Friday, April 27, 2012

Riding the Inspiration Rollercoaster

For me Creative Inspiration is more like a rollercoaster than  a Bullet Train. I could structure my life around a train ride, but the rollercoaster is much trickier. I don't want to miss the rush when it comes. During the dips, I may think of nothing more inspired to do than chores, & you can believe that's the last thing I want to do! Often my favorite alternate activities (Duplicate Bridge & visiting my 3 little Gremlins & friends) seem to collide with the unexpected return of Creative Inspiration.

But Creative Inspiration is worth waiting for. I feel totally energized. Can't wait to get up, throw down some breakfast, & get started on something I literally dreamed up the night before. One idea breeds more ideas & more dreams where even engineering details get worked out. At that point I'm in a kind of zone. My creative process rollercoaster is climbing that exciting upward hill... up & up. Love it! Life is good!

I was in such a zone during January & February, which happened to coincide with 2 major trips. Readers might remember that traveling for me absolutely MUST include my beading paraphenalia. (No barking or fleas involved!) I'm still posting the many items made during those travel months.

BUT returning home meant facing my annual tax ordeal-- a major Buzz-Kill! My only inspired thought during that period was how to convince my husband that we need a CPA! BTW I think I've accomplished that mission! Stay tuned:)

But 1 week after Tax Day, I still felt drained. Creative Inspiration had shut down. How could I get it on track again?

Frustrated, I made myself sit at the workbench & start drawing "something." Anything... without editing. You might call this the Kick the Mule Inspiration method. But at some point a few ideas took form. Before I could over-think, I made a template & sawed out 2 large shapes from a piece of VERY expensive sterling sheet, hoping I wouldn't financially regret my new tactic. Then I started playing with the 14k gold-filled wire to make a design I'd sketched, which quickly morphed into something quite different! A few solder points later, you see the result. I could not have been more surprised that kicking the mule not only got it moving, but could produce a result I loved this much. "Swirl in a Hollow" hadn't yet been posted in my Etsy shop, but within 2 hours of posting on my Facebook page, I had a buyer. AKB loved the earrings.

So my new philosophy about Creative Inspiration is this-- If the Rollercoaster method isn't working, I'll try kicking the mule. But I really don't have a lot of confidence in this method yet! QUESTION: So what gets your creative braincells moving again?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

DIY Taxpayers Accept Defeat

We're caving in, biting the dust, waving the white flag, calling it quits... just shy of jumping off the cliff. It KILLS me to confess this:

Next year we're hiring a CPA to do our tax return.

You might shake your head & wonder what's the big deal. That's because you don't know us/me- 43 years married to the King of DIY and unwitting convert to the title Queen of DIY. Anyone who KNOWS us... I mean realllllly knows us... will appreciate the concession this represents & might just worry about our mental health. Spend money on something we can do ourselves, even if it kills us? IMPOSSIBLE!

15 years ago Turbo Tax brought relief to our annual self-inflicted manual torture. After the 1st year of transition into TT, April 15 wasn't as much hell as before. In the early '80s, I'd had 3 tax seasons working the Help line for the IRS, where I learned how to read the tortuous language of the publications & follow the maze to fill out a form. Compared to those challenges, TT's Query method was a breeze. But sometimes the Query was ambiguous. When I didn't know how to interpret a TT question, I'd try each interpretation, then find where on the tax return TT put my answer. The location of my answer on the tax return plus some familiarity with taxes & typical forms taught me how I was supposed to interpret that Query.  I'd then make a note about it in an ongoing README file I'd Save for each successive year. I confess that I was pretty proud of myself.

Mind you, TT did not save me from the frustrating weeks gathering & organizing the data about my micro handmade jewelry business. (Yes, torching & hammering metal can be a great stress reliever!) Beginning Inventory, Cost of Goods Sold, Ending Inventory, Manufacturing Supplies, Depreciation remain curse words to me from February through April 15. But after barely surviving the organizing of this data about my teeny, tiny business, TT enabled me to put it all on Schedule C.

BUT THIS YEAR TT HAD A BUG! Yes, I learned that my personal God-in-a-Box was flawed.

After barely surviving another annual organizing effort, TT's bug almost finished me off. It kept wanting to checkmark inappropriate things related to our retirement contributions & would not retain our corrections. I dug deep into TT's bowels of worksheets, "Data Source," & "About Line x" references, but could not find whatever hidden glitch forced these incorrect checkmarks. Amazingly, every IRS form TT filled out for us appeared to have correct data. So after 2 weeks of hair-pulling & family feuds, we crossed our fingers & efiled this *!%&$ return. BUT I was no longer a True Believer. I had lost my faith in my God-in-a box.

Tonight my husband & I celebrated our After-Tax Freedom with a huge steak dinner at Outback Steakhouse! The TT fiasco gave us the final reason to throw in the towel on DIY taxes. We decided we are too old (especially after this April fiasco) to waste 2-3 months stressing out over this stuff.

We're collecting names of good CPA's on Seattle's Eastside. There's only 1 problem. Do we dump a baggie full of stuff on his/her desk & say goodbye or what? We have absolutely no clue!