Some Notes on Determination

Determination.

Sometimes it kicks in at the exact moment you need it.

I surely would have given up on my business this year without it.

In fact, I almost did.

The last eighteen months around here have been wildly challenging, confronting, and just dang difficult. Most of it I can’t share publicly, but suffice it to say that I find it miraculous, given all that’s transpired, that I’m still running my solo business and haven’t voluntarily checked myself into Butner.

That series of events, combined with a recent slow business month, had me convinced I should seriously consider chucking the business altogether and go get myself a . . . gasp . . . j-o-b.

You know, consistent bi-weekly paycheck, employer paid health insurance, paid vacay, a team of colleagues to interact with, opportunities to advance, the whole nine.

Is Getting a 9-5 Really the Answer?

I thought about it and I thought about it, and finding a 9-5 job in the copywriting and digital marketing field felt like the best decision I could make under the circumstances.

I was exhausted; I felt like I simply didn’t have the energy to hustle in my business the way I wanted/needed to, and work out the stuff going in my personal life at the same time.

So I started spending 4-6 hours of my precious business time each week job searching online, researching companies, writing kick-ass cover letters, tweaking and polishing my resume, and sending said resume for jobs I thought I was a great fit for.

Lo and behold, I got an interview pretty quickly after I set this in motion. With a big, global company, for a copywriter/editor position I would have loved to have. With a nice salary, regular paycheck, and good benefits. Etc.

Can I tell you how excited I was?!?!

Wow, I thought, this could be a dream come true! The answer to my prayers! Working with a team again, instead by myself at the dining room table most days! Knowing exactly how much I’m going to earn! Direct deposits into my bank account twice a month! Relying on someone else to make all the work-related decisions!

I really, really want this, I thought. This would be absolute bliss, I thought.

You know what happened?

My car broke down on way to interview, no kidding. Still, I was only four minutes late. I called my HR contact and the person I was interviewing with, and they were both kind and understanding about it.

Alas, I must not have sold my candidacy convincingly enough, because they didn’t offer me the position.  It’s been long enough now that I know I am never hearing from them.

Initially, I was disappointed. Not devastated, but genuinely disappointed.

(And after I spent all that dough on a new haircut, highlighting my hair, new shoes for my interview outfit, and so on. Ah, well, these things happen, no?)

But This Was Good. This Was Exactly What I Needed.

After my 9-5 flirtation, and the initial sting of rejection of the big, successful, global company deciding not to hire me, I did a whole, whole lot of thinking.

And soul-searching.

And journaling.

And inspiration-seeking.

I binge-listened to podcasts. I read dozens of blog posts. I sought out my favorite business people online, and read and listened to every story they wrote or told of overcoming great odds to get where they are. If I’d ever bought a course from them, I went back through their course material.

I asked myself if giving up on my business was really the answer.

I wrote a question in my journal, “What do you really, truly want? If your business could look a different way, would you stick it out?”

After a week or two of what often felt like self-indulgent navel-gazing, I started to feel better. Motivation and inspiration began to creep back in. Just a little at first, then more as the days passed.

My determination kicked in.

I made a promise to myself to go all out this last quarter of the year, to really, truly give KDH Ink all the love, devotion, strategery, focus and commitment I can possibly muster. To work harder than I’ve ever worked, or at least smarter, if harder isn’t the answer.

To get out of my comfort zone and do things I’ve been putting off for far too long because I don’t feel “ready.” To finally release a small course or other product/program. To go after a couple of dream clients I’ve been wanting to work with. The list is long and I won’t bore you with it here, but there is a list. Because I love me some lists.

Then There Was This Wealth Mindset Book . . .

It just so happened that while I was in the navel-gazing phase around my business, I was reading Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, at the same time.

(Highly recommended, by the way, especially if you like a sense of humor and fun stories of mild debauchery served up with your wealth-attaining advice. The book is both practical and funny, and you can’t beat that combination when it comes to finance/personal development advice, which is often chock full of platitudes and greasy earnestness.)

What she has to say around determination when it comes to improving your finances also applies to business. Bigly.

I read the passage below over and over again, and decided to adopt it as my business rallying cry for 4Q 2017.

I’m going to share some Sincero’s thoughts on determination here. Just replace “desire to get rich” and other money talk with “desire to create the business you love,” and you’ll get the idea.

(If you’re sensitive around the whole idea of “getting rich” and think it’s shallow, selfish, or corrupt, you might want to skip this part.)

On page 141-143 of the book, Sincero says: “Deciding to get rich means you put that decision above all else (except doing illegal, amoral, revolting things for money, of course). You need to be ruthless with yourself because you’re not only growing a new moneymaking mindset, you’re battling a whole lot of subconscious beliefs about money that you’ve never faced before. Any chink in your armor will offer your old conditioning an opportunity to take over and steer you off course, which it will do so quickly you won’t know what hit you.”

You can’t, according to Sincero:

  • Be weird about the fact that you not only desire to get rich, but that you’re going to focus everything you’ve got on making it happen.
  • Make sure everything is perfect before starting.
  • Be precious about getting rid of all the distractions in your life.
  • Whine about how little time you have or how nobody around you is supportive or that you’re already working forty hours a week, how the hell am I supposed to do more?
  • Need to know exactly where you’re going before moving forward.
  • Get advice from people who aren’t farther along than you are.

