A Social Media "Fast" + Lots of Insights ensue. . .

I’ve been on a self-imposed social media break since July 21st. For me that means I’m not engaging with or using Instagram or Facebook except when absolutely necessary. Trust me, in today’s day and age there are times when I HAVE to use social media - especially since I’m running a small business that at least partially relies on some social media use. Any other social media that I use is either so minimal it’s not a factor, or is simply me pushing content over from IG or FB. 

   at the Alameda Point Antiques fair earlier this year

   at the Alameda Point Antiques fair earlier this year

So. I just checked the calendar and I see that it’s been a two week break so far. And all I can think is “It hasn’t been long enough.” My intention when I started this break was to go for a month. At this point, I don’t think a month long break will be a problem. I’m also not being strident or absolute about it. I plan to pop into both IG and FB tomorrow or Monday to post about this blogpost. I want you all to know what’s going on with me. I want to share my thoughts on this social media break as I’ve seen other folks do because I think that the insights I’ve gleaned are important.

It’s been, and this is without hyperbole or exaggeration, quite startling to see how much stepping away from social media engagement is changing things for me. (And two weeks in, all I can think is, “this is just the tip of the iceberg.”) My time feels more expansive. I am accomplishing what I want to in the course of a day more easily. I’m feeling more focused. I pick up books to read more often. I’m finding it easier to read a whole email from start to finish without going into “oh I’ll just skim it” mode. I am less distracted. 

Although I should probably stop right there. For while I am less distracted, this little experiment has shone a very bright light on one little yet big distraction: my phone. It beckons to me when it need not. I can be in the middle of a very good lunch, reading a very good book and I will need to “check my phone.” In the middle of conversations I have the urge. I will be at my workbench, in the middle of drilling holes in several handmade components and I’ll think “just need to check my email.” Do I need to check anything in these moments? Probably not. Almost certainly not. I’m starting to think that in many ways our phones are the newest addictive substance we’re consuming on a daily basis as a culture.

That is to say over the last two weeks, one things has become abundantly apparent: I want more of this using my phone less. I have no desire to go back to how I was doing things. I want to watch one of my favorite shows on Hulu or Netflix and not “distract” myself by checking IG every 5 minutes or so. I want to see and feel and hear and taste the details in my life again in a way I have stopped doing. I plan on taking my email app off of my phone. I don’t want to be able to check email unless I am at work or at home sitting in front of my laptop and intentionally sitting down to work. I will definitely return to social media engagement once my month-long break is over, but I plan to set guidelines for myself. I want to make it work for me. And I think, the minute it starts to feel like an addictive substance that I can’t live without, well, I think that will usher in another social media break. 

I know I just wrote about some unintentional social media breaks that I took earlier this summer in my last blog post. I’m almost certain that those small breaks helped fuel my desire for a longer break. Also a break that is taken while living my regular ‘ol day-to-day life. The other, smaller breaks, were both taken while I was on trips. (One work related and one mostly for fun.) I wanted to see what it would feel like to live my life, my as I already stated “regular ‘ol life”, that can sometimes get boring and sometimes feel like drudgery (honesty here). There’s so much to say here, it almost makes me cry with the profundity of it all. I need the boredom. I need the drudgery. It fuels my creativity. It fuels my drive. It gives me beautiful little moments where I’m able to slow down. 

Does anyone else ever feel really strange and sort of “buzzy” after a few too many minutes spent scrolling through IG? I’ve always felt like that afterwards. Spending time on social, unless I handle that time with great care and purposeful intention, always leaves me feeling drained. Disconnected. Spacey. What it hasn’t been is a moment to slow down. Usually, after “falling down the IG hole” I am appalled by how much time has gone by. My phone feels truly capable of stealing my time away. . . if I give it the power to. It’s like a cryptic, modern day fairytale. 

I think maybe the most sobering part of all of this is that we all know that we need these things: that we need boredom in our lives. That if we really want to be connected in conversation with someone we can’t “just check in” with our email during conversational lags. That if I actually want to enjoy my favorite show on Netflix I can’t interrupt the viewing every 5 to 10 minutes with a quick IG scroll. That if I want the colors in the sky to truly thrill me, the smell of the fresh baked pizza to actually intoxicate me, if I wan to sincerely lose myself in moments - in moments that add up to my life - to a lifetime, I have to be engaged most of the time. 

And I haven’t been. 

Now, this isn’t meant to put all of the blame on my social media use. I am human and therefore I am innately an expert at distracting myself from what is directly in front of me. But I want to change that. In that desire I believe lies the real root of my decision to take this social media break. I want to examine all of the ways I am taking myself out of the present moment, and I’d like to work towards putting myself back there. 

