I’m in a bit of a quandary.
In putting together the monthly income report, I scrutinized the number and a self-conscious part of me thought it might be better not to announce what may seem like a piddling sum, though this sum represents so much goodness to me.
The goal, if you recall, is to see if I can generate an income of at least $20,000 a year doing what I love. It doesn’t seem like an improbable financial goal, does it? I mean, if I became a Dick’s Drive-In employee (purportedly Bill Gates’ favorite fast food establishment here in Seattle), I could earn that amount working part-time. With paid insurance to boot. I would, I hope, be earning the shift manager wage of $16/hr as opposed to the base wage of $11/hr because I did go to graduate school — it’s the least that degree can do for me since all it’s done to date was increase my debt. Then again, that debt and getting out of it was a tremendous lesson. Anyway, it’s sobering to realize that I could make more money flipping burgers approximately 20 hours a week; so far, pouring my heart and soul into writing, painting, sewing and taking photos a minimum of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week is generating $491.57 per month, at least for May. That brings us up to $1,356.01 from March. So in the image below, the tree=$20,000, the sapling=$1356.01, and the seedling=$491.57.
Many of those hours are spent creating a book that won’t see the light of day until next spring. I’m also diligently promoting a book that’s been on the market for less than two months and though Little Kunoichi is doing pretty well from what I can tell — I have no access to exact sales information until August — I still have to earn back enough royalties to cover the advance payment of $5,000 first. Who knows how high my books may soar? (or plummet, but we won’t focus on that)
A few folks have commented on how there seems to be an all or nothing mentality with these targets instead of letting things grow organically. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to explain it well, but I’m all for organic growth and would love nothing more than a slow and steady upward trend in skills, opportunities and financial solvency. It’s the best way to grow and patience is a virtue and in many ways I’ve been on the tortoise path; yet I also know myself and am perfectly capable of languishing without any forward momentum, just mulling, mulling, mulling.
I do well with specificity and deadlines and structure. I started this blog with a self-imposed deadline of posting every weekday — I wasn’t going to punish myself for missed days, but the clearcut schedule was great for me and I had plenty of time back then. For the first two years, I created a post every weekday with very few exceptions. At a certain point, book projects picked up steam, so I scaled back to three days a week, which I didn’t like at first, but after a brief adjustment period, I started to enjoy the consistency and achievability of the new pace. When M proposed the deadline and dollar amount to see if I can make a go at this new, rather vague career in making things, I was game. I like measurable, tangible progress. And I was intensely curious to find out if I could actually make an income on my own terms. In my arrogance I thought, “How hard can it be?” Three years seemed like a long time, and though I knew that the book process would take a while, it seemed doable.
It’s turned out to be much harder than I expected, especially when I can’t pull all-nighters or work myself to the bones anymore with my persnickety health situation. I won’t bore you with the details, but I have clearly overestimated myself. I thought I could finish and promote one book, complete the second book, start some sort of “creative” business, and handily meet my goal. Hmmmmmm. All those business podcasts make it sound so easy.
M has been watching me flounder as I try to juggle the blog, the books, the Furoku membership, and general home and childcare duties. “Flummoxed” is a good word to describe my mental state. “Let’s forget the goal,” he says, “we’ll make it work somehow, and you’ll eventually get there”. But now I have this weird attachment to the idea of hitting the $20,000, if only to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m also partly abashed that I made such a dramatic declaration of stopping the blog, etc. etc. if I don’t meet these objectives by the end of the year. Those stipulations weren’t mine per se, but still, I agreed to them. When I look at how events have unfolded in the last three years, I’m convinced that I’m on the right course, but my rickety, uncertain ride is painfully slow. Quandary. Or maybe there is no quandary since I don’t know what will happen by the end of the year, and no matter what happens, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve had these incredible life-changing opportunities. Ugh, I’m going in circles.
And oh, the Furoku membership. This, too, has been a quandary. I’m not entirely sure what the Furoku is. I know that I’m still lacking direction and though I carve out time each month to think long and hard about how I can best add value to this small but mighty group that is propping me up with their support, I feel a little lost and out of my element. I was so excited and scared (in a good, stretching-my-limits kind of way) about the whole venture. I made plans, sketched out ideas, talked to a developer (hi Steph!), consulted the stars of the sewing world, got a business license, even! I was bubbling with enthusiasm until I received direct criticism via email for the first time. I remember M asking me a long time ago, “What are you going to do when people criticize you?” When you put your words and images out there for public consumption in any way, criticism is inevitable, particularly when money gets involved. And it’s finally happened. As I suspected, I was completely unprepared. In the three-plus years I’ve been blogging, I’ve had only supportive and encouraging feedback, which has made me even more thin-skinned, like a Japanese paper balloon. The criticism immediately deflated me, and I began strategizing on how to shut everything down, cancel the second book (which is intensely personal), disappear somehow — Should I change my name? I wondered. That’s silly, naturally, especially since so many people have offered up kind words about both the blog and membership, so I’ve tried my best to move beyond the temptation to hide away…but I would be lying to say I wasn’t affected. I have heard repeatedly that feedback is a reflection of the person giving the feedback, and not the recipient. I agree with this, but it still doesn’t lessen the impact.
I’m going to continue the Furoku. I’m glad I started it, and I’m grateful that members have stuck with me as I keep experimenting (there have been discounts to great online shops, original illustration downloads, an exclusive interview with the fabulous Miss Matatabi, sewing patterns, and more). In lieu of monthly sign-ups, I’m going to put up a button on the sidebar where it will live, but for anyone interested in signing up, please know that this is still in its fledgling stages. Not only do the fees help me run this blog, enable me to work on book #2, but they also give me that gentle mental cushion that allows me to explore and exercise my creative brain in a way that is difficult to do when I’m panicked about having zero income. And the best part is assembling a special digital gift each month, which I still love doing. Hence, my $400 to $500-ish a month income may not sound like a lot, but it’s amazing how huge the psychological benefit is on multiple levels. And even though it’s incremental, my monthly income is increasing.
I sense that I’m not inspiring a lot of confidence in what I’m doing with these rambling posts, but one of the things I promised myself was to be honest about the entire process. Sure, I could gloss over the financial aspects, I could pretend that I know what I’m doing, but really, I’m just making it all up as I go. And if that doesn’t fly with you, I can live with that. And hey, if it comes down to it, I don’t look so bad in orange (the burger joint’s uniform color — Orange is the New Black, right?), and I bet I’d be a rockstar deep fryer operator.
P.S. Furoku #4 will be going out soon!