Today, I would like to take you behind the scenes to see what my professional life looks like. I’ll show you many of the projects that I haven’t talked about recently, and some of the wonderful people that fill my life.
The idea for this post came after reflecting on the words filmmaker Angela Tucker shared in an interview we did; how these two themes of her life jumped out at me:
- The number of disparate projects and goals she juggles at any one time.
- How incremental progress is. Success will come. One. Slow. Step. At. A. Time.
Sometimes it is easy to feel as though you are throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping something sticks. In truth: some projects succeed, but others fall flat. There is an expression: “fail fast and fail often,” which is meant to underscore the value of what you learn when something doesn’t work. Yes, sometimes this can feel invigorating, but other times, it is harrowing.
More and more, I define myself as “a writer,” but my work mostly falls into the heading of “creative professional.” I help people hone their creative purpose to ensure it reaches their audience in a meaningful way.
This week, I shared my interview with sound artist Margaret Noble. I found so much of what she said inspiring, but what truly stood out was the depth of her intention. How she makes difficult decisions to ensure that she finds the time to create her art, and to ensure that she grows as an artist.
So far, I have interviewed more than 15 people for my book Dabblers vs. Doers. This is research that I am sharing in real time, via podcasts and blog posts. And I have to say, from each interview, I am learning compelling things. These are the amazing creative professionals I have spoken to:
For each, I spend days researching and preparing. I recently shared a nearly 3,000-word blog post taking you behind the scenes of my research process for the interviews.
The book is a milestone I am working towards, and in reality, won’t come to fruition for another 12-36 months. Again, that theme of incremental actions comes up. This is on top of nearly nine years of blogging (here is the first post), and a decade of sending out a weekly newsletter (haven’t missed a week).
This past week another incremental project came up: I taught a career workshop for 5th graders at P.S. 123 in Harlem.
I have worked with this school for more than 10 years. Again, I am seeing the power of what it means to keep showing up for this community. We have tried a lot of different programs over the years, and not all have worked out as well as hoped. But each school year, I keep showing up:
In talking with the students about finding careers, I encouraged them to pay attention to the skills and work they love, and to find more ways to experience them. I remind them you never know where these moments will lead.
As I look at all of the work I am doing, and the people I interview, I’m reminded of the truth in those words. Put yourself in the position to experience what you love, and to meet others who love it too. That is where those moments of serendipity happen.
Recently, I had similar conversations on these topics. This past week, I ran a workshop at my local bookstore, Short Stories Community Book Hub, on Bookstore Day.
Then another in the series of “Momentum” meetups I have been holding in Morristown, NJ with my friend Scott McDowell:
In these discussions, we explore the challenges and opportunities around pursuing creative work. One person made a really interesting distinction: how they can establish a habit of going to the gym, but avoid writing, which is their deepest passion. Their reasoning was that they know they will never be a great athlete, so it’s easy to show up to the gym because there are low expectations.
But their writing — they care deeply about it, about being good. So even the mere act of writing has become a terrifying exercise they avoid because they are nervous to discover their greatest fear: that their writing isn’t good.
Of course, the reality becomes that their writing doesn’t exist at all, because they never make the time for it. They are so afraid of failing that they release themselves entirely from the experience of writing.
It was a wonderful topic to explore, and what I tend to find is that the work I do often leads to conversations like this — explorations of deeper motivations and fears. The opportunity to work through them is what is so exciting.
I have been working with some wonderful clients this year — authors who are honing their focus, preparing to launch their books, and needing assistance in knowing how to ensure their work connects with an audience. For one client, we are preparing a Kickstarter campaign, which means I have been studying Kickstarter as a funding source. On Monday, I actually get to visit the Kickstarter headquarters in New York to chat with the their team. (More about the work I do with clients.)
The online courses I teach continue to be a big part of my creative life. I have had more than 100 students pass through them in 2015 so far. (More info on the courses I teach can be found here.)
In one recent course, a writer shared this after digging into the first lesson:
“I wanted to share something with you all — a kind of breakthrough happened for me. Thank you for giving me the safe space to work through an obstacle. I realized that I stop at “good” because I’m terrified of extraordinary. So, I sabotage myself, not in a way that is harmful physically or really mentally, but in a way that I accept good and settle for it, telling myself, ‘Well, at least you are good at it.’ I’m making a commitment now, to myself, to my family, to be extraordinary. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, and it’s a little scary. But, I know this course is the start of something magnificent.But, I want extraordinary.”
Can you tell why I love doing what I do?!
Recently, I had the honor of being mentioned in Professional Artist magazine, sharing some similar themes about the the value of connecting directly with like minds via email:
I have also begun work with the team again at Morristown Festival of Books for their second event this coming Fall. I’m helping out with social media and marketing, and I will say they have an exciting event lined up! I love connecting my local community with these authors.
As I write out these updates, it’s easy for me to see that so much of this is about surrounding myself with people who inspire me — who are driven to create meaningful work in their lives. Learning from these people helps me grow and allows me to help others in bigger ways.
To be honest, there is so much I didn’t include in this post: new partnerships I am currently planning, new ideas I am brainstorming with colleagues, details around private consulting clients, etc.
In the day to day of building all of this, I am driven by enthusiasm and caring for the people I come in contact with, but there is always a haziness around knowing what may work. What will lead to a sustainable practice for my business, and therefore, the foundation for supporting my family.
What I have found mostly is that, looking at these photos above, the practice is the goal. That showing up everyday is the goal. Pushing myself to take chances, to embrace risk, to explore new ideas and new partnerships is not in service of a bigger milestone, but they are the moments to embrace.
In the end — decades from now, hopefully — I may not remember the details of the projects or the revenue, but I will remember the people who were kind enough to share their lives and their enthusiasm for creating meaningful work with me. I will remember their faces, voices, and the moments I shared with them.
If you have read this far, I would love to know:
- How can I better assist you in your goals?
- How can I help this work reach more people that you know and feel have these challenges?
Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.