The Ferret mentioned something on his blog today that oddly mirrored exactly a topic that I myself have been pondering recently.
I’m kicking the tires of various old thought patterns in preparation for a very special birthday. This year is THE year, the BIG year, the year that indulges my just-a-little-stitions. I’m turning 39, which is 3 times 13, which is one of my favorite multiplication problems (after 7×3 and 8×7). (Actually, it’s probably just after 7×3 and before 8×7, but not because of the numeric value, just because I like it more.)
… Hey, some people have favorite socks, some people have favorite bands. I have favorite math problems.
So, getting back to it, I’m rifling through these old thought patterns, and something that keeps coming up is the battle I constantly have of “talent” versus “career”. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have decided that a “career” is not really going to happen for me because it involves a level of social identification that I simply can’t relate to. And yet, nearly everything I do comes down to a question of money, even if that question is ridiculous.
“Wow, you’re really good at knitting. You should sell those…”
Um, if I charged a minimum-wage hourly rate for how long it takes me to make some of the things I knit, a small pair of socks would cost $45. To charge a not-quite-livable-but-still-respectable rate, a small pair of socks would cost around $90. And that shawl that I worked on for a month in the evenings? $900. To be able to justify “knitting for hire”, I couldn’t possibly be market competitive with department stores.
“That’s some amazing artwork! Are you going to sell it?”
Sell it? Where? On Etsy? In a gallery? Sure, I’ll sell it – if you’re buying it. The caveat to this is that I’m still looking forward to tattooing as a profession (again, not a career) because it’s creative, powerful, and fun. And I’ll get to dye my hair back to “normal”. XD
“Have you thought about publishing your writing?”
Of course not, and I don’t have a pile of rejection letters sitting in my filing cabinet because of it. (I don’t take the rejection letters personally, they’re kind of fun to collect.) I certainly bother people to test read my work on a regular basis because I definitely don’t want to publish my work or profit from it in any way… And then comes the crushing feeling of “what if I never sell my novel” and “what if no one likes my screenplay” and “my short stories must all completely suck for no one to want them”…
Okay, screw trying to sell that stuff. I love to draw, to paint, to sculpt, to write, to sing, to sew, to knit… these things make me happy, and I can do them until I’m blissed out to the nth degree as long as I let myself stay in the little fishbowl of “doesn’t have to have a price tag to be worth something”.
I made some things recently, just for the hell of it, and I loved it. I’ve packaged them all up and they’re ready to be delivered to the people for whom they are intended, but I could just as easily have installed them around here. I like making things for other people, but the sword hanging over my head about whether or not I’d do anything as a career had a very poor affect on my work altogether:
I started inching towards perfectionism. Since everything had to be “market-ready” in my book, anything that was not perfect was discarded, and that led to the greatest tragedy of all: I stopped experimenting, stopped trying new things for fear of making mistakes, and I felt completely and utterly creatively stunted.
I think I was well on my way to achieving this understanding – the pieces were there and they were very slowly moving into place – when I met the Saint, and I freely give him props for providing a fantastic environment by which this realization can come to fruition. I don’t want to answer the question “What am I going to be if I grow up” because 1) that’s never going to happen and 2) that implies I only get one option.
Screw that, too.
At this exact moment, I’m putting the final clear coat on two sets of horns I sculpted over the past couple of weeks for costumes. I’m roasting both pumpkins and pumpkin seeds. I have the fabric laid out and resting (after being steamed) for some minor sewing. Outside of this moment, I’m one wrong-side row off of binding off a gorgeous shawl, I spent a whole movie a couple of nights ago doodling on canvas with acrylic paint, I’m drafting my next story for NaNoWriMo, and when the pumpkin comes out of the oven, I’m making a pie/custard and some caramel pepitas again.
But that’s not to say in spreading my interests out that I have no focus and that I’m planning on not doing anything productive, ever. I’m in school for a general business degree (actually specialized but covering a lot of ground), and I think that if there’s something I have to do as a “career”, it’ll be something like an “entrepreneur-for-hire”, designing and building businesses for investors and either selling them or maintaining a small interest after the first year. I already have a list of ideas that I’ve been kicking around for years.
And here’s where it gets a little weird for me (and this might have to be the content of another blog post because my roasted pumpkin almost smells ready to go): I’ve been told my entire life that this inability to focus on one single thing consistently is a sign of mental weakness, that I would never go anywhere or accomplish anything unless I could pick ONE thing to do forever. But I don’t do that, I focus on one thing to distraction, make something amazing out of it, and then move on to the next thing – which I can totally see being a huge advantage in business, if people were not overly concerned with “time spent gaining experience” so much as “level of expertise accomplished”. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be anyway?
There’s a whole other side of this I want to explore, but the pumpkins are ready to come out. Remind me to tell you about that whole autism-genius-focus connection I’ve been sketching.