy or safety issues. (Ask a friend to keep you company, and safe, or ask another artist to participate with you.)

Some see them as too much work. (Me? It’s like having company for dinner, it forces you to clean up a couple times a year!)

Bottom line, art events are essentially about connection: You with your potential audience, them with you, and with your work. Sales certainly help! But know that sales usually follow after laying the groundwork for a mutually-respectful and satisfying relationship.

Don’t worry about the sales you didn’t make today. You’re laying the groundwork for something bigger, tomorrow!

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #19: Why Should I Have an Open Studio Anyway??

 

I’ve made very few “people” figures in my art. But my handprints appear all over the place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.”

I was thinking about my dad today.

Yeah, partly because it was Fathers Day. And mostly because of the grief I’m reading/hearing about how unsuccessful people were with our recent Art at the Source open studio event this month.

My dad was a diligent worker. He took over the family business (a dairy biz, processing milk into ice cream, cream, and…well, milk), incorporating a dariy bar, and eventuallly a family restaurant. (My first job was washing dishes there, when I was in…4th grade??) Then he sold the biz and became a state dairy inspector. (He sure liked cows.)

He also loved flowers. Our house was surrounded by rigid rows of organized, meticulously-spaced flowers. In the spring, he would give each of us kids a soup spoon, and we would dutifully plant daisies, marigolds, and petunias. He diligently watered all our houseplants daily, too.

But when he retired, he also took up woodworking. He spent days in his garage workshop, planing, mitering, sanding, staining. He made furniture for me and all my sibs over the years.

And if you expressed delight or sang his praises, he would also diligently point out every error he’d made in the making. (It helped me to NOT do this with my own work!)

What does this have to do with having an open studio?

I don’t believe he ever sold a single piece of his work.

He’d made his money WORKING all his life. His gardening and woodworking was for FUN–relaxation and enjoyment. He called it his hobby.

Hobby, vocation, and avocation. What’s the diff??

I used to have a distinction between avocation and hobby, but the older I get, I can’t remember. And it doesn’t matter so much to me, either.

Here’s what my dad taught me: Find a way to earn a living. You can be an artist when you retire.

What I taught my kids: Do what you love, and the money will follow. (Robin and Doug, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. Love, Mum)

What I wish I’d told my kids, and what I’m telling you today:

Do the work that supports your lifestyle. At best, it’s work you enjoy. Hopefully, you don’t hate it, or at least don’t dislike it too much. Hopefully, it’s something you’re good at, that you’re proud of, and it’s wonderful if it pays well, too.

But if it’s not the work of your heart, make room for THAT in your life, too. It will help you manage everything else.

My dad never sold a single piece of his woodwork. They were always gifts, or filling requests for furniture–coffee tables, sofa tables, display pedestals, coat racks, etc.–for friends and family.

In my art career, financially, I had some good years, some really good years, and some years that totally tanked. Most of those tank years were obviously the result of events totally out of my control: 9/11, war in the Mideast, inflation/recession, pandemic. We’re right back there, today, and there’s no escaping the consequences that affect our entire planet.

And yet, I was surprised at how much people complained (in an online forum) about their open studio event this year. Surprised at how many people are considering not joining next year. Astonished at how some people are considering actually walking away from their art-making. “What’s the use?!” (Why can’t I make that shoulder-shrug emoji??)

TBH, I was a little down that last day, too. Until I started to write about it. Writing helps me sort out the dust bunnies in my brain, and get to center of my  (he)art.

What helps YOU get centered again? I’d love to hear!

My take-away:

There is no figuring out exactly what will make us rich. I can’t even figure out how to cover the cost of my materials anymore.

Won’t stop me.

There is no single, sure path to fame and fortune.

I’m pretty sure I don’t even WANT to be famous anymore.

It takes time to build an audience, especially when our work is really out-of-the-box.

I tried through shows (wholesale and retail), art fairs, and open studios. I learned that it time and engagement for people to really see what I was doing, what my story was, and how labor-intensive my process was.

Open studios are the best at this! See my workspace, look at my tools and materials, let me show you what inspires me….

I stepped away from wholesale shows, and eventually made all my income from one major fine craft show in New Hampshire, and two open studio tours. They, too, started out slow. My visitors steadily grew, though there were still set-backs, dips, etc.

Then I moved to California, and had to start all over. Again.

How do I feel about that?

I’m actually okay.

Today, I can sell my work online, though it’s almost always to current customers and people who have followed my work for YEARS. (Again: Connection, achieved by outreach and availability.)

Today, I can easily share the backstory, my creation story, my inspiration, process, and animal stories. especially in my studio.

Today, I am reminded of my most recent open studio event, too. Yes, a little disappointed in the number of visitors, and that my sales were low.

And then I remember the blessings in my life:

I HAVE A STUDIO. I can do the work of my heart.

I have people who love my work. Maybe they can’t afford to buy it. Maybe they’ve downsized, and don’t have room for it.

But they can still come and look at it, and marvel, and engage with me.

I can encourage people to make room in their life for what brings them joy.

And I can write about it, hoping to do the same for YOU.

