FALSE ALARM: Lessons From the Fire


    This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...."  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.




    The gift of a “false alarm” is knowing where the gaps are in our preparedness.



    Tuesday started out as another scary day, but it didn’t end there. Not at all.


    We still subscribe to local newspapers. I know, that dates us! I’m happy to read the news and newspaper online. But I also like clipping the comics for friends (especially since even the daily ones are in color!) and doing all the puzzles and crosswords.


    But Tuesday…..


    The headlines proclaimed that our power company was cutting off the electricity again.


    I couldn’t believe it. How could they?! They again estimated that almost a million people would be without electricity for at least two days, and up to five, until power could be restored.


    But at least we were more prepared than the first time. We have a new ice chest, we have a portable battery charger for our cell phones. Mostly, I had to go get ice so we wouldn’t lose much food.


    I was almost out the door when Jon said, “Wait a sec.....”


    It was the newspaper from last week. October 9. Not October 15.




    Now, we didn’t actually get that paper last Wednesday, because the newspaper had issues of their own with the power out. So I didn’t “recognize” the news, the layout, etc.


    And we still don’t know why our carrier brought us a week-old copy rather than today’s.


    But it got me thinking about the gift in all this. (Of course it did!)


    There’s a huge difference between thinking about being prepared, and actually being prepared.


    Once my heart stopped pounding, I realized we actually were better prepared this week.


    I’d already learned that when you need emergency supplies, we need to stock them before the emergency. Trusting that it won’t happen at all just postpones the frantic search for ice, cell phone service, food storage, etc.


    I’ve learned that it’s hopeless to grab supplies where the shut-offs will be, or already are. Instead, you have to go to a place that’s outside of that zone, where life continues as normal. (YES, I have a secret source for ice, and no, I’m not sharin’ it today!)


    I’ve learned that being prepared is better than simply worrying.


    How does this relate to making our artwork, doing our art marketing, sales, etc.?


    We can worry that a gallery won’t accept our work. Or we can simply reach out and ask. And to keep asking, until we find the one that works for us. Worrying about it doesn’t do a darn thing.


    We can worry that the world does not want our art. I actually found myself thinking this at 4 a.m. this morning. (So productive, right? Not!) Or we can keep making it because we are already in the world, and this is how we show up.


    We can listen to all the advice, suggestions, strategies, etc. in the world. But if we don’t seriously try to incorporate them into our marketing plan, they won’t do us a bit of good.


    We can compare ourselves and our work to others who are better than us, or lord it over others (secretly, at least—I hope!) because theirs is worse. What good does it do us? It just sucks up all our mental and emotional energy. Lizard brain, of course. But not who I choose to be in the world.


    We can fret because we aren’t making enough money, especially when it seems everybody else is. Remember that book about how much writers actually get paid in this article for Fine Art Views? Or we can accept that money may not be the only measure of our success.


    In an emergency, we can put into play strategies we perhaps wouldn’t consider in “normal” times. For example, during the recession of 2008, I withdrew from the expensive fine craft show circuit (except for our state-wide guild show, where I always did fairly well.) Instead, I sold work to a catalog for a couple years, making mass multiples of the same products—because though all my samples were kept, and I hate mass production, I made enough to keep me going. I also got better at setting boundaries with my wholesale accounts, some of which took advantage of my overly-generous returns policy. Lesson learned!


    In short, hard times are...well, hard. They are, by definition, no fun.


    But if we go through one and learn something important, that is a gift. Not something we’d willingly choose, of course. But something that gives us even more depth and meaning in our lives.


    Most setbacks with our art are rarely fatal, although panic, and stress, and feeling less-than are not a state we want to stay in.


    But today, a week-old newspaper put me into needless panic, and yet revealed how much we’ve already learned from the last incident. I mustn’t put off buying that battery-powered generator, I need to order it now. And I shouldn’t wait until I’m desperate for more gallery representation. I need to act on that now. I shouldn’t put off that big project I’ve been carrying in my heart for ages. I need to figure out that difficult next-step now.


    I am grateful for this insight.


    What have you fretted about lately that threw you into panic mode?

    How did you cope?

    What did you learn?

    What insights do you carry with you now?

    I’d love to hear them, and I bet a lot of other people would, too!


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