Sunday, July 15, 2012

This Little Light of Mine

The closing of Joan B's Paperlicious blog got me thinking. And please don't panic! I'm not going to stop blogging anytime soon. My life is in a completely different place than Joan's, and I need to stamp and blog obsessively for my mental health. That seems contradictory, but it's not.

Several other stampers and bloggers I know are contemplating quitting, and when I start seeing repetition of behavior in various places, the English major in me starts looking for patterns and meaning in it all. 

I'm a big believer in living intentionally, which means periodic questioning of what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and figuring out if I should be doing something else entirely. That's why my other blog is called Questioning my Intelligence. Questioning, indeed.

It's fascinating to watch others go through their own process of questioning, even when their answers don't make me happy, like the closing of Paperlicious. I appreciate how others can share their thoughts and feelings, especially in times of change and transition in life, because you just never know when someone else's ideas will help you or someone you love. We're all different, but in so many ways, we can help each other through this thing called life just by being open and honest and sharing our choices and how we make them.

Don't hide your light under a bushel!

Why do I stamp? Because it's fun and it satisfies some very deep, very personal needs. I grew up in a very crafty, artistic family. I couldn't do (or didn't enjoy) any of the crafts I grew up around, and honestly felt a bit like an outsider in the family because of it. Until I discovered papercrafts, whenever anyone asked what my hobbies were, I answered, "I read."

When I started papercrafting, I felt like a whole new world opened for me, but so often I felt like I didn't belong to the papercrafting world either. Oh, I wanted to belong, but my style, whatever the heck it was, didn't match what I was seeing in the magazines and online or, more importantly, what I was making.

One thing you might not know about me is that I'm part bulldog. When I decide to do something, I won't rest until I've exhausted the possibilities, and very little intimidates me. I just figure given enough time and obsession, I'll figure it out eventually. For instance, when I heard in seventh grade that women weren't welcome in the sciences, I resolved to be a scientist.

Because it would be hard.

Because men said I couldn't.

It took years for me to realize doing something just because people said I couldn't might not be the best way to live my life.

Language was both my true passion and my gift...reading literature and writing about it were much more natural to me than pipettes and ventilation hoods. I still love science and happily read about it, and I have no regrets for taking Cell Biology and Calculus and Organic Chemistry. But I made a choice to follow my light and have no regrets about that, either. It's all good.

So, with bull-dog determination, I eventually found a way to create papercrafts that reflected me--my personality, my vision, my passion, my light.

Clean and simple.

Who would have thought this crazy, overthinking, obsessive literary critic whose writing style tends toward long, discursive sentences and sophisticated vocabulary would find honest self-expression in a completely minimalist style?

Clearly not me, judging from how long it took me to get there.

It feels right for me to make minimalist cards. It might feel right for you to make minimalist cards or to make cards that could function as door-stops because they are so thick and heavily embellished. Or it might feel right for you to do a little bit of everything in between the two extremes, to play around and not commit to any one thing because you love it all. Or it might feel right for you not to make cards at all.

The message I hope I convey through Simplicity is that you should do what you want to do, what makes you happy, not what I do. I love that some people who read Simplicity don't make CAS cards. I also love that some people come here because they found someone who understands their own minimalist desire despite the industry push to buy more and use more product.

All options are on the table. What you serve up on your own plate should be food you love. Not what the person in front of you or behind you loves.

Aren't food metaphors yummy?

Tastes and styles can change over time because we change over time. Our inner light changes, our focus changes, our need to express ourselves changes. Sometimes, we get restless or bored doing the same thing over and over, and we want to shake things up. Sometimes, we need to quit one thing to move forward in another, like I quit science to take up English.

Sometimes, the direction forward is quite clear, a paved road well marked and smooth. I know people who walked away from hobbies they'd enjoyed for years and never looked back. Sometimes, though, we feel like we're facing a wall of tall trees and thick brush and have to blaze our own trail forward through it. It's intimidating, daunting, frightening.

And we think, "Isn't this just a hobby? Shouldn't it just be fun? Should it be this hard to figure out?"

If you're like me, the hard part is the fun part...a challenge, a windmill to joust. If you're like me, you are confident in your ability to rise to a challenge and have a never-say-never attitude. If you're like me, you've learned that not much in life should be taken seriously and knowledge of that fact takes a lot of the pressure off.

If you're like me, you might also need therapy because maintaining balance and sensibility when jousting with windmills is pretty darn hard.

And that's part of why I blog about stamping. It's my therapy. When I'm writing for others about stamping, in a sense, I'm accountable for my own balance. If I want you to come here to feel inspired, if I want to share my light and encourage your light, I'd better make darn sure my light is healthy and positive.

