“I rely on my creative community to feel sane.” My 2nd Interview with Writer and Illustrator Meera Lee Patel

Last Spring, I spoke to writer and artist Meera Lee Patel, and the conversation was filled with so many practical tips and deep wisdom that I reached out to her again to record a second podcast. To my total delight, she said yes!

So three huge things jumped out at me in this conversation that I think will deeply resonate with writers:

  1. I asked her if she gets feedback from her audience that discourages her to pursue new artistic paths and she replied that she does and the result is: “You feel do discouraged that it makes you not like that work that you made. The internet and social media makes you addicted to attention, and it really warps your sense of value. They become really twisted, where you’ve lost your values, and they are being dictated by all these people that you’ve never met and probably will never meet. Then I know that most of these people don’t know what they like because they are being told what to like by other people, and society and culture. It’s almost like everything is a total facade.
  2. I rely on my creative community to feel sane. To know that I’m not crazy, and to know that other people are having the same experience and feeling the same way, and they also feel stuck, or feel scared about losing an audience and not being able to support themselves with work if they change. Community helps you not feel isolated and alone. That is what I rely on community for, along with encouragement. To feed off of their bravery and know that we are doing it together, and that they feel I’m doing the right thing and not making this big scary decision all by myself.”
  3. When I asked if work (commissions, licensing, business opportunities) comes to her, or if she has to seek it out, she replied, “I don’t have anybody emailing me asking me to do things for them. I reach out constantly. I used to reach out to just anybody, because I was like, ‘I just need work, and I need to pay the bills. I’m lucky enough that I get to be a little choosier now. I’m like, ‘What are my dream companies? Where does my work fit in? Do I believe in them and their products? Is my work ready.” Then I reach out to them, but nobody emails me back, ever.” When I asked her how she reached out to these companies, she explained how she just goes to the contact page on their websites, and uses that. She explains what she pitches. “I pitch myself so often, where I forget to where I reach out to, so it’s nice because I get to forgo that feeling of rejection.” “When I get rejected from somebody, and I feel really bummed about it, I have a rule, that for every rejection that I feel down about, I have to reach out to three more companies or people. That action of forging ahead anyway makes me feel like I am doing something to change the current state that I’m in. So that action changes my attitude, and I always feel better knowing that I already tried again.” For every 10 people I reach out to, I probably get three responses, and usually all three are rejections. But sometimes one is positive and two are rejections. Or two are rejections and one is ‘not right now, but try again in a year.’ So the acceptance rate is very very low. And I think that is across the board for most people, unless they are highly coveted, just because there are so many artists out there, and there is so much amazing work, that I don’t think companies and brands could possibly hire everybody. I don’t take it personally anymore, but it took awhile to get there.” What’s amazing to me is even with all of this rejection, this is the work it takes to create a full-time career as an artist. This process actually works! “I do know that people look at me and they are like, ‘I would like to be where you are,’ and people do not come to me, even now. And really any work I’ve gotten has been from me reaching and saying, ‘Hey, can I do this with you.”

Other topics we dig into:

  • Her assessment of her most recent book launch, and how it was different from her previous two book launches. Hint: this launch was filled with much less pressure and anxiety for her.
  • How she thinks about her role as a writer and the purpose of a book. She describes it as “I see myself as drawing a door. Now you walk through it and you see what is on the other side. I’m making a door appear for you.”
  • Her struggling in balancing creating and marketing.
  • How she sums up the importance of talking about your books: “Sharing with one person or five people or ten people is a start.”
  • Her thoughts on how having an audience is just as difficult — if not more so — than having no audience at all: “Everybody wants a large audience, but with that comes responsibility, pressure, and expectation.”
  • The challenges she has in managing social media, and dealing with expectations when people reach out to her for deep interactions.
  • The ways she sustains herself as a full-time writer and illustrator.
  • The different revenue streams that support her career as a full-time artist, and how she is adjusting them.
  • How she manages anxiety around her career.

You can listen to the full interview by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can find Meera Lee Patel in the following places:

A Creative Career Guided by Principles: My Interview With Writer Sean McCabe

In my interview with writer Sean McCabe, we dig into the reality of what it means to run your own business. He shares the behind the scenes decisions that have sometimes cost him tens of thousands of dollars, or more than a year of his time going down a path that he later reversed. Sean shares something amazing, and highly useful in the process: how he runs his business based on a set of clear principles. This was an amazing conversation — if you are a writer or artist looking to develop a career that feels meaningful and fulfilling, I think you are going to love it.

