Two Things Author Bella Andre Shared With Me That Illustrate What It Takes To Find Success

I shared a guest post over at WriterUnboxed.com today that shared a couple things that author Bella Andre shared with me recently. There is often so much hidden behind one’s success, and from a distance, it is easy to craft a simplistic narrative of why something worked. We whittle down years worth of work to a simple tip such as “keep writing!” or “be authentic,” but when you speak to someone such as Bella, you realize the underlying complexity. Anyhow, here is the post at WriterUnboxed.com. Thanks!
-Dan

What I Do All Day, And Why.

Three years ago, my company WeGrowMedia took its first client. Today, I want to talk about my journey in running a company so far.

Before doing this, I had worked for a decade at a single company, they were disbanding and the last day of my job was right around July 4, 2010. I had setup WeGrowMedia the December before, the official “anniversary,” but I waited until I had stopped working one job to take a client for WeGrowMedia.

When I first announced this on my blog, one commenter scolded me for endangering the financial well-being of my family. You see, in quick succession, I launched my company, had my first child, and soon after, my wife quit her job as a teacher to be home with our son full time. These are three pretty big risks, which is why the commenter feared for my well-being.

I’m happy to report, the rewards have far outweighed any potential downsides.

It always struck me as a nice coincidence that I ventured out on my own during the week of Independence Day. I’ve been reflecting on that, the meaning of “independence,” and where it does – and DOESN’T – apply to my work.

Oftentimes, there is this vision of “being your own boss” when you start a company, and while I do enjoy the freedom to choose to do work I am proud of, I rarely sentimentalize “being my own boss.” I have many bosses, many obligations, not the least of which is to my clients, my family, and myself.

Let’s give this some context though. I typically work with 30-50 writers per month (these are writers who I have not worked within the past), as well as other clients. Here are all of the projects I am working on right now, quite a few of them I have not mentioned publicly before:

ONLINE COURSES
I love how online education has connected us and helps us each develop. Unlike many “online courses” I see, which just shove PDF files at you each week, what I enjoy most and find most useful is truly interacting with those who take my classes, brainstorming with them, working past obstacles, and getting to know them as a person. Here are the courses I am currently teaching:

PRIVATE WRITING CLIENTS
I work one-on-one with authors as well, really getting into the trenches with them to grow their platforms, find readers, and develop specific marketing plans for their work. Right now I have four private clients, and since my work is not publicity oriented, I rarely say who these clients are publicly.

But, there is one exception to that rule, a writer I am working with and doing something very special for. We are embarking on a year-long book launch process, and will be live-blogging the entire thing! The writer is Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, whose next novel Bittersweet is to be published by Crown in May 2014. I am helping her on the overall strategy as well as many specific tactics to best reach readers. We thought it would be fun to share the process, and you can follow along here: https://wegrowmedia.com/bittersweet.

WRITING A BOOK
This is another thing I haven’t really announced publicly yet, but yes, I am writing a book. BUT! I’m not doing it a lone. My friend Christina Rosalie, an artist & writer, and I kept having these long Skype chats about what it means to really live a creative life. We talked about the amazing things we see online, and also considered what does and doesn’t add up to a body of work over time.

We finally realized that our ideas complemented each other really well, and that the best format to explore this would be a book. So, we are doing just that. We are also beginning to blog about these ideas over at MakingACreativeLife.com. That site is a sketchbook for us.

CORPORATE CONSULTING
I usually have a couple of corporate consulting gigs as well, working with publishers or media companies to help them better connect with readers and develop compelling content and marketing strategies. I also do a lot of training programs for their employees, partners or audiences to help them grow their skills.

Right now, I am consulting with JWT, a digital agency, helping one of their clients with their content strategy & better understanding their audience and how to reach them. It’s fun to work inside a company like this and consider the strategies & tactics that large organizations use, and how it applies back down to the goals of authors who are hoping to connect with readers.

