in which we talk about fraud and feelings

hugo, thoughtful

I have zero shame when I tell you that this picture of Hugo thoughtfully gazing off into the distance has absolutely nothing to do with anything I’ve written about in this post.

There’s a tenderloin going in the slow cooker, I have a marshmallow root salve bubbling on the double boiler, both dogs are gently snoring in various corners of the living room, and there is a good chunk of time between now and my next business call. FINALLY: a little time to myself.

I’d thought this would be a quieter week, and with the snow it’s not as busy as I’d wanted it to be, but I also managed to come up with a maybe- possibly- this- could- be- a- thing- idea for a shawl, too, so I’ve made more work for myself to fill any bonus time that might have been sitting around. AS I TEND TO DO, actually. I’ve hit my lettermo goals so far, though, and that’s a plus, even if I’m only a week in so far. (Email me your address and I will send you a card, a letter, or a tiny painting, who knows? Live in the adventure.)

A bottle of passion fruit seed oil arrived in the post yesterday, along with some black raspberry seed oil (a sample, but really nice stuff). I’ll be adding the passion fruit oil to my face oils tonight to see how I like it; I have a mix of hemp, castor, tea tree, rosemary and a few other things that I’ve been using for the last four months or so that I really love, but I wanted to give it a little more oomph. (I’ve also seen it sold as maracuja oil, mostly when Tarte is trying to get $50 a bottle for the stuff. Don’t pay that price, though. That’s silly- person buying. Pick it up for $13 on GoW like the rest of us hippies.) I’d forgotten how much I enjoy making all the things we use on our bodies. Working mostly at home, it’s dead simple to throw ingredients into a slow cooker, come back, pour things into molds or a mason jar. It’s been good, and it’s been making us smell good, too. Not all of my hobbies have such nice side benefits. (I’m looking at you, silk dyeing.)

Someone recently told me that I know how to make a lot of interesting things. It’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me— being a person with useful skills, someone who is capable in multiple ways, that has been very important to me for most of my life. I’ve found that having a variety of abilities has served me well; there is so much work that needs to be done, and not everyone is looking in the same places.

I was talking my friend D last week, someone else who does freelance, hustling, grab- it- as- it- comes work. I have an opportunity to sell a couple of the things I make locally— malas, lotion bars, maybe salves, that sort of thing, and I could start teaching meditations any minute too (although I really should start that after I’ve finished with the Craftsy course, I want to take on one Big Thing at a time). I was hanging out at D’s house last week, carefully not watching a marathon of Groundhog Day, when we started talking about Impostor Syndrome, which we’d both been feeling a bit lately.

It’s tricky. Here’s how it works: People want a Thing. They want us to do or make a Thing: even better, they value said Thing so highly that they want to PAY us to make/ do the Thing. We are good at making and/ or doing said Thing, and that’s where stuff actually gets weird; we are so practiced, so trained, or just so at ease with making or doing that Thing that we feel a certain kind of way about taking money for doing or making that Thing. That certain kind of way can be different for everybody, but it isn’t good at all and it seems to revolve around a sense of falseness & fraud: you don’t have the right to be charging money (or as much money) for your Thing, mostly because you either:  A.) Enjoy the work, B.) It comes easily to you, or the usual answer— C.) All of the above.

When a maker starts telling me that they’re feeling this way, I remind them that they’ve worked so hard for this moment: people want their Things! They have so much experience! Their training has monetary value! The money is waiting for them and their work. Do that work and get paid! It’s a fair exchange and people want to engage in it. When I’m sitting in the middle of that moment myself, though, it’s almost impossible to pull my head out. There are days when it feels strange and almost like cheating the system (which system?) to ask for money for something I do out of pleasure, especially when large parts of our society devalue art, particularly anything considered domestic. Artisan work and handcrafts are perpetually undervalued and seen as unskilled, as they are perceived as the work of the lower classes or women; these are my areas of especial interest.

When I first started dyeing, I was nearly giving my yarn away, I underpriced so badly. Part of that was not knowing my market but really, I mostly just felt enormous guilt asking to be compensated for work that I enjoyed. It’s better now— I don’t feel that way all the time now, only in patches. Those patches, though; they’re a bag of bullshit.

Reminder to self (and all of you, too): it’s okay to get paid for stuff that comes easy. Nobody else is doing your Thing precisely how, when or where you are, or people wouldn’t be offering you money for it. If people see value in what you make and do and they want to exchange money for it, don’t fight them over that! IT IS TOTALLY OKAY TO LIKE MONEY, FRIEND. Money buys food, a roof, and more materials to make Things, which is totally how we want to be spending our time. Folks want to give us more money for the Things we make and do, so we can keep doing that if we eat and sleep and continue making and doing Things. Round & round we go.

If you’re interested in making your own salves, bath bombs, DIY house cleaning supplies, etc, I originally got started using the internet, but it all really took off once I got my hands on this awesome, slender little book from Raleigh Briggs titled Make Your Place. That link will take you straight to the publisher, where you can pick the book up at a sliding scale, because small indie presses are punk rock, that’s why. This book has a little bit of everything and is handwritten & drawn so it feels like an old- school zine; it’s made of awesome and worth every penny you’ll put toward it (however many pennies you may choose that to be).

If you are or have dealt with Impostor Syndrome, I’d love to hear about it. Seriously! We all go through this differently, but it’s such a universal experience for those of us who are making things in public. I’d love to hear your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

 

*- If you’re handling the self- esteem and general ego junk that can accompany being an artist, artisan, or maker, and can tag along with Impostor Syndrome (“I have no right to call myself a maker, I like making/ doing these things so I couldn’t possibly charge for them and also everyone is so much better than me, I am THE WORST”) remember: that noise is largely composed of cruddy things people who aren’t interested in your success have said or would say to you. Destructive people tear other folks down, creative people lift others up: the toxic noise some jerk left in your head does not deserve your energy. While not a panacea, this can be helpful to redirect your attention to more worthwhile and purposeful actions.  

  One thought on “in which we talk about fraud and feelings

  1. Jerre
    February 9, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    Sometimes I feel too old to be starting again and trying to be part of the creative world. An art teacher told me (many years ago) that I was persistent but had no talent. The person who runs the artisan coop where I sell most of my work always has me price higher than I intended.

    • February 10, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Ira Glass has a wonderful quote about doing a thing repeatedly and with intention, Jerre- the power of persistence, and how that builds us into experts in our fields of choice. There’s a special place in hell for art teachers who discourage their students; we aren’t all going to be classic sculptors or still life painters, etc, and some teachers are teaching solely for those students. It’s weird & makes zero sense, because if you go to art school a lot of that stuff goes out the window (you learn so so so many different techniques! Art can be a million things!) I’m glad you’re still at it, and super- happy others see the value in your work!! ❤️

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