52 weeks

THIS FEELS WEIRD by Chelsea Snow

When I make a choice, or when I am doing a thing that is working (for me, for other people), I have always had a frustrating tendency to immediately want to abandon it. I get in a groove -> I get self-conscious -> I get freaked out -> I quit.

My fear is about:

  • getting stuck doing the same thing forever
  • being defined by that thing
  • things becoming too easy
  • succeeding at something that I stumbled on by accident
  • things feeling too good--because eventually they are going to end, and then I am going to feel that much worse when it's over

I've always beaten myself up about this pattern because I know better: I know that making choices based on fear is a fool's game, and I know that planning for the worst is a loser's game, and I know that there are no accidents--but I end up doing things this way anyway. I've gotten better about not doing this in my personal life. I've learned how to lean in when it comes to my own work, but this pattern still comes up when it comes to the other Work, the Work that is destined to live outside of me. I imagine that to other people, sometimes my creative choices might look like calculated risks. Sometimes they might look courageous. Sometimes they might look like stupidity. Sometimes they might look like passion. I'm really not sure how my choices look. All I know is how they feel. And right now they feel weird.

I've been trying to stay off of social media lately as a radical attempt at self care/preservation, but I have an obsession with checking Facebook's "on this day" feature--where it tells you all the things you posted on this day in history going back all the way to the beginning of time/when you joined fb. (Check out this amazing little book you can buy that has this same function!) It really does flood me with memories that I'm not sure I would have otherwise. Right now I'm seeing a lot of 2008 election posts, a lot of those same sentiments ringing truer than ever "Undecided is just another way of saying FUCKING STUPID" (Me, October 2008). 

On this day two years ago, I posted a story about my friend Bess, who I had just hired to housesit my house for a week. I re-read the story today and it made me cry. Not just for Bess, who I hope is doing better (if anyone sees her please tell her hi for me), but for myself. It brought me back to the emotional place where I was coming from at that in my life that made it seem totally reasonable to invite a homeless stranger to stay in my home. 

Two years ago I was feeling incredibly restless. I was feeling dissatisfied, and feeling guilty about being dissatisfied. I was wanting more, and felt ashamed that I wanted more. I tried so many different ways to change the structure of my life so that I could feel better. Inviting Bess into my life was a stressful, yet transformative experience that got me closer than any of my other efforts.

Becoming friends with a woman who carried her life with her in a big blue duffel bag helped me to see what was really missing. She would visit me at the shop pretty often, and when I wasn't busy, we'd sit and talk. She would have moments of intense joy, mirrored by moments of unimaginable sorrow. I could see it in her face--it would physically transform before my eyes, as her perspective shifted. I tried to just hold that space for her--the joy and the sorrow, the light and the dark. During one of those conversations, she said something that has stuck with me ever since--she was describing how difficult it was for her to remain positive, but that she was doing it anyway. She said "YOU HAVE TO FIGHT FOR YOUR LIGHT." I don't think I experience darkness to the same degree that she does, but I knew what she meant. And I didn't even make a Beastie Boys joke. She meant you have to really want the thing that brings you joy, and you have to not stop wanting it, not ever. 

On this day, two years ago, I decided to fight for my light.

And today I'm here. I fought my way here, toward this light, which is still elusive and sometimes dim and most of the time looks really weird and different than I thought it would. The path was not (and probably never will be) easy or clear. I'm still fighting for it--although what "it" looks like is (and always will be) changing. Today I remember Bess, and the gifts she gave me, as I write this blog post 6 days after its self-imposed due-date, two years after making a conscious choice to make a very big move. And because of this, I remember the things I am committed to. I remember that it's bigger than an art project or an art degree. It's about really wanting joy and tenderness and vulnerability and truth, and it's about not stopping wanting those things just because it feels weird. My unsolicited advice for you today: sit with the weirdness. It will guide you.

Anti-Perfectionism Manifesto by Chelsea Snow

Years ago my friend Gabrielle told me about an idea she had for a magazine, she said "it would be like THIS", and handed me a copy of Uppercase. She asked me if I'd be interested in contributing and I was like hells yes. A couple of years later, this magazine is a real thing, and I really did contribute, but not in the way I had planned. 