RUNNING AN ONLINE CONFERENCE
I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I am about to announce an online conference for writers that I am running. I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this, and how amazing it is going to be. Right now, I have recruited my advisory board, am crafting the agenda, conference details, and lining up speakers. More info very soon…

A MEETUP FOR CREATIVE PROFESSIONALS
My friend Scott McDowell and I are holding our first local meetup in Morristown, New Jersey on July 11th. The goal is to meet other creative professionals working in this area, folks who are writers, designers, artists, and entrepreneurs who are crafting meaningful work. He and I will each make a short presentation, but the real goal is conversation and forging helpful connections. Hopefully, we can make this a monthly endeavor.

SPEAKING & WORKSHOPS
I regularly speak at publishing and writing conferences, and run in-person workshops. Next week I will be speaking at Thrillerfest in New York City, and I recently spoke at Backspace Conference, Writer’s Digest Conference, Tools of Change for Publishing, and several others.

WRITING
Beyond that, every week I blog, send out a newsletter, update social media, and am a contributor to WriterUnboxed.com and Huffington Post Books. This is an area where I feel I could do so much more, but simply feel that I don’t have the time. I am a slow writer.

End of list.

Sure, there are other ideas and projects I am exploring, such as an event at the new Word Bookstore opening in Jersey City soon. But the list above is all of the things I am working on RIGHT NOW.

I LOVE the work that I do, the people I get to work with, the range of different projects keeps me fueled creatively, plus: I am ALWAYS learning. This is by far the most creative period in my life, and the most fulfilling as well.

Because of all of this responsibility, that is why I shy away from the term “independence,” or boasting about “being your own boss.” That isn’t a goal for me. I LIKE serving these people, and having these responsibilities.

Beyond the opportunity to create meaningful work and have meaningful relationships/experiences, there is another benefit, one that I don’t often write about…

I work from home, from cafes, from libraries. What this means is that I get to choose when and where I work. The biggest benefit of this is that I get to be very present in the lives of my wife and 3 year old son. Every single day. I am often there when they wake and up; I eat lunch with them every day; I take my son out right at 5pm each day, spending a couple of hour together at the park, library or elsewhere; and I pop in for short conversations or play sessions throughout the day.

The qualitative difference this makes in the life of my family is even beyond my own comprehension. But I know that:

  • My wife and I are likely less stressed trying to coordinate schedules, or in me being away all day because of a commute. Before I started WeGrowMedia, I was gone from 7am – 7pm at my job, and that included at least 2 hours of commuting time.
  • My son gets to grow up with me there throughout the day, every day. And while I clearly work a lot, he gets to actually see me working, and ENJOYING that work.

There are lots of ways to measure success. And yes, I do focus on revenue and supporting my family as the sole financial provider. I would never EVER diminish the importance of that.

But I also measure success in how I live every day. The experiences I have in the small moments of the day. And of course, in who I experience those moments with.

So that is WeGrowMedia a bit more than 3 years in. That is what I do everyday, and why I do it. I hope none of this came off as gloating or self-serving, that is not my intention.

In the past, I have written about my choices in terms of building a legacy, and in the value of taking risks to find opportunity.

Thanks.
-Dan

My In-Depth Review of the 99u Conference 2013

I just returned from the 99u Conference in New York City, whose goal is to share “pragmatic insights on how to push great ideas forward, create incredible art, build businesses, and change the world.” Today I want to analyze what I thought of the event, and in general, what I look for in a great conference.

Return on Investment
I work with writers, and go to a lot of publishing, writing, and media conference. I am in the fortunate position to speak at many of those conferences, so I always get a free ticket into the event. What this means is that for 99u, I paid the $1,000 ticket price. This was not an easy decision, and even in the months after I purchased it, I wrestled with guilt that perhaps the money could more directly help my business if put elsewhere.