To all that, I say, yes, yes, and YES. OMG, yes.

All very good advice to implement in your business.

I would love to wrap this up neatly with a bow and tell you my exact plan for 4Q 2017, but I’m still working that out.

What I do know is that somewhere in the last few weeks, a mighty determination came roaring back.

I’m ready to get hyper-focused on my business again and kick 4Q’s arse. 

 

How to Stop Whining and Enjoy the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Out of Your Unexpected Downtime

(Image: Opening of new Forsyth County Central Library, Winston-Salem, NC. One of the many experiences I got to enjoy during my recent downtime.)

This week I basked in the giggly glow of spending three glorious days slap in the middle of an ordinary work week with my best friend of 30+ years.

Yep, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week was ours to do with just as we pleased.

Mind you, this mid-week downtime was not planned, not part of a staycation, and not, if I’m honest, exactly what I wanted, at least not initially.

In fact, it was creating all kinds of stress for me.

See, I did the thing you’re never, not-in-a-million-years-E-V-E-R, supposed to do as a copywriter/marketer/web strategist for hire – I didn’t market myself near enough during all those months I was up-to-my-eyeballs busy with client work.

In fact, for the last few years I’ve been blessed to have enough client inquiries from folks who found me through my website, that my project schedule has been full to the gills for a very long time.

During that time, I haven’t had to actively market or promote myself, other than sending an email to my subscribers 2-3 times a year to announce a special or a new service.

(Ah, the magical appeal of nailing your marketing message, and having a website, blog, and newsletter that conveys it. These things have served me so, so well.)

But then it happened – a client who provided 25% of my monthly income mysteriously went AWOL with no explanation (never, ever, and I mean EVER, work with a client without the benefit of a contract, no matter how honest, above-board, and ethical they seem. Because when they decide, inexplicably, that you are entirely disposable, you will be left scratching your head while nervously regarding the moths flying around in your bank account).

Then my longest”-term client, who I’ve been working with for seven years, had very little work for me in August. And to compound the problem, I was coming to the end of two big one-off copywriting projects right around the same time.

Wherefore, oh wherefore, my usual monthly income?

‘Twas my fault though, so I cannot complain. Can I?

The Silver Lining

Alas, this late August downtime, as stressful and unwanted as it initially was, allowed me to spend three glorious days and nights with my best gal pal who lives 40 minutes away in the next town over, going out to dinner, enjoying flutes of bubbly, savoring a couple of glasses of a most delicious Pinot Blanc from the Willamette Valley, and imbibing a refreshing beer or two (not all on the same night, ha ha).

Also, eating cheeseburgers two nights in a row, watching many episodes of Arrested Development while laughing our fool heads off, scarfing down Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream, and eating these luscious things called “cake bars,” from a beloved local bakery.

There were many long conversations about subjects both serious and silly, lunches out in the middle of the day (this was a revelation to me, since I usually wolf down avocado toast while working on client projects during lunch), a visit to the gorgeous, newly renovated public library in town, and dinner and a movie (“The Big Sick” – highly recommended) with popcorn, M & M’s, and real Coke, not the diet kind, on the final night of my visit.

It’s not that I never see my BFF, it’s just that normally when I’m there for a multi-day visit, I sit at her dining room table chained to my computer for 8+ hours or more. And while we spend a couple of hours together in the evening doing fun stuff, I’m always thinking ahead to the next day’s workload, deliverables, and deadlines.

But this visit wasn’t like that. It was like being on vacation. It was liberating and refreshing and full of the kind of quality time I don’t usually get to have with my dearest friend in the middle of the week. And once I let myself lean into it, instead of worrying myself silly laser-focusing on my slow-business-month woes, I relaxed and enjoyed the best three days I’ve had in a long, long time.

It was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.

Now, I don’t have some grand transformation to share (of the “I’ll-never-let-my-business-get-in-the way-of-living-my-life again” variety, because I know that ain’t the case), or an inspirational meme-worthy lesson to impart, but I do know this:

This is what life is for. Experiences. Fun. Downtime. Enjoying your life when you’re busy, and when you’re not. Embracing the middle-of-the-week blessings that come your way, despite said moths flying around in your bank account.

And not whining like a baby about the slower times in business. (Ahem . . . especially when you could have done something to prevent it. Hello, consistent marketing.)

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On Setting New Year’s Resolutions

Ah, January. The time for New Year’s resolutions.

I don’t actually do resolutions, but I am a habitual goal setter.

Recently as I was cleaning out old papers and files, I found goals I’d written going back to 2011.

I’m sorry to say that many of them are still unfulfilled, all these years later.

Yes, some of the very same goals that have been on my list each year for the last five are still there, wondering when they will get the honor of being crossed off, silently mocking my inability to achieve them.

After the goal review, I had a bout of self-loathing so profound I was inconsolable for the rest of the day, unable to do anything but lounge around in my pajamas and eat Ben & Jerry’s straight out of the carton while watching re-runs of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Then, as I was driving over to a New Year’s Eve party a few days later, I got to thinking about this. I thought, hmm, if I want that satisfying feeling that comes from getting to the end of the week, month, quarter and year with a whole slew of targets hit and objectives achieved, I should set goals I know I will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, achieve.

So I came up with a list of such goals. To wit:

:: I will NOT begin a regular yoga practice.

:: I will NOT lose 10 pounds.

:: I will NOT attend a writing retreat this year.

