For years people have asked me why I don't sell handmade journals. It seems like it would've been an excellent business move to do that considering we wrote two journaling books that sold very well. I can make handmade journals. I learned how in a local class with an artist many people know, Kelly Kilmer. I love binding books the way she taught me, with a needle and thread! She sells very cool handmade journals. She is why I do not sell journals. I do not make journals and sell them because my friends do. My friends with lives to pay for. I don't care how good a business move it would've been. It would not have been a good move in my heart, or head, or my community. I'd much rather direct people to Kelly for journals! And I'd prefer that Kelly know that when I communicate with her it's genuine and not because I am secretly stealing her game. I might steal the rootbeer off her desk but that is a totally different story. I do very happily create handmade journals (like Kelly taught me to make) as gifts for friends and I love doing it. I never, ever, EVER, sell those journals.
Every artist has a thing that is theirs. It's their magic. When I think of the unique things my artist friends have, they come to me quickly~
My friend Maria's thing is the way she take's photos of people and processes them with a certain color blend. She has done this for years and people go to her for that specific thing in their photos.
My friend Jeanne's thing is delightful felt brooches in wild colors and shapes that instantly put a smile on your face.
My friend Alisa's thing is the beach. She is inspired by what she finds there and paints amazing watercolors of seashells, feathers, and flowers. She can also make anything into a purse.
My friend Jax's thing is photos of dandelions. Her business is even called Dandelion Farms.
My friend Rachel's thing is dolls made of recycled items.
My friend Julie's thing is writing. She helps students with their college essays. Those students get into great colleges!
All my friends do their things to make money to support their families. But I'm sure I can do their things. I have been to art school and I have mad skills, so why don't I? I have had a lot of expenses the last few years and times are tough, so shouldn't I just do what my successful friends do? I live near the beach and I have watercolor paints, I could just paint some seashells, too! If Alisa does it and her stuff sells, shouldn't I do what she does? I have purses and I wear pins and I also have a sewing machine, shouldn't I make brooches and purses? Also, I know people and I have a camera and Photoshop and once Maria told me how she processes her photos so shouldn't I use Maria's skill to make some quick money? I think I see a dandelion growing in my garden, I could take a photo of it and see if any of Jax's customers would by it. She puts hers on canvas so I will put mine on tile and call it original. WAIT! I have old stuff in my garage, why don't I just make some dolls to go with Rachel's? How long could that take? I will use her designs as a reference. I have a computer and a dictionary and I am a decent writer. Maybe I should just start helping my niece's friends with their college essays instead of referring them to Julie. Julie doesn't need to feed her own kids this month does she? She worked last month. I am sure everyone would understand that I need money.
HELL NO, NO, NO, NOOOOOOO!!!!
It fucking sucks when your friends steal your magic to make a few dollars . There's no way to be mature or professional about it. It's almost the same sweaty feeling you get at 3AM after eating bad Thai food except it ends up being worse because barfing your brains out won't make it better and you will have to endure your friend giving you some lame sob story if you ask WHY, WHY, WHY?! These Magic Stealers always seem to have justification for their new creations. Even though you think you might feel better asking, you won't. This is what they will say: You don't own the subject, I didn't do an exact copy because you paint and I used pastels, I made mine blue and yours is red so it's not a copy, I need the money more than you do, you shouldn't care because you are more popular. Or they will suddenly become art and marketing experts when 3 months ago they were in some other career and offer up that there's room for both of you to make the same art. WHAT?! No matter what you say, it will end up that you are the wrong one for caring and being hurt that they copied the thing you have worked on for ten years. It will always end up that you are the bad friend for not supporting them in their art endeavors even if that art endeavor is them trying what YOU make. Magic stealers are very defensive when we feel like there's a knife in our hearts.
To make your sweaty stomach-ache long lasting, these friends will usually try to sell their versions of your magic to everyone on your Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy follower lists because you are friends. It feels like all the years you just put into building a project and a fan base got spit on by a friend who spent a week analyzing what you worked on, made a few copies, then grabbed your buyer list because it was there. And if you put your art online and your follower list is public, it must be free for the taking. Hell no, no, NO! Hookah, get off my corner!
If you need to make money and your friend appears to be making money on her art, do not use her idea. Even if she isn't making money and just loves doing her thing, do not try making money off it. If you are not sure what I mean, let's pretend your friend Nena makes paintings of 99 Red Balloons. For years, Nena paints 99 Red Balloons on everything and people know her as the 99 Red Balloon Lady. Do not start collaging, photographing, needlepointing, knitting, or drawing any amount of balloons on ANYTHING unless you are making a gift for your friend Nena. Do not create and SELL anything with a balloon on it anywhere Nena might see it. EVER. And Nena will see it anywhere you sell it, trust me. Not only would Nena feel disrespected and hurt, but making duplicate versions of art already out in the market is BAD FOR BUSINESS. Multiple versions of the same thing does not make your art more valuable. If you flood the market with more of what is there, the value goes down. If you really want to make money, FIND YOUR OWN MAGIC by creating art that is meaningful to you (and don't be all but I love balloons, too, she doesn't own the balloon market). Success takes a little while (and lots of work). Even if you see other artists making art with 99 Red Balloons, you still don't get to. You are Nena's friend. You are supposed to be the one eating ice cream with her telling her those copy cat bitches are going DOWN! You don't get to be the copy cat bitch or the magic stealer if you expect Nena to still be your friend. If you care about having friendships, instead of just copying what Nena does and if you can't figure out what your magic thing is, ASK NENA! I bet Nena will tell you what your art thing is if you can't see it right away. It's better to have Nena tell you what your thing is than to have Nena spreading the word about the THING YOU ARE, not that it won't be obvious already. Creating art that your friend is already creating is pretty much like dating her ex-boyfriend. You just don't do it.
If you're having the Bad Thai Food Feeling because of a Thing Stealer, remember that they can't really get your magic. They just think you won't notice that a little is missing! There's none missing! All your magic is still there. People grasp at magic ideas when they are scared and don't have anything else to grab on to. It doesn't make it better or ok that they do it, but it's why just saying DON'T DO THAT does not work. People will do whatever they want whether or not it is right and you have to keep on going. We can recognize and feel sorry for people being scared and nervous about their futures and we can also draw boundaries and not feel bad about being protective of our art (and feelings). If you've spent years cultivating a career you get to be upset when people try to hijack it. You get to speak out, speak up, and react. You get to choose different friends, you get be more careful, you get to listen more closely to your intuition. And, you get to say nothing if that feels right, too. Saying nothing is also a response and is sometimes the easiest thing to do when you know the answer already.
Next: Stranger Stealing feels like a differernt type of bad food, steps you can take to protect your career online, and changes I am making.
Ok, I know I got that song in your head. Go listen.
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