The Joy of Being Indie

How long have you spent preparing for your life?

A big part of what I remember about school is being bored, doing work I wasn’t interested in and couldn’t care about, and wanting so much to get out and do and be. And so much of that time, I was being told to be something else. That the things that interested me were so competitive that it wasn’t likely I could ever be successful. Either that or just altogether not worthy of pursuing. What I should do is work harder, get better grades, get into a good college. Why, with my test scores, I could probably be a doctor or a lawyer if I applied myself.

Dudes, have you met me? Read the posts from the last few weeks. I think it takes a little more than brains to be doctor or a lawyer and I ain’t got it.

Outside of the college route, I was told that to be a writer I should go to NY and work for a publishing house. I’m a social phobic. I couldn’t even walk into a restaurant by myself. No way was that going to happen. What I wanted to do was stay where I was, continue in my fabric store job, marry my boyfriend, take in sewing on the side, work on my writing, and just see what-all happened.

And then that pesky National Merit Scholar thing came up, a college offered me four years of tuition, room and board, and a stipend for books, while my friends who actually seemed to want to go to college were scrambling and scraping for funds. Well damn.

I did 4 years of hard time in the frozen wasteland of Western NY. I got a Bachelor’s in Psychology. It didn’t help.

At some point during that time I found out that I was going to have to go to school for another EIGHT years, and God only knows what else before I could sit in a quiet, comfortable room for one-on-one, 50 minute chats, which is what I thought you did with a psych degree. It’s not. It’s what you do with a doctorate. How did I not know this? I don’t know, I was a kid. But that was so not happening.

I went to work in a sweatshop with 200 people who didn’t speak English. There were maybe 5 of us who did at any given time during the 5 years I worked there. We made polo style golf shirts. It’s the kind of thing where you learn one little piece of the process and you do that same bit hundreds of times a day for a few cents per piece. I loved the challenge of that. And then I loved the challenge of learning every operation that went into putting that product together. It was hard work in crappy conditions, but I was young and I was making money at the sewing machine, something I had been told was not a career option.

Yeah, ok, so that was part of it. I’m a rebel and I’ll never, ever, be any good. Sue me.

Besides that, I was alone all day. Alone in a room full of people, machines, and noise. But I didn’t have to interact with anyone for 95% of the day, all I had to do was sew. And my brain was my own. Finally. I could read audiobooks (remember that part where you got out of school and realized you could read anything you wanted to??) or I could just be and think about whatever crazy story I wanted to think about, for eight hours a day, and I got paid for that.

To keep this from being the story of my freakin’ life, I’ll fast forward over carpal tunnel, design school, more retail, and a lot of other crap. We’ll sail years into the future to the point where I’ve retired from my non-career and am at home with a baby, having now achieved a bunch of life goals, and feeling again that need to do and be.

I don’t know why it so often takes me 600 words or so to get into the meat of my posts. I found Etsy and I decided to try something I’d wanted to do for years: make and sell doll clothes. You know how crafting used to be? It wasn’t realistic to try to sell handmade Barbie clothes through traditional crafter venues. But I could sell some on Etsy. It was fun. Some people bought them. And they wrote to me and thanked me.

Would you believe that never happened to me in all the years I had ever worked my ass off for someone else?

I did what I loved to do, people gave me money, and then they said Thank You.

And then a friend said that my skills were worth more than what I could get for Barbie clothes, but people were paying at least three times that much for Blythe clothes. So she sent me a Blythe. And I made some clothes. The Blythe market was getting pretty competitive at the time, and I sold a few things, but no real success. Until I decided to smock.

My Smocked Valentine, the first smocked dress I sold on Etsy

It was an experiment. I sat down with 28 Days Later, because I was working on ideas for a zombie story of sorts, and this was in the days of baby napping time, and I smocked myself a tiny little dress. I was very proud of it. I had the audacity to price it at $23.50, so I was actually as afraid to put it out there as I had been when I first listed at Etsy. (Don’t ask me what I was afraid of. I really don’t know.) I called it My Smocked Valentine because it had hearts, it was the end of January, and I hoped the title would encourage someone to buy it before the end of February.

The freaking thing sold within 10 minutes.

One of my most elaborate designs, "The Spider" had to have its own video.

Every dress I smocked sold within minutes, even though I raised the prices and most of them were between $40-$50. People LOVED my work. They made special requests. They queued up in a seemingly endless special order line just to get one. I LOVED what I was doing. People gave me money. And they thanked me lavishly.

But you guys don’t care really care about dolls and their overpriced couture, so why am I telling you this?

