Friday, November 30, 2012

Killing The Question Mark

I am sitting in my jewelry studio, which looks like a tornado went through it, although as I always say "It's an organized mess".  I know where everything is, and if someone came in and cleaned it up I'd be lost. 

I think that's just the way my artist brain works; it thrives on jumbles. Jumbles of thoughts, ideas, colors, textures, priorities, designs - the list could go on and on.

For the first time, ever, I'm owning my artistry. I have always said what I do with a question mark at the end, like "I make jewelry?" or "I write a blog?".   

I'm done with that. I have dreams, dammit, and that question mark is in the way.  Part of this new found existential enthusiasm is because of Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly - you all know I love me some Brene Brown - and I'm understanding, finally, that the key to  my artistry IS my vulnerability. What I produce, whether it is writing, jewelry or creating outlets for sober people to share community it comes from my heart.  And sometimes, I admit, it makes me feel very naked.  Or, more accurately, it makes my soul feel naked, and that's scary.  

And a blessing. So much of my life was spent people pleasing, or numbing out, or trying to force you to like me by being who I thought you wanted me to be. 

I am literally incapable of doing that anymore, and that is a miracle and a gift.  

I still struggle with Ego.  Maybe that's a good thing; the people I know who don't struggle at all with their Ego aren't very likable. I'm so afraid of coming across as an egomaniac that I run the other way and get all question-marky about my creativity, my business, my dreams.  

I fall into old patterns all the time.  Next week my mom and I are going to the Massachusetts Conference for Women.  Brene Brown will be a speaker (along with a world-class lineup, including Deepak Chopra as keynote speaker).  But I'm there mostly there to hear Brene speak. I even made my Mom read her book. 

I was chatting on the phone with my Mom the other day and she encouraged me to have a copy of my new book Let Me Get This Straight  to give to Brene in case I have the opportunity to get a signed book from her, or shake her hand, or something.  As she was suggesting this, I was shaking my head on the other end of the line.  No way, I thought. There is no way I could do that. It's egotistical and she must get inundated with books all the time and I could never, ever have the guts to promote myself like that. 

My Mom waited a polite beat, and said, "You just made me read this book about Daring Greatly and you won't do this?"  

I laughed. Of course she's right.   "At least have a business card ready to hand to her if you run into her in the ladies' room," she said. 

I had a screaming case of the "who do I think I am"s.  Why do I do that?  Why do so many of us do that?  Scott Stratton, who wrote the book Unmarketing , and who I heard speak at a conference once, has a great line: "do you know who I think I am?" 

I have the opposite problem, but I'm working on it.

It took every ounce of guts I had to promote my book, and to keep talking about it to people.  I really, really want to put a question mark at the end: "I put together a book?"  

But I won't.  I'm learning from some awesome, strong successful women around me - who also sometimes struggle to own their talent, their creativity - to kill the question mark.  We have to prop each other up sometimes.  Because I can see their talent shining from a mile away, and it breaks my heart when I see them down on themselves, and I do my best to set them straight.  Thankfully, they return the favor, too.

My good friend Jessica Bern (the truly amazingly funny and talented co-creator of Two Funny Brains and an internet series currently in production called BlogThat) ordered some jewelry from me the other day, and I sent her the price and then said, "Is that okay?"

Here is her response:  "that is fine although do not ask another customer if your price is "okay" again. You hear me? Your price is your price. If they don't want to pay, fuck em."

THAT is a good friend. 

Daring Greatly is HARD, because you have to be ready for "No", or to have your expectations not met, or to feel small or less than is some way.  The reward, though, is the feeling that you're out there swinging, no matter what.  And that you can't force anyone to do anything for you - like buy your book, read your blog, buy your jewelry - if they don't want to.  It would be nice to have that kind of control over people, but I'm just not that powerful.

My precious Ego gets me into a lot of trouble.

So I'm bringing a business card (I won't have a copy of my book yet - or as my Mom put it "If God wants Brene Brown to have a copy of your book it will arrive before December 6th") to the conference and going to the restroom a lot.  You know, in case she's in there.   

Dreams have been launched from odder places, I'm sure.


  1. I love ya, Ellie.
    I can't wait to see what happens. Don't put your light under a bushel.
    And pee a lot.

  2. I love this post. Jessica's reply made me LOL.

  3. I soooo needed this post today, this is exactly the message my ego needed to hear. Thank you Ellie. And Good Luck!

  4. So much of my life was spent people pleasing, or numbing out, or trying to force you to like me by being who I thought you wanted me to be.

  5. I could've written that - omg are we the same person? Yes. Yes, Ellie, by God we are. And we are awesome.