A lock in the wind

Taking my lumps and seeking advice

For the most part I can take critique. I can. In my 20s I was terrible at taking it but somewhere in my 30s I gained an appreciation for good critique — people telling me things that could make whatever it is I’m doing, better. For many people, and for me up until recently, critique usually comes from just a select few – a friend reading your article, a partner going over a story, a kid giving feedback on how exactly you could make dinner edible. But that’s changed. When you publish something like a magazine, your critiques come from all over, all the time.

And I should be okay with that. But since I’m also a person that likes to please everyone, getting feedback from dozens, hundreds, thousands of spinners can be a bit tough on the brain, you know? It’s impossible to please all those people but what about when your brain constantly tries?

I’m not complaining or whining. Really, I’m not. I’m looking for advice on how to deal with this internally, in my own head. I intellectually realize that I can’t possibly make every spinner happy. I totally realize that. But sometimes my brain is sneaky, uncontrolled, and it still wants to. And so when I get emails from spinners that think the print is too big, or too small, or that there should be less photos and more content, or that they’d like to see more big photos, or that there’s not enough weaving/crochet/knitting, or that they like the themed issues but only if they are interested in the theme, or that they’d like more advanced and technical articles, or that they’d like more beginner articles, or that they’d like it to be cheaper (I can’t fix that one without adding more ads), or that they’d like their mail carrier to deliver it quicker, or a hundred other things that I get emails about, my brain obsesses a bit.

Okay, who am I kidding? It obsesses a lot. I know it’s not rational. I do. But I can’t help it. I write and rewrite a response to them in my head for hours, sometimes all day. I can’t get past it. Some of my responses want to give them what they want, some are defensive, some explain in way more detail than anyone would want why I just can’t do it, or how it’s a delicate balance, or how on and on in my head.

I’m not looking for anyone to say that they shouldn’t write me, I’m glad that people do write, I actually value every email I get (except the very mean ones, but those only come in occasionally, twice a month or so), I’m just trying to figure out how to deal with it all.

Anyone have any ideas? Anyone have to deal with this kind of thing – being a people pleaser and hearing from lots and lots of people the various (and contradicting) ways to please them?

Jillian told me before I started the magazine that it would break my heart. It hasn’t broken my heart yet but it’s threatening to break my head! Actual advice very much appreciated!

 

 

It’s a Process

Last week Jillian spoke beautifully about rejection. She said it all perfectly. I agree with every feeling.

Today I thought I’d talk about my process of writing an article after the joyous news comes that my article idea has been accepted. This is the way I go about things and I happen to know that Jillian’s process is completely different than mine so ask her to tell you how she works.

OK, so when I submit an article idea for consideration I have an idea about how the yarns will look if I use a certain spinning method and I often want to talk about the technical details about how to get to the final yarn. That’s usually all I know and more often than not, I don’t have samples to back my words up.

When I write I need to have the yarn and swatches sitting right next to me so I can feel them in my hands. If I get stuck I pick up the samples and sniff them, hug them, feel them, rub them, anything that will get a littel spark going.

What that means is that all or most of my samples need to be spun before I start writing. What that also means is that I need to have a pretty good idea of what I want to show. I’m not great at writing detailed outlines. So for articles I usually just have a short paragraph that I’ve written to give me some idea of where I’m heading and then I choose fibers and spinning techniques that will get me there.

For example, the article in the Leicesters issue, I knew that I was limited to the three Leicesters and my article was about spinning for softness. Of course I wanted to choose the most coarse Leicester to demonstrate what I do so English Leicester was the choice (aka Leicester Longwool, or Dishley Leicester)

After I choose the fiber then I choose the wheel that will do what I want most easily. Often that is my Schacht Matchless. I can treadle pretty slowly and count treadles or whatever I have to do to make the yarn exactly what I want on that wheel. My other wheels have much larger drivewheels and I usually choose one of them when I want to get the work done fast and I don’t have to slow down so I can describe the process later.

This was actually the same process I used for writing my book. I had an outline which really was just a list of chapters. I wrote the breeds I wanted to use for each chapter under each heading and started spinning. Spinning for that project took about 6 months with 6 months of writing following the spinning. But having all of the samples right near me for inspiration was the greates thting I could have done for myself.

Right now I’m almost finished writing an article for the Singles Issue of Ply that’s coming up. It’s due in 5 days. I think I can make it because I have my samples.

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Rejected!

A little Sheepspot

A little Sheepspot

I get rejected a lot. I propose a lot of classes and articles all over the place and most of the time the answer is no. Even when I get asked to propose, frequently I get a no.

I used to wallow in the gross feeling of not getting picked, but now I don’t.

