Today I want to share a case study of the work I did with author and artist Meera Lee Patel. We have known each other for a few years, and last year she reached out to me about working together.
Meera is the author of four books which have sold more than a million copies in total. She has more than 50,000 followers on Instagram, and a thriving career as an artist and writer. I think it would be easy for anyone to look at what she has achieved and just be awed by it — like she has “made it” as a writer and artist. And of course, she has. Her body of work is astounding and inspirational. But as any creator knows, the work we do is a journey, and at different points we need to adjust our path and ensure it is filled with a sense of deep fulfillment and joy.
When we began talking about working together, these were her goals:
- To feel as though she gave her next book the best possible chance at success. That book was more than a year away from publication when we began working together.
- To have a system to share her work that felt authentic to who she is and what her work means to her. To make sharing her work filled with a sense of joy, not obligation and burden.
- To give voice to the aspects of her work that she most wanted to be known for. Within this was the concern that the direction her work is growing may not be where much of her audience wanted to go.
We decided to work together for three months, which is the minimum amount of time I work with someone. We spoke every other week on the phone, worked through my system, and customized everything based on her goals and challenges.
At the end of our time together, I asked about results. This is how she described the outcomes of our work together:
Identity Shift and Creative Clarity
Meera has had some big changes in her life recently. She had recently given birth to her daughter, moved from Tennessee to St. Louis, and changed her entire schedule and focus of her work by accepting a Fellowship to pursue her MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture at Washington University in St. Louis.
That is a lot of change at once, and I don’t have to remind you that this is all happening amidst the near constant changes to our lives in the past couple of years. That means every little decision was more complicated.
Meera’s new book and return to school amounted to something of a career shift. She put a lot of her regular work on hold, and has been carefully considering what she wanted to create. Writing will increasingly be a bigger part of her work moving forward.
What we worked on was how to best express this so that it feels as though it resonates with her intentions. Likewise, she wanted to feel that she is signaling to her existing audience where her work is headed in a way that brings them along in a meaningful way.
She didn’t want to just grow her audience, but rather, focus on the followers who resonate with her new creative work. Inherently, this is about a shift in her identity, one where she feels she has permission to be true to herself, and not disappoint her existing followers. With that clarity comes permission to create and share.
Creative Confidence to Share Her Voice
It’s one thing to know what you want to do, it’s another to get it done. In making such a big creative shift, having confidence in one’s own voice is critical. And it’s not easy.
Meera is someone who has diligently and carefully shared her art and writing over the years. In shifting her focus, she wanted to be conscious to do it in in a way that didn’t feel haphazard to her or her readers.
Here, confidence is not solved by saying, “Go for it!” It is paying attention to the details, ensuring you have the foundation set, and where you are leading people. It is detailed work that is partly strategic, partly psychological, and partly emotional. Just like writing and art!
This is where a collaboration becomes especially meaningful. To stress test her ideas, work through scenarios and getting another set of eyes on all she is considering. Here, she can reaffirm what she does want to develop, and how to amplify her voice in doing so.
One big outcome was a revamp of her email newsletter, which wwas never her favorite thing to do. In our process, we developed a new format, new frequency, and most importantly: infused it with a sense of joy.
She says now that her newsletter is the most regular writing she does each week, that it feels 100% aligns to her creative voice, and she loves showing up for it.
Authenticity in Outreach
Having built a successful career as a writer and artist, Meera is comfortable with pitching her work, and developing a wide network. But like anyone who creates, she wants to ensure that when she is tending to these connections and forging new ones, that the process is infused with a sense of authenticity and generosity.
In working through this, we came up with the idea of focusing on gratitude emails. To stay connected with those she already knows, and create new connections by sending emails where she expressed gratitude for who they are and what they create. In other words, don’t make it about you, make it about helping others feel good.
She began this and was amazed at how great it felt, and effective it was. It allowed her to flip her perspective on what marketing can be. That the goal can simply be to do something nice for someone, and that will still have a meaningful impact on your own creative goals.
Having a Clear Plan
If you have followed my work for awhile, you will know that I have developed a system called The Creative Success Pyramid, which helps creators get clear about their identity, understand their ideal audience, and share their work in a meaningful way.
For clients, we work through this system in a 15+ tab spreadsheet that walks through each element. Meera found this incredibly useful, and it felt like the perfect match to the creative aspects of her life. Here within the system was a clear plan to consider her voice, her audience, and how it connects to sharing on social media and elsewhere.