Etc.

Then I remembered a piece I once read by my favorite writer, Nora Ephron, in which she talks about not achieving her New Year’s resolutions the previous year. She figures she’s aiming too low, so she decides to set goals that are “completely out of reach.”

After all, she figures, she has as much chance of achieving the out of reach goals as she does the more “realistic” resolutions. Thus her resolutions for 2008 include things like “End the war in Iraq,” “Make sure a Democrat is elected president,” and “Start a universal health care program.” 

Brilliant, I thought, that’s exactly what I’ll do!

So I took a page out of Nora’s playbook, and came up with my own big, lofty, unattainable, yet highly desirable, goals.

My Top Five “Completely Out of Reach” Goals for 2016:

:: Get Donald Trump to apologize for all the heinous things he’s said and people he’s egregiously and wrongly insulted this year: immigrants, women, Mexicans, disabled people, journalists, Muslims, and on and on and on, AND ON, because the list is long. So.Very.Long.

:: Solve the refugee crisis. I know this is a complex problem and finding a solution won’t be easy. But if the world’s wealthiest nations come together, I think we can get it done. After all, it’s a massive humanitarian crisis that impacts the entire globe, not just our little neck of the woods, where narrow-minded fear-mongering has caused people to lose their damn minds. Amnesty International has some good ideas for how world leaders can work together to solve the crisis.

:: Stop deportation raids against women and children from Central America. Central American immigrants, many of them children, are fleeing extreme violence and poverty, and they should be treated like asylum-seekers and allowed to stay in the U.S. This isn’t about politics, it’s about treating people with basic human decency, rather than resorting to inhumane fear tactics like storming into people’s homes in wee hours to round them up and deport them.

Again, this is another complex problem. But there will always be people who attempt to escape terrible conditions in their home countries and find a better life for themselves and their families in the U.S., even if it means risking their lives to get here. And no wall, and no draconian, inhumane border patrol “tactics” will ever completely put an end to it, as long as there is poverty, violence, and lack of opportunity to escape from.

:: And, as with Nora’s 2008 resolutions, I want to get a Democrat elected this year. I’m pretty sure this will be a slam-dunk, but you never really know, do you? I mean, just a couple of months ago I was saying there was no way on Earth Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee, and now he just might be, the way things are going. But I must admit, as much as it scares me for our country that any of the Republican choices still in the race could be the nominee, or even more terrifying, end up President, it sure has been an entertaining comedy freak-show on the Republican side, hasn’t it? Ah, silver linings.

:: And as a Southerner, I must confess, I’ve always wanted to learn to make the perfect biscuit. I’m a pretty decent cook, but I’ve never mastered baking. In fact, every time I’ve tried to bake, it’s been mostly disastrous. As a Southerner, what does it mean that I can’t make a proper biscuit? It’s positively shameful. It will not do. So if anyone has a newbie-friendly biscuit recipe, send it my way.

Happy New Year!

3 Things I’m Obsessed With This Week

Obsess Definition

If there’s one  low-brow, pop-culture thing I love (actually, there are so many it’s hard to choose, but . . .), its Bravo TV’s late night, interactive talk show, “Watch What Happens Live,” which comes on Sunday – Thursday at 11:00 pm. It’s wildly entertaining, silly good fun. Definitely not your standard, boring, run-of-the-mill talk show.

How could it be? It’s full of oddball games, celebrities swilling cocktails live on air (and sometimes getting visibly & hilariously inebriated), and show host Andy Cohen’s signature goofiness, all of which I happen to L-O-V-E, love.

There’s this one thing Andy does every night that I tune in for, even I don’t end up watching the rest of the show (girl needs her beauty sleep, dontcha know) called, “Three Things I’m Obsessed with Tonight.”

Inspired by his nightly list, I made my own list of three things I’m obsessed with this week: 

:: This recently released video of Missy Elliott’s new single “WTF (Where They From)is wildly creative, visually absorbing, and inexplicably mesmerizing. I’ve watched it at least three dozen times in the last two days. (I said obsessed, didn’t I?)

My favorite description of the song comes from Slant Magazine: “’WTF’ pairs Pharrell’s paint-can beats with deep, sinuous 808s, and if the track lacks an obvious hook, it makes up for it with sheer swagger. Of course, Missy doesn’t miss a beat, spitting rhymes like it’s 2005.”

:: This short film (8 minutes long), called “Arctic Swell: Surfing the Ends of the Earth,” about surfing in Antarctica, is a beautifully shot work of art, and demonstrates the lengths people will go to when they’re passionate about something, even if that something is decidedly dangerous.

:: Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I read it the first time inside a week, then immediately turned back to page one and started reading it all over again. Despite what the New York Times reviewer says (and I love the New York Times, but, c’mon, “magical mumbo jumbo?”), Gilbert’s book is well worth a read if you’re a creative person (and we all are) who struggles to do the creative thing that lights you up because of fear, self-doubt, naysayers or other irritating gremlins.

And there ya have it, three things I’m obsessed with this week.

XO,

Kimberly

P.S. Do you enjoy reading about art, creativity & the creative process, how other creatives get their work done, and other assorted (and sometimes counter-intuitive) stories of inspiration? Then you should probably sign up for Austin Kleon’s newsletter. It’s one of my favorites, and I’m on hundreds of newsletter lists. (I am not making that up.)