I was going to write a little story about my new life in Portland, the projects that I was working on, etc. I tried so many times to get it right, each failing harder than the last. One of the versions actually turned into a post from a few months ago about the Hustle and Flow. But it wasn't right for a magazine. Sharing things about myself and my work in print felt VERY different from sharing them here. I drove myself crazy about it for days, all thanks to a little bitch I like to call perfectionism.

My personal brand of perfectionism gets in the way of so many things, and I decided to take a stand against it. Lo and behold, the anti-perfectionism manifesto was born. Instead of writing an article about myself, I made a piece of art that spoke to why it was so difficult for me to write an article about myself. I nervously sent it to Gabe, thinking this is totally NOT what she asked for, and she was like "it's perfect. :)" The magazine, Makers Unwound, officially launches this week (please buy a copy!) so I thought it would be a good time to share it. If anyone wants a print of this, you can get one here!

BLOOM LATE // BLOOM OFTEN by Chelsea Snow

so you want to be a writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

--Charles Bukowski


That's the poem I sometimes read when I have writers block. It was written by my great uncle Hank. I didn't know Hank very well, he died when I was 17, and certainly never came to visit. But we'd visit him and my aunt Linda in San Pedro every so often. We talked on the phone a couple of times. He'd send gifts, like a little gold and opal heart-shaped necklace (my first real jewelry) that was torn from my neck the first time I wore it out of the house and lost in the tall grass of my neighbor's unmowed lawn.

I didn't realize he was a well-known writer until I started college at Evergreen, where a Bukowski course was offered. I didn't consider taking the class, but in my arrogance, wondered if they'd like me to come in and share some old family photos? No?

The older I get, the more I can appreciate his work--as I am able to get beyond the misogyny and addiction and violence and vulgarity--I see what is really behind it--what Maria Popova describes as his "characteristic blend of playfulness and poignancy, political incorrectness and deep sensitivity, cynicism and self-conscious earnestness." Yeah, I can relate to that.

The older I get, the more I also wonder when I'm going to find my one true path, when I am going to figure out what my purpose is in this world, when I am going to know that I am doing the right thing, when the words or images or sounds or whatever just start pouring out of me effortlessly, the way they seem to do for geniuses. When am I going to bloom? Have I already bloomed? Was that it? Or maybe I am one of those plants that is always growing a new flower, and by the time a new bud has formed, the old flower has shriveled and dropped?

Speaking of getting old, I went to church the other day with my mom, sister and grandma while I was visiting Boise. Yes, church. One thing that stood out was this: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin." (Matthew 6:25-34). I have admittedly never read the bible, and I barely know the context that this quote is in (that has never stopped anyone from quoting the bible) but it really struck me: I am working and worrying very hard about making a meaningful life, but my life is already full of meaning. The lily of the field does not worry about it's lily-ness, Hank didn't worry about his writer-ness, nor should I worry about my artist-ness or my mother-ness or my human-ness. It will happen. It is happening. Let it happen. And so it is. (That's what they say in church!)

Prints  here .

Prints here.

 

 

ODE TO FURNITURE // CELEBRATION OF AWKWARDNESS by Chelsea Snow

To live together in the world means essentially that a world of things is between those who have it in common, as a table is located between those who sit around it, the world, like every in-between, relates and separates men at the same time. --Hannah Arendt

I need to admit something: I don't like parties. 

This doesn't mean that I don't like people, and it doesn't mean I can't have fun at a party. I really like the idea of a party, but when it comes right down to it, I have a hard time just being a person at a party. I want to break this down, right here, with you. And I want your feedback too, so feel free to answer the questions as you read along. 

I don't like parties because I am awkward. I don't know what to do with my body--how to stand or where to sit. I don't know how to dance to music I don't like. I don't know whether to talk small or big. I don't know whether to hug people or high five them or just nod as I walk by or pretend to not see them at all. I have tried all of these things, and they are all equally awkward. (Until I get drunk, at which point my awkwardness becomes adorableness, all of my moves amazing, hugs for everyone.)