In general, I tend to feel that many conferences play to the attendees who will expense the ticket, they don’t pay it themselves, their employers do. This goes for big corporations as much as small design firm of 10 or 30 people. I run my own company which is three years old, and I am the sole supporter of my family. So $1,000 really means something in that regard.

The other investment is time. It meant that I was taking off two days of work, and shoving everything important into the earlier part of the week. This adds stress, to a certain degree.

So when I consider return on investment, I was looking for practical takeaways that would truly help me grow my company and ensure I was providing deeply meaningful value to those I serve.

Let’s Talk About Clichés
Clichés suck the soul out of conferences. Yes, I realize clichés exist for a reason, and I will explain more on that below. But clichés have to be the jumping off point to a conversation, not the goal. So if someone says “The more you give, the more you get back,” then I want to hear specific examples of how that happened in their career. And I want to hear about the scary parts of that process.

Likewise, I think vague models often act as clichés. So when someone shows you their “perfect process” in some kind of diagram. This can go two ways:

  • They can explain it in vague ways that sounds good, but really offers you no first step.
  • They explain it in ways that are ultra practical. It gives you first, second, and third steps.

So an example of vague models would be this advice from Yoda:

“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Why does this model not work? Because each word is interchangeable and works however you order it:

“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
“Anger leads to fear, fear leads to suffering, suffering leads to hate.”
“Hate leads to anger, anger leads to fear, fear leads to suffering.”

They all sound fine and smart, but the ordering doesn’t really give you a practical first step forward.

So if you are going to present a model about creating an amazing product/service or how to best help your clients/audience, then I want it to make sense in a way that measurably changes my work week. That you don’t just say: “Listen. Build. Do.” but that you REALLY dig into how to do each step, what the risks are, and how you hacked through system and after system before you landed on this one.

Likewise, there can be words that pop up such as “greatness” or “extraordinary.” It is so easy to say these words, and expect applause. But these words are meaningful because they are difficult to really execute on. And for this audience – an audience of doers and makers – it is not enough to have bold ideas, but to understand how to realize them. In practical, everyday ways.

How I Measured Value
The one thing I was NOT measuring value on was how inspired I felt. 99u differentiates itself by this quote from Thomas Edison: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” They are about “Making Ideas Happen.” So, while funny or inspiring talks make me feel good, so do the archive of TED Talks online.

Instead, these are the things I wanted to walk away with:

  • Understanding – specifically – how a successful creative person went from being an individual with a good idea and motivation, to actually building their product/service/company/idea in practical steps. As I mentioned, my company is three years old, and I have been unbelievably lucky in that time. My company is doing well. But I also work very hard, and am wondering, how can I build up momentum? How can I evolve? How can the company be more than just me?
  • Processes. This is where we go beyond the clichés. The conference – like all conferences – was filled with them. I am TOTALLY okay with that. It is what comes after the cliché that matters. So when someone says “Hire Only A-Players,” that is a cliché that oftentimes ignores that challenges of such a vague missive: how do you do that on a budget; what about hiring for roles that require strict rule following; how to do that in a competitive job skill and/or region; how to find these people and negotiate with them; how do you integrate a team of A-Players so they work together? etc.

    The best sessions of the conference were the people who shared their specific processes for doing these things. If they said “Create a Minimum Viable Product” (which many attendees said), the best speakers took you through examples of their specific process to do so. They didn’t tell me stories of how others did it, pulling from easy-to-Google Apple examples, but the sloppy, confusing, scary stories of what they did, and what they do every day.

  • Clear ideas about where to focus, but also what to ignore. How often have you walked away from a great conference with stacks of Powerpoint decks, but fall right back into your same routine. What I wanted from this was polarization. Whether they were new ideas or not, I wanted to have a clear sense of what to focus MORE energy on, and what to cut away entirely.
  • Connections to other attendees. This is obvious for any conference – the reason to show up is the people, not just the information. This is especially so in an age where many of these talks will likely show up online for free eventually. One of the reasons I spent $1,000 for this conference is that I felt the mission of 99u would ensure that it was an audience of people truly in-the-trenches trying to build something as I was. Not just passionate, but people with digital dirt under their fingernails.

