Believe, Bloom, and Balance: Cultivating Your Creative Potential

I’ve been thinking a lot about balance recently and how to attain it. As a creative person I find myself vacillating wildly between working with extreme focus or wandering aimlessly from one idea to the next. Although the past few months have been quite productive, I have felt a little like a chicken running around with its head cut off. Actually that’s not even an accurate description. A mutant, crazy eyed fowl jumping from one frying pan to another sounds more like it! But I’ve discovered an approach that is working for me and maybe it will help you too! I must believe and bloom to be able to achieve balance. This may sound like nonsense, but I love alliteration and I do have a point!

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Before we get down to the nitty gritty please print out your free Believe, Bloom, and Balance Worksheet. This will enable you to complete each exercise in real time.

Solution Seeking

I’m doing what I always do when I’m feeling out of sorts. I read blogs, listen to podcasts, and go inward. But if I’m honest I also do a smidge of complaining, mostly to my poor husband. Thank goodness his hearing isn’t always the best! But last month I read an interview that Black Sheep Wools did with Lucy from Attic 24 and I was struck with something she wrote. When asked “What direction do you see crochet going in the next 5 to 10 years?” She replied with an answer that has had me thinking ever since.

“Do you know what, I would be so, so happy if my own personal direction didn’t change too much in the next decade as I’m enjoying myself so much right now. I love the balance of my creative life, getting to crochet, design and write at a pace which suits me. I am very much a “go with the flow” type of person and don’t tend to plan much or have any great ambitions for the future. I love the luxury of living in the moment wherever possible, enjoying each day as it comes.”

Lucy – Attic 24

Free Pattern – The Bitty Bunnies: Benedict and Beatrice

Y’all! Seriously! I could not love this answer any more! #goals! This is an answer from a woman who seems to know who she is and where she is going in her crochet business and life. Lucy has been blogging for over a decade and I’m sure that her objectives have evolved over time, but her response has a solidness about it. It’s not wishy washy. It is clear and I couldn’t love it any more.

Based on that one little quote, that only contains four sentences, I have created a worksheet to help bring focus and clarity to our creative lives. It will help us not only stay on track, but keep our intentions clear and our sight focused.

Believe

First, we must Believe to help identify our purpose. You could substitute the word “dream” if that makes more sense

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Don’t abandon me now! This is where it starts to get good! I recently listened to an episode of the Goal Digger podcast with Jenna Kutcher and I literally had to pause it every few minutes just to digest her amazing information. The title was How Being Decisive Leads to Success. I am terrible at making decisions so I randomly clicked on the episode because the title caught my attention.

Jenna urged her listeners to imagine their perfect day. She encouraged us to dive headfirst into the minutea. Imagine what you’re wearing, where you are , and how you’re spending your time.

How do you want to feel each day? What do you plan to accomplish? What is the vision you have for your life? The more specific you can be here, the better off you’ll be. Close your eyes and visualize the perfect day, week, or month and think of the things it includes and what it definitely doesn’t include. How do you want to feel each day? What do you want to accomplish? What would be the end result for you of a successful, fulfilled day? I love to think about this often because how we spend our days is ultimately how we spend our lives.

Jenna Kutcher

Next, sit down and do this exercise on your worksheet. What does your perfect week look like? What are you spending your time doing? What are you wearing? Who are you with? How do you feel?

This is a powerful activity and will ultimately help you find the direction that will bring you the satisfaction and contentment in your creativity endeavors.

Bloom

Have you ever found yourself spending hours upon hours doing things that ultimately do not bring happiness? Have you ever wondered, how in the world did I get myself into this? Have you ever vowed that you would never commit to something only to find yourself saying yes to it again and again? I can totally relate and have vowed to do something about it.

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After completing the Believe exercise you are already to Bloom! Bloom is where we are going to put our dreams into reality. In the left column you are going to write out what activities you are going to say yes to. To use the phrase coined by Marie Kondo, we are going to ask ourselves if it sparks joy?

In the right column you are going to write what you know deep down in your heart is not right for you. This is the part that isn’t quite as easy. It’s hard to say no, especially when there are expectations from other people. It’s hard to let people down. It’s hard to live in fear that somehow we are going to miss out. But you will never live out your Believe dream if you don’t say no to something.

You also may be interested in my blog post Do it Scared: Explore Your Creativity!

Balance

Finally, balance is the sweet spot and it’s the one I struggle with the most. It’s not just an objective but a state of mind/being I want to reside in. For me balance would mean keeping my personal and business intentions clear and concise. No more feeling guilty for working on my crochet business too much or for not working on it enough. Balance means finding that luxurious flow of family, creativity, and work.