Let me get one thing straight. Awkwardness is not a bad thing. Awkwardness has hidden talents. Awkwardness wallows in empathy. Awkwardness is hyper-vigilant about meaning well. Awkwardness is self aware to a fault. Awkwardness is vulnerable. Awkwardness longs for intimacy but doesn't know quite how to connect.

You probably don't realize how awkward I am. But that's probably because you have only ever known me from across a piece of furniture. Somehow the furniture--whether a dining table or a bar or a store or kitchen counter--provides me with the context I need to keep my awkwardness at bay. Here I am. There you are. We are separate but have come together around this piece of furniture, and because of it, I know what I am supposed to do. I know where to put my body. I know how to communicate. Furniture creates context, and that context gives an introvert a break from having to constantly reorient herself to her surroundings. 

For a very long time, it was part of my professional practice to throw a party at least once a month. If I do the math correctly, that is so many parties. Too many for an awkward introvert...but it was okay because I had a counter to stand behind! I had a job to do. I had a role to perform. I could engage with people as much or as little as I needed. I could lean on the transactional nature of my business as a crutch to keep from being weird (usually). I could hide behind the furniture. I could always "look busy". Lately though, the counter is gone. (Maybe it's time to change the photo on my home page?)

I thought that having some space from the counter would cause it to just fade away...but it's quite the opposite. I'm so curious, now that I have a tiny bit of perspective, about how comfortable that role was (my entire life) and how I rarely challenged it--to the point that the idea atrophied into being a part of who I am as a person. And it has me wondering: am I really a person who needs to have a piece of furniture attached to the front of me in order to feel safe at a party? Do other people feel like they have big heavy objects attached to them? Does it have to be this way?

What I know for sure is that I would way rather throw a party than go to one. But as I wake up to the truth of my own awkwardness, I think it might be time for me to challenge that assumption. Could I design a new kind of party for introverts? Could I design a new kind of furniture that makes connecting easier? Could I design a new kind of business that sells the magic of awkwardness?

Prints  here .

Prints here.

On wallowing by Chelsea Snow

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” --Steven Pressfield

If you haven't read Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art, you should. Actually, you should just listen to it. It's only like 3 hours long. Take a long drive, plug it in, look past the golf analogies, and take it from a pro: you are not alone.

This week has been weird. Back in school, trying to focus, trying to make all of the things I think about connect and make sense in terms of research and work and some kind of cohesive project. All I really know is that my work (at the moment) is about wanting to help. Helping myself, helping other people, helping in general. I have been forced to realize that even though I want to help--and my intentions are good--sometimes people don't want or need my help. Sometimes people have their own ways of getting through things that have nothing to do with me and that's totally okay. Sometimes people have a completely different psycho-spiritual philosophy, and that's totally okay. And sometimes people just want to wallow in self-pity or indecision or self-loathing. Sometimes people are comfortable hanging out in the unknown. Personally, these are very uncomfortable places for me to linger, and so I when I witness people doing those things I try, without judgment, to help them through it. But the kicker is that a huge part of self-awareness is becoming aware of other people's comfort zones and processes, being respectful of them, honoring them and giving them space. I think my job right now is to try it for myself. To dip my toe into those unknown waters, to wallow in the muck of my own stuff, without judgment.

This week has also been weird because the things I was so excited and confident and clear about just one short week ago have suddenly dimmed. Self doubt has crept in. Am I really an artist? Am I really a writer? I guess that Steven Pressfield has my back on this one, but it's still so hard to know for sure that I'm not a huge fraud: that even though I don't entirely know what I'm doing and I fear that I'm on the wrong path and that my ideas are stupid and not worth pursuing, that I should for some reason keep going. Wow, just saying that out loud made me feel a little better. Sometimes it's important to just say the thing you are afraid of and then have a conversation with it:

Feeble me: I'm afraid that I'm doing the wrong thing.

Infinitely wise me: There are no mistakes, only opportunities to grow.

