Life Is Messy. Work Is Messy. Share It All.

by · August 8, 201210 comments

Last week, our company, Lion Brand Yarn Company, hosted a number of craft bloggers who were in town to attend the BlogHer conference. It was quite an impressive group of women. Juggling family and entrepreneurial ventures while staying fit and doing charitable work — I get tired just thinking about their lives!

But great accomplishment comes by a path that is has rough patches and is at times chaotic and unpredictable.

Courtesy Carrie Lundell. This Mama Makes Stuff.

Our marketing and design teams were so excited to have these people visit that we prepared for months, trying to create the perfect experience. Part of the schedule for their visit included a meeting and tour through the design department led by our creative director.  She showed some of the highlights of an impressive body of work that includes both practical and off-the-charts artistic yarn creations.

Now on a typical day, the design department is cluttered with boxes of garments and yarn on their way to a photo shoot, partially knit sweaters, and test swatches of different color combinations strewn over tables.  There would be strands of yarn on the floor, and books and magazines with inspirational images piled on every horizontal surface.

But the day our guests arrived we had spent a good bit of time cleaning up to present a pristine and organized space in which to display our work.  About an hour before the bloggers arrived, I stopped by to chat with our creative director and see how the preparations were going.

“I’m so happy to be sharing our designs with other creative people,” she said. “But I’m also eager to get my space back to the way it was.  We really can’t do our work in such a cleaned up space.”

Later, when we all went out to dinner together I asked one of the bloggers her impression of the visit. It seemed they had all been enjoying themselves as they tweeted scores of images from our branding store and garment collection, as well as a private hand-dying workshop we offered them in our education center.

“We really loved what we saw,” said Carrie, whose blog is called This Mama Makes Stuff, “But I was a little disappointed that it didn’t look like a real workspace.  I know how messy my place gets when I’m crafting and I was hoping to see more of your behind the scenes creative process.”

Now considering everything I know about authenticity and transparency in social media, I’ve never really thought about the fact that those words meant going much farther than I imagined.

It made me think about Julia Child, and how she seamlessly moved from dropped food, knife cuts and other mishaps to finishing her recipes and creating delicious food. In those days of live television, there was no choice. Yet that is one of the reasons we found Julia Child so endearing.  She was comfortable with the mistakes and the messiness, knowing that they were a real part of her craft.

It’s not so much that your readers want you to suffer or to be challenged, but they do want to know that you’re like them. Human. Imperfect. Otherwise, how could they ever hope to accomplish what you’re trying to share with them?

It was a great lesson. Lives are messy. Work is messy. People are inspired when they see something beautiful or when they read about a successful business.  But the real lesson is in the ups and downs that got you there.  Not only is the messiness nothing to be ashamed of, it’s what makes you believable, interesting, and like Julia Child, even loveable.

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About Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.

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  • http://twitter.com/KatFrench Kat French

    What a fabulous point, Illana. I think that in trying to get the “street cred” of traditional media, bloggers have lost a lot of what made the form endearing and exciting. I’m not saying be sloppy and forget to spell-check. I’m saying “guts are interesting.”

    It makes me think of the movie Doc Hollywood (hey, it’s not a classic, but I saw it on my honeymoon). Michael J. Fox plays a doctor, and he goes into the rural garage where his sports car’s being repaired, and screams because it’s literally in pieces. The mechanic says “Now what if I came into your operating room while you had some poor gentleman’s insides all pulled out?”  

    It’s the guts that are interesting. The part where everything is all blown apart and in pieces, and you think “How is this ever going to come together into something useful again?” If you don’t see that part, then it’s like watching just the first ten minutes and the last five minutes of “Extreme Home Makeover.” The interesting problem-solving creative part is in the middle. The guts. 

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      Hi Kat,
      It’s Thanks for your comment and I love the analogy.  It’s so tempting to show just the end result of our work. Social media has opened up the world of business to the world of reality.

      Ilana

      • http://twitter.com/KatFrench Kat French

        Oh, and the link to the Brene Brown TED talk is very on point. That’s one of my very favorite TED videos, along with J.J. Abrams’ talk about mystery. They make a nice point and counterpoint: there’s both an element of mystery and an element of exposed imperfection to the creative process. 

  • http://noblepig.com/ Cathy @ Noble Pig

    I am a food blogger and I like to keep it “real” as much as possible. Every once in a while I include a shot of the sink or counter full of dishes or the dog laying across my feet hoping something will fall. People love it.

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