    This did prove to be the case, although I found there is never enough time to socialize and meet as many people as I would like. But those I did talk to were wonderful, and it was not uncommon for each of us to say “we should talk more about this…”

At the beginning of the conference, 99u posited a very similar set of goals:

99u Conference

What Made a Great Session:
Some sessions at 99u were amazing. They delivered on everything I hoped for. Others were not. I want to avoid naming names because I ABSOLUTELY RESPECT EVERY SPEAKER FROM THIS EVENT. If I didn’t feel I got value from their talk, that does not indicate I don’t appreciate them. Every speaker is accomplished in ways I can only dream about.

Okay, these are the two parameters that defined great sessions for me:

  1. Sharing their actual process that they use every day to create value and solve problems. I wanted to know things such as: how do they onboard clients; how do they create a minimum viable product; how do they figure out their pricing; how do they measure value of not just people will pay for, but what the world needs; how they deal with the emotions on the long road of trying to succeed; how do they hire, and when do they NOT hire; what documentation do they provide to clients; how long are their engagements; how do they differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace; how do they organize teams; how do they choose when to partner and when to build in-house; etc.
  2. Original research and original experience. I didn’t want to hear stories of others, I wanted to know specifics about what they learned, how they learned it, and how that helped them evolve. If they said a cliché, I wanted them to back it up with research data or with a very specific story about how it played out in multiple scenarios for them. Inherent in this, for me, is often identifying the pain points: the stress/anxiety/risk of such scenarios. In other words, saying “Hire Only A-Players,” and then saying “And we have an amazing team of developers,” doesn’t cut it for me. Because I can’t do anything with that.

Sessions I Loved And Why
These three were my favorite sessions:
99u Conference
This is Jane ni Dhulchaointigh, inventor and CEO of sugru. Her talk was the only one to get a standing ovation, and to me, this is the reason why:

Jane’s talk celebrated what her users were able to create, not what she herself or what her product created.

Her story was incredibly powerful and one that tends to resonate with me: YEARS of struggle to try to not just understand and frame her idea, but actually bring it to fruition. She talked about the dead ends of trying to partner with large companies, last ditch efforts to make things happen, the credit card debt, failed experiments, and the value of friends and family. It was an emotional talk, but one filled with practical lessons.

99u Conference
Aaron Dignan, CEO of Undercurrent did a longer “masterclass” on the topic of digital strategy. He provided example after example from his own experience, provided a model for how he works and kept taking us through it from different angles, and had incredible enthusiasm for creating. Super smart guy, but also very down to earth and giving. I took 1,500 words of notes from his session alone.

99u Conference
Michael Wolff, founder of Wolff Olins. Even though his experience is almost legendary in the branding world, he went places no other speaker did. First off: he was unbelievably humble. Second, he illustrated the value of questioning in such deep ways. When listening to him, I really got the sense that he, as a designer, sees the world differently. And in doing so is where you find the opportunity for amazing work. Wholly inspiring, but also very very practical.

Besides those three, there were other wonderful speakers and takeaways. Some highlights:

99u Conference
It wasn’t a surprise that Brené Brown gave a moving talk. There is so much to appreciate about what she shares, but this slide speaks to the place that I resonate with as you try to create something: fear, self-doubt, comparison, anxiety, uncertainty. Many speakers skip over these things as they share their stories of success. Brené doesn’t only share her research, she makes it deeply personal. And to have her open the event was a brilliant move.

99u Conference
Here Cal Newport shows you his notebook for managing time via time blocking. Another person who had a great mix of research and practical advice on how to apply it.

99u Conference
I love this chart from Joe Gebbia from Airbnb – which illustrates the long slog to success. He talked about the specific things they did to try to get the needle to move.

