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Why I Am Working With Artists

Jackson Pollock's The Key

I have been working feverishly, trying to create new resources for writers, and ensure that my work reflects not just who I am, but what I hope to create in this world.

And sometimes I need help. Sometimes we all need help.

So I have been looking into hiring some people to work with me, to help me clarify and hone things. To help me ensure I have a laser focus on exactly the right things, and throw the rest in the trash.

And I find that I am working with artists.

Not “artists” as Seth Godin talks about, which is a definition too broad for my taste. I mean, people who create art – paintings and sculpture and other things you create purely to explore. Not “I made this cappuccino for you, it is my art.” But rather: “I painted this. I’m not sure why, I’m not sure what it means, but I couldn’t not do it. It is my art.”

Yes, I run a business, and a core part of that is the exchange of money for goods or services. I make no apologies for that for several reasons, the primary of which is that I truly believe that what I offer helps people. Also: I am the sole provider for my family. I can’t express how seriously I take that responsibility.

But I am done with trading time for money, or rather, JUST for money. Something more has to be created as well. A new possibility for someone. The work I do needs to scale the capacity of others. If I teach a writer how to better connect with a reader, what comes from that is far greater than what I can quantify. There is something exponential, yet subtle in that.

Which is perhaps why I am looking to work with artists. Because they are not giving me the expected. They are not giving me canned marketing best practices. They are doing the opposite: they are looking outside of the usual context to find the space where new possibilities exist.

I have just committed to working with one artist for the next couple of months, helping to better define We Grow Media. I have been chatting with another artist to help bring some of those ideas to fruition.

I don’t know what will come of it. They can’t make promises, and I can’t expect them to. We are venturing off the path, looking for new ground, new possibilities.

But I do know that I will end up in a far more interesting place because of it. One that I hope you will join me for.


  • Richard Jeffrey Newman

    Hi Dan,

    I just want to say that I think this is really smart. When I was doing business as a writer–I wrote web copy, direct mail copy, articles on internet marketing, a medicare guide and more–one of the selling points I tried to use was that I brought a poet’s/writer’s sensibility to what the written word could do and that this could take someone’s business in new and unexpected directions. Some people bought it, some people didn’t; but those who did, as you say, ended up, at least as far as I could see, somewhere more interesting than where they were.

    Aside from that, and more importantly, I also want to cheer the way you see your business as being about building meaning, which always outlasts us and which always grows in ways we never originally intended, and which is, finally, what makes the exchange of time for money really worth it in the end.


    • Thank you Richard – this put the biggest smile on my face! There is something about running my own business that, on a daily basis, forces me to consider where I am going, how to steer, and the JOURNEY. While I loved the corporate jobs I worked, the expectations set by the larger organization tried to keep you on narrow path, instead of venturing off of it. This, despite all the calls for “innovation” in the corporate world in the past 20 years.

      Working with writers, I often consider what they do to be entrepreneurial. It isn’t easy. But I love looking at it as an opportunity. Anyhow, thank you for the VERY kind words and support!

  • Hi, Dan.

    I’m very excited for you. How wonderful that you are able to embrace this new piece of your journey with such enthusiasm and openness.

    There must be something in the air. Have you read Mark Schaefer’s recent post? : http://www.businessesgrow.com/2013/01/28/the-challenge-of-creating-a-blog-that-sings/

    I left an embarrassingly long comment there, but only because what he wrote really touched me. I hear strains of what he said in your post as well … there’s something “more” … something “deeper.”

    Though I now make my living as a content marketer, and am an aspiring fiction writer, I also have a great love of and appreciation for the visual arts. I almost went to art college, and I still flirt with the idea of returning to my visual arts core – doing some sculpting or painting or maybe casting some jewelry.

    As I said in my comment on Mark’s post, creating something is one of the most human things we can do. A life without any sense of art is, in my humble opinion, a life not worth living. We are here to express ourselves. We are here to share and to learn through that sharing. That is what art is all about – it reflects the outside world and reveals the inside world so that we can connect in new ways. It’s pretty damn amazing, actually.

    So, I’m thrilled that you’re working with artists. I can’t wait to see where it takes you.
    And I’m looking forward to bringing more art into my own business and my business that has not yet been created. The world needs more artists. 🙂

    • Jamie,
      Wow, I hadn’t seen Mark’s post – thanks! Thank you for the thoughtful comment, I love this: “creating something is one of the most human things we can do.”

      It will be a fun journey, and I will share it here. Good luck on yours too! Thank you!

      • Thanks for the well wishes. I’ll definitely be sticking around to share your adventure, too!

  • Rebecca Bredholt

    I think you need to meet my friend Bob. He was a columnist for me when I was a magazine editor. He is also a gifted artist: http://www.flightofideas.net/About/about.html

  • I’d like to second Richard’s appreciation for the role of meaning in your work.

  • Tanya Savko

    Sounds amazing, Dan, and you are just the person to do it. I can’t wait to read about it.
    P.S. “I made this cappuccino for you, it is my art” – I will be laughing for quite some time over this! Thank you!

    • Thanks Tanya!

      • Jamie Lee

        I’m going to incorporate cappucino into my next painting just for that. ;P

  • Alison Presley

    Hear, hear! I could never do what I do if I didn’t believe in the work I was promoting. Here’s to making your days matter!

  • Love it! and like your definition – “I painted this. I’m not sure why, I’m not sure what it means, but I couldn’t not do it. It is my art.”

  • cv harquail

    Hi Dan-

    This post resonated with me when I first read the email/newsletter, and I’ve come back to comment on one of the elements that stuck out for me:

    “The work I do needs to scale the capacity of others.”

    This goal — scaling the capacity of others– seems to be reserved for those who teach, or those who market — but I think it is a core and foundational goal for a lot of business people. In some of the research I’ve been doing (I’m an academic), I’ve been following how certain kinds of digital businesses construct their business relationships with each other precisely with this goal in mind. Even at the B2B level, the idea of helping someone/some other business scale their capacity is powerfully motivating.

    What’s also critical is the idea that even as we help others ‘scale their capacity’, we have to leave it to them/ leave our hands off of what they’ll use this extra capacity for. Sometimes they use this extra capacity to put something back into the shared relationship itself. Other times the capacity goes into something related to the shared purpose. And for some the most challenging situations are when the capacity is used for things that feel unrelated to the business doing the helping.

    We can’t control or sometimes even influence the ‘new possibilities’ that our boosting energy helps to create. So, we have to choose our business partners wisely and trust that they use this extra capacity wisely.

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment! Yes, being careful in choosing your partners is key for so many reasons, and is not always a clear or easy choice. I was actually just talking to someone about this at lunch today, within the context of who is right for me to work with, how do I tell?

      Some of it is clearly a gut instinct, and some is more objective. I see a lot of people make potential new clients fill out a form. For me… I want them on the phone asap. It allows us to come to together quickly, gauge goals & motivation, and see if there is a reason for us to partner.

      Thanks again!

  • Dan, this is why you’re one of the few publishing types I read regularly — you consistently think outside the box and break new ground. Can wait to the results of this collaboration!