Picture this… you’re at a gathering of some sort; a wedding, a dinner party full of awkward friend-of-a-friend situations, a mum and baby group (why?) or any other general get-together where you have to actually engage in conversation with other human beings… You’re talking about your kids or the weather or the origin of that mysterious stain on your rarely worn “going out” jacket, when the question that every creative, and especially those just starting out, dreads with every fibre of their being:
“So, what do you do for a living?”
What do you do for a living, they say. What… do you DO… for a LIVING.
The desire to tell them that you’re an international assassin hired exclusively to murder people who ask that exact question is overwhelming but, instead, you just sort of stand there… and then you mumble something about needle felting and immediately want to dig a large hole and climb into it, never to come out again.
You might open with:
“Oh, well, I’m a chartered accountant, but I also do pet portraiture on the side.”
“Wait, pardon? What was that last bit?”
“Hmm? Oh, nothing. I didn’t say anything. HEY! IS THAT TOM SELLECK?“
Or perhaps you decide to pretend that you’ve never even heard of the word “creativity” and move swiftly on to a conversation about horse whispering or that time you found a packet of actual Hula Hoops in a multipack of Aldi branded Hula Hoop rip offs.
Whatever your creative subject dodging style, I can guarantee that, deep down, what you really want to say is:
“Well, I have a full time job in an office/parenting/at a supermarket/in a brothel but when I manage to claw 10 minutes from the abyss of my housework/flagging social life/children’s attention I like to indulge in some crafting but please don’t call it crafting because that word is mojo poison and I really like getting through at least a half pack of biscuits while I work on a papercut/sculpture/painting/crocheted willy warmer all-the-while also acting as my own accountant, admin assistant, customer service team, graphic designer and social media manager and did I mention that I don’t sleep?”
*insert nervous tic as necessary*
What is it about being labelled a “crafter” that makes us all feel so dirty? Is it the fact that people seem confused when we tell them that people are actually willing to buy what we make without us needing blackmail them into it with photos of their latest affair? Is it that, when we do pluck up the courage to come out as “crafters” they say something like…
“Oh, that’s cute!”
“Wow, it must be great getting to sit around at home all day in your PJs. I’m SO jealous.”
A lot of the time, the word seems to be synonymous with bored housewives making the latest faddy arts and crafts item and selling it for £2.50 and a Facebook share.
It conjures up images of failed school craft fair stalls, Facebook pages full of glittery, buttony things with names like “Kelz Handmade Bitz N Bobz” (written in fuchsia Comic Sans) and knitted baby mittens made from 99p balls of dog wool and patterns from the 1930s.
You know the type. They share slightly incorrect Marilyn Monroe quotes on a sparkly background and there’s always a minion holding a rose for some reason. Yeah, those ones.
So, instead, we say nothing.
It doesn’t matter that we’ve spent months, years or decades practicing our particular craft, or that we’re damn good at it, or that we deserve to be able to proudly announce what we do. We just decide to say nothing, because it’s far easier than admitting that we’re good at something, or, worse still… that we’re trying to better ourselves by learning something new.
My love, be proud of whatever amazingly bizarre or beautifully mundane thing that springs forth from your talented hands. Brandish your skills with the beaming face of a proud mum whose first born just took their first potty dump and do it with some balls, damnit.
If you don’t have confidence in what you do, nor will your customers.
With all of this in mind… I have a challenge for you.
Before your next awkward social gathering, sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and give yourself a badass creative job title. Since you’re the boss, you can label yourself with whatever cool-as-heck moniker you can conjure up… and I want you to use it the next time somebody asks…
“So, what do you do for a living?”
If you can’t do it in two or three words, develop somewhat of a pitch sentence for yourself. E.g. mine would be:
“I’m a crochet designer who creates one of a kind plush items for adult collectors.”
Doesn’t that sound a lot better than “I’m a full time mum but I also do some crochet stuff on the side,” or “I make things out of yarn.”?
Whether you’re a graphic designer, a clay artist, a felter or you weave baskets out of discarded barber-shop floor hair, give yourself permission to tell people about it.
Own it, boss.