Alexandra Sklar is the founder of The Merchant Home and the host of #YearOfOpen: a year-long initiative to explore openness, transparency, sharing, and conversation amongst creative entrepreneurs. Below, she offers insights learned from the first few months of the project. As it turns out, openness isn't always easy, but it provides priceless rewards, both personally and professionally.
Openness. This word has been on my mind, and with the advent of the new year, I decided to set this as my personal theme for the year: a complex concept to explore and learn from, to offer challenges personally and socially, to help me edit and simplify, a thread of connectivity to make me more present with the things I do and the people I spend my time with.
For me, the word connotes sharing and connection, and I decided to make this a professional initiative, not just a personal project. In early January, I introduced #YearOfOpen, an online and in-person collective of creative minds, pursuing openness and growth related to craft and business, together. Simply putting up that landing page has been the most invigorating thing I've ever done for my business: I've been in touch with incredibly talented people, met new artists, and reconnected with colleagues that I'd always regretted losing touch with.
I'm just about a month into this personal-meets-professional project, and I can see there is much more ahead for me to learn and experience. I'm no expert on openness, sharing, or transparency by any means. This month has been grounding. It's been connective. It's been creatively inspiring. It's felt purposeful.
So, with the caveat that I am quite early in this, thought I would share a few insights I've gleaned about openness already:
Openness is uncomfortable.
Talking to other parents at the park. Sharing work with an audience before it reaches that perceived state of perfection. Becoming a connector of people. As an introvert, these are all naturally uncomfortable for me. But in pushing myself to be open in small ways, I'm feeling more present, more active in creating my days, and more creatively inspired.
Openness is physical.
An unexpected and early insight here: being open face-to-face is simpler and brings me more satisfaction than sharing online. It leads to conversation, to connection, and to new friendships.
Openness has scale.
I'm starting small, exploring the sharing of information and story. Others are sharing projects, processes, bodies of work. In the course of a year, we are on a path to move from sharing onto learning, discovery, and collaboration.
Openness is connective.
Existing behind our screens and in passionate pursuit of our work can bring isolation. Amongst the creatives that have joined #YearOfOpen (writers, makers, strategists, teachers, designers, even gardeners), there is a shared story: they've all expressed that what they are seeking from the group is connection and conversation.
Openness requires balance.
There are certain points in our life that are naturally connective. On the other side, there are moments that are personal and more sacred, and the act of not sharing those (and giving myself license to not be open here) makes them more treasured.
Openness breeds more openness.
I'm simply a conversation starter. What is incredible is the willingness of others to join. Often, this is happening more privately, in a way that builds relationship- an email exchange with a stranger, a conversation over coffee, or a friend forwarding a topically-relevant article.
To wrap up: I'm learning that "openness" is a much bigger word than I initially thought. It is powerful, as it is deeply personal. For me, exploring openness slowly, and in small ways is providing a renewed sense of purpose and happiness. Conversations are more real, work is more meaningful, times of quiet are more restorative, and I see growth ahead.