Monday, July 11, 2011
I want to talk about interdependence today because I think we could all use the reminder of just how much we truly need other people in order to survive and thrive. Some of us forget this. It's a great reminder to keep it real and to keep our hearts open to admitting we need assistance from time to time. This came to me recently when I decided to hire a housekeeper who will come, beginning in early August, to clean my house and iron our clothes on Friday. I also hired a delivery service to bring us bottled water, sparkling and spring, every two weeks so we don't have to run to the grocery store every few days for more bottles of water. It's all about admitting where we need help and then, simply, reaching out and asking for it.

Thoughts On Being INTERdependent

In 2008, I was asked to participate in an art gallery exhibition that combined works on canvas with the written word and because writing is a form of art, I gladly took part. I was asked to write on a topic that I felt passionate about at the time and after a few conversations with my husband who acts as such a great friend and sounding board to me, I decided to write about what it means to be an, "Indie". But then, I gave a lot of thought to this term, indie, and realized that there is so much more to being independently employed (and to be successful at it) than meets the eye. To me, being independent means that you have accepted being interdependent and that you know your success has everything to do with how well you play with others, is really the key to how and why so many people go indie and then either fail or make it. If you are well liked and people care about you because you care about them, you can go very, very far as a freelance creative professional.

Here is what I wrote about interdependency and below I'll summarize how I feel today, three years after I first wrote them, especially when it comes to being "indie" myself but also as an expat living and working in Germany. These words below (in blue) were printed and displayed alongside of paintings in a gallery space.

My Declaration of Interdependence by Holly Becker

“No man is an island”. Whether this quote calls to mind author, John Donne, in his work Meditation XVII written in 1624 or the 2002 film, About A Boy, in which Hugh Grant perfectly plays a single, shallow thirtysomething with a disposable income but no real life, the point is clear: We can not thrive when isolated – we need each other.

The Indie movement has made great strides and continues to thrive because though “Indie” may mean breaking off from ‘the man’ it does not encourage complete independence, its success is based on the principals of interdependence. Interdependence is about making allies, building bridges, forming solid partnerships. In big business you can step on a few faces to climb your way to the top. In the indie world, and I’m speaking of the one in which I’m a part of mingling with creatives and artists, stepping on others is the fastest way to find yourself at the bottom. Going “indie” also means that we’ll find ourselves handing over power to others, trusting and sharing, and that’s perfectly okay because our goal for personal and creative freedom can still be met. A desirable goal for creatives and artists, the indie lifestyle, is also becoming a necessity as corporations continue to outsource, downsize, and close their doors.

This is exactly why I left a lucrative profession in the corporate environment in 2005, I wanted to pursue my talents and use more of my creativity to help others. Working from home nearly full-time as a writer allows me to do that successfully but there is a negative side to this lifestyle: too much independence can create a personal vacuum and hinder growth and development. I’m not as independent as I once thought going ‘indie’ would make me. I’m more dependent on others than ever before. I depend on my blog readers, contracts, and clients because I care about their success and I have a vested interest. Their success is my success, and I like it that way because it keeps us all responsible in my circle and that’s a good thing. I’ve come to learn that this daily interaction — being independent as a small business owner and being dependent as a creative professional — is interdependence.

My husband Thorsten Becker so nicely puts it, “We are becoming independent of the established conventions and restrictions placed upon us by conformist thinking and profit margins yet we need a strong support network to stay independent.” 

That is why I believe in interdependence within the creative community. 

The exchange of ideas (whether through a blog, at a gallery, etc.) can influence our thinking, open our minds, and help us to build such networks. Great things can be accomplished among independent but interconnected individuals and groups who work together towards common goals. Another excellent example of this is blogging and how rapidly it has grown in such a short period of time. At first, it required some effort in overcoming long established but outdated thinking patterns, certain preconceived notions as well as misconceptions about what on the web is worth reading and what is not, but the reward has been that bloggers are recognized as a large reason for the success we see in this new creative economy. Design and craft blogging started off very small with one person, then two, and currently blogs number into the thousands. What better way to illustrate interdependence and its power to transform than online.

Another powerful illustration of interdependence is alive around you in this very art space. Many independent artists are here presenting their work and their interpretations of the theme “This I Believe” through art and text. We all want to believe, though we may not always know what the future brings as we cannot foretell the definite outcome before we reach it, but the more we believe in each other and ourselves the greater the end results will be. 