If I melted into a little puddle every time I got an unsubscribe email, would it be honest of me to encourage you to create what you want without worrying about what others think?

Nope.

If I made cards just because I thought readers would like them, wouldn't I be a hypocrite?

Yep.

Blogging can give us validation for our artistic voice. It can give us friends who share our interests even when no one in our real life does. It can allow us to connect with others in meaningful ways. But it can also keep us honest. We think about what we put out there for all the world to see, and if we're respectful of our audience (the first rule in writing...respect your audience!) and ourselves, we can make blogs that are good for us and for our readers. Everybody wins.

As I mentioned earlier in this beastly long post, we all change over time. Sometimes, to respect ourselves, we have to quit what isn't working for us, even if it's working for our readers. When that mile-high hedge of trees and bushes looms in front of us, sometimes we need to walk away rather than pull out our machete.

Joan quit Paperlicious for very good reasons of her own. Her readers were NOT happy about it for themselves, but we care about Joan and want her to be happy. When she started a new blog, lots of us followed her to it. I, for one, deeply appreciate her willingness to share her transition to her new life with a bunch of nosy strangers.

As long as I feel balanced and happy with stamping and blogging, I'll keep doing it. I'm glad you enjoy it (as you must if you've stuck with this essay until the end!), but if you ever stop enjoying it, if you ever stop feeling that it's useful to you, it won't hurt my feelings if you quit. I confess I might be a little sad, of course, and I will miss you, but I won't let my feelings hurt.

You have your own light to shine. I have mine. If our lights shine together for a while, well, that's just lovely, isn't it?

51 comments:

  1. You're such a big girl bulldog. I wanna be you when I grow up. Great piece.

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  2. Agree with everything you have said
    Your use of the 'English' language is amazing. I am a skim reader, but, never of your posts
    Every word grips me

    Never stop...
    I'd be sad
    mandi

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  3. So right on! Thanks for putting into words what many of us know but have never articulated.

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  4. What an interesting and thought provoking post. I, like you, am a scientist/stamper. I've only recently discovered your blog, and find it very inspiring even though I've never actually made a single layer card! I admire the thought it takes to create something so simple that is also well balanced. In fact, I'm intending to issue a challenge to my stamp club for September to make a one layer card. I think it's good "exercise" and will influence their design even if they never make another one. Thanks for the inspiration. I, for one, am hoping yoiu'll be at it for a long time to come!

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  5. Well said, exactly what I think :)

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  6. This is why my blog has been a mix of photography, writing, and cards. I like to move between forms of expression and creative outlets.

    I have a friend who was a big papercrafter--sold SU, held workshops, and made lovely cards and gifts. When her marriage ended, she lost interest in all of it. Completely. She occasionally buys my cards but never makes her own anymore, is talking about selling all her stuff...Yes, times and interests change and we have to be free to do what suits us.

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  7. I'm with Mandi - yours is one of the few blogs I read every word of. This is such an interesting and eye opening post.

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  8. Gosh you're good! Fab post...agree with every word of it! And, glad you're not quitting...the demise of both Paperlicious and Simplicity at the same time would be a hard one to swallow!

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  9. As an avid stamping blogger, I identify a lot of things with you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You wrote them so eloquently!

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  10. A lovely post with many good and interesting (and thought provoking) thoughts in it. I'm glad our lights are shining together. At least for now!

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  11. PS - I'm probably an accountant 90% because my guidance counsellor told me I needed to be "more realistic" when I told him that was my goal. Bull dog indeed!

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  12. Well said and well written. Tempted to share this with my 24 year old who graduated cum laude with a BSc. in Biology and Chemistry, but who finds working in a book store very fulfilling. A lot can be said for an encouraging and supportive manager. Unfortunately, the pay doesn't support his financial independence. An awful quandary for young people at this time.

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  13. Susan, I have to commend you on a wonderfully insightful blog post today. I have always been drawn to your style because I am also a minimalist and much prefer a one-layer card (or very few layers) to any other kind. Your light does inspire my light, which is why I love to visit! (I know I don't always comment, but I do visit every day!)

    One thing I admire about you is the fact that you don't enter contests or try to get cards published (despite the fact that SO many of your cards could easily be contest winners and/or published!). Sometimes I find myself judging my cards based on whether or not they were chosen as a winner, instead of feeling the personal accomplishment of just liking my card! I try not to get caught up in all of that, and many days I stop by just for the reminder you provide for me that it is OK to just make cards for the fun of it. Does that make sense? At any rate, I do appreciate your pervasive honesty and clarity. Your light shines brightly...thank you for sharing it with us!