I used to think that the documenting of my life was adding to it. That it was putting more color and flavor into my day. When I think about the roots of it all (um, hello, My Space?) I do think that initially it did all ADD to my life. But the newness and the notoriety of it all has worn off. I’m seeking a more intentional and useful way of using social media; not one that has me falling too easily into comparison traps. And I’m seeking a more minimal and pared down way of using my phone.

Regarding some practical matters: to keep all of my Tangleweeds collectors, fans, friends and family up-to-date I’m going to make an effort to keep this website much more up-to-date. I know this year I have not always posted about my events on my Events page, and I certainly haven’t blogged much. But given that I haven’t decided to go 100% off the technological grid, I do want to make an effort to keep the folks who care about Tangleweeds informed. I suggest bookmarking my website as a way of staying up-to-date with my goings-ons (both professional and otherwise) if you like. I will also continue to send out at least monthly newsletters. If you prefer staying up-to-date that way you can sign up for my newsletter here.

A year ago I couldn’t have imagined doing this, but now that I am I’m so grateful I took the leap and made the decision to take a break from social media. It’s shinning a light on my life in ways I could have never anticipated. 

Lastly, I’m incredibly curious: what have been your experiences with social media use? The good the bad and the in-between. Have you ever taken a self-imposed break? If so, what did you get out of it? If you haven’t taken one, are you considering it? Leave a comment below if you like. 

Life’s a crazy journey and really just one big experiment if we all let it be that.

Thoughts on Social Media and Running a Business

I’m back! And only one month since my last post on this blog. Feels not-too-shabby ;-). How has everyone been?!

Social media and social media tools are such funny things. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use these tools in my business and the rest of my life a lot lately. Honestly, it can be difficult balancing it and not getting sucked into 101 different social media channels. And then, those channels come up with ingenious new ways to hook you! (I’m looking at you right now, Instagram.)

this is what my home life looks like most days when I sit down to write 

this is what my home life looks like most days when I sit down to write 

I’m going to stop for a moment, before this starts to sound like a totally anti-social media blog post, which it’s not. I’m grateful to social media and the many doors it’s opened for me: from meeting fellow creatives, to gaining new wholesale accounts, to finding out about new and exciting arts and crafts festivals to sell at. It’s a fantastic resource, one that I want in my life.

Here comes the BUT. But, after I took two unintentional breaks from social media this year (for four days while I went to the Women’s Herbal Symposium and for 6 whole days while I was vending at the Kate Wolf Music Festival), I could clearly see how the less I engage with social media the less anxious I feel and the less I find myself falling into the sticky and icky comparison trap game. 

a nearly full moon at the Women's Herbal Symposium

a nearly full moon at the Women's Herbal Symposium

Sometimes it can feel to me like there’s no middle ground with social media. Like it’s either abandon ship and go back to snail mail (j/k) or I’m all in, losing vast swaths of time everyday to mindlessly perusing beautiful IG feeds and the like. In light of my two “digital detoxes” and the light it shed on my social media use, I had to get really honest with myself about how I use it and how I want to use it. . . 

For now that’s going to look like this: Getting back to blogging, but mostly in this very organic, very journal-y type way, and continuing to share my day in pictures and stories on Instagram. I want to be intentional with my FB engagement, but for now I don’t think I’ll be producing any original content for that platform. And regarding my ideas about starting a You-Tube channel, as I had announced via IG stories a while back, I’m putting that on hold for now while I consider what that would look like and how I would fold that into my life in a way that feels good to me. In the meantime I’ll continue to post the occasional tutorial or “how-to” mini-segment in my IG stories. . . and maybe give IGTV a try. . . 

Well! I honestly didn’t realize I could write that much about my social media use. I think it’s tricky for all of us, even those of us who don’t need to engage with it for work and can more or less choose to simply set all social media use aside without any work-related anxieties. ’Tis the times we’re living in. If any of you feel called to leave your own thoughts/comments about your social media use and how you manage it all I’d love to hear them. Leave them in the comments below =). 

some OOAk River Rock earrings I made for the Kate Wolf Music Festival - these sold at the event, but I plan to make some more similar ones in the future

some OOAk River Rock earrings I made for the Kate Wolf Music Festival - these sold at the event, but I plan to make some more similar ones in the future

In the meantime I’ve got a mostly no-work weekend coming up! Woo-hoo. I’ll be headed to the San Mateo Gem Show to buy stones (yes, work related, but I LOVE it so much I can’t even call it work, or maybe I’m just that lucky to call it work?!). I’ll be headed over to the 40th street block party in Oakland after that. And then, who knows? Maybe I’ll check Renegade out on Sunday, maybe I’ll just have a lazy day at home with the cats on Sunday. What are your weekend plans?