There is also the journey to consider because I believe that the journey alone is often more rewarding than the destination as new dependencies are often established and existing ones strengthened while at the same time the spirit of independence is fostered. Seeing it all in motion and experiencing it first hand as a blogger and freelance writer, I believe in interdependence even more but also believe that in order to see change we must be a part of that change and work alongside those who support it. No man is an island."

- Holly Becker

Have you given much thought to what being "indie" really means? And for those of you who shrug and say, "I am a very independent person, I don't need anyone to care for me," well have you thought that perhaps you need to readjust your thinking because no matter what you think - the reality is that you do need other people -- it's a part of being human. There is nothing wrong with needing help, friendship, guidance, support... I have found as an American expat living in Germany for nearly two years now that I need others in order to thrive in my local community more than ever. I also need those online in my communities to depend on as well. Even the crafter who makes clothing from her home in nowhereville, USA needs others -- she needs the big factory in China making the buttons she uses, supplied by her local craft store, so she can iron them onto her "eco-friendly" shirts and sell them on Etsy. And she needs bloggers and those online to spread the word about her products or else they're not going to sell until people start talking about them. It's a pretty simple recipe.

Some people think that bloggers cannot help them to promote their work and this is flawed thinking. My friend recently told me a story about a woman who makes things and though her work went viral online, she still says she owes none of her success to blogs. I'd like to know how many of her products she sold before she started her online shop and had blogs writing about her, then? Because if she was selling so well without blog coverage, why did she approach bloggers to talk about her work? People who want their work to be seen needs blogs just as much as they need any other form of press. In fact, once something is blogged a few times, the press often takes notice and writes a story about it.

The web is a great big open market and market research playground. If you are being written up frequently on blogs, you better believe people on the outside (editors, authors, store owners) will hear about you and contact you about your product. Of course, they'll act like they just "ran into" you without explaining how they found your stuff -- but you can bet that if you're not showing your products at fairs but you had a few bloggers (especially big well read blogs) write about your work, then they most likely found you via the internet.

Of course bloggers help them because these days, if your work isn't being blogged then it's obviously not catching the interest of your customers because most customers author blogs and are using sites like Facebook to talk about the things that interest them. On top of that, the big magazine all have editors who spend hours combing blogs to find new products and people to talk about. My blog, decor8, has editors from every major magazine and newspaper reading it on a weekly basis. Many editors write to me personally for suggestions for their stories. And while they'll never tell others that they do this, trust me, they do. And why shouldn't they? Editors and everyone else looking for stories go to where people are talking about things they like and the internet is just one big conversation that people in the know are wise to tap into.

We all need the other. We are all connected. I find that living in Germany I need other people more than ever before as I'm still learning a completely new way of life that still feels very "foreign" to me even after nearly two years of living here full-time. The more I admit that I need others, the more enjoyable my experiences become in my day-to-day life. The moment I try to pretend that I'm fine on my own and that I don't need this or that help, I start to go inward and things become really difficult for me. It's important to stay open and flexible and that is where admitting how much we need each other really helps.

What do you think about being independent vs. interdependent? How has it helped your business? Your expat life? 

(image: holly becker for haus maus)
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28 lovely comments:


The good and bad of life is manageable even enjoyable when we are in community. And I really enjoy the blogging community.


Amy@Pikaland said...

Holly, this is such a timely piece.

Nothing ever stays in a vacuum. Like you, my blog is combed by editors, writers and illustration agents alike, hoping to find the next new thing. (Of course, they never mention it as well!)

I'm all for spreading the word out there for up and coming artists and businesses because every little bit helps.

I'd like to reason that blogs, big or small are helping businesses around the world, and even if you may not have hit it big this time round, who knows the ripple that's waiting to happen because of it? We all need a helping hand, one way or another, and that's what a great community is all about -- lending a hand and returning the favor every once in a while.

art is beauty said...

what a great article, all artists tend to get locked up in their own little "caves". Because "Art" is such a personal thing, sometimes we become secluded. This happened to me last year as I spent many hours down in my basement alone...with my paints...Something that usually made me so happy, was starting to depress me.. I am not a loner and needed human conversation. Then I met a fellow artist and we decided to meet one day a week when possible; just to paint together. Its so nice to do something you love, yet also not be alone in doing it every single time. We give each other ideas and help and it is really neat to see 2 people paint the same thing and have it turn out so different...Thank you so much for this article...we all need a little bit of help...:)

Lisa said...