Feeling Down About the State of Your Business? Make an Asset List to Pull Yourself Out of the Funk

Make Your Business Asset List

If you’ve spent any time doing personal growth work, then you’ve likely heard some variation of the expression, “what you appreciate, appreciates.”

Also known as:

“Energy flows where attention goes.”

“What you focus on expands.”

“You attract what you think about.”

“Energy follows thought.”

And so on.

Practicing an “abundance mindset” or “prosperity consciousness” (or simply a positive outlook if you don’t happen to be into personal growth lingo), is very important to the success of your business.

You’ve no doubt experienced this.

When things are going well, you feel unstoppable, on top of the world, insert your favorite cliché here, and you’re more motivated than ever to do the next big thing on your business to-do list, the thing that will get you closer to your dream scenario, even if it feels huge and uncomfortable and scary.

You’ve probably noticed that when you feel positive about your business and act from that state of consciousness, more good things come your way.

But when things aren’t going so well – your last promotion launched to crickets, you made very few sales last month and your income ain’t looking too damn skippy this month either, no one is reading your blog posts or opening your emails, and you don’t have enough clients, no matter how much marketing you do – well, then, it can be a tad harder to feel motivated to keep at it.

Me, you, and everyone else we know who has a successful business doing big things in the world has experienced the above not-so-wonderful scenario. The trick is to not let yourself spiral into a negativity funk that becomes your permanent state of mind and prevents you from making progress on your business goals and big vision.

How Creating an Asset List Helped Me Transform from Cranky Pessimist Back to Cheerful Optimist

Back in August, I went through a couple of very trying weeks. It’s wasn’t any one big thing, but a long series of minor annoyances, stressors, irritations and challenges, that piled one on top of the other in rapid succession, left me feeling overwhelmed, cranky, and defeated.

And it just kept coming. From a slow business month to a minor car accident to a call-back after a routine medical test (turned out ‘twas nothing) to a few other unsavory things, and I was hitting the Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Caramel Fudge like nobody’s business. Practically nightly.

Now, I’m generally a very positive person, but during those two weeks in August, I’m sorry to say I spent a little bit too much time dwelling on what I did not have.

In my business, I wished for more income, more clients, a bigger email list, a new website, and a best-selling book. In my personal life, I wanted more time to visit friends, time to write for myself, a lavish vacation off the grid for a couple of weeks, and a few other things I’d be too embarrassed to share in a public venue.

I felt hamstrung and stuck by what I perceived to be my “lack” of this or that thing.

But the “lack” is a big fat lie. It’s a myth.

The truth is, I have everything I need, right now in this moment, to create exactly the business and the life I want, while enjoying the really wonderful life I already have. 

When I succumb to that nasty lack mentality in my business, what pulls me out of it every time is focusing on the benefits, resources, opportunities and advantages I do have, by making an asset list.

An asset list for your business includes things like:

:: Your current clients, past clients, and clients on their way to you now, even if you can’t see them yet

:: All those people who have inquired about working with you or buying your products or services, but who haven’t become clients or customers yet. Let’s call them “potential clients.” (I dislike the terms “leads” and “prospects” to describe this category of people because of how transactional it sounds, but that’s essentially what it is.)

:: Your blog, website, Etsy shop, Shopify store, or other online venue that makes it possible for you to sell online 

:: Your email subscribers, blog readers and social media followers

:: Your products and services

:: Your body of work

:: The talents, skills, gifts and abilities you possess that allow you to do the work you do and earn an income from it

:: The sales you made this week, this month, this year

:: The ideas and inspiration you have for new products and services you can offer

:: Access to the internet and other miraculous technology that make doing business easier these days than it’s ever been before

:: Your beautiful, beautiful mind

:: And so on and so forth

Once I made my own asset list, which includes everything on the list above and more, I felt much, much better about those two terrible weeks in August, which in truth, weren’t that terrible after all.

In fact, because things were a little slow business-wise in August, I was able to go home to visit the family for a few days, focus a big chunk of time researching and outlining my book, and map out my 4Q plan, all things that wouldn’t have happened had I been booked solid with work.

And, since it’s a law of the universe that what you focus on expands, when I paid attention to the assets in my business, rather than the so-called lack, new opportunities came my way. I got six new clients, an uptick in email subscribers, an introduction to what could be a huge source of referrals for my business, and a few other pretty great opportunities that will play out over the next few months.

So if you’re feeling down about the state of your business, bemoaning all the things you think you lack, sit down and make your asset list. You’ll feel a whole lot better when you do.

And when you focus on all the good you already have, more good will come to you.

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How It Begins – An Odyssey of Distraction (thank you, Sloane Crosley)

My Workspace

{The true story of one writer’s desperate attempt to stay on task and get one, just one, 30 minute block of writing done without succumbing to the magnetic pull of YouTube videos, HuffPo articles, emails from friends, and other assorted Internet butterflies known as distraction.}

So.

You show up to the page to do your 30 minutes of daily creative writing, coffee in hand.

You’re feeling proud of yourself for making the commitment to write for yourself, outside of the copywriting projects you do for clients and the weekly blog posts and email newsletters you write to market your business.

For many weeks you’ve let your own writing practice slip by the wayside, crowded out by “work writing” and other priorities, so this feels good, it feels right, it feels “meant to be.”