Because it’s been the same thing with the book. Just like I found my niche in a fairly competitive market on Etsy, a lot of putting out a book is just about just getting the damned thing out and then waiting for your customers to find you. I put off, for so long, just freaking doing it and putting something out there. Because I was afraid of the process, because I was afraid of rejection, etc, etc, etc. Second verse, same as the first. And every day it’s out there, it just brings more awesome.

When I got out of high school, I wanted to create things. I wanted to write and I wanted to sew. It’s taken me twenty years to make this leap into finally doing what I really wanted to do in the first place. To get to this place where I know I can make money doing what I love, and where people go out of their way to thank me for it. And maybe I needed all that time to learn and to practice, and for technology come along to help me out. But maybe not. I’ll never know because I didn’t really try.

Part of the point of this post is that I’m finally in a good mood today, and those of you who have slogged through my whiny dramatic crap of the last few weeks really deserve some happy happy sunshine. It don’t happen that often, so soak it up, people.

If you read my blog because you’re thinking about getting back to writing, because you’re thinking about finally finishing that book, or you’re thinking about going indie, just freakin’ do it. If you have a dream, give it a chance. Don’t let being scared make you put off your life. Because there might be good things down that road, and awesome people who smile at you around every corner. That’s how it is in my world, and I appreciate you.


Filed under insecurities

31 responses to “The Joy of Being Indie

  1. * Claps enthusiastically *

  2. Claire

    Reading this made me want to go conquer the world with you. Well, and K. Can I be the one in charge of pyrotechnics?

  3. :sniff: Hang on, I’m having a moment.

    Okay, I’m done.

    Huzzah! Let there be BROWNIES in celebration!

  4. Happy is good! I’m glad you’re feeling better.

  5. I’m glad you’re feeling joyful about the indie thing right now. Whether it be writing, sewing, or making eggshell ornaments (LOL), working for yourself is great. My husband mentioned the other day that a publisher might find me and I could sign with them or some such rot. I looked at him incredulously and said “Why would I want to do that?” LOL

  6. I so needed to hear that today — thank you. 🙂

  7. This really resonated with me…thank you!!

    Glad you’re in a good mood too 😀

  8. Thanks for sharing your wonderful journey. It’s amazing the twists life takes us on to put us in the right place at the opportune time. We just have to take advantage of the situations as they present themselves.

  9. Whitney

    I like to think of myself as a tattooed fairy godmother who yells at you when you aren’t giving yourself enough credit.

    Also I miss you.

  10. Stacey Wallace Benefiel

    Love it. I’ve been thinking a lot about this very thing lately. It took me almost twenty years to do what I always wanted to do and there’s no way I’m effing pussing out now. 🙂
    Also, making polos= dishwashing for me. I loved being a dishwasher. So much time to think and no one bothers you.
    I’m happy you’re happy. 🙂

  11. Wow! Awesome post, Susan! Oh and I love the clothes…I had handmade Barbie clothes when I was little. They were always my favorites.

    Congrats deciding to do what you wanted to do. I’m so glad you did or the world would not have been granted such a wonderful author! 🙂

  12. My polo shirts came in the form of production typing and data entry work. Remember when they hired people to do that?? I loved it. I know it was mindless and boring, but that’s what I loved about it. No one talked to me, my mind could wander for hours, and I got paid to sit alone in a room with a dozen other people. It was beautiful.

    This was a great post. I needed this. I’m getting ready to throw my baby to the wolves on February 1, and it’s starting to freak me out a little. I hope people like it.

  13. What a great post Susan! It makes me feel good about putting in all this time on my novel; I’m still in love with my story, but a lot of the time I have this rushed feeling, like nothing’s happening fast enough and I’d better not sleep again tonight cos I’ve only edited one page and I might fall asleep at work tomorrow but I need to get this editing done so I can send it out to betas and oh yea I’ve got to flip through my knitting patterns cos a friend’s having a baby and…
    But yea, there’s no point thinking that way [g] Things’ll happen at their own pace.

    • Before I got Hush Money out, I was nearly demonic in my need to just get it done and out. The parts that were out of my hands, like getting it back from betas, or waiting on the original cover artist who never came through, made me insane. It was like I thought the whole world of self-publishing was going to fold up or close the gates before I could get my book in there.

      It won’t. People are saying “Now’s the time!” but that doesn’t mean right this second. So give yourself a break because you’re right, things’ll happen at their own pace. Wishing good things for you.

  14. christel42

    Dude. You deserve all of this! Go You! *high-fives, fist-bumps & whatnot*

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