It’s not instantly sunshine and lollypops, I take my moment to relive not getting picked for dodgeball in 5th grade, then move on. It’s part of the process.

 

Then I’m back at the work of ideas and proposals.  Here’s a not so secret, secret, the stuff that gets rejected will get accepted. It may become a small part of something else, it might get combined with two or three other things, it might get accepted, as is, somewhere else. Any thinking or planning is good work.

 

A little Fiberstory

A little Fiberstory

This week I got rejected by PLY. I sent in an article proposal awhile back and this week I got a nice form email from Jacey saying basically, thanks, but no thanks.

Guess what? I’m happy about it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had a minute or two of that cruddy rejection feeling, but quickly thought differently. It’s not about my idea’s worth or even my personal worth, it’s about the magazine, and that made me happy.

 

What quickly pushed any gloomy thoughts out of my brain was the thought of getting that finished magazine in my inbox and seeing how it was built into a great issue. How the articles and projects balance each other and the idea of the theme. I know I’ll see instantly that my idea would have been OK, but wasn’t quite right.

Jacey has proved herself again and again that she knows how to make an excellent issue of our excellent magazine. When I get to be part of the inside I am overjoyed. When I get to participate as a reader I am completely content to roll around in other people’s ideas and learn a bunch about spinning.

 

And that rejected idea? I’m already using it somewhere else!

Ideas and proposals

I’m in New Mexico. I’m not supposed to be here, but here I am. I had a fantastic weekend with the Las Aranas guild, spinning and braving the snow and ice covered roads (in New Mexico!). While I was here I received the most amazing indigo-dyed gossamer shawl I’ve ever had the luck to fold in half and drape around my shoulders.  Knit by mara bishop statnekov, I can’t take it off.  Ever.  As kind as it is beautiful.

I was supposed to be home early this morning.  I was supposed to leave tomorrow morning for Iceland, with a 3 hour layover in Denver. Instead, and due to the ice here in NM and in TX, I’m meeting Levi and O (my 8-year old daughter) in Denver tomorrow and then off to Iceland.  It’s all going to be fine.  It is.  I know it.

And Iceland is going to be fantastic. I can hardly wait.  I’m teaching for 2 days, giving a talk at the art school, and touring for 5 days. While I’m there, the Leicester issue will be winging it’s way to you.  You’re going to love it, I think.  I love it.  I know I always say that, but I do.

But while I’m captured by ice in New Mexico, I’d like to talk about something.

Years ago, I used to hear a few people grumble with frustration that they’d propose article ideas to Spin Off and then later they’d see their article idea in the magazine but written by somebody else. They would say that it wasn’t fair or nice that the magazine would take their proposal and get somebody else to write it. Of course, I thought that wasn’t fair or nice too. Who wouldn’t? It’s only now that I realize that was probably not at all what was really happening.

I say this because I have some personal experience with this very thing. Every issue I get (thankfully) lots and lots of proposals. Sometimes over 200. It’s wonderful and the reason the magazine is so great. However, out of those 200 proposals, there might be 100 that are actually different. What I mean is that the same general proposal will come in from 5 or 6 people. It won’t be exact, of course, but it’ll be the same in spirit. And so if it’s an article that enriches the issue, that makes it big and round and awesome, I’ll ask one of the authors that proposed it, to write it.

What that means is that several other people will later see the article in the magazine. It will look like the article they proposed, and it is, but it’s also the article the author of the article proposed.

Spinning is an old craft. Spinners are brilliant. It makes sense that several of us come up with the same ideas about a particular topic, right?

So, just in case you were wondering, and because I hate the idea of people going around feeling sad, or thinking that we don’t like them, or even that we’re not nice or fair, let me assure you, we don’t ever take one person’s idea and ask another person to write it. Not ever. I’m pretty sure that Spin Off doesn’t do it either.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. I love that it’s the beginning of the Holiday season. So many people celebrate so many things during this part of the year and it’s all great fun. I love that my family gets together most years – except for my one very far away sister who we always miss. I love all the food and I love that I can pretend that I am not constantly concerned about what I’m eating. I love that I can start decorating for Christmas and I love that my mom has taught me how to do it right. (She has 12 trees in her house this year) Here are the three I could see while standing in one spot.

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Anyway, just like many of you, I start to think about all the things I’m thankful for and this year I am thankful for my job. I’m thankful that I’m in a position that I can pursue this crazy life. I mean, for what other career could I dress up and go pet a sheep?

meandtunis

And I’m thankful for the friends that I’ve made while working. I’ll just name 2 here but there are so many others.

meandjacey Jacey Boggs! Fantastic teacher, wonderful writer and owner of this magazine that I love so much.

meandjillian

 

And Jillian Moreno who is also an extraordinary teacher, the kind of writer that makes you laugh and learn at the same time and a person who always is pushing me to be better.