This Life: It's Going To Be Tough

Back at the beginning of February I was interviewed for the Dear Handmade Life blog (run by the same lovely gals that put on the Patchwork Craft Fairs that happen throughout California.) One of the questions I was asked was: 

***What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?***

photo from 10+ years ago when I had my first handmade jewelry business: Designs By A Hummingbird

photo from 10+ years ago when I had my first handmade jewelry business: Designs By A Hummingbird

Here's the answer I gave:

"The advice I’d give to creatives, whether just getting started or well established might be a bit unexpected: It’s going to be tough. Whether or not you’re trying to turn your creative passion into a business, it’s going to be a lot of hard work. It’s going to be amazing too, but sometimes the hard and difficult times will outweigh the shiny-bright-life-is-a-breeze times. I say this because I think it was the advice I needed the first couple years of going full time with Tangleweeds. I really thought I was doing something wrong because I didn’t wake up every morning thinking “gosh, my life is amazing because I get to work for myself!” So, if you’re waking up thinking “gosh, this is really HARD,” you’re not doing anything wrong, in fact you’re probably doing something really really right. It just takes some time for it all to start paying off."

I hesitated before I gave that answer, worried it would sound depressing or too negative or too much like I'm not over the moon grateful for the opportunity to be able to work for myself. But then I went ahead and gave that advice anyways, for the reason I stated above: it was the advice I needed when I first started out.

There is so much inspiring fodder, to be found on the internet, about people setting out and turning their creative passions into a successful business. I lapped that stuff up like an abandoned kitten when I was toiling away at my "day job" and trying to work on Tangleweeds in every spare moment I could find. By the time I left my day job to pursue Tangleweeds full time I was of the mindset that everything was going to be AWESOME, that I would find the time I needed to get EVERYTHING done, and that motivation and inspiration would stalk my EVERY MOVE as I went about my new life. 

Well, as any of you tried and true handmade business folks out there know, the reality didn't quite look like the dream. While I was toiling away at the day job I had painted such an overblown picture of what my life would look like when I finally got to work for myself full time that the let down was pretty severe. I had a long way to fall.

But here's the thing: (and one of those times where I see with hindsight that life really was watching out for me) I needed that dream, that rainbow filled sky of what my future would look like, in order to have the guts to leave my job. It was in part what propelled me forward and kept me focused on Tangleweeds even when things were growing at a snail's pace. 

The first two years of running Tangleweeds full time were really rough. So many times I wished I was one of those people who had a viable career to "fall back on" or another latent passion to pursue. There were times when I simply wanted the rest of my life to quiet the fuck down so I could focus on Tangleweeds 24/7. And there were the other times when I wanted to set a match to Tangleweeds and never look back. No joke (just ask my boyfriend, he can testify to this ;-)

Eventually though, through hard work and learning the fine art of "letting go", things started to coalesce in such a way that I actually started to LOVE my work again. I never stopped loving it, I had just become so overwhelmed by the initial stages of the business that I had stopped feeling the love. Yes, I absolutely still work just as hard as I did when I first started Tangleweeds six and a half years ago, but I've become better adept at setting things aside for REAL days off. I've also better learned how to accept what I have to give. Period. Usually things don't quite turn out the way I expect, whether that's a craft fair I'm selling at, a blog post I'm writing, or a new piece of jewelry that I'm designing. That's part of the art of what I'm doing. I can see that now, but it was really hard to see in the beginning.

Coming full circle here, I was prompted to write this post because of what a good friend told me the other day while we were having coffee out in Jack London Square. She said that the advice that I gave in that original interview has really ben helping her as she sets out on a similar journey with her illustration business. She also said that she passed the advice along to a fellow creative, someone on their own self-employment path, and that it helped him during a difficult spot as well. 

When my friend (hey Amy Rose!) told me how much my "advice" had helped her and a fellow friend, it really touched me . I share it here now in hopes that it might help another handmade business owner out when the road gets bumpy. Oh, and that topmost, and bottommost photos are from way back in the day (10 or so years ago) when I made my first go at a handmade jewelry business with Designs By A Hummingbird. It's fascinating to see where things have come from and where they have gone and to ponder where they might go. 

This Life: Journaling

Life changes. Some changes are big and significant, some are small and not-so-significant, but many more are less easily defined as “big” or “small.” I find that many of the changes in my life that have affected me most significantly do so in a way that is often mysterious. I often don’t see the change that is coming, both in myself and the effects that the change has on the day-to-day minutia. For me, if I don’t find a way to slow down, reflect, ponder, obsess, analyze, and just think on the things that are transpiring in my life I often feel left behind in my own life, like things are happening to me rather than with me.

