Since I started at the farmers market in May, I’ve tried to write this letter immediately before or immediately after, to give you a picture of what it’s like starting an independent business, by myself, during a pandemic, after a lifetime of dreaming. Four months in, I’m not sure that’s the best schedule. Saturdays find me flailing for horizontal space in my tiny apartment to get all the loaves ready, so I don’t have to keep the oven going all day during this 20+ degree summer. Mondays find me in that kitchen, now covered with flour and dirty dishes, looking for a tiny corner of space to make my breakfast.
I describe this letter as a way to keep up with my attention span, and since I started writing regularly again in March, all my attention has been contained in this one space, the main room of my apartment, both kitchen and dining, working and lounging (my bedroom, bathroom, and laundry are on the other side of the door). I feed myself, I bake for the market, I keep my brain occupied. Sometimes I manage to sleep, and then I sleep too much. There’s not else more to say.
One promise I made when I moved my writing to Substack is that I wouldn’t give you another list of hyperlinks for you to read. This is a common newsletter addition, and there are many people who do it better than me (Anne Helen Petersen is one of them, and she just announced a big change to her newsletter.) I think of this more like a penpal letter than a publication. But I’m still a writer. My one-line social media description is “baker / teacher / zinester.” I haven’t done much of the latter recently.
(Except for the instructional zine I wrote to go with your dried sourdough starter, as seen below in the most recent display. You can download the PDF here.)
Sunday was my last August market. There are just two months left in the season, which means four more markets for me. Time being what it is during this pandemic, I don’t yet believe we’re here. I started with 13 dates on my schedule, and now it’s time to start thinking about what comes next. I started with this long-burning dream of my own space where I can bake or write—then sell!—and now I’m here. I made it happen. I don’t yet believe it’s real, and my next moves are the most critical.
This is the point in each of my previous ventures where I retreat. My brain notices other people noticing, it gets scared, and I run away. (I say “my brain,” but what I really mean here is “my depression.”) My brain both craves and rejects attention. As soon as others see what I’m doing, I’m sure they’ll also see the mistakes. Do you know that comic with the person comparing their small cake to someone else’s big fancy cake? They’re thinking, Aw, that cake is so much better than mine. Then someone else shows up with a knife and fork, ready to eat, and thinks, Wow! Two cakes!
That’s what my Impostor Syndrome feels like to me. I know I’m good at what I do. I don’t doubt my talent (most of the time). What I doubt is whether the things at which I excel are what people want.
These last nine Sundays at the farmers market have taught me a lot about what people want. (Apparently, not sweets. Who’d’ve thought?) It’s not everything I want to do, but it’s a place to start. We can go from here, and where we end up might be all together different from where my dream started. With a few weeks off until September, I can turn off my baking brain and turn back to writing, zinemaking. I’m genuinely looking forward to the winter and the off-season. I have so many books I want to write for you, for my customers, for all of those people who come up to my table and ask, “How can I get my bread to stop falling?”
baker / teacher / zinester. I was the latter in 2019. I’m the former on market weekends. The middle title is currently my day job, but now it’s time to bring all three together into one independent life.