In part of my Ramadan preparations this year I picked up another version of Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Qur’an without comments. I enjoy his comments, but they always slow me down and I wanted to get much further through my reading for this month. But what I forgot was that I had also got an e-book of M.A.S. Abdel Haleem’s translation into modern English for The Boys, who “Hate that old English stuff.” Whew. It has been much, much better to read this translation during one of the most challenging Ramadans I have ever done, alhumdulillah. My eyes only started to cross and glaze over after much longer reading durations. I recommend!
Hopefully you have read some of the manyarticles circulating which explain that artists/writers don’t get their work done via a random dumping of some magical inspiration fairy dust, but rather they just work. Everyone has their own method of handling the innumerous tasks it takes to make and sell. For me, either when I feel lacking inspiration or overwhelmed by all the other stuff needing to be done, I employ what I call The AIM Method for barreling through or slowing ticking off tasks: Administrative, Inventory and Marketing. All of the tasks crossover their headings of administrating, inventorying and marketing, but the categories help to focus on potentially overwhelming tasks a self-employed body has to do and the name is kind of fun, yeah?
For many of the tasks below I employ The Fly Lady Technique of throwing myself into something for at least a solid 15 minutes and keep doing that until it is done. For writing projects (pitches, editing, etc) I find that 40 minutes is more productive. I also employ The Treat Technique, meaning I reward myself when I have accomplished something truly heinous, like revamping my blog or re-photographing product images that I wasn’t happy with but used anyway.
So, if you are lacking inspiration, AIM to get some work done:
This is usually the dreaded 15 minute stuff, but there is always enough of it to get at least an hour’s worth of work done, and then I really do want to get back to making pretty, pretty things. Your variety of making and selling will likely mean you have specialized administrative work to do, but there are plenty of standard tasks and here is a sampling of mine:
• Email, including the Etsy inbox, moderating blog comments and similar. Respond to all your emails, either the most pressing, the oldest or the newest- just get them done. Also finish all of your sold order e-work, such as marking items off as shipped, sending out thank you notes and coupons. Respond to all those kind Etsyians who have included you in their lovely treasuries. Being sidetracked by make reciprocal treasuries is purely business, go ahead and do that too.
• Taxes. They come up every year, whittle off some of your tax work throughout the year, organize your receipts, print out your Paypal statements- whatever need be, get a little done and reward yourself for being so professional.
• Hunt down a new supplier for that thing you need or have been paying too much for.
• Doing in-person sales? Need to register or find more venues? There is a rewarding task to tackle.
• Fly Lady any task you have been avoiding: redo your store front or business cards, update your resume or artist statement, open that blog or Instagram account you know you should be doing but never have time to. Ok, maybe you will need a series of 15 minute chunks, but start it up and you can get it done or be distracted by some other task, but again you are getting work done.
• Up your skills. Seek out a class or tutorial that you need to improve your work, don’t forget to reward yourself for being a committed student!
It’s great when you can pop in the car, run over to a local shop and pick up that thing you need, but it is also more costly in the long run by taking away from other work time and likely you are paying retail for the supply.
• Make a wish list. That’s sound funs right? It is, but it also helps to keep in mind what supplies you really need all the time as well as inspiring ideas for your products to evolve. Window shopping can be very inspiring.
• Think seasonal. What are you going to need for items specific to next season and/or upcoming holidays? Plan to get them in advance so you have time to make and market.
• Do some price scouting. Maybe even do a little crossover admin work and create a spreadsheet of which of your suppliers has the best prices for your most needed and/or expensive supplies.
• Destash! Get rid of some of those things sitting around which you really aren’t going to use. List them on Etsy, Ebay, Craigslist or ‘challenge’ another making friend to use them in their work. And by challenge, I mean unload that junk-to-you-treasure-to-someone-else.
You have to do this, all the time. If you have not already set aside specific time for marketing tasks, then when your inspiration feels low is a great time. No seriously, you just have to push yourself to work through these things, no magical inspiration required, though caffeine or otherwise nice treats help. I am currently working my way through this great list and suggest you do something similar. Here is how I do some of these specific marketing things:
• Etsy treasuries. Treasury-making is a powerhouse task of marketing, networking and even inspiring, but they can also be time consuming to crank out. I always have several treasuries in the making. Whenever I come across an item that I ‘heart’ I scroll down to the ‘add this item to a treasury’ link and then either add it to a theme I have already started or start a new one right then. When one of my treasuries has several items in it, I then spend an hour or so filling it up and rearranging it. Then don’t forget to do the admin work of contacting each seller in the list and graciously inviting them to view and share it.
• Pinterest. Go see all the pretty things and maybe your inspiration will pop back up, but also read some articles about how to use Pinterest as a marketing tool and do that.
• Collaborate. This one is hit or miss because so many people do not understand the benefits of collaborating, both for expanding your making and as well as for marketing and networking, so just keep trying it time to time. Throw yourself out there, ask someone- a stranger or a bestie – if they want to work with you on a specific project or if you can contribute to their project. Don’t wait for the inspiration, give yourself a little push here, but be sure not to flake or else this will turn into a negative marketing experience.