Because you want to feel inspired to write for yourself every day, you’ve decided to take up the practice you read about in Dani Shapiro’s memoir, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life – reading from a favorite author’s work for 10 minutes each morning to get yourself primed to write, to feel eager to get to the page. 

This is working pretty well, except sometimes the 10 minutes turns into an hour, or, like the recent Sunday when you spent practically all morning lounging in bed with half a dozen books, close to 4 solid hours.

But this day you stick to the 10 minutes. You dip into the work of a much-loved writer, get your 10 minute inspiration fix, then go directly to the page and write. Good for you!

Your 30 minutes of writing done, you’re feeling pretty good about the discipline you just exercised. You congratulate yourself for not getting waylaid by the wicked pull of the internet.

This is a minor miracle, because right about 15 minutes in, you need to research a book title you want to mention in the essay you’re working on. So you open your browser and navigate to Google. Book title found. Good. Book title added to essay. Ok.

However.

As a result the inspiration fix you dipped into this morning, Sloane Crosley’s essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake, you now find yourself wildly curious to know more about her, right this very instant.  Your fingers go twitchy over the keyboard as you think, “I’ll just Google her and leave the results page up in the background, then get right back to my writing, then once I’m done with my 30 minutes, I’ll read through the results.”

And holy of holies, you do go back to your writing and finish your 30 minutes, without getting lead down the garden path of distraction.

Score!!

You feel enormously proud of yourself for this one small thing, because there are many days when one brief dip in the Internet pool leads you far, far astray from the work at hand, not to return for hours. And sometimes never to return at all.

Next on your to-do list for this day: write a blog post.

But wait, you’ve got those Google search results about Sloane Crosley to read through. You decide you’ll give yourself half an hour to read a few interviews, half an hour, 30 very short minutes, then get back right back to work on that blog post.

So you read one interview, then another, then another after that.  One of the interviews you read links out to something that’s supposed to show her writing space. Oh my God, you want to see it so badly!

So you click on that.  But the link is dead and there is no image of her work space.  Huh. So you Google “Sloane Crosley work space.” (Is this a form of light stalking, you wonder? Or a perfectly natural form of mild curiosity about someone whose breathtaking writing skills you happen to admire?)

Somehow in this search you find a video of the time Crosley appeared on Craig Ferguson’s show (how you ended up on YouTube, you have no idea).  Because you adore Craig Ferguson and you love this writer’s work, you watch the interview. This’ll just take 3:36 minutes, after all.

Then you remember living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the second time, in 2006, when you were still in your politico days and working on the Attorney General’s race, which is when you “discovered” Craig Ferguson and his hilarious show for the first time. As you’re watching the interview with Crosley, you see down the side of the page more videos of Craig interviewing famous, accomplished, beautiful women. 

Crosley too is beautiful, and you think she must live a charmed life – a life you’ve fantasized about, if you’re honest – that of a successful New York creative, living in a lovely large apartment somewhere on the upper West Side, maybe in the low-80’s off Amsterdam or Columbus, where one room is devoted to your writing space and outfitted with floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves, full to the brim with books and a nice view of the Park.

But let’s not tell anyone about that. That’s not for public consumption.  

Anyway, Sloane – what a great name, you think. She’s young, beautiful, and successful, a well-respected writer leading the New York literary life.  Aaah, how nice that must be.

You finally drag yourself away from YouTube and read a couple of print interviews with Crosley. You try again to find an image of her writing space, but, alas, no luck there.

Next, you find yourself on the Salon website, where you read a piece Crosley wrote about the Girl Scouts called Your blood turns green: Why the right can’t derail the Girl Scouts.  Edifying. Entertaining. Informative.

Then, after reading just.one.more. interview with Crosley in New York Magazine, you see a piece in the sidebar of said magazine called Six Reasons Chris Christie Is Probably Guilty, by Jonathan Chait, which you must read this instant, because you’ve been riveted by the story of the lane closures in Fort Lee, NJ known as “Bridgegate” ever since Rachel Maddow first starting reporting on it in the fall of 2013.

When you read the line, “It’s not that partisan enemies are ginning up accusations,” you laugh and think, “Ha ha, ‘ginning up’ – what a good old-timey phrase, I’ll have to find a way to work it into a piece of writing soon.” 

Somehow from here, you end up on the GQ website where you read an interview with Bill Hader of SNL.  You love Bill Hader.  

Then you remember one of your favorite SNL sketches with Hader, Tony Ruins Puppet Class,” so you Google that up and watch it.

And in this way, 2 ½ hours pass. Hours that seem like minutes. Hours which you will never get back.

But no matter, you got your 30 minutes of writing done, and that is a victory.

Good for you.

Overwhelm, Despair, Self-Doubt & Other Fun Adventures on the Road to Success

take risks, dream big

As a former ad agency employee and current copywriter for hire, it’s no surprise that Mad Men was one of my favorite shows. (Although in my ad agency days, unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it – it wasn’t customary to have a fully stocked bar in the office, or cocktails in the middle of the day.)

So when the season finale aired a few weeks ago, I watched with great joy as my favorite characters’ stories got wrapped up neatly, along with a twinge of overwrought mourning that the whole shebang was coming to an end.

The day after the final episode (and who am I kidding, for days to come), I found myself reading more, more and still more about Mad Men, and especially its creator, Matthew Weiner.

And I happened upon this article in which Weiner discusses his rocky and challenge-filled road to success with honesty and transparency.

