At the MidWest Craft Con in February 2018, a theme emerged. Why is it so hard to just be who we are? Why do we feel so misunderstood? In a workshop, the leader, Kim, regaled a story about being at a party and talking with a man who claimed to be a novelist. When he asked what she did, she self-consciously demurred. "Oh, I just write books...about crochet." Once stated, she knew something was twisted about her response, but it was a party and like most women, she didn't sort out what That was all about until later. It came up again in the small group workshop she led, called "Mighty Ugly". We all really could relate and dove into the topic deeply.
Are you "just"ifying your genius?
Kim's published EIGHT books. Some have sold over 10,000 copies. They are about crochet, a skill in which a person makes a series of complicated knots which then turns into a three dimensional thing. I do not know how to crochet, so it is also sorceress-type magic to me.
This woman can take string and knot it into something that actually looks like a thing that has never been created from string before. Then she can actually articulate how in the hell she made that thing and teach it to someone who is also, by the way, brilliantly curious and confident enough to try it themselves. She can even collect all that genius into a book, write it, and publish it. Think about that for a minute longer, please.
Know Your Mad Skills
Skills in math. Skills in small muscle control. Skills in abstract to concrete thinking. Skills in artistry of color and texture. Skills in articulate communication. Skills in organization. Skills in editing. Skills in production. Skills in project management. Skills in marketing. I'm sure I'm missing some other skills in this list. You get me, right? She is effing brilliant. And she just "just"ed herself to someone.
We gotta stop it.
We can go on and on about how people (men, our parents, our teachers, etc.) and society don't appreciate what we, as creatives, do but I'm getting a little tired of that victimized "we're so misunderstood" stuff. Look creatives, it's up to us. The challenge to change minds is OURS.
Why would ANYONE believe what we do is amazing and life changing and genius if we do not believe it ourselves?
What is so freaking hard about saying, in that exact scenario, "I'm a published author of 8 books on crochet. How have you taken your passion and put it into the world?" I guarantee the guy she was talking to would be impressed, no matter the subject. If he was a smart and cool guy, he would even probably have a lot of questions for her since he was trying to write his own novel and she, clearly, had more expertise than he did. If he was an arrogant ass, he would try to put her down so that he wouldn't feel like such a failure in her light. Either way, she is still amazing. Nothing changed there.
Why do we shy away from telling people that we write books on knitting? Or that we cut paper, paint it and glue it into artwork? Or that we write songs and stories for children? Or that we make enameled pins and patches to help people feel connected about their geeky passions? Or that we run a support group for creative people?
Are we afraid of what people will say?
I AM often sensitive about what they think or at least cringing inside. People will say, "That's weird!" or "Hmmm. That's... in..teresting..." or "Oh! You and your artsy-fartsy stuff." with a flap of the hand that means, I don't get you, silly artist person. And if you're my mother, I will also get a screwed up face that expresses that she's confused, therefore, I am weird.*
Are you going to run and hide in your little studio because the world doesn't understand you? Are you going to keep your drawings and your sci-fi novel to yourself? Are you going to watch Netflix** all day because you have no value in the world? Worst of all, are you going to BELIEVE them?!
By hiding our brilliance, we are silently agreeing with the world that we are not important.
What we can learn to do.
We have to learn how to EXPLAIN what we do in a way that anyone can understand, even our grandparents who aren't online. We have to learn to explain to our fathers why we believe a profitable store can be made from invitations and paper. We need to know how to rave about our ideas so that someone else catches the excitement too. If they don't understand or can't get excited about a plush monster you named Rego, at least they will know that it's important to you. That. Counts.
We ARE really important.
We have the chance to help people connect to inner workings they don't even know exist yet. We are the ones who break the rules and shake things up. We make a big contribution to the best part of humanity. Let's do it and be proud!
The stories are here. The stories are you and your fear and your hope is as old as the language of smoke, the language of blood, the language of languishing love, the Gods are all here. Because the Gods are in us.
If you need a tribe of creative people to make you feel normal and who will help you practice the hard parts with the rest of the world, please join our private Creative Juice Group on Facebook and sign up for the newsletter. You'll be happy you did. :o)
*My mom is actually awesome and did encourage my creativity growing up, even if she didn't understand what I was doing half the time.