99u Conference
Here Joe shows us how Airbnb uses storyboarding. This was the kind of practical look behind the curtains I was hoping for.

99u Conference
And here Joe gives us a brief exercise to fill out that he does with his own employees.

Other Tips
These were other things I did to try to make the conference a valuable experience:

  • Go with friends. When I signed up for the event last October, I made sure to tell some close friends about it. In the end, I spent a lot of time my friends Christina Rosalie, her husband Todd, Edward Shepard, Gabriela Pereira, Cynthia Morris, and Scott McDowell, all who I knew would be there.
  • Be able to clearly answer this question before you walk into the conference: “What do you want out of this conference?” I thought long and hard about this, as I try to illustrate in this very post!
  • Take copious notes. I ended up with more than 5,000 words to dig back into.
  • Walk up to strangers and talk to them. Again. And again. That’s not easy for most people, including me.

Other Experiences
The conference offered a variety of experiences other than just the main stage, including master classes, off-site visits, mentoring sessions, as well as parties and breaks. It was held at Alice Tully Hall, with the after-party at MoMa. Really, you couldn’t ask for greater venues.

My Real Conclusion on Value
Was the conference worth it? I took more than 5,000 words of notes that I have to parse through still. Overall, I think these are the two ways I will know:

  • Only months later, to see what I IMPLEMENTED based on ideas from the conference, not how inspired I felt the day after.
  • If I would spend another $1,000 (or more likely $1,200 ticket if they raise the price) for the 2014 99u conference. I know a couple of people who went to the 2012 conference and raved about it. But they didn’t attend this year. That says something to me. Likewise, I have had friends rave about other specific conferences, that they were wonderful experiences; BUT that their company and processes were no different 2 months after the conference than 2 months before it.

Thank you to the team at 99u and Behance for the event, especially Jocelyn K. Glei, Sean Blanda, Scott Belsky, and Matias Corea. I know so many others helped create this event, somewhere around 100 people, but these are the names I know.

Here are more photos from the event:

99u Conference

99u Conference

99u Conference

99u Conference

99u Conference

Thanks!
-Dan

“We Take The Songs Of Old, And We Sing Them Into The Future.”

What is the song you will leave behind?

A song that others will sing long after you are gone?

I don’t mean this from just your entire life, but even a single interaction you have with another. What do you leave behind that inspires them, grows in them, affect them in a positive way, and helps shape their actions?

Perhaps it is a story, or an attitude, an experience, or knowledge. Something about you that lives on in others, that they embrace, come to embody, and in doing so, a small part of you lives on far into the future. Not as merely a memory, but an action. That the actions and attitudes of others are shaped by you, long after your time here and now is gone.

This has been a theme that I have been obsessed with this year.

I work with writers, focusing on how they can realize their work, engage an audience, and have their ideas, information and story shape the lives of others.

This is something that is sometimes hard for a writer, an artist, a musician to fully understand or embrace. Their work will essentially be remixed, and evolve without them. You can write a song from your heart, but you can’t control what others hear in it; what it means to them. Same with a book and most forms of creative work.

My favorite singer Glen Hansard performed a medley of songs back in 2010 that I always listen to. It includes “Parting Glass,” which he describes this way:

“That’s an old Irish song from the 16th century, made famous by The Clancy Brothers. All the Clancy brothers have passed. I guess in oral tradition, you take the songs of old, and you sing them and you sing them and you sing them and you sing them into the future.”

Glen sings another song in this medley, “Heyday” – a hopeful song by his friend Mic Christopher who passed away after an accident in 2001. As Glen travels the world, he sings Mic’s songs to new people he meets. In a tiny way, Mic’s attitude and ideas live on. His music lives on.