In the piece, excerpted from a book called Getting There: A Book of Mentors and published on Fast Company, Weiner talks about how artists “frequently hide the steps that lead to their masterpieces.” This can lead to discouragement for those of us trying to create something meaningful, he says, because all we see is the finished product, and compare our work to that.

He goes on to say “I always swore to myself that I would not hide my brushstrokes.”

Shortly after reading that piece, I read Melissa Cassera’s blog post, “Don’t hide your brushstrokes,” where she talks about Weiner’s article and the application of its ideas to business.

I love what Melissa says here:

“By glossing over all of the ‘unsexy’ points of your journey — all the brushstrokes — you’re doing a disservice to your fans, clients, customers, everyone in your business audience, and quite honestly, everyone you meet.

By pretending that it’s all ‘easy’ and ‘perfect’ and ‘drama free,’ you’re missing an opportunity to actually HELP somebody.”

At the end of the post she asks:

“What’s the toughest, unsexiest moment you can remember from your business / career history? Share your ‘brushstroke moment’ and what you learned. Feel free to do it in the comments below. Or, better yet, share it with your own community.”

And that inspired me to write about one of my own “brushstroke” moments here.

I previously shared this story with my email subscribers, but it felt too personal to talk about on the blog. But what the heck? Melissa’s post changed my mind.

(By the by, this is one of many, many “brushstroke moments” I’ve had in the last 2-3 years of taking my copywriting business from a side hustle to my full-time source of income. And I’m still having them.  Weekly. There’s enough to fill a book I tell ya, but today we’ll start with just the one. :))

Here’s the story I recently shared with my email subscribers:

So, did I ever tell you that right around this same time last year, I was so exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed that I almost considered giving up on the idea that it was possible to have a satisfying, happiness-inducing, lucrative business doing work I love, for clients I love?

No?

Well, let me give you a little bit of the skinny here.

In May of 2014 I was working a long-term corporate freelance writing gig for a big organization, one that offered a lot of nice perks, but also imposed many stress-inducing deadlines, and required me to work on site in an environment that made me wildly unhappy (my breath gets shallow just thinking about it).

I was also running my copywriting and web marketing consulting business at the time, which I adored but . . . by necessity it remained a “side business” to be squeezed in and around my corporate writing gig obligations.

So here I was, making a pretty decent living as a copywriter, with plenty of projects on tap for the corporate client (a situation those of us who sell our writing services actually dream of), but I was working 7 days a week to keep up with both that work and my side hustle, and frankly, not enjoying my life very much.

It was a despairing cocktail of non-stop obligations, deadlines, and 12 hour days, most of which were spent doing work I didn’t love. And with that schedule, I didn’t have enough time left over in a week to optimize my business, my website, or my offerings – which meant until something changed, I’d always be stuck with my overwhelming workload, at my current revenue plateau.

Since my most cherished value is “freedom,” working this way made me feel like a tiger pacing a cage – imprisoned, and none too happy about it. I was desperate to change things, but how?

One of my most vivid memories of this time is sitting in Panera Bread one night with one of my closest friends, sobbing into my caesar salad about my work life and my obligations, barely able to breathe. (Between the crying and the gasping for breath, my friend actually offered to take me to urgent care. True story.)

Obviously, I could not go on this way.

The trouble was, I had I no idea HOW, exactly, I could change my situation. I was in no position to just up and leave the corporate writing gig, but there was no way on earth I wanted to give up on my dream of creating the copywriting business of my dreams either.

Especially since achieving that dream would allow me the space and time freedom to work on a book that’s been gnawing at me for over a year – and I had yet to get started on.

But one of the great things that happened for me during that time – the thing I credit with eventually helping me get beyond it all – was reading publicity and business strategist Selena Soo’s emails in which she shared her story about once being in a very similar situation.

She was working in PR, yet not making much money, even though she was working non-stop. And she was uncomfortable with some of the pressure involved in get results for PR clients. And because she never established clear boundaries in her work, she was working early mornings, nights and weekends.

Almost every detail of what she described felt like what I was going through. And she had actually turned her situation around, to great success – she quit that iteration of her PR business, changed her business model, and started offering coaching and consulting services, which got her to $157,000 in revenue in the first year of her new business.

And best of all, she did it on a schedule that didn’t consume every waking moment of her life, which sounded like pure bliss to me. Because making a nice income is great, but only if it comes with time freedom and a flexible schedule as well – that’s the ultimate prize, in my book.

I was intrigued by Selena’s story, and honestly, envious.

So when she announced her Get Known, Get Clients (GKGC) program last May, I hopped on board almost immediately. [The program is now closed, but if you’re curious, you can read the review I wrote about GKGC and the results I got from it right over here.]

It was through working with Selena last year and applying the advanced strategies she teaches that I was finally able to leave my corporate writing gig in February of this year and go fully out on my own with my copywriting and web marketing consulting business.

Now I’m much happier, more fulfilled, and I actually have free time. Not a lot mind you, but way more than I did this time last year.

And I’m gung-ho and ready to rumble with my business again. I can’t believe that this time last year I actually thought of throwing in the towel, even for a second.

There are still challenges, of course. And lots more work to be done. So much so that some days, if I’m honest, I long for the ease of just having to show up at a regular gig again.

Luckily, that sentiment quickly passes.