You can find the podcast on iTunes or simply click ‘play’ here:

You can find Sean at:


Risking It All to Become an Author — My Interview with Robert Fieseler

I first met Robert Fieseler, who I know as Bobby, when he was working at an ad agency. Then, to my astonishment, I saw him make some big changes in his life. Even though he was on a great career track in advertising, he began taking classes in the evenings and weekends to get his journalism degree. Then, he quit his well-paying job in order to have the time to write a book proposal.

In our discussion today, we dig into every detail of that story, of how Bobby risked it all to make a creative shift from a full-time job to a full-time author. In the process, he redefined himself in many profound ways.

You can listen to our conversation by clicking ‘play’ below, or via iTunes.

When I invited him to do this interview, he said that this is stuff that no one else wanted to talk to him about. But this is ALL I care about because day in and day out, I work with writers and artists who want to realize their creative vision, and need to hear the stories of others who have leaned into that challenge.

In our chat, we track his career path:

  • He started out as a bookseller.
  • He then turned his experience writing poetry into a career in writing advertisements for brands such as Dominos pizza, Philip Morris and many others.
  • Why he went back to get his degree in journalism.
  • The reasons he made a huge career switch, even as he moved up the corporate ladder. He left his job to pursue an opportunity and spent his time working on a book proposal , with no guarantee that it would turn into anything. Everyone told him this was the worst thing he could possibly do from a financial or career perspective.
  • How he got his first big book deal and the process for creating that book.
    The reception to the book and the difference in his life since being a published author.
  • You can hear the moment in the interview when Bobby describes getting the offer for a book deal — he gets emotional just talking about it. That is how big that moment is for a writer. He says, “It made me feel like I was real. I had hidden my aspirations for a long time.”

He also talks about fears he has had as an author, and we end with a big discussion on impostor’s syndrome for writers.

Bobby is the author of Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation.

You can find him at:




Make Your Creative Shift

In today’s podcast episode, I take you through the three steps of my Creative Shift process. I have honed this after working with hundreds of writers who wanted a sense of clarity to move their creative work to the next level and truly reach people. I also talk about my next Creative Shift Mastermind program, which begins October 1: https://wegrowmedia.com/mm

Listen here:

How to Build a Following with Uniqueness, Authenticity, and “Getting Crazy.” My Interview with Travis Jonker.

I recently spoke to author, book blogger, and school librarian Travis Jonker about three aspects how he became an author:

  • How he got his literary agent through his blog.
  • How he developed courage to share his creative work by “failing in public” by creating a series of zines that he would mail to friends and colleagues in the book world.
  • A clever idea he had for marketing his new book that riffed off those zines: an illustrated comic that told the behind-the-scenes story of his book.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

Here are a few key takeaways from our chat that are important for every author to hear:

  • Developing a platform is about communication and trust. Travis spent 10 years blogging, developing connections, and collaborating. If you don’t have a platform, that can sound arduous. But it reminds me of the old proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
  • Make your unique voice the center of all that you do. Travis would write a blog post, but then reread it and ask if it would truly grab someone’s attention. If not, he would go back in and “get crazier,” meaning he would be more free, give more of himself, add more humor, maybe make it more in his own voice as if he was talking to someone. If you want to truly connect with someone, do it with your authentic voice.
  • Collaborate with people who love the kinds of writing that you do. If you look at Travis’ blog, his podcast, his book, and so much else, he collaborates with people who are just as passionate about books as he is. Along the way, he has not only developed an amazing series of friends and professional colleagues, but he’s had fun doing it.
  • Don’t follow trends when you want to connect with your audience. Many authors I speak to are overwhelmed with all they are told they must do. I want to encourage you to skip the trends. Toward the end of the interview, Travis shares two wonderfully unique ways that he used his creativity to create paper zines to connect with people. In doing so, he is not only stretching his own creative work, but he is delighting people with things that are unexpected and generous.

Travis’ kidlit book blog, 100 Scope Notes, can be found here, and please check out his upcoming book: The Very Last Castle. Travis also has a podcast where he takes you behind the scenes in children’s literature called The Yarn.

Other things we discuss in the interview:

  • How he started a blog as a way for him to organize his own need to organize his thoughts on books, not to “go viral.”
  • How he consistently posted 15-30 times on his blog every month since 2007.
  • The importance of setting boundaries in what you share online.
  • How being a blogger made him a better librarian.
  • The power of joining a community of people who are doing similar to creative work that you are doing.
  • How he found more time and energy to blog after reading a book about the importance of “saying no.”
  • The value of having a collaborative partner on his podcast, how that makes it more fun, meaningful, and able to stay on track.
  • How he began the process of writing his first book, and the complicated feelings that writers often have about sharing their work with the world.
  • How he got his literary agent through his blog and his network with other bloggers.
  • The fears that he has in approaching how to market this book.