Friday, March 13, 2009

Encountering Reactance

The other day, I gave you a little snippet of the things I wanted to talk about this week. One of them was "reactance". I have been writing this post in my head for more then a week... ever since learning about this word. I think to myself that I will start this post one way or another, but it keeps changing. Anyway, I can feel a long babbling post coming on, so grab some coffee and settle in.

Last week, that day Lindsey and I conspired to take a fabric road trip and I learned about the quilt-along, Lindsey asked me something. I was complaining about some work I had to do and she asked "do you even enjoy making beads anymore? because it doesn't seem like it." That kinda took me off guard. Do I still enjoy making beads? That led to a talk about a few of the things I have been feeling lately.

First, this whole "state of the economy" crap is getting to me. Ron works in a corporate setting that just isn't stable. Any given day, he could come home early having been laid off. It is no way to go through life. It just sucks. What sucks worse though, is being an artist on the receiving end of that. Ron has never pressured me about anything, and he is extremely supportive of what I do. Lately though, he is giving me little nudges. Not in a bad way, but in a "don't ya wanna go make beads, you are gonna be the one supporting us if I loose my job"... and "is there any way you can kick things up a notch?" And this all started about six months ago when the company he works for announced they were laying off 5% of their work force.

So, one of things we agreed to was that if someone asks me to do something, I don't say no. For a long time, when I was asked to do custom orders, I politely declined, but now, I take them as they come. Custom orders have always been a struggle for me on so many levels. For one, I feel like the uniqueness of my work is one of the reasons it sells so well. People know that when they buy my beads or they buy my jewelry, they are getting something that is one of a kind. Never two the same. That is really important to me and if I opened myself up to taking orders, I don't know that I could keep things as individually unique as I do. For two, I have never been an assembly line thinker. It drives me mad. Think about it, in the past 6 years that I have been doing what I do, how easy could it be to have a website that shows a set of beads with an order button? I would have an endless supply of work. But I would go insane. I. Just. Can't. Do. That. For me, what I do is not about the money and I feel like the minute it becomes about making money, my work will suffer and my customers will see through me in a heartbeat.

To my rambling and sarcastic comments of "I just don't wanna do what people tell me I have to", Lindsey said "that is reactance". She explained that my creative freedom is being threatened so I am rebelling against the threat. And that right there has been stuck in the fore front of my thoughts since I heard it.

My creative freedom is being threatened.

The idea of that has caused a flurry of other ideas. First, and the thing nagging me the most, is how dare I act like such a little brat? Really, am I 31 or 3? Acting out and rebelling against what really is a responsibility shouldn't be an option. I am not an individual, I am part of a family of five. I need to be a contributor to this family. How could I let this go on for so long? By allowing myself to wallow in a subconscious rebellion, I am not only chancing losing everything I have worked so hard for over the past six years, I am also allowing a horrible insecurity creep in too. See, over the past few months, as I have been knitting instead of beading, sewing instead of beading, and painting instead of beading, I have felt my confidence in my beads falter. If I make beads, will everyone still think they are cool? Will they even sell? Why risk it?

Now maybe I have been good at hiding all this. Maybe you are thinking, Kerry where is this coming from? But I tell you, it has been sitting with me, worrying me, for a long time now. Now that I have a "label", so to speak, I can work through it in a more deliberate way. And the more I have talked about it this past week, with friends and with family, the more I have been able to process it. As I said in the start of this post, I have been writing this in my head for more then a week, and what I want to convey changes all the time. So much so, that I almost decided not to write this after all. Then I thought, no, I need to get this out.

So, here is my new plan. I am going to "fake it till I make it", lol. It is some advice Lori Greenberg gave me once. She gave it to me about a different situation, but I think it applies here. I feel like I need to pull my head outta the sand and get back to work. I can't keep hiding behind other projects. And I'll tell you the answer I gave Lindsey to the question "do you still enjoy making beads?" Yes, yes, yes, I do. When I sit at my torch, I have a sense of calm and all is right with my little world. It is getting myself to go sit down and do it that has been the problem. I. Need. To. Make. Beads. Even if I don't want to. I need to fake that it's what I want to be doing, until it is what I want to be doing. Ideas don't make themselves, so if I am feeling like I don't have any, then I need to work through that, not start knitting another sweater. Enough avoiding. I need to act my age.