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  14. I really enjoyed reading your post and I am NOT a reader, but I read every word and enjoyed it! You truly do have a gift not only for minimalistic cards but also to communicate through your blog.

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  15. Concepts here definitely could be (should be?) a speech to graduates.

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  16. Great post... I get it, I also need the stamping as part of my balance and I love sharing, even if it's to a small audience. Very well put.

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  17. You may be part bulldog, but you're also part Lab - golden and sunshiny.

    I signed up for Joan's blog about a week before she decided to stop doing it. Mood when I read her last post = bereft. But after having been a caregiver myself, I understood her decision. And I was thrilled to learn of her new one.

    I have done so many different crafts, but nothing stuck until I started stamping. This is my passion and so this is one of the areas where I let my little light shine.

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  18. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

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  19. That's a wonderful read, full of elonquently put truth.
    I do think there is a lot of pressure or expectation out there in the blogging world on those making cards when it should just be about expressing your art, your way and in your own time.
    Keep on shining.

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  20. Susan, I appreciate you! Lynn

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  21. Beautifully said, Susan. Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  22. Couldn't just read and run like many times before. ;) thank you for this post! *sigh* wish I were as good with words as you are. Beautifully written!

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  23. Beautifully put Susan. I always feel alittle sad when a blog I love decides enough is enough (Madison Avenue is a case in point), but I do understand that life isn't the same as when they started documenting their projects.

    At the moment I am quite content to be making cards (Christmas ones actually), but not blogging them. I will come back to it when I feel I have something to say. This isn't a job but a pleasurable hobby. BUT I am avidly reading all the blogs I love for some wonderful inspiration.

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  24. I don't remember how I got started reading your blog, but I love it. You showed me that my cardmaking (and scrapbooking) style is CAS. Before discovering your blog, I thought I didn't know how to make pretty cards and scrap book layouts. I just couldn't create with lots of layers and embellishments. I felt my efforts were inferior. When I discovered your blog and your wonderful sense of style and design, I felt an immediate kinship with you and relief that I did have a style. If you stopped blogging, I'd be understanding but so disappointed. Thanks for all your inspiration and lessons! Have a happy day :)

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  25. Susan, again you expressed thoughts and feelings I wasn't aware I had and you do it so well! I am also sad about Paperlicious and am glad that you are not thinking about stopping. I really enjoy your two blogs even though I don't comment very often. Thank you for your beautiful thoughts and words!

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  26. OH....and p.s. thanks for the link to Joan's new blog. I enjoy her thoughts on life and change as much as I enjoy her craft projects so even if she never stamps again it is nice to check in and see what she is up to!

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  27. "You have your own light to shine. I have mine. If our lights shine together for a while, well, that's just lovely, isn't it?"

    I LOVE this. I think you speak for many of us. I just want to mention that twice now in a couple of days you have mentioned someone unsubscribing. I want to say that it isn't always a matter of wanting to unsub, but a necessity. Eg. My brother died in Dec. I had to unsub from all the blogs I read from Dec. until June because I was without computer access. I didn't want a lot of blogs to pile up while I was gone. So I unsubbed, but when I got back home, I resubscribed. I can't find any way to simply stop them for a week, or month or whatever amount of time I need. So unsubbing has to occur. Fortunately, I am allowed to resub when I am able. Just sayin.
    I love your blog, your writing and your minimalist cards. My style is not as minimalist as yours, but it is mine and I am happy with it. It is also not "doorstop" material and I am especially happy about that, though I do love your analogy. Made me snicker. (that's a fun word too, don't you think?
    tonilea
    jiffy1212@aol.com

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  28. Fabulous and thought-provoking post, Susan. I found it really helpful as I sometimes contemplate starting a blog for my stamping but I feel enough time pressure in my life already. I enjoy posting cards on SCS, but to do all the work a blog entails would be too much more. So I'll be happy to stay as I am - blogless!

    I also liked what you wrote about the style of cards we make. I've been chiding myself for not taking part in more OLW challenges, but your post has helped me realize that I've found my style - definitely CAS, but not one layer! Two layers (or even three) make me happy - door-stop cards do not, nor do big bows, but nor do very very minimalist. I love your blog because of the design lessons I learn from you, the ideas for keeping my cards simple, and your wonderful writing - but you are right, I do not need to do what you do even though I totally love what you do. So thank you so much for this post and the clarification it gave me on my own style!