If I could offer any encouragement to anyone going through something similar, anyone on the verge of chucking the dream of supporting themselves with their creative business for the so-called security of employment, I’d say think long and hard before you make that deal with the devil. There’s probably some way you can turn things around, as I did (and as Selena did).

Just remember, you’re trading your life energy – time you’ll never get back – for what you do to earn a living, so make sure you’re happy with the choice.

 

[Want to learn to write copy that connects with your ideal clients? Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

Some Notes Concerning That Crazy Dream I Had About Surfing

That Time I Decided I Wanted to Learn to Surf

(Photo by Brett Danielsen from Death to the Stock Photo Photo Pack)

One Sunday last May, I had a dream about surfing.

More accurately, that I was to write a book about surfing. In this dream, I was even given the title of said book.

What? Write a book about surfing? I don’t know diddly squat-all about surfing; I can barely swim.

Given the date – Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014 – I considered the possibility that it could be a message from my Mom, who passed away in 2009, and who I miss fiercely.

Now, when you have a dream that you’re supposed to do something slightly outlandish, what do you do?

Sure, writing a book feels like a fine thing to do. I’m a writer. Naturally I have that dream. But write a book about surfing? Not so much.

But I had to admit, I was intrigued by the idea. It actually lit me up.

Which I guess tells you something: if I didn’t immediately dismiss it as ridiculous, silly or crazy, then maybe there really was something to this thing that I was meant to pursue.

So I did what I often do when I get a nutty idea: I became slightly obsessed.

I began researching all things surfing: the sport of surfing, surf lessons, Wilmington, NC surf culture, surf lingo, surfing and spirituality, surf vacations, surfboard artists, books about surfing, and more.

Next I homed in on research about surf lessons in my local area, just for the fun of it. I checked into swim lessons at the Y because, if I did indeed decide to take surf lessons, naturally, the swimming must come first.

Then I started reading surf memoirs: first, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld by Justin Hocking, then Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave by Peter Heller, and now, West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief by Steven Kotler.

I took myself to Barnes & Noble and stood like Cletus the slack-jawed yokel in front of the surf section of the bookstore, making a mental list of all the surfing-related books I would buy over the next few weeks and months.

I started researching surf vacations (did you know there are companies that specialize in surf travel?) and imagining myself in some tropical locale, where I would check out of work mode and check into a relaxed beach vibe, with surf lessons in the morning, yoga in the afternoon, and plenty of time to write in between.

Pure bliss, I tell you.

But what, I asked myself, was driving all this?

I thought about it and I thought about it, and the only thing I could come up with is that the last few years have been mostly work, work, work (with the added bonus of a massive amount of stress when I was still at my corporate writing gig), and very little play, and I need more play. Lots more.

I feel like I’ve had my life on lock-down since, oh, about 2012 or so, and quite possibly a lot longer, if I’m honest. I’ve been living as if every moment away from work and business – something I’ve been told is called “down time” – was certain to doom me to failure if I indulged in it regularly.

But now I have this powerful craving for an adventure of some kind, a way to introduce more uncomplicated, unadulterated fun into my life. Blissful, carefree, guilt-free fun, on the regular, as the youngsters say.

I also want to do something that will make me fall in love with life again, something that will help me recognize there is a life outside the confines of my office, this laptop, my copywriting business, and most of all, this obsessive, Type A, hyper-analytical, never-ending loop of thinking, thinking, thinking all the time instead of just being. Just breathing and enjoying, full stop.

And I think learning to surf can help get me there.

That’s what the dream was for.

Fingers crossed I don’t chicken out.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::

What about you? Have you ever decided to do something crazy based on a whim or a dream? How did it turn out? What lessons did you learn? Would you recommend following your intuition this way? Let me know in the comments!

The Friction of Being Visible for Creatives (inspired by Mark Nepo)

Mark Nepo, the friction of being visible

In his wonderful book The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, Mark Nepo talks about something he calls “the friction of being visible,” meaning, as he says, that “no matter what path we choose to honor, there will always be conflict to negotiate.”

He explains:

In effect, the cost of being who you are is that you can’t possibly meet everyone’s expectations, and so, there will, inevitably, be external conflict to deal with – the friction of being visible. Still, the cost of not being who you are is that while you’re busy pleasing everyone around you, a precious part of you is dying inside; in this case, there will be internal conflict to deal with – the friction of being invisible.

Though he’s talking about living more authentically in our day-to-day lives, those of us in creative fields will instantly recognize the friction he refers to as it relates to our creative work.

When we choose to make a living by sharing our creative output with the world, in whatever form that takes – graphic design, photography, fine art, interior design, illustration, writing, flower arranging, web design, architecture, underwater basket weaving, or whatever our gift happens to be – we commit to this friction over and over again.

Part of this friction comes from trying to live up to the expectations of well-meaning friends and loved ones who suggest that maybe we should take a more realistic approach to career and money-making. Or from those who judge or criticize our work, including, sometimes, our very own clients.

In other cases, we are own worst enemy. We’ve limited ourselves by buying into the notion that to be fully self-expressed in our creativity is enough, that if we’re able to practice our creative work and make a living from it, we should be happy to “settle” for barely scraping by. Or that doing our creative thing on the side while working a “real” job is all we’re allowed to ask for.

In my case, I’ve done this number on myself. I don’t recall any adult in my life ever saying to me, “be realistic, you can’t make a decent living writing, that’s something you do on the side,” or any variation thereof.