You're right, Holly. We become more interconnected the more we become independent.

I remember a very famous comedian long ago say that he was a self-made man and didn't never had help from the 'white man.' My response, "the white man bought tickets to come hear your jokes." I know I did. Personally, I thought that was a pretty careless statement.

Regardless of how independent we feel we are, we depend on sales to make a living. I'm completely unconcerned about the cultural, race, or religious background my mysterious shopper embodies. (Not to be confused with that fact that I can pick my customer out of a crowd and do it as a party trick). :)

A friend of a friend has supported me in some small way either by purchasing something from me or introduced my work to someone else who appreciates it -and I'm grateful. I just want to find them and give them a big hug.

So, yes, I believe the word Indie is really evolving into a state of lifestyle and a deeply woven interconnectedness that would otherwise wither and die without those lifelines.


Fine Hand said...

alot to think about, Holly. I absolutely count on the help of others for my business. I find it an enriching experience to network and believe if you help others succeed you will succeed in the long run!

tabithat said...

Great post. I am seen as "indie" retail and I love what that means when compared to "mainstream" retail, I like to think I'm "indie" in many ways both professionally and personally but when I say "indie" referring to myself or my shop I like to imagine that I really mean Individual...or unique. Interdependent is, to me, a crucial step in success for all of us "indies" who are trying to carve our little niches into the world. Helping hands, helping hearts and inter-indie publication is a mecca of possibility to open the eyes of the world to what we can, and do, offer.
My two cents. :)

Susan Faye said...

You hit the nail on the head. Without networking, including being featured on blogs, I would be a very lonely "independent" artist indeed. I love the idea of embracing interdependence-- really, it's how the whole world works whether we choose to acknowledge it or not!

stéphanie said...

I think Indie never meant independent but independent from the corporations. I have run my craft business for 15 years and I never had any other job, I do no consider myself independent ( there are constraints in any job) but when choices have to be made there is where the indie part kicks in. Even big businesses are interdependent, but the essence of Indie for me is in the fact that any decision process is self imposed.

OrangeFarmhouse said...

I think it's is so true that we all need each other. If you have a story to tell you need someone to lister, if you have a product to sell you need someone to buy it. and although my blog is very little even I hear that editors have spotted something on my blog and after that contact a seller or other person. I think it would be a good idea if we sometime stand still and thank each other. So Thank you Holly for writing this post so I could think of one or two people to call to say thank you my self!

TJ said...

What a beautiful post Holly. My blog was really the only way I had social contact my first years here in Germany.

And not to perpetuate the stereotype of the "lonely blogger" but I can't imagine what it would have been like without it.

I'm thankful everyday for the creative people I've come into contact because of it. And I appreciate all the talented people putting posts out there like you do.

For instance, your articles about the upcoming Creative Convention in Sept. have me so excited. I'm going to be in MN during this time. Now I'm trying to figure out how to attend. Without blogs, I would have no idea what was even going on from here.

*I've got crazy blog love!!*
Best wishes from Ochsenfurt, tj

Kimia Kline said...

as an artist and ex-pat that's just relocated to india, i found this article to be so timely. never before have i found myself so dependent on my networks around the world for support and communication than now--when i am the absolute farthest away. in persian we have a saying that goes, "mountains never touch, but people always do." its essentially the same idea as "no man is an island." true in every language and culture.

Heather @ Post Road said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! Finally I am figuring out that this will be the key to me taking my next leap! Darn exciting, yet scary. Thanks for the reminder :)

Anonymous said...

I am not a blogger nor an artist. I am merely a fan of blogs who avidly checks in on her favorites daily and suffers withdrawals on the weekends when not many bloggers post.
I found your posting very well written and interesting. There is, however, one more point I would like to chime in with -- and that is -- that I hate the term lurker which is used by some, not all, bloggers to refer to readers of their blogs who do not have a blog. I find it offensive and somewhat hostile. I have stopped following a couple of blogs for that reason. All that aside, I have discovered and purchased some amazing products through blogs and have referred others who are searching for specific items as I have come across them.

summer.breeze said...

I love love love this piece and wish I could hit more than a hundred times of "like" for it. "Being independent means that you have accepted being interdependent....." this is such a witty line and great reminder to me. Thank you, Holly!

FrauSchmitt said...