The good part in that forum thread: Some people griped, but when they realized so many other people were feeling the same way–in other words, it wasn’t just them–they got more clarity.

They, too, found the good stuff amidst the pile of disappointment. They got their mojo back. They will continue to make their art. Yay!

I think of my dad. I’m sure he would have been happy to make some money from his late-in-life hobby.

But that wasn’t WHY he did it.

He did it because it kept him busy (he hated doing nothing). He did it because he could make something for people he loved. He got better at it (because he was a bit of a perfectionist.) (DAISIES AND MARIGOLDS ALL IN A ROW.) It was flexible: He could work all day, or he could stop at any time and go for a drive with my mom.

It made him feel like he still had something to offer the world.

In my open studio, I listened to people telling me about their new life paths, their new interests and pastimes, their latest life disruption, their still-painful losses and sorrows.

My creative space became a safe place to share stories of hope, dreams, sadness, and joy. And healing.

My creative work carries stories of how every person has a place in the world. Including me. Including you.

I just realized my studio is my own unique version of a miniature Lascaux Cave.

The art of the Lascaux Cave was not about achieving fame or fortune.

The Ice Age was coming to an end, and so a people’s entire way of life was, too. They didn’t gather to start a war, or to assess blame. They gathered as a community, hoping to find a way through to the other side. And each handprint represents a single person present.

I can’t even imagine putting a price tag on that.

Today, try not to measure your sucess with only money.

Today, see your true value in the world, made with the work of your hands, and of your heart.

It’s not about having an audience. It’s about having a voice.

THE MARSHMALLOW CONUNDRUM

Who knew marshmallows could be so scary??

My favorite marketer blogger let me down today.

They discussed why some people are wealthy. It’s because they made a decision to purchase stock in a new company 20 years ago, instead of spending the money on eating out at a restaurant. As in, wisdom and foresight vs. random self-indulgence. Long-term value over short-term amusement.

They compared to to getting a grilled cheese sandwich today, or being able to get two grilled cheese sandwiches next week. As if the people who invested in Google in 2004 are smarter/better than the people who chose to go out to dinner instead. Twenty years later, the dinner is forgotten, but the shares are worth thousands of dollars.

I get the point (I think.) It takes time for money to grow, and not much time at all to spend it on worthless/useless/petty things instead. The people who are willing to wait, gain more.

Or is it?

It sounds like the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment in the 1970’s, when 32 children were given a marshmallow, but told they would get TWO marshmallows if they didn’t eat the first one. The study declared that the children who could wait, were more successful in life, their SAT scores were higher, etc. Repeated studies seemed to support the power of delayed gratification.

This is the simplified version, of course, but the one we’re most familiar with: People who have self-discipline do better in life.

Until newer studies found the major flaw in these results:

Children of “lower” social class, who were more vulnerable to food insecurity, whose families were struggling, were the ones who “couldn’t” wait for that second marshmallow.

Not because they aren’t as smart, not because they had no self-discipline, or because they were less patient.

It was because they had already learned to grab what was available when it was offered. Because that second “reward” might NEVER come.

I never truly believed in the original findings. Something just felt wrong. It felt more like an issue of trust in the people running the experiment than the ability to “go without”. In fact, these kids that “failed” were probably already “going without”. Without the same support, advantages, opportunities that wealthier families offer.

And about stock options vs. a dinner out….

Yeah, we might forget the dinner out, twenty years later. It might be a better choice to invest in our future.

And yet….

What if that dinner is the first date with a person who became our partner? Or the one where our partner asked us to marry them?

What if that dinner was a celebration? A birthday, a milestone reached, a graduation?

What if it was the last time we were able to spend time with a loved one or a dear friend?

What if it was the dinner where you had a huge fight, and realized that was NOT the person you wanted to be with for the rest of your life? A decision you would never regret?

The article probably has a valid point, and maybe it just landed wrong for me today. We’ve all made poor financial decisions we wish we could do over.

And yet…

Investing money has always been a gamble. Some people make good investment decisions, yes. But a lot of those decisions aren’t. We never really know which ones will pay off, and anyone who says otherwise is either very very lucky in theirs, or they’re full of bullshit.

Sorry, I don’t know where I’m going here. Except even gentle criticism about people not making smart decisions about the future drives me crazy. I still remember a coworker 40 years ago. She and her parter had the perfect investment/retirement plan in place with her husband.

But her husband died suddenly way, way before they got there. And she had to keep working long past her retirement years to support herself.

Her greatest regret? That they had put off all their travels and good times, so they would have a rich, perfect retirement.

And then they never had the chance to enjoy it, together.

My own favorite “predicting the future” story is the year where the price of oil skyrocketed (our heating fuel in New Hampshire), and we had to decide whether to prebuy at the current prices, or hope that they would fall before winter. My husband said, “If only I knew what the price of oil was going to be in six months!” And I said, “You and ten billion other people.”

Yes, it’s good to be frugal, and set aside money. Yes, it’s good to have hope in our hearts that things will work out, that everything will be okay, that we will always be safe, that we have everything under control. It’s good to wait, and get that second marshmallow as a reward.