Recently I read something that moved me in the deepest ways, and I can’t think of anything more appropriate to share as we end this year, and enter a new one. This was written by someone I used to work with, Jeff DeBalko. We stay connected on social media and via email, but seeing this written on his Tumblr really gave me so much to consider:

“On Father’s Day in 1996, my son Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia… his treatment was 2 1/2 years. During that time there were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of rushed drives to the hospital, and the incredible anxiety and fear of every test to see if the cancer had returned. Ryan, unfortunately has been left with severe developmental disabilities. At 20 years old, he struggles to read and write, struggles to tell time or do any kind of math, is unable to tie his shoes, and has a hard time walking down stairs without help. When he was 16, he was diagnosed with Epilepsy, likely caused by brain damage from the chemo, and now takes daily medication to reduce seizures.”

But what Jeff takes from this, and how it affects his daily life is inspiring to me:

“Despite all his challenges, Ryan is truly the happiest and most appreciative person I have ever known… It’s amazing how your child getting cancer can straighten out your priorities very quickly and make you realize that there are very few things in life worth arguing about.”

“Even with what has happened to Ryan, our family realizes how lucky we are. Many of the friends we met in those early days in the hospital lost their son or daughter. Out of this tragedy came many great things and great lessons… We cherish every single day together and enjoy every vacation and holiday together. All because of Ryan.”

All of this is not to say that daily life cannot be a big challenge for Ryan, Jeff, and their family. But the perspective that they take from their experiences helps create more special moments than bad days.

As I look forward to next year, I am keeping this in mind. How fortunate we are to have the opportunity to create. To not just create books or songs or art, but to create moments for others. That these experiences become the building blocks for their lives, as they are inspired and informed by the work that you shared with them.

Thank you Glen. Thank you Jeff. Thank you Ryan. Thanks to all of you out there, singing your songs.
-Dan

Lessons on the Sacrifice of Craft, From the ULTIMATE Collection

In my work with writers, I constantly get this feedback: “I am overwhelmed.” Why? Because they are juggling so many things:

  • They have a day job to pay the bills.
  • They have a spouse and kids to help take care of.
  • They have a home to manage and clean, and a lawn to mow.
  • They want time to write.
  • They are trying to connect with readers and grow their platform. In this process, maybe they are trying to blog, or engage in social media, or go to events.
  • They have hobbies, friends, and other personal emotional needs. Maybe they even want to read a book every now and again.

And yet, many people feel that it is possible to do it all. That they can masterfully do everything perfectly. There is this impression is that to be a “professional” is to be in control, to have expert processes that make everything work like clockwork. That there is an easy way to balance it all, and to create something of high quality. A book; a blog; a purpose.

We feel that if we just reach a certain level, suddenly, everything will be okay. A friend said this to me the other night:

“There is no getting to. This is it.”

The implication was that in our professional lives, we often feel that if we just “get to” the next level (the next promotion, the next milestone, etc), that life will be better. Everything will be balanced. We will feel able to create work of exceptional quality and depth. Her point is that you can’t wait for that day. Life is happening right now. You need to be crafting remarkable work even under the stress of everyday life.

We strive for perfection, but it is rarely what we think it is.

I found an intriguing example of focused perfectionism recently, a series of videos I have been OBSESSED with. It is about someone writing a book, and the research she is doing for it. So I want to use these videos as a lens in which to look at what focus and perfectionism looks like, and what the trade-offs are.

THE MOST INCREDIBLE COLLECTION OF ANYTHING I HAVE EVER SEEN
Meet Aire. She goes by “Aire” or “Airedevon” online, and perhaps offline too. She has what is pretty much a complete collection of G.I. Joe action figures from the 1960s through today. It fills every nook and cranny of a large house. She is writing a series of books (7 volumes) cataloguing everything there is to know about G.I. Joe toys.

This is her living room (you can see Aire herself in the top left corner):

Airedevon

And here is an amazing 4-hour video series (broken out into 18 individual videos) where she takes you through all of it. This is just one of those videos:

She doesn’t just collect one of every G.I. Joe action figure, she collects every variation of every figure or vehicle from every country that produced them around the world.