My tool for slowing down, for the better part of my life, has been journaling. I started my first journal when I was 6 or 7 and I’ve kept one, on and off, since then. I think part of my connection to journaling stems from my love of the written word. (Way back in the day, long before I contemplated having a handmade jewelry business, I wanted to be a fiction writer.) Journaling allows me to pick something apart as much or as little as I like. I often come to realizations I didn’t see coming, through my writing.

The author Ann Patchett, in an interview I heard on one NPR show or another, once said that for her, if she doesn’t write it down it’s sort of like it didn’t happen. (I’m paraphrasing here of course.) She is a renowned fiction writer, but in that comment she was referring to keeping a journal. There is a part of me that resonates with that statement. I feel more whole and more alive when I am pausing to write about and reflect on what is happening in my life.

A few years ago I went through a period where I rarely wrote in my journal. Nothing tragic was happening, in fact, lots of good stuff was happening, life just sort of swept me along and I stopped taking those pauses to write, breathe and reflect. Over the course of the last year I’ve found my way back to journaling, granted not as often as I once did, but I’ve developed a habit of sweeping all other obligations aside when I feel that urge to just sit down and write. 

Besides the HUGE benefit of slowing down and reflecting that writing gives me, there is another benefit though, one that has slowly revealed itself to me over the years, and it’s simply this: I can’t lie to myself as readily. That’s the indirect benefit that comes from my taking the time to journal. I find that I must be more honest with myself about all aspects of my life when I’m taking the time to stop and reflect. This might sound strange, but I can be the QUEEN of lying to myself. Life gets busy, I get in my “go, go, go” mode and I kind of stop really being mindful about how I’m feeling. Journaling makes me stop and see all the sparkly little facets of life. 

If you like, share a little bit in the comments about what you like to do that helps you slow down and reflect. I know everyone has their own thing, and I always love to hear what others do that help them “show up” for their own life more fully and completely.

The Tangleweeds Cottage

Morning! Where to start with the story-telling? I'll start with the nuts and bolts: I moved over the holidays. Just within Oakland, from a three bedroom house that I rented with my boyfriend and his two kids (part time) to a tiny little studio cottage (pictured below.) It was probably the most stressful move of my life thus far. Moving during the holidays while running Tangleweeds was very challenging. The perfectionist in me that loves order and organization just had to be soothed and cajoled with promises of afternoons full of tidying up and decorating and organizing once the holidays fell away. 

I moved mainly because I am at a place in my life where I need my own place for a little while. My own little place to decorate as I please, to nest in as I please, to have a little space from the rest of the world. My boyfriend and I are still together, and the details of that I'll save for those closer to me. We are choosing to navigate our relationship in our own way and in our own time. I've never really done anything in the conventional way, and my relationships are included in that little statement. 

Moving within Oakland was challenging from an expense perspective. Rents have sky rocketed just in the last two years. What I could get for my money now is so much less than what I could get for my money five years ago when Jeff and I moved in together. It's sobering, and it's propelling me towards my decision to start looking at where I want to live with a more long-view. Basically I've decided to start making the plans and necessary preparations to move somewhere quieter and more affordable sometime in the next 2 to 6 years. The reason for the timeframe is tied up in a lot of business stuff, but also has a lot to do with my not quite being done with my time in Oakland just yet. 

(text continued below photos)

In the meantime I'm gonna love the heck out of this city that I've called home for the last 8 years (12 years off and on really.) There's this part of me that just wants to get on with my re-location plans. In a way, in many ways, this is a good lesson in enjoying where I am at this moment, even while knowing that everything is temporary. Because in the grand scheme of things, everything is, right? 

The pictures above are all taken at my new home (except for the table - that's at my sister's.) I really am adoring having my own space. I'll be posting more photos of home decor stuff this year as I make the time for those projects. The table above is a piece I picked up at an antique shop in Modesto with my sister. The thing had been re-painted in the ugliest shade of black-brown and then scuffed up to look "rustic." I'm sanding it down on top and then going to seal it and leave it with the natural wood finish. The legs and baseboard will be painted a matte turquoise. I promise to have some "after" shots once it's done. My sister's been a valuable resource on stuff like this. She's like a one-woman Martha Stewart encyclopedia. 

Well, that post got wordy fast! I'm not sure what my exact intention will be with the blog this year. I'm just going to let it unfold naturally and see what I'm compelled to post about. In the meantime I gotta wrap up and get ready for a little jaunt into the city to restock Wallflower on Valencia. I hope everyone has a wonderful week!