But it’s bad to blame people who have less, who strugle more, who battle discrimination, ridicule, distrust, disgust, and who are never seen for anything more than their gender, skin color, nationality, religion choices.

Only when ALL people have money to invest, when ALL people don’t have to worry about where the next paycheck will come from, when ALL people can have an income, health care, respect, love, when ALL people can feel safe and cared for….

Then, and only then, will I take that investment advice seriously.

Er….pass me that marshmallow, please?

 

 

 

 

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #18: The Power of Connection and Community

First day of Art at the Source was so slow, I got this necklace made!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It really, really helps if money is not the only measure of your “success”.*

*Thank you forever, Alisha Vincent!

On the brink of the last weekend of our Sonoma County Art at the Source Open Studio Tour.

I posted on Facebook mentioning that my first weekend was rather slow, with a pic of a necklace I made during the lulls. Another participant shared their studio visitor numbers, which were higher than mine.

Here’s why that didn’t bother me at all:

First, numbers come and numbers go. The first two years I did an open studio in New Hampshire, no one came. (I was the only participant in my neck of the woods.) It was a little discouraging but my studio was clean, and I got a lot of new work done.

The third year, my studio was filled to the gills with visitors, and it never stopped until we left New Hampshire.

Second, an original founder and long-time AATS participant (30 years?) who’s well-known in these parts, and whose work is popular, said numbers come and go, rise and fall, over the years, and usually for no discernible reason. “I don’t worry about it,” she said. “It is what it is, and I’m comfortable with that.” Thank you, Sally Baker! (She’s a true grown-up.)

Third, though my numbers were low, those visitors were amazing, each and every one. One woman brought me a box of beautiful abalone shells!

My last point is one that just came to me today:

My visitors created their own in-house community, in my studio, during the tour!

Somehow, I ended up showing two visitors the lovely gift of abalone shells. They were so amazed, I ended up giving each of them one! It just felt like the right thing to do. They were delighted. I know they’ll be back someday.

One long-time fan came in, we had a nice chat, and she gave me an idea for one-on-one mentoring/tutoring with polymer clay. While she was still there, another long-time fan and her studio-mate came in. The three of them hit it off. I offered them comfy chairs, and they sat in a little circle and talked avidly for awhile. (It was still a slow day, people could get around them easily, and I was totally okay with that.) It was wonderful to see new friendships created, right there in front of me!

Another visitor talked about losing a sibling last year, and then the tears came. On impulse, I opened one of my storage drawers and gave them an older bear artifact.  Then I gave them a card with the bear’s story: “Be strong when things get hard. Listen more. Think slow. Love deep.”

(No, I don’t just hand out free stuff to people randomly. There’s just something inside me that says, “They need this….”)

It took me a few days to see what was happening.

These people all had at least one thing in common: They like my work. Some LOVE my work.

They felt safe enough in my sacred creative space to open their hearts, to my stories, to my work, to me. And also to others in that space.

It was amazing.

I’m still unwrapping that, figuring out why it affected me so deeply. But in the end, I can just say I’m glad this all happened.

Oh, I also made a few sales, enough to restock new supplies for my next projects.  Some weird questions got asked, some people weren’t interested and left quickly. Tomorrow’s going to be really really hot, and I don’t have any thoughts about what that will look like.

But I’m not worried.

I’ve already had my share of beautiful little miracles. And I’m grateful for them all.

It’s not always about numbers.

It’s not always about the money. 

It’s about using our creativity to bring out the best in ourselves, and in others. We are truly blessed to be able to do this with the work of our heart.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #17 Tears for Fears: What if someone steals my stuff??”

Yeah, I could worry constantly about theft. But I actively try NOT to.

Hah! I TOLD you a series is rarely ever “done”!

Just before our latest county open studio event (LINK), an artist reached out with a terrific question: What if someone were to steal their work?

In this case, it was a portfolio of very small “studies”, their way of experimenting before taking on a large project. These studies could easily be pilfered. Should they be worried?

Yes. No. Maybe?

Unless we make huge stone sculptures that have to be hauled away in a wheelbarrow (or similar), yes, we are all potential victims of theft. And you know who is the MOST vulnerable creative/maker for theft? Jewelers, especially those working in precious metals/gemstones. When they do major shows, they often take down their ENTIRE INVENTORY every night. And set it up all over again the next day. OMG!)

But making that the biggest issue with opening our open studio is a sure-fire way to unconsciously let every single visitor know you do not trust them. And that will destroy the very reason open studios are so powerful:

Our visitors want to know more about our work–and US.

Treating each person as a possible thief, destroys any potential connection. Which defeats the entire purpose of inviting them into our creative space.

How do I know? This happened to me, as a studio visitor.

In this case, the person was open to my previous suggestion, ideas for having samples, tools, etc. that are okay for visitors to touch or hold. People are extremely experienced about being told NOT to touch in so many environments. Providing a display, something they CAN touch, is powerful!

Hence this person’s idea of presenting a portfolio of small studies, which they would hate to lose.

Here were my thoughts. (Be sure to add yours in the comments!)

