Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What to do when you're just not feeling it.

I have a day job. A demanding day job. A day job that, over the past five years, has demanded 80-hour weeks, untold late nights and weekends, being on call in the middle of the night (and no, I don't work in IT, deliver babies, or deal in any way with emergencies or life-or-death issues), and far too much of my mental and emotional energy.

But, it is what it is, and I'm miles away from being the subject of Etsy's Quit Your Day Job weekly feature. So, like a lot of Etsy sellers with day jobs, I've got to work with what time and energy I've got. Sometimes I rush home from the office excited to grab the beads and pliers and get to work on a new idea. Other times.... well, let's just say that I don't.

I came home from work late last night after an exhausting day that involved a fair amount of bad job-related news. After shoveling in an unhealthy convenience-food dinner, downing a glass of shiraz, and venting to my boyfriend about my day, I sat down to work on a piece I've had in my head for a few days, which I'm going to donate to the Help the Gulf Coast Etsy shop.

This turned out about as well as one might imagine -- i.e., not at all. The charms weren't hanging the way they should, and parts of the piece came out uneven and misshapen. I even got a little too aggressive with the tools and chipped some Swarovski crystals, so those got dumped straight into the trash. By that time, it was close to 11 p.m. and I practically had fallen asleep with pliers in my hands. Yet, I kept on -- I was going to finish this thing if it killed me!

Of course, I didn't finish. I decided the piece looked like crap and that I didn't have the mental wherewithal at that moment to determine the cause of the crappiness and how to make it less crappy. So I put it away... and then *I* felt like crap for not finishing.

You know what, though? I should've put that project away hours before I did. I wasn't feeling it, and continuing to work only made me more frustrated and exhausted. But, I'd seen that the Help the Gulf Coast shop's sales had exploded over the past few days, and I wanted to donate my item as soon as I could, so I ignored my usual methods of finding ways to be productive when one's day job gets in the way of being at my creative best.

Maybe you're one of those people who doesn't lose your creative brilliance when work is kicking your butt. If so, more power to you -- I'm definitely not! If you're not either, you don't need to let your shop grind to a halt during busy times. Here are some ideas for how to keep your crafty business moving along, however slowly, when work gets in the way:

Set a timer. OK, I cannot claim credit for this one; it comes from Flylady, a site that helps people keep their homes clean and organized. One of Flylady's mantras is, "You can do anything for 15 minutes." And she's right -- whether it's scrubbing the bathroom or weaving a bracelet, you can accomplish more than you think if you set the timer for a small, manageable increment of time and promise yourself to work hard, without stopping, until the timer rings. The bonus of this method is, sometimes the timer goes off and you discover you don't feel like stopping. But if you do stop, that's OK too -- you've met your goal.

Set meetable goals for nights when you've worked late. Be realistic -- if it's 10 o'clock at night and you just walked in the door, starving and exhausted, are you REALLY going to knock out 20 Etsy listings, photograph 10 new items, and create a stunning {fill-in-your-craft-here} from scratch? My boyfriend has grown accustomed to me arriving home from work and announcing, "Tonight, the things I am going to accomplish are as follows..." and then listing off no more than three small, manageable tasks that I know I can get through before falling into bed. Which leads me to my next tip:

Enlist support. If you live with someone or have a friend who can hold you accountable, this helps a lot when it comes to the noncreative parts of a craft business -- packing orders, cropping and resizing photos, or listing items, for example. I've told my boyfriend not to let me go to bed until I've finished putting together a package or Photoshopping my photos, and I count on him to gently remind me when my listing-things-on-Etsy time devolves into checking-Facebook time, obsessively-reloading-Twitter time, or randomly-screwing-around-online-for-no-good-reason time.

Do repetitive but necessary tasks, rather than creative work. After a long day at the office, I might not have the mental energy to figure out that new chainmaille weave. But, I can pre-open and pre-close the rings I'll need so that when I do start that piece, I can jump right in. This is what I should've done with my Help the Gulf Coast piece -- I could've gotten the rings opened and the wire cut, and stopped there, saving the design decisions for when I was a little fresher mentally.

If you have a day job or some other commitment on your time, how do you balance that with your craft? What do you do when you're just not feeling the creative spark?


  1. I used to have the same problem: worked 2 jobs and wanted so bad just to go home and make some earrings or necklaces. Now I'm self-employed (as in jobless :D) and at times I still find myself not having enough time or creative energy to craft. When that happens I just start re-taking photos and photoshopping them, do some administrative work (I keep everything I create in an Excel database) or just go out and take a break. It works most of the time.

  2. I know exactly how you feel. I don't work long hours (unless they're offering overtime) but i have about 3,4,5...a million jobs to do in 8 hours. plus i'm getting my masters degree online. i just get home try to at least do one part each day. one day i cut pieces, another day i glue and the week i photgraph them. if i'm stuck i go to my local craft store and walk around. i might see something new i didn't know about. or i just hang out in the etsy forums or our dteam thread just to give my brain a break but do something benefitial.

  3. Hi there!

    Back when I was still doing my day job, before I got the injury, I found that a really long day at work completely sapped my creativity. It also made me feel really pressed for time. I learned to 1.) Do creative stuff before work when I was more refreshed, and 2) budget my time for things like playing on the Internet. I kept a spreadsheet and everything.

    The timer idea is excellent. I use that a lot to keep myself from working too hard or to make myself work when I'd rather do anything but.