I was having a great conversation over Skype the other day with Reuben Goadby (and if you are into wooden spoons and don't know who he is, you need to look him up right now), and I found myself saying that I really appreciate having a backlog of pre-ordered spoons because it pushes me to carve more than I otherwise would.
This statement surprised me, not because it wasn't true (it is) but because I hadn't articulated it to myself in just those terms before. I have certainly appreciated having the work lined up for the money's sake (it is, after all, how I support my family, at least in part), and I have also for a long time stated that my goal is to give myself an economic incentive to carve as much as possible by keeping my work affordable and thus generating more demand.
But this was the first time that I had meant simply that the NEED to carve was central to pushing me to do the thing that I love so much, that centers me and grounds me, that is my meditation and my entertainment. I am pretty good at knowing what is good for me. That exercise makes me feel good. That eating well makes me feel good. That putting away the screens and getting the right amount of sleep and spending time with my family when I am really truly present makes me feel good.
But that does not mean that I always do them.
Like most of us, I sabotage my own well being in ways that are both subconscious and totally known by me. I eat what I shouldn't. I stay up late. I sit in my chair and look at my phone.
So it feels like a big win that I have been able to harness the commitment I make to people that I WILL CARVE THEM A SPOON WITHIN A CERTAIN TIME FRAME to force myself to do more of this thing that is so good for me.
It feels like winning the jackpot. It feels like I'm getting away with something.
It makes me wonder how I can harness other commitments to force myself to develop other habits. Because without the commitment I am keenly aware of how easily life takes that time away from me. A day goes by without carving, then another. I have had this happen to me with numerous things that I love. Playing the fiddle. Spending time in the woods. Calisthenics. Making the bed, for crying out loud. We shape our lives around the things we must to make it all balance out, and when you have a family and life is full, there is always something else asking for the time.
So if you are just starting out carving, here is my advice to you. Sell cheap. Sell ridiculously cheap, for a host of reasons, but the only one I will explain here is that you need to sell your work so fast that you are goaded into continuing. And when you get that first commission, use it to get the next and then the next after that. Use the economics of the short-term gain to get you toward the long-term plan. Use the demand to push you to carve more than you would have otherwise, to pay you (perhaps not as well as some other way of using your time, but still, hold on to that long-term plan) so that you keep going.
You will be the better carver for it. And we will all be better for having watched you do it.
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