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In the Balance section of your worksheet we are going to put the Believe and Bloom segments to work. Here you are going to write out your personal Mission Statement right there on your worksheet. You are going to take the dream from your perfect day and combine it with your yes statements to create your individual proclamation.

This is the critical piece of the puzzle. Your mission statement will ultimately become your North Star. It is what will guide you when temptations knock at the door, showing you the way when the right decision doesn’t seem clear.

This has been an extremely useful exercise for myself and my hope is that you find value in it for yourself! Please leave a comment or suggestion you have for finding balance in your creative business and life! I would love to hear from you!

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5 Lessons Makers can Learn from Disney

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Pio Pig – Made by me – Pattern from Les Petites Mains de Khuc Cay

Yes, I am that crazy woman who brought a crocheted pig into Disney World and snapped a photo of him! On an average day almost 53,000 individuals enter the gates of  Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL. Gasp. Let that sink in for a sec… That equals over nineteen million visitors each year! It is the most visited amusement park in the world and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon, even with more competition coming on the scene in recent years.

We recently went on a wonderful trip to Disney World. It had been almost a decade since we had been there and I saw it with new eyes! Waiting in line for the Small World ride my family and I began discussing how well Disney deals with the overwhelming crowds of people. I noticed how clean all the little nooks and crannies were while waiting in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. At the Confectioner’s Shop I couldn’t help but be impressed with the smiles from the cashier even though she had likely been there for quite a while and had been ringing up customer after customer.  It got us all thinking about the inner workings of the iconic park and how they have perfected the concept of “experience”.

For the rest of the trip and the nine hour drive home I thought about how Disney does what they do and how well they do it. It began to dawn on me that many of these same principles can be applied to our own little handmade businesses as well!

(For more information about the pig pattern check out my Amigurumi Pattern Directory)

Branding

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No one, and I mean no one, has perfected their branding like Disney. Their font is instantly recognizable. The music, the movies, the merch… it doesn’t even need to have their name or logo on it and we all know exactly where it came from.

How can we as handmade makers begin to develop our own brand recognition? First I believe we all need to be clear about who we are and what we do. I have a few friends on Instagram that I immediately recognize their photos, I don’t even need to see their handle. The products they make, the style of their photos, and their consistent editing make them a brand, and a good one at that! One maker has a very rustic look throughout all her photos, another has bright pinks, yellows, and turquoise! They both have different photos, products, and messages they are promoting, but they stay true to their defined aesthetic.

Details

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I was awestruck when I really took the time to notice all the details at Disney. Since I had a lot of time to wait I started looking for them and I was not disappointed. Each and every ride had so many details, from the cobwebs at the Haunted Mansion to the antique furniture in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, no element was overlooked.

In my humble opinion details make the creation. What I mean by that is the little details create the entire piece. For example, my little piggie wouldn’t be nearly as adorable if he didn’t have eyebrows, or suspenders, or his little bowtie. Even if you are making a toy that doesn’t have a lot of details within the original design, that shouldn’t stop you from creating them yourself. Packaging and tags are another way to add those personal details that make toys special.

(For more about how to create those memorable details: Making Amigurumi: The Artistry is in the Details)

Consistency

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Disney shows up day after day, week after week, month after month…you get the idea. When someone buys a ticket to Magic Kingdom they can be assured that the quality of the rides, the food, and the entertainment value will be the same. I have been going to Disney World since I was a young girl and there is a sense of comfort knowing that I’m going to enjoy my favorite rides and shows.

As makers we need to show up, whether that’s on your social media accounts, blog, or website. We need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And that’s hard. It’s hard when you’re in a creative slump. It’s hard when you’re sick. It’s hard when you’re busy. But that’s what sets apart the serious makers from those who just want a hobby. There is nothing wrong with having a hobby, but for those of us who want more consistency is key.

Message

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Disney’s slogan is “The Happiest Place on Earth” and they work very hard to make sure that message comes across loud and clear. They aren’t screaming this statement from their rooftops but they are clearly communicating it. Every employee has a smile on their face. Every ride is full of happiness. Take the Haunted Mansion for example, some theme parks have haunted houses and they are scary! But Disney’s is spooky in a fun, childlike way. Their message is unambiguous and consistent.

What message are you trying to convey? Are you a serious maker, are you silly, are you quirky? What do you want people to know about you? How do you want them to feel when they interact with your content? Defining your message and communicating it in written and visual form is paramount to your success.

Service

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Every single Disney employee we encountered was friendly and knowledgeable. The waiter at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant was professional and conscientious. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was so charming. I’m certain that Disney employees are trained in excellent customer service.