• Archive. People love to see an artist’s process, so if you are not in the habit of photographing your work along the way, go set up some shots to take now and share later at a relevant time. For instance, I just got a delivery of my sterling silver wire which is handmade locally here in Morocco. I grabbed a simple shot of the silver fresh out of the package to share that on my Facebook timeline and later I plan to write a little blog post about how the wire is made with recycled bits from my own workbench.
Inspiration really is magical and I love it when it comes. But when it just isn’t there I don’t believe that tinkering in other areas is procrastination, rather I believe in ruminating and germinating. Even if I don’t throw myself back at the workbench after watching a tutorial or reading an article, I did something and I am sure it will further something else if I just AIM to do more and more. Hey you’re reading an article about how to get work done, so that’s some work done right there!
Last week I had way fun rounding up collections of Eid and other Muslimy finds on Etsy. Since then I have met and found a whole bunch more of Muslim sellers on Esty, and so I am going to regulalry curate treasuries full of Muslims every week until I forget or all my kids get sick at the same time or something. Insha Allah:
Welcome to Metsy Mondays!
Check out this week’s collection featuring everything from hijabs, studded and leather trimmed (ok, faux leather) abayas, and truly unique jewelry (all of us jewelry makers like to think our stuff is unique) to adorable logo designs, home furnishings, art prints and the very important stuff of fez-wearing, moustashed crotchet birdies. Bonus- Pearl Daisy sighting.
Click on the image to go directly to the listings. Enjoy!
*Oh, also- please leave your own or your favorite Muslim Etsy items/sellers in the comments so I can add them to Metsy Mondays. Ok, now enjoy!
** “Metsy” is a portmanteau of the words Muslim and Etsy, you know like Mipster 😉
We are at the midpoint of Ramadan and that means that Eid is just two weeks away – insha Allah and squee! Likely you are thinking about picking up some decorations, maybe getting some gifts for your loved ones and besties, and/or getting some things for all those great kids in your life, who were so well-behaved this Ramadan. Here is a roundup of some of the many unique, cute, cool and Islam-themed items available from dozens of Muslim sellers on Etsy.
Worried about shipping in time? Some items, like this DIY Eid party pack and this Moroccan inspired Eid gift card are available to download and printout at home, and of course Eid al-Adha is just a few months away too, so go ahead, window shop now.
Click on the photos below to see the listings.
The variety of specialty items for Muslim kids is always expanding on Etsy, as well as Muslim-appealing clothes, and selections from Muslim artists, jewelry makers, designers and so on. Using Etsy keyword searches such as ‘Islam’ ‘Muslim’ ‘Eid’ and ‘Ramadan’ will net you thousands of great finds of your own. Muslim sellers’ makings and doings can also be followed on these Etsy ‘seller teams’ Facebook pages: Creative Creations on Etsy and Muslim Team on Etsy
This Ramadan is hard. Right smack in the middle of summer, these are the longest fasts of my Muslim life, it’s hot, and the kids are home all day. Well, my kids are always home all day, but I’m sure that’s an extra challenge for most Ramadaners.
I have six children and they are currently kind of a mess. My eldest two want to just stay up all night so as to not miss suhoor and indeed they are very hard to wake for suhoor, so I suck this up. But, they also keep me awake, sometimes, and keep some of my other kids awake, sometimes. So our sleep schedules are all just a mess unlike any other Ramadan I have done. But, I love this about Islam.
See, I thrive on different. I like newness, not in the shiny package kind of way, but in the explorative “seek knowledge” kind of way. I like vastness, not just in the unlimited possibilities kind of way, but also in the internal ways- sleep deprivation can be ugly and trying in this “month of patience”, but it can also poke holes into unused places in the brain that need some stirring. I like flexibility, even though I sometimes lack it, but living the holidays by the moon calendar forces flexibility.
I grew up celebrating regularly scheduled hegemonic US holidays: birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and all that/those. These holidays always came with the same expectations, same traditions, same fall outs, and so on. Great for many, but after about 20 cycles I let go of these traditions that frankly interrupted my schedule (I was a broke and very busy student), so I quit them. Let me do gifts and appreciations on my own time, I thought.
Then I became Muslim, which some folks claim appeals to “wild western girls” like me “who need structure and rules”. Yep, sure Islam has plenty of rules to live by, but praying by the course of the sun ensures that I am never doing those rigidly required five prayers at exactly the same time for more than three days in a row. Never under estimate the little things, like those one minute changes. Those long stretches between Thuhr, Asr and Mahgrib can provide feelings of freedom during the summers, but the shorter intervals in winter can also be a welcome relief to refocus inward.
My new holidays inch forward through the seasons, slowly bringing me out of the musalla onto the grass and then back inside again years later. The holidays may be similar in function, but that calendar is always going to tweak the form just a little, forcing me to adapt year after year and thereby, insha Allah, grow with a variety of experiences.
I hope this Ramadan will get easier, but either way we are already half way through and then it will be a few more years of seasonally hard Ramadans, then some breezier spring ones, then some cakewalk winter fasts, then my favorite pumpkin treat-filled fall Ramadans, and then insha Allah I will be dead! Or maybe my circumstances will somehow change entirely, and I will be elsewhere on the globe or otherwise within my own body – either way, should I live, it will likely be something new.