Even when I was actively practicing photography, shooting rolls and rolls of film (yes, it was actual film then), studying the masters, soaking up as much info as I could, taking photography classes, and applying to art school, no one ever said to me, “be practical, you can’t make a decent living as a photographer.”

So I can only assume that I was making the argument to myself, internally. That somewhere along the line, I had bought into the notion that choosing the path of the creative, at least in terms of career, would mean certain poverty. Or that putting my work “out there,” possibly to be scrutinized and criticized, would feel like being gutted, just too uncomfortable.

But once you understand that the friction of being visible is the price you pay for getting to make a living from your creative pursuits (or from practicing your creative thing with abandon if it’s not your primary source of income), and you make peace with that dynamic, you can go on about the business of your business with less internal conflict.

The friction of being visible, at least for creatives, seems less of a price to pay than the alternative, as Nepo describes it:

Still, the cost of not being who you are is that while you’re busy pleasing everyone around you, a precious part of you is dying inside; in this case, there will be internal conflict to deal with – the friction of being invisible.

While the friction of being visible may make us uncomfortable, the friction of being invisible is potentially much more destructive. It can be ruinous to our mental and emotional well-being, and even detrimental to our physical health.

Many of us go through our lives doing work we don’t love, participating in relationships that don’t light us up, keeping schedules that wear us down, and saying yes to people and obligations we’d rather say no to, all the while putting a happy face on the whole shebang, as if it was our most fervent wish to go around feeling deeply unfulfilled and perpetually dissatisfied.

Then life may throw us a curveball to get our attention. My curveball came in the form of a terrifying episode one fine day in June 2014 while driving to my onsite freelance writing gig at a medical center. Out of the blue my heart started racing wildly and my breathing became shallow and labored.

I pulled into the parking lot of the medical center’s marketing department and struggled to get just one deep breath into my lungs, just one. Then sat in my car gasping for air and crying. I felt like I was drowning. Not fun.

A few minutes later, still not able to breathe fully and deeply, I composed myself as best I could, went inside, and sat through the morning meeting in which we discussed the day’s priorities. I ducked out of the building afterwards to call my doctor to make an appointment for the next day.

Luckily, a chest x-ray and an EKG revealed no immediate cause for concern. But the heart racing and the shallowness of breath (which I now refer to as “SOB” for short, ha ha) continued, sometimes pronounced and nearly debilitating, other times mild and almost imperceptible.

Message received.

That was my call to change some things. And so I did. I left that gig, as wonderful as it was, eight months later. While I enjoyed the work, my colleagues, and a steady paycheck, I felt hamstrung by the 20 hour a week commitment and the requirement to work onsite, and I knew it was keeping me from fully embracing the work I really wanted to be doing – working with creative entrepreneurs, and writing.

My response to this internal conflict, “the friction of being invisible,” as Nepo calls it, was to high-tail it out of that situation and go towards the light. Ah yes, the light – the light of doing work that’s much more in line with my preferred mode and style of working, working with clients I love.

So while it’s true that, “no matter what path we choose to honor, there will always be conflict to negotiate,” I chose the friction of being visible. And I’m much happier for it.

Which reminds me of the Henry David Thoreau quote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Don’t let’s do this.

Or you may find yourself, one day, gasping for air in a medical center parking lot, wondering what the heck is going on and ruining your mascara with your salty anxiety tears.

I don’t recommend it.

The Thing You Have to Understand Is That You Are Different

blog img_You are different

:: Not everybody wants to escape the 9-5 world. 

:: Not everybody who is deeply unhappy in the 9-5 world makes the leap to self-employment or any other kind of cubicle liberation. 

:: Not everybody wants to start a blog. Or launch a website. Or create an Etsy shop. Or write a newsletter for an audience of raving fans.  

:: Not everybody believes it’s possible to liberate themselves from unfulfilling work and build an online presence that sells their good and services, all while tapping into their innate talents and skills and abilities. 

:: Not everybody is comfortable sharing their art – whether that’s writing, graphic design, fine art, photography, business & marketing strategy, or any other kind of creative pursuit – in a public venue. 

:: Not everybody feels the fear and does it anyway. 

:: Not everybody chooses the friction of being visible over the much more palatable friction of being invisible. (Inspired by Mark Nepo

:: Not everybody chooses to feel utterly alive doing what they love to do, despite being terrified a crash and burn scenario could be imminent.  

:: Not everybody decides to take action on their dreams despite the naysayers who proclaim it’s not possible to do work you love and be well-paid for it.

:: Not everybody believes that creative sovereignty is a worthwhile and achievable goal.  

:: Not everybody keeps marching to the beat of their own quirky drummer when it would make much more sense to cave and get a job. 

:: Not everybody understands the liberating and undeniable joy of being unemployable. (I am full-time self-employed, but I consider myself unemployable.) 

:: Not everybody reads blogs like this one for marketing advice/how-tos/inspiration. (Thanks for that, by the way). 

:: Not everybody believes they have to ask permission from some kind of “gatekeeper” to do their thing, pursue their art, and sell it

The thing you have to understand is that you are different. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Revel in it. Fall in love with it. 

 

What would you add to this list? What do you believe/do/practice that goes against the accepted wisdom about how to earn a living or pursue your creative work? Please share in the comments!