Monday, October 31, 2016

Criticizing my Baby

       
My husband and I have been doing craft and trade shows now for one whole year.  It came about because of several things.  One, we started on this huge “downsizing” kick.  We wanted to see if we could live with half the stuff we have collected over the years, so I went room to room in the house and cut our belongings by half, but he had to do the same in his wood shop outside.  He has stacks and stacks of lumber castoffs from the preschool furniture he builds for a living that he cannot bring himself to throw away.  Two, he has greatly reduced his “day job” over the last few years and wants to transition into something to keep him busy and active when he retires.  Thirdly, he loves being creative, making things for our five kids, their spouses, and our nine grandkids, so he decided to turn his hobby and his skill and his scraps of wood castoffs into a new business.
          For the first six months, I helped him organize and work the once-a-month craft shows.  We were learning the business.  I am good at organization; he is good at making wood products.  One day, I too got the itch, and decided to revive my old hobby of sewing for fun.  I pulled out a yellowed doll pattern I kept since my children were children, and made a dozen dolls to sell.  None sold the first two months, but they have slowly started to garner interest.
In the last six months, I have made and sold over 100 dolls.  They are simple, small, five-inch and twelve-inch cloth dolls; all made from two patterns I morphed from others. It surprises me that people want to buy them, and it gives me pleasure to make them and find folks who like them. They are my labor of love, my babies.
So, it hurts when people criticize them.
With each batch I make, I correct and improve the patterns.  I know the latest dozen is much better than the first dozen I made six months ago. I have learned what sells and what doesn’t.  I price them fairly, only making a small profit over the cost of materials.  My labor is free, so when someone picks one up, inspects it, and complains about it, I want to respond defensively. Instead I smile and keep silent. I listen.
“I want this doll’s dress but that doll’s hair.” 
“Why don’t you make it in X football team’s colors?  I would buy it if you had used X football material.”
“Don’t you make boy dolls?”
“You call this a doll?” And spikes it back into the bin.
“You mean this isn’t the five-dollar doll?” Looks at the smaller doll I show her.  “That’s not a doll.  It isn’t worth five dollars.”
I try not to let the complaints get to me though they are insulting my work. My babies. Do they want a discount because it was not what they wanted?  Do they think I am Build a Bear and can undress this doll and that one so we can match that dress with this hair? The dolls are not made to be undressed.  My favorite is the person who blatantly tells me she could have done it better.  I want to tell them to go ahead and try, except these are my patterns, my ideas, my time, my talent, my tenacity. I would love to see them make it for the money I am selling the doll.
Writing fiction is my other love.
Lots of my friends are published authors.  Their work is their baby too.  They bring out Junior or Sissy, and all they hear is: 
“The main character was not very likeable.”
“If the ending were different, it would have been more relevant and believable.”
“Why don’t you write Amish?”
“You call this fiction?”
“This book was a total waste of my money.”

Unless a person has attempted to create something with their hands and mind, labored over it and fashioned it, and offered it to public scrutiny, then they would understand that a critique can be helpful; a criticism is not. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hoarding


My sister-in-law collects Christmas ornaments from all the places she and her family have visited.  She keeps all these beautiful items in a chest of drawers she chose specially for them.  It resembles the cabinets libraries use to keep maps, long deep drawers that run the length of the width of the cabinet.  At Christmas she decorates her tree with these exquisite pieces and can tell the story behind each ornament.
A good friend collects tea cups, not sets of teacups but single cups and saucers in beautiful colors and designs.  She keeps hers in a glass étagère that keeps them dust free and easily visible.
I collect a variety of things.  My favorite are my Willow Tree angels, the original beauties that started the trend.  My husband made me a corner cabinet where I can display them, but I know my limits.  I prefer to collect and not hoard.
A collection is controlled by the owner; hoarding controls the owner. To own something or hold on to it just because of obsession is hoarding, and it becomes a collection of stuff instead of a discreet collection of something valuable.
I have had to teach myself to get rid of things, things I value like books, stuffed animals, kitchen gadgets. Whenever I feel these things are taking up too much of my time and space, I force myself to reduce them by half. For every item I keep, I get rid of one. It hurts and it takes discipline and I am weak but I do it anyway, so I can stand back and value the results. 
Is it a collection or is it just a mass of “things?” Is the result pleasing and enjoyable?  Do I control it or does it control me?

Before you marvel at my self-control, know this:  I secretly covet my sister-in-law’s collection of Christmas ornaments from all over the world, but she has promised them to her only daughter.  The same goes for the collection of colorful tea cups at my friend’s house, but I know those too have been bequeathed to a family member, still it does not keep me from picturing what I would do with them if they were mine. They would go well with my Willow Tree angels. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Finding Time to Write


          Saturday mornings was my writing time.  I would stay in my jammies, make a huge pot of coffee, and sit at the computer until I came up with a weekly blog.  Some days were more successful than others and I would store two or three blogs for future use. 
          Throughout the week I would fit time to write on my latest manuscript. My study, my desktop, and my flash drive are full of unfinished work, all waiting for me to get back to them.
          But life has interfered.
          I have been told that is not a valid excuse, but then what the naysayers say does not count.  
          My husband needs me.
          It is not something drastic or dramatic; he has started a new venture in his life and needs my help. Since he has always been supportive of my needs and wants, I have to reciprocate in kind. In the last few years before he retires, he wants to transition into a new career.  He owns a carpentry shop, making kindergarten furniture for huge school districts.  It was a lucrative but very demanding career and now wants to use his amazing skill to create individual, heirloom quality and fun pieces.
          I do not blame him.  He has built the same patterns over and over for the last thirty-plus years and would like to create something else with the beautiful woods he buys by the truckload.
          I know nothing about wood, hammers, or table saws, but I do know how to organize, decorate, and manage.  I book craft and trade shows.  I talk to the people, get the permits, and make sure we have everything we need when we travel from one show to the other. I order things, write the checks, and make sure he has everything he needs.  I carry THE CLIP BOARD.
          I spend the majority of my Saturdays at craft shows, setting up and making sure everything is priced and ready to go.  Some craft shows start on Thursdays and end on Mondays, so my life is a whirlwind.  I find my days before the shows are also taken running errands, buying things, and making phone calls.

          So when someone tells me I need to get back to my writing, I agree, but life with my husband is more important and more immediate than writing a blog or finishing Chapter Eight of my latest novel.