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  29. I don't blog because I just can grasp that anyone really REALLY cares what I am thinking....however, I do enjoy reading YOURS. And to save space...I'll just say, "...what 'she' [all of the above!] said..." LOVE it. Every word.

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  30. I was one of those unhappy readers when Joan stopped blogging, but I understand her reasons. And, I am also one of those nosy readers who got into her new blog. Thank you for such a carefully worded post. I, too, think that your blogs are to be read carefully. It seems that, even tho you are explaining a process, we also get a glimpse into your life. Thank you for sharing, and please keep doing it.

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  31. This post would make the most wonderful opening to a chapter in a book, Susan!!...and your last paragraph is going into my journal today. It's such a magnificent gem that I want to remember! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and time with us <3 KT

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  32. Shine on, Susan!

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  33. I love your blog so much and today you connected with me more than ever! Your journey has helped my journey and I don't have the words to express my appreciation! I did a little video a while back explaining my own reasons for what I do, if you'd like to watch it here it is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-yyUewCJ9k
    Hugs, XXXXOOOO
    Audrie

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  34. Agreed! And now I'm reciting this in my head (had to memorize it back in grade school): http://allpoetry.com/poem/8471341-It_Couldn_t_Be_Done-by-Edgar_Albert_Guest

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  35. Just wanted to say Thank you for this post. I always wondered if it grated you if people that followed were CAS card makers. I try my best but I wouldn't classify myself as such. I love it when we acknowledge the truth in ourselves and our actions. For example - I stopped labelling my cards on SCS as CAS because I was always disappointed when a favorite wasn't chosen as a card of the week. We all have to do what makes us happy in this craft! I don't make cards to win awards amoungst crafters, so I have to keep focus on why I make them.

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  36. It is lovely indeed. Thank you, Susan.

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  37. Very well written!! Love your post & all the inspiration for creating CAS cards. THANK YOU!!

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  38. If I bought a book that you wrote, with thoughts and ideas such as you expressed in this blog post, I'd never put it down until I read the last page. :)

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  39. Thanks Susan - I really enjoyed reading this post. As someone who was told by an art teacher at school that I "couldn't create" art - I feel that papercrafting is my way of expressing art. I don't think I have a specific style, but play with several. I really love your CAS cards and the explanations why they work, but I also love some of the shabby wonders that I see on the net! Sadly, I can't do them at all.

    I'm sad that Joan has stopped Paperlicious - but understand entirely why she has!

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  40. Well said. I really enjoy your blog and hope that you feel balanced and happy for a long time.

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  41. I was drawn to your transparency when I stumbled on your blog. You were the first writer/card maker I encountered! You taught me about quality inks and paper...I've been stamping better ever since! I'm so glad you pour your heart/soul/cards/words out here. ;)

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  42. Your blog is always extremely inspiring to me, words and pictures. I'm not always quite as minimalist as you, but our lights are definitely shining together, and that makes me very happy!

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  43. I would like to thank you for writing this post. I'm quite new in the world of papercrafting.I bumped into your blog last year when I'm looking for inspiration for CAS cards and since then have been coming back again and again. I'm actually rather lost now both in my personal life and also in searching for my craft style- should I go with the tide or should I stay true to myself? After reading this post, I felt a lot more courageous to follow my inner light, even if it's only a tiny bling! ^^ Keep blogging!

    Love and hugs,
    Lulu

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  44. Thanks for this, Susan! I have wondered what will happen with my blogging once school starts up and I'm working full time again. I thought about taking a break, but realized that for me, a break would be never coming back. And I CANNOT live without blogging. I have met some incredible people who have challenged me to do hard things (*cough* CAS design *cough*) and I would miss it terribly. I'll have to cut back, but I do not believe I could stop blogging at this point. I've had many friends stop blog parties, etc. because of their need for more personal time with family, etc. My DH encourages me to blog. He has noticed I'm happier when I do. So, I shall persevere! Who knows. I may eventually get pregnant and need a break, but I am so glad to see that there is someone else who needs the craziness of blogging as much as I do! Thanks for being YOU!!! :)

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  45. This is a beautiful post Susan!

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  46. Thank you for writing this Susan. It comes at a time when I am re-thinking my hobby. Very often I feel guilty about spending the time and money on myself.

    I've always loved your style, both writing and card making. When you paved the road for Clean and Simple and took it to another level, I had great admiration for you. I still visit you (when I get the chance!) and look at your cards for inspiration. Sometimes that's all I do. Just look at cards and blogs and now Pinterest. I fight the guilt so much that I end up wasting my crafty time.

    But like you said, it's therapeutic. So I'll be sticking to it for now. :)

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Thank you so much for taking time to comment!