Fears of having our work stolen cements everybody to the ground, as in, a bad way. We all worry about such things. In my lifetime, I don’t recall a single thing being taken, but I have so much stuff, I probably wouldn’t notice if it were missing 🥴
If the worry about losing your portfolio is giving you nightmares, consider a way to display it so that it’s not a small thing somebody could pocket easily.
I’m not a painter, so I don’t know if you’re talking about individual sketches, first drafts, or illustrations in a notebook, etc. You can send me more details and we can figure out a way to keep your work safe.
Maybe only exhibit a few of the pictures you were experimenting with, or have all of them on display in a case, or hang on the wall.
But what’s more important than that is being comfortable with people in our sacred creative space.
I have not had any (okay, not MANY) issues with people being rude, aggressive, sneaky, etc. and I’ve learned over the years that being afraid of these things create anxiety.  And that anxiety can destroy our ability to connect with other people. Yes I have a story about that! 🥴😄
I visited someone’s studio who was obviously afraid of me stealing something. I loved their work, but their suspicious demeanor and them trailing me around their studio made me very uncomfortable. I finally left as soon as I could.
People meeting us in our studio, seeing our work in person, engaging with us, learning more about our process, our inspiration, our techniques, our story, is the single most powerful way for us to gain an audience.
I don’t want to dismiss your fears as being totally unnecessary, but the chances of someone stealing something major from you are pretty slim.
And your fear of having something stolen will create a barrier between you and the very people you want to connect with.
So for your sake, try to set your fears aside.
Consider some of the suggestions about securing your portfolio so no one can just simply walk off with it.
If you can, it’s always nice to have an assistant available, someone who can take care of processing sales, wrapping and packaging, someone who can keep an eye out and help allay your fears.

Yes, they wrote back to let me know they found this helpful. Yay! In fact, it’s not something that’s been an issue in their own art career. Just something that popped up and got stuck in their head. And they already had a helper lined up, and came up with a display plan that worked for them.

And of course, after talking to them, I began to worry about MY work being stolen! (Fears are an easily-transmissible disease with no vaccine….) (Okay, there IS a vaccine: Embrace it, tell it we know it’s doing its job–keeping us safe–and say “Thank you!” Then tell it to scram until it’s time for dinner….)

Next article: How to prevent visitors from throwing cake at our artwork. (JUST KIDDING!!! I have no idea how to stop people from doing that. Apparently, neither does the Louvre….)

How have YOU secured your valuables, and still provided a comfortable place for visitors to engage with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

A QUORA ANSWER ON PROCRASTINATION: What I’ve Learned

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Luann Udell
It took me years to figure this out, but I had to laugh when I did.

Three moments of insight have helped me with this:

The first, and simplest, is being accountable to something/someone. I wrote most regularly when I wrote for a monthly column for magazine (10 years!), and later, a weekly article for an online art marketing newsletter.

The embarassment of being late ONCE (and not getting paid) resulted in not missing a single article going forward (11 years!) (Er…I wasn’t LATE once, I only got reprimanded for it once. Changed everything.)

 

Second, I came across a book written by someone who HAD figured it out: They found they became extremely motivated to take on OTHER PROJECTS when they were procrastinating about another one.

It was really funny, their list of what they accomplished while putting off yet another ‘unmotivated’ project. I immediately recreated their strategy for myself. You can read it here: Procrastination: Love It or Leave It Til Tomorrow

Sometimes, meeting the expectations of others, works better than meeting our own.

Sometimes the motivation we need is how to avoid doing something else.

Sometimes, we need to clearly understand the “all steps by going backwards”’ in order to take that first step forward.

Finding whatever works for YOU is what matters most. Good luck!

ANOTHER QUORA ANSWER on Creativity

Creativity is part of our heritage. Almost everyone has it. It’s just that our definition of creative work has grown more narrow.

When most people talk about “real art”, they’re usually caught up in the work of white European male artists from the last 150 years.

What if our definition of creative work were broader, richer, deeper?

I now define it as any work that we care deeply about, that we pursue with all our heart, because it makes us happy, lifts our spirit, encourages us to be a better person.

And when we share it with the world in any way, it makes someone else happy. And makes the world a better place.

I now see people who take up work that heals, teaches, repairs, restores, caretakes, feeds, nourishes, work that brings joy, laughter, care, forgiveness, and understanding to our world, to be creative people. Whether it’s our professional, vocation, or avocation, whether we earn a living from it or not, if we, and others, and the world are better for it, that’s creative work.

We humans, and our creative work, don’t fit into tidy little boxes. We have a whole universe to fill!

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #16: People Still Love Our Older Work

I’ve gotten good feedback on this section of my “How To” open studio series, about having respect for our older work here and here. I’m glad it’s landed in just the right place, at just the right time, for so many artists, too! (THANK YOU, everybody who let me know that.)

Here’s another story I’d completely forgotten about the value of our older work:

Years ago, when I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I often visited the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair. It was among the very first fairs featuring artwork I ever attended. (I grew up in a very small town in mid-Michigan, in a rural community. I didn’t know anybody who actually ‘made art’.) Also, that city event also involved three different art organizations, but in the general public’s mind, it was just one big, wonderful opportunity to see hundreds of artists over a three-day period.

