I have recently found myself with a backlog of spoons to carve, despite my best efforts to fill orders a soon as possible. Over the course of the last few months, I have gone from putting things up for sale on Instagram to having enough orders to last me for a week or more. In the process, the amount of carving I try to do has tripled, from one spoon a day to at least three.
This is a sign that my pricing structure that I have chosen is working, and that people are appreciating what I do. But it comes with a price, which is the physical and mental limits to the space I can give carving in my life. I used to be comfortably within those limits. Now I go right up to them every day.
Carving spoons is just one piece of what I do to earn a living. This time of year I edit scientific manuscripts (Van Driesche Scientific Editing) and I scythe people's properties. I make custom fitted scythe handles, and I teach scything and carving both in private lessons at my home and in larger workshops. I teach workshops on gardening and landscape design and I write everything from essays to ebooks to full book projects for my own businesses and for pay. In a few months I will be pruning my ten acre Christmas tree farm. I will harvest my garlic. It's a lot of hats.
On top of this I have two young daughters and a wife who need and deserve some of the better parts of me. So the days get full. Today I have corresponded with three separate people about lessons, two different people about commissions and projects, completed the acceptance forms for a grant awarded to my tree farm, printed out the paperwork for one folk school I will be teaching at next year and corresponded with two more. I edited a manuscript on the thermal tolerances of a beetle in China that keeps ragweed in check. I took my dogs for a walk, accidentally rolled over the paw of a neighbor's dog, and ended up paying the vet bill (over $500) because it was the right thing to do. I dropped off fifteen spoons at two stores in the valley.
And oh yeah, I carved three kick-ass spoons.
It would be easy to not see this from Instagram, the vehicle most of you readers found this from. I post moments I want to remember, things I am interested in or proud of. All the incremental, tiny cans I am kicking down the road, that together add up to me doing this thing we all love, are only dimly lit. But it is this, the emails and texts and direct messages and the endless, ever changing to-do lists on scraps of paper that keep it all afloat.
This is not unique to me. Most people juggle more obligations than they talk about. And within this context, the hours I spend carving every day are a blessing, a balance to the parts of me using just my brain or just my body. But would I want to carve all day long? No way. That is not sustainable either. My hands would give out. I would get bored doing just one thing. So I will need to get used to managing a waiting list, of always having the next job hanging over my head, because the alternative is to push so hard on the carving that all the other delicately balanced pieces of my life get toppled. I know all of the pressure is coming from me: you all are very kind and patient and don't mind waiting a week or two to get your spoons. It is my temperament to want a clean desk, a swept floor, ready for the next thing. I like to be open to the possibilities. But this is what, for me, success looks like: a scrap of paper with a list of things to do tomorrow, and that list is a long one.
Thank you for all your support. I am deeply grateful.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.
One idea is as worthless as another until you actually do something about it, and then it is the action, not the word that matters. --Orson Scott Card