You're perfectly right. Life doesn't work without caring and living with others. I like your thoughts about interdependance!
What else are all those networks good for? It's definitely one reason why I started blogging, sharing my thoughts and ideas with many people out there and being happy about others getting in touch about these ideas. The funny thing about it is, it's people you mostly don't know, you're partly keeping anonymous, as long as you like and if you decide to get to know the others in person, everybody is free to do so.

Take care,

DENISE. said...

Thanks Holly. As a photographer, I work for myself but feel like I'm nothing without my support system. Recently I was really struggling with a work issue and it's my fellow photographers (who are also GOOD friends) who I turned to to help me sort it all out. So, while you are talking about a lot of different ways about how being interconnected is so important, that's how it hit me today -- that I'm so honored to be part of a community of independent minded people with whom we would be nothing without each other.

Monica said...

I totally think that because we're connected it doesn't mean we are not independent. Or independent thinkers/artists/makers.

I a vacuum creativity would dry out; that doesn't mean being influenced by the world/other people but internalising the external and filtering it too to create from the inside... and then new things are born.

Barbara said...

Your words are inspiring and you speak a big truth here. Humans are connected and especially if you deal with communication (I do) you discover it's impossible to not be connected with others. You are in every aspect of life.

I recently started working in my own studio, a choice that came after a lot of thinking, and I noticed I keep connecting with others in my job and life: clients, other designers etc. now more than ever. And this is so cool because I constantly learn from people things I could never dream of.

Jacque Nodell said...

As I prepare to become an expat (on a very tight budget no less) in a few weeks, I have quickly learned how interdependency can be a lifesaver. I have always considered myself very independent, but this move to another continent without the help of family and friends and the support of my blog readers would be impossible. Flexibility has also helped. Thanks for the timely post, Holly!

Anonymous said...

Why buy bottled water when German tapwater is absolutely fine to drink? If you want it sparkling, get a soda stream. I'm an expat living in Germany and don't understand why so many people buy water by the crate...

Stephanie said...

Wonderful insights as always, Holly.
As an illustrator, I couldn't agree more on this, The blogging world really helped a lot in spreading loads of ideas, inspiration and creativity. And It's really nice that there are a lot of people willing to share and brave enough to be open a window of oneself for others to see.

mecamo said...

Well to express my thoughts in English is too difficult for me, but your words are totally what I think (haha,I mean that what I've understood of it, argh!).
My husband is an American, too and also lives now the last 2 years here in Germany, without the internet-connection he probably would be very feel lonely, of course he never would admit it (hehe)...
I have a tiny blog and just few people read it, but I'm happy to have the chance to communicate with creative or non-creative people from all over the world, I love it..(.I am not a professional blogger, but have a good excuse and blame my bad English...)

Independence means for me, be yourself, believe in your dreams, put your dreams into reality and share your dreams to others, share your little time and the rest comes by itself...

Have a wonderful and sunny weekend!

Paula Jo @ Home and Garden Decor said...

What a nice post, and you are right Holly, we all need someone. Holly, everything you said makes sense, and if we just sit back and realize what a difference people makes in our lives. I know, I couldn't do everything on my own, even if I tried. Thanks Holly for such an fantastic post.

Emily-Claire Ballou said...

This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing two beautifully written pieces that came from the heart. I am working towards becoming a photo stylist and I am learning now more than ever how much I must depend on others to create my desired path. I cannot be afraid of asking for help because these connections, friendships, and partnerships are so important in reaching success. If you close yourself off to the world, you are inhibiting yourself and your ideas will never be able to break free and grow. After reading your thoughts, I am proud to say that I am interdependent! :)

Francesca from Façonner said...

Often I think that the most independent people are those who are accepting of interdependency as well. It's ultimately those who pretend to be 'tough' and not in need of anyone else who are the most vulnerable which ultimately tampers with one's sense of independence and empowerment.

F x

Mrs Bok - The Bok Flock said...

I love being Interconnected but whilst I dont exactly like being interdependent, I accept it.

I love the blogging world and connecting with people everywhere.

Bettina said...

Hi Holly, totally off topic: how would you react when soneone comes up to you on one of your walks through the forest and just says: "Mrs Becker, I'm a big fan."?
And yes, I'm asking this questions because I was too shy to do just that.

Tammy said...

nicely said. I think this post is timely, and I think when you look at it 3 years, 10 years from now, you'll find it's timeless, and you'll be thinking, 'huh, I had a little bit of wisdom going on back then'. interdependence is a natural human state, I think - in business & in life.

As always, thanks for sharing.

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