I think this was my first experience with the Fair, and I found a young woman whose work I fell in love with. I don’t remember much…it involved hearts, it was colorful and lovely, she was friendly and excited at how well her work was selling, etc. Unfortunately, it was out of my price range. But I told her how much I loved it, took her card, and told her I’d be back to buy a piece next year. (I THINK the piece I wanted was $150, a lot for me, and a lot back in the mid-70’s!)

I set aside a little money each month and counted the days til the next Fair.

At last the next year’s Fair began, and I found her booth as soon as I could.

But everything had changed. Everything.

Her work had changed completely. (Still 2D, but different subjects, color schemes, size, etc.) Her prices had tripled. Worse, even her demeanor was different.

The excited, happy person was gone. She was snooty, aloof, dismissive of her older work. When I asked if she still had work from last year, she went on a rant about how she was done with that, and she was having much more success with her new work. She was never going back to the “heart” stuff. She was also dismissive of my budget, which had taken me a year to accumulate. She now had “real” collectors who were willing to pay much more for her work.

In short, she made it very clear she had no interest in me as a potential customer.

I walked away almost in tears, and never visited her booth again.

But as I look back, I see I’ve learned a lot from that second encounter, as devastating as it felt at the time.

Can you see all the insights, too?

I know the “hearts” theme sounds trite, but it wasn’t. They were my favorite artwork in the entire fair. Sure, I might have ‘outgrown’ it eventually, as some works of art don’t speak to us forever. But I do still have many of my oldest pieces I’ve collected over the years, and still treasure them. Very few of them have been given away.

That person’s newer work might have been ‘better’, but not for me. It might have made more money for her, but not from me. She may have believed her attitude was more ‘professional’, but not in my opinion.

She made her older work, and loved it when she made it.

One year later, it was worth nothing to her.

And one year later, I meant nothing to her.

In my last two articles on this topic of our older work, I noted what my friend said: We loved it when we made it, it was our best effort at the time, and there were people who also loved it, and bought it, and treasured it.

Just because it’s older, we’re older, our work is better, doesn’t mean it no longer has value. It will still speak to someone, it will still be cherished, and we may have moved on, but it still has its place in the world.

In fact, I’ve made a practice of updating and refreshing older work, and repurposing the artifacts I made years ago. A horse pendant that wasn’t ‘balanced’ can go into a fiber piece. An artifact that didn’t make it as a centerpiece can now be placed inside one of my shrines, its imperfections giving it even more ‘authenticity’ to its air of antiquity.

And if you need/want another reminder about how our customers feel about our older work, check out this post from a year ago. (It’s the one about an artist that shifted gears so monumentally, his customers were left totally in the dark.) (His attitude was much, much kinder, though.)  USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL

Short story? Yes, we grow as creatives, we get better, we change and morph, and so does our creative work.

But each stage of our journey has its value, its admirers, and its place in the world.

Don’t dis yourself, your work, and especially not your customers!

 

 

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #15: What’s Old is New Again

From the beginning to today, my little horses have evolved in many ways. I love them all!

In my last post, I shared how simply rearranging our work can result in visitors/customers “seeing” a work they haven’t seen before.

There’s another side to “old work”, though, that I share with you today:

Your old work still has value.

Here’s the long story:

My artifacts have evolved over the years, changing for the better (I hope!) in every stage. I loved each “stage” for what it was.

But when I look back at those earlier pieces, I feel embarrassed. How could I have thought these were the best I could do?? Should I just get rid of them all? Discount them and move them on?

I hate discounting my own work, as it implies it does not have the same value it had originally. It could make buyers feel if they wait long enough, the price could come down.

Now, of course, I realize that as my prices have risen over the years, even when selling it for the same original price, it will look like a bargain.

Here’s how I found my own truth: From a friend who set me straight.

When I complained that I wasn’t wild about my old work, and felt a little guilty selling it as it felt “less than”, they asked,

“Did you love it when you made it?”

Yes.

“Did people love your old work when it was new?”

Yes.

“Then there will be people who will love it now, too.”

Bam! Mic drop. Clarity restored. (Thank you, Ruth Parent, my good friend!)

I now keep all my old bits to use in newer work. They are stored in a printer’s type tray chest, restored by my son years ago. Visitors are encouraged to open drawers and explore during my studio events.

And by holding on to all my older artifacts, I’ve discovered another insight along the way:

It’s my “relatively-old” work that annoys me, seeing in the moment, now, what I could have done better.

And my “really old” work that I love even more!

I love the fearless outlook on my art career I had then. I had a fabulous photographer, too, who always made my work look incredible. (Thank you and good wishes to you, Jeff Baird, in the Great Beyond. I will miss you and your talents forever.) I sometimes wish I could recapture that old aesthetic, but it’s hard. I am here in the now, right where I belong.

As artists, we fall into the myth that we get better and better at what we do in our making career. Well, we do get better…usually. (Maybe). But it doesn’t mean our work is worth more, will sell more/faster, will be seen as ‘better’. Skills matter, of course. But my own personal lifetime collections of other people’s work, I simply buy what I love, not what’s new, better, etc.

It’s about what speaks to ME.

