Saturday, March 21, 2009

Season of changes

Not unexpectedly, the recession has come home to roost. I learned today that my major client, a museum in NC, will be pulling in their belt and replacing me with volunteers. Even before the recession, I expected to loose them at some point; organizations like theirs really DO need someone "on scene" to best communicate their message.

However, these things always hit hard and more so when the director is a good friend and it was she who gave me the news. We've been through a lot together over the years and many folks who know her wondered at the longevity of our partnership. She is a wonderfully fanatical workaholic who has a tendency to attract -- and then also to burn out -- even the most hard workers in a crowd, like moths at a flame.

We will remain friends and, as a professional, I will help make the transition as painless as possible.

At the same time, losing a large chuck of my design business revenue, my brain in vacillating between panic and mad brainstorming ways to make up the shortfall. "What, in THIS economy, will people and/or businesses continue to need that I can easily and affordably supply?" bounces around batting against "What do you WANT to do?" and "What CAN you do?" and none of them seem to want to line up in any coherent fashion.

I can design stuff... but in these days of almost universal computer usage (so it seems) and "everyone" having access to something that at least purports to be a design or publishing program I am not sure how much that will or should figure into the equation. Especially in tight money times, I suspect that the understanding of the difference between professional communication services and what they think they -- or their hotshot computer-user friend or relative -- can do will seem like so much BS or 'smoke and mirrors.' And, at least on some level, I no longer feel driven to do this. At one point it grabbed me and consumed me -- or we became one, or something like that -- but now if feels like the "demon" has spit me out. I CAN do it, but I don't have to and I am not sure I still want to, at least in the same way I did in the past. I still feel the need to use these skills to promote messages and provoke change, but not necessary for anyone else's vision.

I can write. And indeed I have a mostly-completed book that must get off the starting block, self-published at least. In the past I have made a decent part-time living as a freelance writer and that appeals to me again. However, I am not anywhere near being part of the "mainstream" or so it seems to me, and I wonder what, if anything, that I might want to write about would be of interest -- and to whom. "Back in the day" I wrote how-to articles on saving money and making do and gardening and food... but what about all that hasn't been said a million times. How, I ask myself (and you, if you wish to accept this mission) do I make it relevant to this very different 2009 world?

I can do folk art and will continue to promote my hex signs, but as "non-essentials" I wonder how practical this will be? True, the indoor ones are quite affordable and "small indulgences" are one of the trends that Faith Popcorn's Brain Reserve has been talking about for some time. But how does that fit into today? As an amateur futurist myself, I have been following her work since before the publication of her book The Popcorn Report in 1991 and have seen more than a few grains of truth in her observations. For this year, the four trends they are highlighting are: Reclaim, Retrench, Reset and Reinvent so I am keeping these thoughts in mind as I brainstorm ideas.

Nothing has settled yet, except the knowledge that I am on a familiar part of the path, in a new season, walking the road of reinvention. When I put aside the desire to panic (which is, as always, totally nonproductive) I am left with more questions than answers and a hint of curiosity as to what this chapter will hold.


Amelia said...

What about your fabulous new garden plot? I remember in one of your posts some one (your tractor guy maybe?) foretelling it to be a revenue maker sized garden, or something like that. Don't know what the small agriculture scene is like up there, but around here, organic is it, and the Farmer's Market is so crowded that I avoid it, and hit smaller roadside stands. Any who, just a thought.

Amelia said...

Oh, and I love that you used the term "curious" about what this chapter holds. When I can hold my daily panic at bay (it's become an old friend by now, familiar like a well-worn pair of sneakers) that's how I feel about this newly opening chapter of our lives too. When I'm not panicking. Which I, too, realize is a spectacular waste of time.

Jj Starwalker said...

Amy, thanks, I did forget to mention the garden, though it is in my mind... not as a solid entity yet, though. A "first year" garden -- which is what this is, we had the tractor guy plow up the lawn last fall -- is a coin toss at best. I am pretty sure I can more than feed US, and I am thinking larger than that, and planning to do a lot of talking with my friend Robin who currently makes a living on less tilled acres than I have under cultivation, but not sure how much it will factor in THIS year.

I will investigate farmers markets, but, as one of my farming friends noted "babysitting a parking lot" takes time away from being in the garden and with all my other activities that may not be a good use of time. Using my other skills to promote a "farm stand" where I can sell the produce, hex signs (and I am looking at places to consign them elsewhere, associated with farmers markets also, as I think they are a natural thing by association, though many farmers markets don't allow non-farm crafts (like I could do herb wreaths, but not stuff that isn't grown) any maybe other "small indulgences" that may or may not be a slight extension of a need -- like handmade soap with my locally grown herbs in it.

I AM in a place where I COULD become a certified kitchen, too and that has crossed my mind (more once the fruit is bearing than say with baked goods, though that is an idea too...)

Thank you for your feedback. One of the reasons I wrote this and posted it here was that I was sure that readers' comments would spark other ideas. The other main reason is, of course, that writing lets me see better!

Clare said...

Sending you good thoughts. Just wanted to pass along this online self published tool called CreateSpace, which I believe is through Amazon. Anyway, I know about it through this link where she published her craft book. It looks quite professional, and since books are printed as they are ordered, the outlay of cash is not prohibitive. Food for thought.
Take care.... Clare

Jj Starwalker said...

Thanks, Claire! I'll look into it.

I am pretty familiar with; friends have published books there and I helped with the layout of one of them.

I spent today roughing out an article aimed at the myriads of first-year gardeners out there, to help them succeed and realize, as well, that "success" with gardens is a relative term, so as to help them do better this year and no matter what, try again next year as well.

And I ordered a copy of 2008 Writer's Market -- a year outdated but I can confirm info on the net and at 1.99 in (about $5 with shipping) it's in the budget. My local library (first visit today) is VERY sad. Tiny, lots of ancient books, and NO inter-library loan (though to their credit they are considering it... again... after problems with patrons not being prompt in the past.)

In truth I could FIND all that same info on the net, but it is much easier for me to organize my thinking and planning using post-its and a "real" book! Color me old fashioned.