I thought I had written about this in an earlier, pre-Wordpress post, but I can’t find it this morning.)
As part of my preparation for needing a new source of income, I started keeping a list of things I could do that would earn income. My target was 50 items. I have 42 activities on the list at the moment. I am trying to do all of them. I have hands-on experience with more than a few. I have been paid for teaching hooping. I have published a book. I sell rugs. I have edited and organized and written for a major corporation for 20 years. I have sold furniture I made myself, and I am a competent chainsaw carver. I do not know whether I can put together some package of these skills and gifts that will replace the income generated by showing up to a corporate inbox and responding to everything they asked of me 40 hours a week, but that’s a different post.
What I’m pondering this morning is, “What on earth makes me think I can do ‘this’?,” where “this” is “any of those activities I haven’t actually done before, but I’ve seen someone else doing for (presumed) profit, and my reaction is, “I can do that!”?
Take, for notable example, Dog Photography. I live with a fluctuating pack of (currently) 3.5 dogs (my neighbor’s dog spends the days with my pack and goes back to his house at night). Ever since I was given If You Only Knew How Much I Smell You as a Christmas gift in 1999, I have wanted to take portraits of my dogs that have the evocative qualities of Valerie Schaff’s work. When I found Amanda Jones, it got worse. I tried. I bought a book. It didn’t work, at least not within the amount of energy, money and attention I was willing to give the attempt. My black dogs looked like blobs; my Chihuahua looked frightened; my white dogs were (what I now know is) over-exposed; almost none of the pictures captured the essense of any one dog the way Valerie’s and Amanda’s work does. (Add Kim Levin to this list.)
“Almost none” <> “none.” I have three pictures that kept me thinking: Grover, the very old dog; Butch the pitbull, and Chester, shot when he didn’t know I was taking his picture. Grover’s picture was taken on film; the other two were digital when I could afford to experiment more generously.
And now I’m working on an income replacement plan, and I think that maybe people will pay for portraits of their dogs. (Down the road, I would also like to see if taking better pictures of shelter dogs makes them more likely to be adopted, but that will have to wait a bit.) I think I am able to take these pictures, because I have three (of of how many?!?) pictures of dogs that “sing,” that say, “THIS is Grover, a Very. Old. Dog.” (film photograph and my scanner does not work with Vista.)
This is Butch, who could, but will chose not to today, bite through your wrist, and please come again about what’s wrong with trying to eat the cat?
This is Chester, who spent three months on the road alone and is very brave, except for vacuum cleaners and everything else that is Very Scary.
Am I nuts? Well, yes. My tag line in match.com was “Crazy but beautiful,” something Lou Ranhoffer wrote on my whiteboard in college and has been true all these years. John says, “You are a walking Ponzi Scheme of projects” and I can see a certain truth in that statement. I do have a blind spot when it comes to acting on my ability to estimate how much energy any one task will take.
However, being crazy is not a “get out of jail free” card. Anyone who held down a series of positions over 20 years with a Fortune 500 company, dodging nine years of post dot-com-bust layoffs and only “losing” that game when 24,500 positions went to China, is probably not going to be eligible for Social Security disability based on mental health.
So how do I find the sanity in thinking, “I can do this?”
I was processing rug photos for a show application yesterday in my brand-new Photoshop Elements 7.0 program and started playing with the “Hue” adjustment. Wowieola! When I move the slider all the way to the end, I get some magnificent ideas for “Next Rug.” Honestly, I felt my knitting world shift with the possibilities. (See the “Stash-driven Design post for the results of this experiment.) Never played with graphics software much; my old photo program baffled me and I never got far enough into it to do anything but crop, hardly. (I have known I needed more graphic-software mastery in order to publish my book of rug patterns; I did not expect that I would find completely new rug colorways in the process.)
So I’m thinking about colorways, and that got me thinking about the Munsell color sphere*, and that reminded me that the world of “things you can do for income” is enormous and there are HUGE swaths of it that I have absolutely NO interest in awareness of likelihood of ever pursuing. I feel better. (Some colorways leave me utterly cold, too, notably anything in the “denim” blue line.) Knowing that there are actually activities that, if they cross my mind at all, inspire a “Heck, NO!” response, rather than “I can do that!,” reassures me that I am probably acting on inner truth (presuming that’s different from insanity) when I investigate something that looks interesting, even if there are now 43 items on the “I can do that” list and most job counselors would suggest maybe three, max? (BTW, although “Editing other people’s writing” is an item on that list, “Shortening my own sentences” does not pay and has not made it.)
(*This whole essay turns on the reader’s familiarity with the Munsell color sphere; if that term means nothing, I’ve lost you right there. See the wiki article; the Munsell web site is suprisingly dull (IMO) for a company selling color.)
(Some years ago when I was addressing a character defect of finding too many other people irritating, I took a similar comfort in noting that I took an “irrational liking” to a visiting co-worker. Knowing I was capable of “instant like” reassured me that my “instant dislike” was probably based on some form of fact, and that it might be more productive to change my social scene rather than learn to “like” people who were actually not good for me to be around.)
I will never say, “I can do that” to: anything military, law enforcement, full-time sales not related to my own production or efforts, HR departments, accounting for other people’s money, food service in any form, child care, banking, politics, professional beauty or project management or event planning. Acting or making movies.
Things I looked at once and decided against: welding: fun, but a direct overlap with chainsaw carving in terms of energy, investment, and opportunity and I’m already equipped for chainsaw carving. Programming computers. Sitting on a telephone help desk. A host of other things that didn’t register with enough force to make it into this essay.
The segment of the income-generation universe that leaves me cold is actually much much bigger than that part that attracts my attention. It is a minor problem that the part that does catch my mind is still significantly bigger for me than it is for many other people. That is another day’s problem. (So is the fact that the part I don’t want to do pays better than the part I like. Such are the trials of an INFP.)
To repeat the initial question:
“What on earth makes me think I can do ‘this’?,” where “this” is “any of those activities I haven’t actually done before, but I’ve seen someone else doing for (presumed) profit”?
My answer for myself: I HAVE actually done something similar before, and I’ve had some success, and whatever it is that has caught my attention this time is somehow similar to other things I have done either for fun or for enjoyable money. I am NOT randomly grabbing “income ideas” from the entire universe of such activities. If I could get back far enough from myself, I might actually see a pattern, just like my Meditation rug looks better in the photo (tiny) than it does in reality, because the pattern gets lost in the up-close detail (knitted that one way too big!).
There’s a whole ‘nother post about being willing and able to do the work and drill that are needed to turn the idea into a tangible product. With regard to the dog portrait business, my friend said, “You have to practice with a lot of different dogs.” Somehow, that struck a different nerve than my understanding of a need for a portfolio with lots of different dog portraits, beyond the three above, but it makes sense. I need to know how different dogs will react to a formal portrait setting. People who do this regularly have this knowledge.
And one of the items on today’s to do list is making the first version of a backdrop for said portraits. Go.