There are buyers who will appreciate our growing skill level, and our newest work, of course.

Remember, though, there will be plenty of people who have our older work, and still treasure it. And people who will love our old stuff now, too.

So instead of beating yourself up over “old work”, instead of hiding it, put it out there! Especially if your new work is all out in galleries right now.

Tell the story about who you were then, and where you were in your life.

Someone may consider it the perfect piece, for themselves.

 

HOW TO OPEN STUDIO #14: The Need for New. (NOT)

I’ve already made display changes, the result of a major project that took up a lotta space in my studio last year! And that’s a good thing.

 

Short story: Rearrange your work and your studio from time to time.

I told you I wasn’t done with this series!

In a Zoom meeting recently, another artist said they were freaking out a little about not having a lot of new work to exhibit for an upcoming open studio event.

I told them not to worry, and shared my favorite story about that:

I was (still am!) a juried and tenured member of a well-known, highly-respected art organization back in New Hampshire, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. For years, I participated in their annual fair, a ten-day show at a ski resort.

Landscapes change all the time in this area, and I never knew which tent, large or small, near the entrance or far away, or what place on the mountain, I would be assigned to. We had the option to request our favorite spot, but different factors prevailed, so we never knew for sure where we’d end up.

So every year, I was in a different tent, with a different terrain, and different neighbors. The hard part was, I never knew if my booth would be on a slant (ski resort!), in the front or back of a tent, etc. That was the downside.

The upside was, I learned over time what worked best for me and my multi-media work. And hidden gift: I often had to improvise how to set up and arrange my art display. (With jewelry, wall hangings, shrines and sculpture, I had to use walls, pedestals, and display cases.)

Why was this a hidden gift? My display never looked the same way, year to year. So every time someone entered my booth, it was “new” to them.

The proof this works?

I juried into the League with my fiber collage/free-style quilting work in the spring of 1997, I think. I brought one of my handmade artifacts, a horse, with me so they could examine my “buttons” and embellishments more closely.

The jury process took about 10 minutes (woot!) as I waited outside the jury room, and when I was asked back inside, not only had I been accepted, they encouraged me to come back to the next jury session in the fall. Because they all agreed that I should make jewelry with that horse. (I did, and I got in with jewelry, too.) (Thank you, jury team!)

About ten years in, one of my repeat customers/visitors came into my booth and exclaimed, “Wow! You’re making fiber work now! Fabulous!”

Er….as I said, I’d been exhibiting my fiber work for almost a decade! But my jewelry had caught their eye at first, and when they came into my booth, year after year, that is what they paid attention to.

Until that year, for that customer, when something was different–and the fiber work caught their eye.

It could have been a more colorful piece. Or the way the lighting was set up. Or it was hanging above something else that caught their attention. Or…who knows??

The point is, we think we see “everything” when we walk into a space, a booth, a store, etc. But we don’t. We see what catches our eye, and may follow a “narrow” visual path from one item to the next.

In fact, when a customer tells me they’re ready to buy something, but can’t make up their mind which something to buy, I ask them what was the first thing they saw, or touched, in my booth. They point to a piece. I tell them they should consider that piece. They protest that it was a random piece they “just happpened to see”.

I tell them this: Every single person who was intrigued enough to come into my booth, was attracted by something different. 

No two people were drawn in by the same item. 

Which means something signaled to the brain, “Whoa, let’s take a closer look at that!”

Yes, I have a major piece of work at the back of my booth, and at my booth entrance. Standard booth/show set-up procedure. But even so, what pulled people in, and what kept them engaged, was something that appealed to them.

So if you’re worried that you don’t have enough new work in your studio, consider this simple solution: Rearrange your work. If you’ve arranged your work by medium, try to arrange them by color, or theme, or style. Shift groupings around. Bring out older work. (Many customers love our older work! I have a story about that, too.) (Of course.)

It can be harder in our studio/workspace, because it has to actually work as our workspace. But consider small changes that can be easily restored after the open studio event. (I’m thinking I need to do this myself, so thank you, Katie Kruzic for sharing your worries this week!)

You may be surprised who may be excited about a “new piece” you’ve had on display for years.

 

 

Kindness at the Supermarket

Quite an armfull! Me and Robin and Doug.

Here’s my first Quora answer! I keep forgetting it, until I get a new notice about an upvote. Still makes me cry when I read it.

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I was at the supermarket with my one-year-old son (Hanniford’s for you folks from Keene, NH) running “just one more errand”, when he had a meltdown. I knew what it was. He had patiently accompanied me through my morning, me trying to get all the things I needed done, until he was at his limit. He was hungry, and he was not at his best when he’s hungry. (Still isn’t at age 28!) He went into tantrum mode.

I was sitting on the floor, holding him tight, and an older woman walked by. I glanced up and gave her an apologetic smile. She glared at me and snarled, “If that were MY kid, I’d smack him!” and moved on.

I sat there almost crying myself, when along came a young woman who worked at the supermarket. I thought the other woman had complained, and thought the employee was there to ask me to leave.

Instead, she knelt down beside me and said, “How can I help?”

Now I was almost crying with gratitude. I told her he was tired and hungry, and if she could just bring me a carton of milk and a straw, he would be fine in a few minutes.

