Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Times They Need To Be A-Changing

Today has been a very frustrating day. I have been pinged and dinged and beaten down since 8:30 this morning. It seems like everyone wants something, wants money, wants time, wants extensions, wants exceptions, wants special treatment from me, or can't pay me, or something else that leaves me feeling marginalized, undervalued, and under-appreciated. Back in March I wrote that we don't do what we do for the money, and I still believe that to be true. The following paragraph from that post hit me especially hard today:

When we start thinking about how much we're making for our work compared to how much we're working and we begin to feel resentful, it's not about the money--however much we might say it is--it's about the work. Something about the work is not or is no longer meeting our needs. The answer really isn't to ask for a raise. More money for the same work environment is a short term sop that initially makes us feel more self-worth but doesn't address the real problem. The real problem is either that the negative aspects of the job or the job environment outweigh the positives and leave us feeling down at the end of the day, or that we have intrinsic self-worth issues that keep us from being fulfilled and validated external to the job.

In my case, my self-esteem is just fine, but my job has evolved into management and ownership in the most non-creative of ways. When I get the opportunity to create, I throw myself completely into the experience--as in the Bullseye conference workshop on manual 3-D printing earlier this year, or the fall Advanced Beginning Weaving workshop I took in New Hampshire in October. I love those times and I am energized and excited again by what I Do--whether or not I make any money from it. Even the Waldorf Holiday Fair (though Dave will never believe it) was very satisfying for me in spite of the extreme hard work, high level of responsibility, and complete lack of remuneration.

Today's tasks--dealing with the City of Atlanta Department of Revenue (again) over my business license issue, managing orders which were/are delayed, calling customers about paying their invoices that have been past due for over 180 days, filling out and mailing payroll tax forms, and appealing a water bill that was four times higher than it should have/ever has been--were almost more than I could bear. But the real cherry on the top of the day was answering phone calls and emails from the never-ending stream of people who purchased our class deal through Living Social last November and waited until the last minute to try to schedule a class before the deal expires on November 24 ("Well it didn't say I couldn't wait till the last minute! How do I get a refund?"). I have quadrupled our class offerings to try to fit everyone in, and I extended the expiration to the end of January, and yet I *still* feel harangued and like they think I'm trying to cheat them. At one point I looked at my Mom with despair (sometimes you've just got to have your Mom around, and I'm very lucky that mine lives with us), and she sympathetically said to me, "Let's run away to Greece." I was sorely tempted.

So what to do? Well, my first step was to cancel this year's Siyeh Sleigh Ride. I have not been looking forward to it, I have been viewing it as an obligatory millstone around my neck--something I *should* do. I am also re-evaluating doing the Buyer's Market show in February--I have three days to cancel. Christine, the excellent former show director, is no longer with the Rosen Group, Wendy Rosen is absorbed by her bid for a Congressional seat, and her daughter Rebecca, who has taken over the show, is an unknown quantity to me. My one exposure to Rebecca was a few years ago when she tried to have a world handcrafts show run concurrently with the Buyer's Market of American Craft. This idea did not fill me with confidence that she understands what it means to be a North American artisan buying North-American-made materials, paying North American production costs, wages, insurance, mortgage/rent, cost of living, etc., and having to compete against third-world wages and cost of living. Yes, it might have been a great idea for boosting buyer attendance numbers--less costly goods are always good for buyers, but it didn't show her to be behind the idea of building up an awareness and appreciation for fine North American-made (and all that that label entails) craft. Would it have been good for their main supporters and the reason for the show--the American and Canadian artisans who have been exhibiting there for almost 30 years? No.

Canceling the sleigh ride and re-evaluating my one remaining wholesale show feel like the baby-steps to bigger changes. If I am not Doing It for the money--and we should all be clear by this point that I am not--then I need to be more true to doing the It that gives me joy, makes my heart sing, and doesn't make me feel a drudge. Guess it's time to shake things up a bit.


Cynthia Morgan said...

It sounds like you should have an absolutely lovely glass of wine as you plan your hassle-free trip to glassland.

My dealings with Wendy Rosen have been along the lines of "out of sight, out of mind," so I'd be a little cautious, too. Nice lady, but she's definitely got a focus problem. If your plan for BMAC includes getting well on next-time revenues, uhm...

All that aside, a mentor once told me that three stressdays (like yours) in a month triggers an automatic question:

If every single iron I've got in the professional fire goes exactly as I plan for the next 12 months, am I where I want to be?

If the answer starts with "well, it's more complicated than that..." then it's time to regroup.

So...what are the five things (outside of your family) that curl your toes?

Brenda Griffith said...

Ahhh. Therein lies the question! Off the top of my head: Weaving, gardening, fabric dyeing, sewing (clothing and quilting), knitting, glass casting, 3-D printing, writing (blog and fiction). Only two glass items in there, and none of them are production work, retail or teaching.

Bill said...

You put in these additional venues to make the business survive after moving into the bigger quarters. Maybe you should take a sort of sabbatical and just play with it all? A week spent like that might pay off in a big way with renewed vigor and focus.