Aren’t they pretty?

Ask me about all the other ones too. I could go on and on. But right now I need to go eat some pie.

Ideas: What Am I Going to Write About?

I write about spinning. That’s a big part of my job and I feel grateful every day. When I first started getting more writing work I started freaking out about ideas – what am I going to write about?

I think writing about spinning is important, so I wanted to have IDEAS, and write about Big Important Things. When I approached my writing that way it made me feel tired, uninspired and unlikely to get any words on paper. I quickly shifted my thinking and have it down to a more or less 5 step process. I do these in any order and sometimes skip over or merge steps.

1) What am I curious about?

One of the main reasons I write is to learn. If something is knocking on my brain asking me to explore it there’s a good chance that I’m going to find a writing idea there. Especially if this something keeps circling around and kicking me in the shin. It  happens a lot when I’m spinning,  all of the questions start flowing in, what if I did this differently, why do I have so much trouble with this? I grab onto one or two or ten things that flow in and write them down. Then I keep moving through my process.

2) What are other people curious and excited about?

I don’t intentionally go looking for the questions or ideas that have made me curious, instead I listen to the spinners’ ether. I just keep reading the same blogs, magazines, boards, books that I always do, but now part of my attention is tuned to those idea seeds. It’s amazing to me how those threads always pop up. Everyone is curious, lots of times about the same thing, but not in the same way. This week I got curious about blending boards and I found so many words about different aspects of them – better overall blending of fibers, easier to keep color distinct, faster than handcards, easier than a drum carder, etc.

3) Distill

At some point the idea gets too big or confusing in my mind to write about easily or I start only thinking about one part of the idea  and I know it’s time to focus. I distill the idea down like corn into moonshine. Again, it comes down to interest and curiosity, what do I want to know or what sounds fun or interesting? Do I want to do an overview of something or get deep into a single aspect? Thinking about woolen preparation can become an overview of three or four ways to do woolen prep or the difference flat-back or curved-back hand cards make to carding.

4) Visuals

I like to think about how it will all look when it’s done. That helps me focus even more. What pictures do I need? What has to be shown, what would be nice to have if there is space. I don’t just think about pictures for this step, I also think about what could stand alone as a sidebar or box. It could be something to emphasize in the article or the answer to a frequently asked question. For an article on buying hand cards it could be Three Things to Think About When Buying Cards or Cotton Cards for Wool?

5) Be true to me

Back when I was trying to write about IDEAS I wanted to sound important too. But I never felt like more of a fraud than when I didn’t sound like myself, whether it was my approach to an idea or the actual words I used. Every spinning writer has their own unique approach and style. You can give four writers the article prompt Rolags for Woolen Spinning and get four very different articles back. Now I know pretty quickly if I’m veering from Jillian-style into Not-Jilian-Style. This has helped me say no to or reconfigure article pitches that really don’t fit my style. I wouldn’t write an article on Carding a Structurally Sound Rolag, but would love to write Carding Rolags for Beautiful Sweater Yarn.

 

Back to the wheel for me, I have writing deadlines!

Am I Write?

 

In 2008 I wrote my first article that ever got published. It was for KnittySpin and it was about scouring and spinning Cormo. Not a bad article and I got some good feedback so I decided to carry on. I proposed articles for a couple of other spinning magazines, both in print and electronic. Some of them got accepted which was good for my ego.

Over time I proposed more things to magazines and of course there were a couple of book proposals. Of course, it goes without saying that I love writing for Ply.

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I learned some things about proposals over time. The first ones were just a few sentences describing as well as I could. Luckily, a few used words that got my message across. Some of the ones I thought were great ideas were turned down. I suspect that sometimes my idea just didn’t fit or there was someone else who got chosen who proposed the same thing or sometimes I didn’t communicate the idea that was in my brain very well.

So, I’d like to tell you a few things that I now do in just about every proposal to write an article. I’m not saying I get a yes every time but I do get a yes more often than I did even up to 2 years ago.

1. Know the magazine you are proposing to. Think about who their audience is.

2. Make sure you are proposing an article that will fit the particular issue you are proposing for.

3. Use details. talk about what point of view you will be coming from. Be specific about what things you will include in your article.

4. Sometimes it helps to include an outline. When you actually write the article, things may switch around a bit but an outline is a great communicator.

5. Say how many words or pages you think you’ll need to clearly explain what you are writing about.

6. Include a photo or two if you’ve done this technique or made this thing before. They don’t have to be photos of any samples you send for photography in the end but, as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words.

This all may seem like a lot of work before you even get a yes but in the end it is so worth it.