She did just that. When I told her I would pay for the milk, she just smiled and said, “On the house. Anything else I can do for you?”

I said no and thanked her, and she left.

When I am anywhere in public, and someone’s kid is having a meltdown, I now approach the parent and do the same thing. If the mom is just stressed out because the kid is being “too noisy” or “too rambunctious”, I give mom a smile and say something kind. “I remember those days! Hang in there.” Or, “Your child is so happy!” or anything that shows I am not insulted or perturbed by ordinary kid behavior. I can see them visibly relax and soften, and they often look at their child with exasperation, but also with love.

I will always remember that angry woman who judged me. I will never forget how she made me feel less-than. (I have no idea what her issues were. I just don’t EVER want to be like her.)

But I will also always remember that young woman who showed compassion for me and my son. Such a small act of kindness that still seems so big, after almost 30 years.

We have the power of our choices. And I will always try to choose kindness.

(Note: If I hadn’t been so addled, which was my normal state of mind in these early kiddo years, I would have gone back to the grocery store and asked for that young woman’s name. Then I would have told the manager that they had my loyalty as a shopper forever, because of her.)

ANOTHER QUORA QUESTION ANSWERED

Another slew of Quora requests in my inbox today. And as usual, most of them I can’t/won’t answer. Trust me, if I knew how to earn a living and how to get famous for blogging, I wouldn’t be answering Quora questions.

But the ones I can answer, I usually try.  Here’s today’s reply:

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Luann Udell , Blogger (2002-present)

If you are asking what you can make money blogging about, I can’t help you with that.

If you are asking because you want to have a voice, a presence online, then this is what I advise you to do:

You don’t have to have a particular niche in order to start a blog.

You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to find something popular. You don’t have to write about things you don’t care about.

A blog in our modern world means HAVING A VOICE.

You can focus on a topic, a pastime or hobby, a cause you care deeply about.

You can focus on your own skills and knowledge you excel at.

You can write about a topic you’re interested in, and want to know more about. You can write about the reasons why you’re interested, why you want to know more about it. You can share your journey as you research, learn, and grow.

I’m an artist and a writer. I often write about art marketing. But I’ve also written a freelance humor column about being an artist/craftsperson for a monthly craft magazine for almost a decade. (Until they told me I wasn’t funny anymore, but I found out later it’s because they realized it was cheaper to have their own staff write stuff instead of paying a freelancer.) I also write about why it’s important to do our creative work, no matter how much money we actually make at it, because it’s good for our soul.

I’m a parent (and now a grandparent!) and I’ve written about humorous events and life-learning moments to be found in parenting.

I have silly pets, and I write about their antics, set-backs, and the powerful life lessons I’ve learned from them.

I love a metaphor, and I’ve used a variety of them throughout my two decades of blogging: Lessons from the gym/physical therapy sessions, lessons I’ve learned from horse-riding, lessons from doing open studio events, insights from an airplane pilot, from martial arts, from my elderly rabbit in my art studio who died just after we moved to California. And lessons from the prep we went through to get ready for that huge life move.

This sounds like it’s all over the map, right?

But it’s all about what I’ve learned—and am still learning—from this incredible school called “life”.

See what I’m saying here?

You can specialize, or you can expand your view to include everything. You can focus on something incredibly important to you, or something you’d like to know more about.

It’s not about the audience, nor what the audience wants. There are billions of people on this planet, and whatever you choose to write about, there will be plenty of people who will be attracted to it.

The most important thing is to write authentically. To write with integrity.

Chasing an audience rarely works. ATTRACTING an audience takes time and effort, and in the end, can still feel elusive.

But know that just having a voice is a powerful place to be in the world, and in your heart.

 

If the link above gets broken, you’ll find this Quora post here:  https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-choose-a-niche-to-start-a-new-blog/answer/Luann-Udell?prompt_topic_bio=1

DO WHAT WORKS FOR Y*O*U!

One of the signs in my studio, in front of a maple syrup tapping can full of sticks. Um….I am still open to receiving sticks! (You can never have too many.) (Despite what my husband says….)

 

 

I’ve been answering questions about blogging on Quora for awhile now. So every day, I get about half a dozen ‘requests’ for information and advice on the topic.

Most of them are out of my league, and my comfort zone. I do not know how to make money from my blog. I tried it once, two people signed up, and it just felt icky. (Not everything we do can make money.)

Today, I responded to an old question from two years ago. (The link in my email took me to it instead of the orginal poster, for some reason.)

The person said they suffer from a lack of motivation about writing. And anything they want to write about, someone else has already said it, and said it better.

A well-known writer said they should just quit, if they couldn’t do it. (Argh!!!)

Here’s what I wrote instead:

Here’s the weird thing about writing:

Even some of the best writers struggle to make themselves write. They also struggle about what to write about.

Here’s an article I came across the other day that helped a friend: Brandon Sanderson’s Advice for Doing Hard Things

Here’s another that crossed my path from The New Yorker magazine about one of the best-known writers in America: John McPhee’s Slow Productivity

Yep. He writes 500 words a day. Not much more than a page. (But he wrote every day.)

