Early Struggles (Making the Site Part One)

I spent a solid two weeks planning this site, learning Squarespace, and doing redesign and troubleshooting. For those reading this post, a warning. The prose comes off over-dramatic to someone who has done this with no worries. But some of us develop blocks preventing us from doing some particular thing. My blocks came from a mix of anxiety, depression, and a fear of the unknown. So the struggle was real in my mind and I write this as honestly as I can to give encouragement to anyone facing a similar challenge.


I tried setting up The Failure Store a while back. My friend James Hough volunteered to help. He learned fast and I wound up backing off the Squarespace side of things to concentrate on the bigger picture. The site began to take shape. We hit a few roadblocks, but James pushed us through.

Then I realized while the store was looking good, the full site wasn't serving an original goal of also being the online presence for my art. We were limited by Squarespace's templates in how we could organize the site. One function seemingly had to suffer for the other. It wasn't working and I put the site on hold.

Mistake: I avoided the responsibility of learning Squarespace when James came on board. Because we wanted to do more than set up a simple gallery, there was a learning curve. By losing an understanding of the platform it became easier to avoid digging in, and easy to put a stop to the project altogether.

The Pressure

Frankly, having a website, and maintaining it, was not a priority. As I've worked on this site and interacted with others on their sites, now I kick myself in the butt. I didn't want to take time away from art to make the site, but why bother with the art if I don't have a platform to share it? (I'm not into art for self-therapy.)

Having been half a recluse, it should not have been shocking, but in the span of a few months, I met a rash of people who didn't know my work. I relied on a years-old reputation that no longer had value. I did a Google search and realized my image presence was nil. The other Sean Slatterys had taken over. Next, I thought what kind of example was I setting teaching art to students who couldn't look up what I make. Last, Tilting the Basin, an exhibition billing itself as the most important Nevada exhibition since Dave Hickey's Diaspora (perhaps hyperbole, perhaps not; we'll soon see) was approaching and I realized I probably wouldn't be there to make connections with anyone interested in my art. A website is goddamned crucial.

The Planning

Something would have to be different this time. The first steps involved copy paper and a Sharpie marker. Forget nice looking sitemaps and organized plans. I scribbled and scratched and captured all the things I wanted the site to do, how I thought it should flow, random thoughts of what it might one day do. From here I made a rough sketch of how my work could exist with a store. It wound up not looking much like the site you see now, but I had a start. I spent a little time rewriting the notes, ensuring not to obsess.

Normally, this is the point where something goes wrong in my head. Maybe I hate my handwriting, go the internet to look at other people's "perfect" handwriting, move down a level of depression, and go draw or exercise or something. Whatever, it's irrational avoidance. Instead, I opened Squarespace and went to the Pages section, where you create your web pages. After attempting to create a page that would hold all the thumbnails of one category (painting, for example) I realized Squarespace did not organize sites the way I expected. My plans would not work.

This led to a trip to their Settings and Design sections. So that I understand how they want sites organized, I went through every possibility, documenting what the options controlled, and making notes of my choices. In many cases, I made entries on a Future To-do list for options that weren't crucial to launching (Google AdWords, Mailchimp, etc.). I watched tutorial videos, which to Squarespace's credit are easy to follow and have great notations that allow you to jump to parts you want to hear first or revisit.

After two or three days I felt confident to start the actual build. I by no means knew everything about the interface and how to best organize the site, but my FEAR of doing so was gone. Just doing something, anything, that's related, moves you closer to accomplishing your goal than sitting paralyzed by fear and indecision. I'm learning this late in life (I didn't previously have this problem and I don't know why it developed).

This confidence was crucial. It has led to many positive changes in other areas with art-making, learning, and performing. For those stuck at the beginning of the START of an endeavor, this is the key. And this lesson is a good place to end the post and continue to Part Two.

(I learned amazing ways to learn and work from a Coursera course titled Learning How to Learn. I'll be posting about it soon, but for those who are interested from the title alone, go there now! I recommend it for students, teachers, and anyone interested in how to improve their skills acquisition.)