We as makers should treat our own customers with great care. We are creating an experience for them as well. When they purchase a finished product, respond to our content, or buy a pattern they should feel our appreciation. I don’t have a physical storefront, but I do have a virtual one and I try to treat online customers just as I would if we were face to face. Making people feel welcomed is something each one of us can do!

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These five principles are simple. It doesn’t take a genius to see how important they are for handmade businesses but it does take effort, a lot of effort. What suggestions do you have for making your small business better? Do you have big scale organizations you look to for inspiration?

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Why Le Petit Saint Crochet Isn’t Just my Business Name, but a Piece of my Heart as Well.

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I’m not French. I don’t speak French. I’ve never been to France. I’ve never even been to Quebec, for goodness sake! But the name of my little crochet business is most definitely French and more than likely I don’t even pronounce it correctly!

When I began thinking about making my little crochet hobby a bit more official I knew it needed a name. I’ve admired other craft bloggers and handmade businesses for years and they usually have a very memorable name. I wanted something that represented my love for crochet but also represented something more than that. I wanted the name to represent why I was crocheting.

I wrote down dozens of cute names that typically had the word “bunny” or “cozy”  or “cottage” in them, but none felt quite right. I thought about how I loved making beautiful crocheted things and that I took such care to make sure that no detail was overlooked. Those thoughts led me to my admiration of a little French saint from the late 19th century.

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St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as The Little Flower, was a cloistered Carmelite nun.  In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, St. Therese wrote about how her position in life limited what she was going to be able to accomplish. In coming to this realization she wrote, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.” Her attitude towards life was a great inspiration to the legendary Mother Teresa who is famous for saying, “Do small things with great love.”

That saying perfectly encapsulates my highest goal as a maker. I want to do everything, down to the smallest of details, with great love and care. I know that my place in this world is a small one, but I believe that the small things really are the big things when done in the right spirit. Le Petit Saint Crochet (The Little Saint Crochet) is a tiny homage to St. Therese and a reminder for me to always do the small things with the greatest of love and attention.

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My Favorite Handmade Business Podcasts

6I’ll admit it, I’m a podcast junkie. I have loved listening to them for years, but recently discovered a handful of amazing ones specific for those of us with handmade businesses. I listen when I’m driving, when I’m cleaning, and when I’m crocheting. I love that they are informative, entertaining, and FREE!

My favorite podcasts for handmade business people are (cue drumroll……)

  1. The Merriweather Council Podcast This is my hands-down, absolute favorite, handmade business podcast. For starters, Danielle makes me laugh. She has a very natural way of connecting with listeners. She has had an extremely successful Etsy shop for many years and shares her secrets with all of us! I love that many of the podcast episodes are quite short and are packed with useful information! She’s a tell-it-like-it-is host and I appreciate her so much for it!
  2. The BHooked Podcast  This is my favorite crochet related podcast and it’s my second favorite business one as well. Brittany has turned her handmade hobby into a successful career and helps us do the same. While she doesn’t sell finished products, she does design and has a YouTube channel. Brittany is the Oprah of the crafting world with her insightful interviews with the top designers of the industry.
  3. The Goal Digger Podcast is the bomb dot com for business gals. Jenna Kutcher’s podcast feels like you’re sitting down with a girlfriend who has all the answers! She is very open about her own struggles but shares with listeners how she has overcome them. The podcast is part inspiration, part kick-in-the-pants. She gives listeners practical, doable steps to take to become successful.
  4. Raw Milk Podcast is a fairly new podcast and has a very different feel from the others listed. Beth Kirby (@local_milk) has a huge following on Instagram (over 700k!) She is an accomplished photographer, who has taken the unbeaten path to find success. Her first episode about taking the anxiety out of Instagram is worth its weight in gold!
  5. Christy Wright’s Business Boutique Christy Wright is one of the Dave Ramsey personalities who specializes in small businesses run by women. I listened to the first two episodes of her podcast before I even knew how to crochet, but what I heard intrigued me. I knew then that I wanted to have my own business someday, I just didn’t know what it would be! Christy is a very serious woman who knows how to go after what she wants and shows other women how to do the same.
  6. The Jennifer Allwood Show is a new podcast to me. I have only been listening for a few weeks but what I’ve heard so far has me coming back for more. Jennifer is a down-to-earth, boss momma. She’s been-there-done-that and isn’t afraid to share her secrets. Two of her recent episodes have been extremely helpful for me, episode 81: How to Fight Discouragement and episode 83: The #1 Thing You Can Do to Boost Your Online Sales.

I hope you all have found this list helpful! Tell me about your favorite handmade business podcasts!