On Keeping Going
I hate selling.
There I’ve said it. I spend a lot of time wondering how I got into the business of selling when it’s not something I’ve ever been good at. I had a summer job in London when I was 19 – cold-calling offices to sell them double-sided typewriter ribbons (yes I’m that old). I think I lasted three days.
It’s a hard time for selling right now. A lot of us aren’t quite sure how we are going to pay our bills this winter. I usually trust my gut to read the room when I’m coming up with new designs or trying to do a bit of ‘marketing’ (another term that gives me the cold shakes), but I haven’t bought myself anything very 'treaty' or nice in ages. So it’s not easy trying to figure out what to say. I don’t want to use payment plans like Klarna because I don’t want you to buy my designs unless you can afford them and they will brighten up your life, or if you’re buying a gift - a friend’s life in some way.
But as this is what I’ve decided to do – I have to find a way to ‘show up’, however annoying that phrase sounds. (I’ve been listening to a lot of Brené Brown.) And I know that I want to keep supporting the charities that I support. Every one of them is struggling in this climate as we all feel the squeeze. Supporting women’s charities came with my very first thoughts of Wear and Resist. It was the way I found the energy to go after something that felt just out of reach. I had to have a goal beyond myself, and in a selfish way, I think I knew it would force me to keep going. Selling is hard if you don’t like ‘putting yourself out there’ and this way I would have a reason to do it and a reason to grow.
It’s been over five years, and the business has grown, things were going very well for a while – I was able to hire the lovely Melissa to help me make and send out orders – but it has been a really tough summer. Have I said it’s been a tough summer? And my expanding business (which was never started with the intention of being a business) has had to contract with the times. Sometimes I see it like a breathing organism.
And my other unpaid job of writing takes up a lot of time. It’s another job that is also never finished, so that if I’m not careful I spend every day berating myself for how little I’ve accomplished and far too much time fantasing about the enviable life of a medieval monk, meals cooked and all that time to sit and illuminate manuscripts, fiddling in the margins. Like most creatives, I just want to hide out with my headphones (and Brené) and tinker – so much more fun than photographing, editing images, uploading and scheduling… and all that promotion and selling.
But as I keep telling my son, who’s had to spend the summer studying Biology to retake his exam next week, life ain’t all fun. The advice is the same for writing a book, as for building a business. You just have to persevere, persist. I know this. Shit, I made a necklace.
I’ve had to have a talk with myself this week. As I do whenever I hit a wall, like I did at 7 miles into the only half marathon I've run, when the heavenly oasis of an empty bench screamed out to me to just stop and have a sit down. Whenever I know I need to keep running, I go back to the extremely wise words of Seamus Heaney.
I wrote about this before – about Seamus Heaney on the idea of Keeping Going… a beautiful poem, but I’m thinking of his commencement speech at the University of North Carolina in 1996. (I wasn’t there, even though I’m from Chapel Hill, but I read about it because I was writing my honours thesis on his work.)
‘Getting started, keeping going, getting started again – in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival, the ground of convinced action, the basis of self-esteem and the guarantee of credibility in your lives, credibility to yourselves as well as to others.’
So while I face a gaping precipice of fear about sending out my book to agents after years and years of work, and of what on earth the future holds for my small business in this climate, and what this winter will look like for so many, never mind the future of this planet. I know the only thing to do is to take another small step. Convinced action. Probably doesn’t even matter which one. Just send that email, take that photo, write that blog. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.