When you watch the videos, you see her going through thousands upon thousands of figures and vehicles. She passionately points out the slightest differences in color of plastic between the Columbian version of a vehicle and the the US version; Or how one action figure is slightly different than another between the German version and the French version.

Here is another one of the videos where she shows off her non-G.I. Joe action figures, in what she calls the “toybrary” – a library of toys to play with:

The depth of her collection is astounding, and it shows a rare level of perfectionism. Many people researching a book such as this would likely interview others who have owned different vehicles and figures. They would visit these collections, photograph them, and move on.

But Aire’s strategy is different: she has first-hand experience with it all, and owns every G.I. Joe toy ever produced all at once so that she can compare them.

I love so many things about her passion, especially that she appreciates the play value of these toys. She will actually open old toys (which are very valuable) so that you can touch them and play with them. This, as opposed to many others who practically seal toys in air-tight packaging to ensure they don’t “lose value.”

There is a flip side to what Aire has created. She admits that her collecting has gone further than she would like, that it has eaten her house, and I would have to guess: lots of her time. As for the expense of it all, I can only imagine that she has some funding source for this, but I don’t want to venture a guess as to what it is. That’s too personal. She buys lots of stuff on eBay, meaning she is paying top dollar. She says the most she has ever paid for a single figure is $5,000. Her collection is worth a fortune.

She estimates that she owns:

  • 28,886 small G.I. Joe figures (which does not include figures from the 60s and 70s)
  • 10,586 of these figures are unopened

I come from a family of collectors. Growing up we had a coin and stamp business in the 1970s, a baseball card business in the 1980s, and everyone in my family has had collection obsessions over the years: shelves and shelves of “rare” items.

But I am astounded by Aire’s collection. Quite frankly, I have never seen a collection of ANYTHING that is this complete, and so lovingly put together.

As for the book she is creating, the time seems to creep away. She keeps pushing back deadlines for publishing the first volume. She is still searching for elusive figures and vehicles. She is carefully photographing each item and crafting the descriptions and context.

Do you have this level of perfectionism in your work?

So what can we take from this as writers trying to do it all; trying to find balance amid work, life, and a writing career?

My conclusion? You can’t do it all.

Choose carefully where you put your energy. Do only what matters. Forget everything else.

Double-down on some things. Is your writing a hobby or a profession? Decide this now. Today.

We like to think that craft is easily accessible. That if we just show up, we will be rewarded for our efforts. But that is rarely true. My friend Richard Nash has been putting together a limited edition book, and recently shared this feedback about how expensive, time-consuming and difficult it is to craft something special:

“What I learned from this experience: limited editions are hell! Very hard. This has taken eighteen months to put together. It has been insanely expensive. Make sure, if you try this at home, that you are collaborating with an experienced partner. The unit cost on this edition has been $142. The list price will be $250, rising as the edition sells down.”

At $142 per book, this doesn’t cover a single moment of his 18 months worth of effort, that is merely the physical expense per book, and likely paying his collaborators. We often say we want something special and unique, but are we willing to make this effort? As a consumer to buy a $250 limited edition book, or as a creator to spend 18 months developing one?

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that aggregators and social platforms such as Pinterest have become so popular. You can create a collection instantly. Just find cool stuff that others have aggregated, and “curate” it on your own board. There is an instant sense of accomplishment, of creation, and the identity that comes with that. If you spend a few hours pinning things, you suddenly have a rather impressive looking board, and feel that this represents who you are.

But to create something of meaning, to create something truly unique and special, you need to make hard choices. Often, you need to sacrifice something. Aire’s sacrifices are obvious. What will your’s be?

Curious to learn more about Aire’s G.I. Joe collection? Here you go:

Thanks to Flophouse Films for the incredible video series on Airedevon. Here are all 18 parts:

Thanks.
-Dan