And here’s one of my favorite blog posts about making room for ‘making’: THIS IS LOVE

Did you see the part where she couldn’t believe her process was “professional”? Until I pointed out that her practice/process was actually working for HER?

The trick is to find out what works for YOU. For me, it’s deadlines. I had regular gigs for almost two decades, and my best work always showed up the day before my deadline. Now that I don’t have any, I have to REMIND myself to write.

I love writing, it’s who I am, it’s how I sort stuff out and make my way through this crazy world.

And yet it’s still hard to “make time” to do it.

We think of successful authors as people who just sit and write all the time. Yeah, some do. But most don’t.

Even if it’s ‘who we are’, it’s just like every other important thing we have to make room for in our life: Exercise. Reading (instead of doomscrolling or watching movies.)

So figure out what works for YOU. A writing group with accountability? Scheduling a daily writing period?

As for coming up with something original, there are two ways to look at that: One, YOU are unique, and whatever you share will reflect that. Write about the topics, events, thoughts YOU care about. And two, there is nothing new under the sun. Of course other people have already “said” it. But “everything” also gets transformed when it passes from our mind/heart to paper (metaphorically paper). Do you really think no one wrote a romance story with a sad ending after Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet??

Don’t walk away from the work of your heart because you think you’re doing it wrong.

Celebrate what makes you YOU, no matter how you do it, no matter how you get it done, and no matter whether someone’s already said it. You will transform ‘trite’ into ‘passion’ with your own way with words, with your own experiences, with your own thoughts.

Now git busy and go write something.

Short answer: Do the work of YOUR heart because it will be your voice in the world.

It might be hard to get it done, and even harder to get it out in the world.

But it will worth it to YOU. And it will be worth it for others in ways we can’t even imagine.

You can see the original post here: https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-deal-with-lack-of-motivation-to-create-content-I-feel-like-anything-I-could-possibly-say-has-already-been-said-better-by-at-least-a-thousand-people/answer/Luann-Udell?prompt_topic_bio=1

 

FINDING HOPE IN THE ODDEST PLACES: The Magician’s Nephew Surprises

I revisit a beloved children’s books with new eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often go back and reread books, sometimes many times. I always find something new, or something I completely overlooked the first time through.

One of my biggest overlooks was when I reread Sterling North’s beloved young adult novel, RASCAL, originally published in 1963. Although I’d read it several times, it was only as I was reading it aloud, word by word, in my kids’ classes as a guest reader, that I found the saddest part. North mentions that  he contracted polio later that year.

That last summer with Rascal was also his last year of perfect freedom.

Now I will always see that story through different eyes.

Lately, I’ve been rereading The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, published in 1955.  Again, I reread them several times since I discovered the books in high school. I’ve just finished the second book (in Narnia time), The Magician’s Nephew. And I found two more jaw-droppers.

This book shares the story of Narnia’s creation, and introduces Aslan, the god-like lion who’s at the heart of this series. I read page after page of the creation of stars, sky, mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, and the emergence of animals. Aslan then selects two members of each species, male and female, and gives them the power of speech and (human) intelligence.

And then he selects several of them from several species to create his council.

All males. Only males.

I missed that in every single reading. Wow. Just….wow. (A victim of his times, perhaps. I hope.)

Fortunately, that’s not my little ray of hope today. Except the hope that if Lewis were alive today, he might choose to do (a little) better regarding a woman’s ability to be part of a wise council.

No, instead, there was this bit:

Digory, who hopes to find a cure for his dying mother, is sent to find an apple in a very special garden, and bring it back to Aslan. He’s accompanied by his friend Polly, and they will ride a horse, a fellow visitor from our world, who has been transformed into a winged horse by Aslan.

Aslan, looking to the west, gives them guidance with these directions:

“Do not fly too high”, said Aslan. “Do not try to go over the tops of the great ice-mountains. Look out for the valleys, the green places, and fly through them. There will always be a way through.”

Do you see it?

We can have a grand goal, a dream, a path we desperately wish to find through life.

But we don’t have to go to all the harsh places, the cruel places. We don’t have to always put ourselves in that position to follow our hearts.

Instead, we can honor our dreams in a way we can manage. We know that huge obstacles and setbacks are there, hard times and sad times. But there are also ways to navigate them, if we choose. On the way, there may be ways that can make our journey a little easier, if we look for them.

And there will always be a way through.

No matter where you are in your life, no matter what is holding you back, or what you think is too hard (and trust me, I KNOW), there is a way through.

It won’t be without challange. But if we look for the valleys, if we allow ourselves to rest when we need to, if we believe it’s worth flying…er…striving….for, we can find a way.

Sometimes, the way through itself is what the gift is. Getting to the other side is great reward. Yes, Digory gets the apple that eventually helps his mother heal.

But what he also gains is insight, understanding, the realization that we have the power of our choices, and the power of the choices that are right for us, and those we love. The right thing to do. The kind thing to do.

The loving thing to do.

Just for today, as the world seems even darker, as our times seem even harder to navigate…

Look for the valleys and the green places.

Look for the places that will restore you to your highest, best self.

 

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