I have spent time in my studio everyday this week. And that is my new pledge to myself. I will spend time in the studio. Everyday. I will regain my waning confidence. I will show myself that there is a reason I took the leap I did all those years ago and that I will not lose this. You know, for months now, I have felt like I have been floating. Like I have been treading water in between two places. (I think I have said that before) I have tried kicking my feet and swimming in one direction or another now and then over these past few months, but I was doing so blind. I feel now like the sun is rising over the water where I am treading and although it is still a little hazy, I can see a bit better what I want to kick towards.



deehebard said...

the first stroke (step) is always the hardest. Just start swimming toward the light. Maybe the interruptions were necessary to help you figure out what you really love.
We are all with you on your journey!

pam ferrari said...

That was brave of you.....I thought you were saving all new designs for your book. Glad to hear your getting back on the horse.

Eileen said...

kerry...i usually don't read such a wordy post word-for-word but for some reason your post was calling out to me...your determination and strength is shining through...such courage to be honest and put this information out on your blog...dee is right about sometimes we need distractions and interruptions to get us "grounded" and see now have a regained focus and i know you will succeed...i appreciate your honesty and admire your go girl...

Anonymous said...

I found your post so inspiring and revealing of my own arty dilemma.

I’m just starting out as a lampwork artist, and my husband is also an uncomplaining and lovely man. But he is also the sole bread winner, and as as you said, one day he might come home early. I also need to grow up.

I think i might make myself a “fake it till you make” it bracelet (just as a reminder), and maybe a few more for my arty friends. :D

Ps. I love your work; I check your site everyday for beautiful eyecandy and soulful posts - you rock!

crymson said...

Kerry...great post, and I have full confidence in you regaining the creativity and confidence that came with it. *hugs*

Nola said...


You are an awesome artist!

It is soooo hard to be creative *all* the time but you seem to do it very well. Have you ever checked out any of the Julia Cameron books?

Patty said...

Kerry, I know exactly how you feel. As much as I love to melt glass, I find it hardest to take the first steps toward my torch when it's to make something that someone has asked me to make. What I relish more than anything is time to play, to explore, to create without requirements or boundaries.

Thanks for sharing your very personal thoughts. It's wonderful that you feel a renewed energy, and we can't wait to see what you turn out, no matter who asked you to do it.

Kerry said...

Thanks so much everyone for your support. I do so greatly appreciate it. I don't think I am very brave, but hearing you say it makes me feel it.

Kerry said...

Thanks so much everyone for your support. I do so greatly appreciate it. I don't think I am very brave, but hearing you say it makes me feel it.

Sharon said...

I think you speak for the artistically inclined collective consciousness in your post. You are voicing the fears and determination over those fears and a call to action to solve your dilemma. You are indeed brave to voice what the rest of us are worrying about!

Keep up the good fight and never doubt your talent and the people who love you and your art.

LLYYNN - Lynn Davis said...

Kerry, Getting into the conversation a bit late here, but I've been thinking about what you said. I also resist taking repeated orders as the make-over-make-yet-again part of that sort of work numbs and dulls me. My compromise has been to make something that's on order, then the next thing is open - free for all anything goes. Then another order. Sort of the carrot and stick thing, keeping the possibilities flowing.

Thanks for sharing your situation, and just remember that knitting increases creativity and calm - it's scientifically proven - and don't give that up completely.

Kathy said...

What about "Buttercream" or "Butterscotch."

kelli marsh said...

I've been known to hide from myself from time to time too. Thanks for reminding me I'm not alone :) I can't wait to see what good things you come up with your renewed energy!