Feeble me: Okay, but what I'm really afraid of is that not having all the answers means that I'm stupid.

Infinitely wise me: Knowing that you don't have all the answers makes you curious, not stupid. 

Feeble me: Okay but what I'm really afraid of is that if I linger in the unknown I won't make it out, and I have more important shit to do.

Infinitely wise me: You'll make it out. And maybe you'll make it out with an idea, or just a sliver of an idea--just like David Lynch said you would. Use what you have learned through meditation to allow yourself to let go of these obnoxious thoughts, to sink into the unknown, to wallow in the deep. 

Feeble me: You're a fucking weirdo.

Infinitely wise me: No, you are.

Feeble me: But I'm scared to wallow.

Infinitely wise me: It's okay to be scared. Fear is just excitement without the breath.

Feeble me: So I'm excited to wallow?

Infinitely wise me: Mmhmm.

To wallow means to indulge in an unrestrained way in something that creates a pleasurable sensation. It's weird that we (I?) most often use that word to describe an indulgence in something that feels painful like self-doubt or heartbreak. (Maybe those things actually do feel pleasurable on some level...? That's for another day...) But wallowing really means to allow oneself to feel good. To scratch the itch. To roll in the mud. Whatever it is. What if I were to wallow in things that created actual pleasurable sensations? Like JOY or EUPHORIA or CONTENTMENT? What if I could just remember that I am allowed to do that, whenever I want? 

Easier said than done. Here's a reminder: 

Prints  here .

Prints here.

In other news, I sent out a survey a couple of days ago and I am totally wallowing in your responses. THANK YOU for responding! If you haven't responded, and can spare fewer than 5 minutes of thoughtfulness, I would love your feedback. Click here to take the survey! It's about feelings! And shopping! 

And in even other other news, I want to hear from you. I realized the other day that I do my best work when I know exactly who and what I am responding to. So I wonder if you have a question I could try to answer. So if you have a question, I would love to take a stab--as long as you're cool with me possibly publishing it on this blog that 3 people read. Pretty low stakes...

MAKE LUCK by Chelsea Snow

My mom is a professional winner. Here is a list of things that I can remember off the top of my head (in no particular order) that she has won over the years: 

  • a Mini Cooper
  • a trip to Euro-Disney
  • a trip to Mexico (?)
  • a trip to Florida to see Pitbull (!)
  • so many other trips, so many other random concerts
  • a $10,000 shopping spree
  • a fancy refrigerator
  • two jet-skis (separately)
  • a big screen television (before they were a thing)
  • dozens of iPods and other small electronics
  • tons of cash prizes
  • a year's supply of Annie's macaroni and cheese
  • so.many.t-shirts.

When I was a kid, we would listen to whatever radio station was giving away a prize by being the Nth caller, or whatever station was giving away a key that might start a brand new car. She would pre-program the redial button to call the station on the phone and fax lines, often listening to two radio stations at once. She once handed me a ringing phone receiver allowing 12 year-old me to be the 104th caller, winning $104, from 104.3fm. 

I remember being sent to the library for research when a station was giving away a prize to someone who could answer geography trivia questions. When grocery stores were doing a giveaway, she would pocket entire stacks of entry forms and have all of us kids fill them out until our fingers cramped.

Yes, my mom was a winner, and she worked REALLY hard at it. When people would hear about her latest prize, they'd usually say something about luck: "oh, I never win anything--I'm not lucky" or "she is so lucky!" The truth is, that there was no luck involved. Winning contests is my mom's craft--requiring skill, effort, ingenuity and time. The lesson here: putting in that kind of work will almost always yield results.

There's no denying that random events (good and bad) happen all the time. And there are situations where people are in the right place at the right time, and again--good or bad things ensue. (Read Malcom Gladwell's The Outliers for more on that topic.) The thing I'm trying to get at here is that what the world might interpret as good luck is probably the result of a lot of hard fucking work. As with anything, if there's something you are needing or wanting, and the world doesn't seem to be handing it to you on a platter, make it yourself.

Prints  here .

Prints here.