As I reread my post from yesterday (Mixed Feelings and Better Choices) about Christmases past and present, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Yankee Swap part:
Back in Keene NH, we enjoyed a Yankee Swap in addition to our regular celebration. Each guest brought a wrapped gift. (It could be used/regifted/a white elephant kinda thing, but not half-eaten or broken. You could not believe the people who didn’t get that….) Everyone draws a number, the number one goes first, picks a gift, and opens it. Number two the same, except they can choose to swap gifts with Number one. It continues, until the very last person gets to swap with ANYONE. (Um…it did invoke some pissed-off guests, but almost everyone eventually enjoyed it as the wacko experience it was meant to be.)
I’d forgotten a powerful insight I had:
Every single “white elephant”, “I hate this thing, YOU take it!” “Why would anyone want this??” gift found a good home.
We’ve heard “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, but we could see that happening right in front of us. There was almost always at least one person who thought that “ugly/useless/silly” thing was wonderful. Not only that, but the worst “fights” involved a couple-to-a-bunch-of people who all wanted the same item! (The person who brought it to the swap was always amazed by that!)
I’ve written about Regretsy a few times over the last few years, here and now I can’t find the others. (I’ll update this once I do.) I love how even horrible, awful artwork April Winchell found on Etsy had a place in the world. Here’s a summary of the original blog before it disappeared, and here’s where you can buy an affordable copy of the book.
In fact, once a seller’s work was featured in her blog, their shop was flooded with buyers.
Even more astounding, Winchell could tell when someone was sincerely proud of their work, and when someone was “faking it” with horrible art, trying to be featured on her blog. She said there was something about the work that, no matter how awful, had authenticity she could sense.
How powerful is that?!
And my final point: Look how popular ugly Christmas sweaters have become over the years! (Google “ugly christmas sweater trend” and find some wonderful articles about its history.)
So when we feel bad about our creative work, when we think it’s not good enough and that’s why we can’t sell it, make a living from it, we can take the time to rethink those sad thoughts.
We need to keep it in our lives because we love making it. It helps us deal with everything else we need to do.
And somewhere in the world is someone who will love it just as much as we do.
Oh, they could live on the other side of the world, they may never see it, and who knows? Maybe we’ll be famous after we die. (If you have not yet watched the Netflix comedy special “Nanette” by Hannah Gadsby, please give it a whirl. She breaks the standard opinion that Vincent Van Gogh’s multi-million dollar art sales means anything. “He’s so famous! Look how much his work sells for!” Gadsby: “Yeah, but he’s dead.” And my favorite quote: “The reason Van Gogh is famous today is because he had a brother who loved him.” Theo Van Gogh is the reason any of Van Gogh’s work is around today, because he had a gallery (where only one of Vincent’s work sold).
In ancient times, cave art wasn’t hunting magic (a theory that prevailed in the 50’s and continued for decades.) They were communal ceremonies, often led by female shamans, to create unity, healing, connection.
And when we make our art, we create healing…for ourselves.
When we share it with the world, we create connection. Maybe not sales, but people will see it, some people will like it, and some people will be better for it.
When we participate in art events, open studios, etc., we create community.
When we realize all people have a creative streak, if we simply broaden the definition, we create unity.
Trust me, if a crazy flower pot at a Yankee swamp finds a loving hope, your creative work can, too. Make room in your heart, and your life, no matter how small a space you have, and know that your creative work has a life of its own in the world.