A month ago, I wrote about anxiety. I was in beautiful Beacon, having a lovely time, when I found an open few days in my schedule and slowly but surely sucked all the life out of them. And though I can talk about forgiving myself, attitude correction, and mindfulness and all these things are a great path out of something like that, I'd like to talk about how I got there, because I think it's a pretty common, rocky terrain. Multitasking. Personally, and I believe I'm not alone, I forget that multitasking is not a thing. Or rather, that it is a myth.
The myth of multitasking states that the more you can accomplish the better. It's a simple concept and one at the heart of America's enduring sense of yearning. But of course, when you multitask, not only can you not actually accomplish multiple things at once (but rather can quickly jump between things), but the quality of your thought and attention, and therefore the work on each thing, breaks down. I grew up my whole life being taught the value of multitasking and being told by my very smart and talented peers and teachers that it was the only way to get it all done. Cut to: reality. A man in a cute apartment in a cute town watching some cute pets, frantically trying to accomplish so many things that he is miserable and cannot enjoy any of it.
I’ve been working on my anxiety lately, which is something I neglect because I more often have to deal with the other side of the coin, my buddy since way back, depression. But my depression has been pretty self contained these days. A side effect of doing what I love, and also allowing myself to under earn for a time while I figure out how to make things work. Instead, of a quiet hum that whispers for me to crawl back into bed, recently there’s a current of worry juice running through me.
How do you manifest change in your life? It's hard enough to define change, because you know, it's one of the only constants of life. Because of that, I often only feel the chapter headings forming in my brain book when I feel saddened remembering some period from the past. Usually I see some landmark, be it a restaurant, or simply an intersection that I associate with some other time, and then my heart and mind leap. It feels a sort of loss, instantly that period is looked upon longingly. As well manicured patch of grass, amongst the otherwise overgrown scraggly mess of my mind, the dark and dangerous forest. As I've aged I've been able to identify that this worrisome wood is manufactured by the little devil in my brain. Lets call him Despair Daniel.
It's been a few month since I've stopped by the old blog, and I can give you some very good reasons why. But ultimately, I wish I hadn't stepped away. Even though this place can be more of a dumping ground for me than a place where I create sterling, thought-provoking content. It is a place where I can write what I want, and therefore be a bit more myself. So much of what I do for Shipwreck is about finding the customer. The difference between being a hobbyist stationery guy and being Shipwreck Press on its second year, is the transition from focusing on self (how can I be better, what do I want to make, am I challenging myself, am I good enough?) to focusing on others (what do people want, how much are they willing to spend, how do I market successfully, how do I get the cards in people's hands so they can feel how different they are, how much of my vulnerability and cluelessness do I show?) Where does the self live amongst all the other? It lives here. And in my private notebooks.
When I was a tot in Texas, letter writing always represented an ancient, almost mystical practice. It was something novelists, and thinkers, and the famous participated in. You could see them sometimes in plexiglass boxes at museums, but they were not something common to daily life. People wrote letters to the child they sponsored (but I believe used the term "adopted") across the three worlds. I remember constantly checking a book out of the library that had the addresses of companies that would send you free samples and stickers if you wrote to them. Thank you letters were to be written after every birthday and Christmas but I promise you I saw no magic there. But these felt like a watered down version. Real letter writing seemed powerful like another language. And it wasn't until I moved that I really tried my hand at it.
Things change. Things stay the same. Recently I have been thinking about where I am. About progress and regression. I am thirty after all, and that's as good a year as any to wonder and wander, gathering things to your chest. Perhaps it is a good year for a transition. They say that people get more done on decade eve years (29/39/49/59). This fits with my trajectory. Last year, I really hammered my Shipwreck goals, but I'd associate that less with fear of oncoming thirtyness and more with the fact that it was a breaking point for my Shipwreck plan. I had been working on this concept for 5 years, and I hadn't done a craft show, made any sales to speak of, hadn't really met any fellow makers. And so as I returned to New York from living at home, it was really important to me to give Shipwreck a full on, heave-ho, college try and if it didn't work out, then I'd move on. SPOILER ALERT: it went really well.
"Where are you going?" the woman asks incredulously to the boy toddling around the library stacks. As with any disembodied voice, it speaks directly to me. Where am I going? A question to shadow the young, to patronize the grown. This past month I have been less than fully employed (dog sitting and dog walking do not quite ends meet make), and it has been a mess of feeling. It is a tangled path surely. This month has felt like two at least, time being an endless ribbon, long and leading over and under itself. But within this multitudinous month, I have found freedom. Though there is twice the worry when money has not been settled, whenever I have found myself in my home office without all the things that count as busy, I have begun to learn the steps of running a business full time. Its baseline melody. Its stirring of limbs.
It's 2018! I'm saying it mostly to remind myself, as I step forward, that something momentous has undergone(girl)! It occurred mostly by hand. My hand! Actually, both of them. After so many years, (I believe I first had the idea for Shipwreck in 2011) I have had a whirlwind year of being a business, instead of being a guy who has an idea about starting a business. I've even started saying "I own a stationery company" instead of "I'm starting a stationery company," because well, now it feels wrong to say I'm starting. I have passed gestation. And though I won't spend this whole article listing my accomplishments in 2017 (I'm gonna brag a little, though) it's important to bask in the reward that work can be. The work of making something from nothing. Of making a viewmaster out of stacks of paper. Of making a website out of words and clicks and minutes. Of making a flipping business from an idea I had on a phonecall with my friend Natasha two years after graduating college. Instead I'm gonna write about three things I've learned this past year.
I'm working on stillness these days. Stillness of mind and stillness of body. Boredom and stability. I recently discovered in some dark winding Instagram hallway a craft business stranger who had made the move from Brooklyn to Austin to focus on her craft business. The exact opposite of the move I made. And as she expounded up on the ways in which the simplicity of her Austin routine (in the most impactful instance, hanging out in springs and beautiful natural waterways) had fine tuned much of her life. And I felt such a wash of modern existential muck. The guilt from veering so far off the well lit passages of connection that social media delivers best. The shrinking feeling of comparing and feeling wanting. The brain fog of self doubt. The jealousy, the fear, the bargaining, the projection, the passion, the flame and the smoke from the smoldering.
As I leave behind boring day job life (well, night job life) for the slim-fitting and glamorous exploits of a crafter, I am still working on finding a few things. A routine, a schedule, and most importantly some solace from the anxiety of feeling responsible for my time and also pulled in the many directions of how to use it (learn Spanish! practice piano! yoga! home improvement! marie kondo your room! go on a trip!). All the while I must be careful not to blow through my millions, and to escape it all with a healthy brain and body. This is only my first week, but I can tell you. It's not easy. I have been talking to Bearcat about how to stay zen while being in the apartment most of the day and how to regiment my time, and she's mostly kept tight lipped about it, but I'm pretty sleuthy and have managed to squeeze a few tips out of her.
A place for product updates, inspiration, behind the scenes stuff, and in general a place for mind meandering.