Want to Finish That Project? Let’s Try This.

I’m going to guess you’ve got at least one project that taunts you. It wants to be finished, and Lord knows you’re ready for it to be done. Yet there it is, in all its incomplete glory, still hanging around. In my case, the unfinished projects tend to be DIY, home-decor related. Don’t look too closely, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got one for every room of the house. And so, when I chose to take on a far bigger project–starting a side business–I knew I needed to do things differently.

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A workshop I attended this summer called Start Finishing resonated with me. When starting a project, I discovered, we’d all benefit from establishing a success pack. (Read Part 1 of this article to become equally convinced.) I sensed setting up a support network would be critical for me, since starting a side gig would be a long-term task.

Let’s Do This, Together

If I intended to pull this off, I wouldn’t be able to rely solely on the bursts of enthusiasm that typically bring me through projects. And so, I set off on a hunt for pack members. I scoured online communities, reached out to people I know, and looked for gatherings in my hometown.

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Over the course of the next two months, I became obsessed with my success-pack search. Though I work full time, I sent out feelers during free time: in the mornings before work, while watching TV at home, and on weekends. Once I got going, I went from having almost no resources, to gathering more than I knew what to do with.

Would-Be Entrepreneurs And Bloggers: There Are Tons of Resources Out There

By getting a little brave and reaching out, I learned an important lesson: There are tons of success-pack resources out there. Here’s a list I’ve found helpful.

RESOURCES: NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE

Blogging Courses from WordPress. My blogging journey began with a free online class from WordPress, Blogging 101: From Zero to Hero. As promised, I went from no blog to fully functional one in 30 days. Granted, I devoted significant time to it each day, and I dove headfirst into the community provided. But the structure paid off, and I’ve loved blogging ever since. If you’re curious, give it a try!

Live Your Legend (LYL). If you want to surround yourself with can-do types, see if there’s an LYL local group in your city. This global movement is dedicated to helping people find work they love. See the TED talk from founder Scott Dinsmore. Tragically, Dinsmore passed away in the summer of 2015, but the community he built lives on with enthusiasm.

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Here I am at my very first LYL Local meeting (Minneapolis, January, 2016). Within minutes of walking in the door, I was welcomed with a mug of tea. Then I got to hear stories of ventures being carried out by this crew of creative, committed folks. Interested in simple living? Our group’s host has a site for that: Joel Zaslofsky.

Facebook Communities. I found a few good ones early on, and they helped me feel supported right away. I’m amazed by the active encouragement strangers give each other in online groups like Blog Share Learn, Design Your Own Blog, and The Women of Midlife. Search an activity, and you’re sure to find a FB group talking about it. It may take some trial and error to find the right ones, so don’t be shy. Take part in the conversation, and start picking up new skills.

Mastermind Groups. If you’d benefit from regular check-ins with a small group, I highly recommend tracking down one of these. Masterminds, which typically happen as video chats, bring together 3-5 people working toward sharpening business and personal skills. They share ideas, provide accountability, and track progress.

I love living in a world where I can meet soul sisters across the globe. There are three of us in my mastermind: an English teacher in Germany and an artist in New York. Lucky for me, their group had an opening after someone dropped out. I was super impressed when I discovered these crafty ladies had created an ebook together last year. Check out their workbook Stoke Your Creative Fire.

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My mastermind buddies and I chat weekly. Yes, my tea mug is a permanent fixture. The wall art behind me was created by grandparents. I like to think their artistic legacy flows through my veins, an idea that boosts my new venture.

Tracking Wonder. Someone in this online community blows my mind every time I visit. The group serves mission-driven professionals and has the tagline, “Be radical. Lead with your ideal.” Its community has an active forum that shows people living this out every day. Their projects help me see beyond limitations I put on my own ideas.

Rising Tide Society.  This group, for small business owners in creative industries, encourages members to “grab a cup of coffee and start learning.” In addition to their online support on topics like blogging, branding, and life-work balance, the group hosts TuesdaysTogether meetings in cites across the United States. (Yes, they happen at cool coffee shops.)

Fizzle. In a world where we expect online stuff to be free, it can sometimes feel jarring to be charged for something. But Fizzle, Honest Online Business Training, is a shining example of a principle we should all embrace: Good content is worth paying for. The site features a host of video classes on topics like video production, social media, and connecting with anyone.

RESOURCES IN MY HOMETOWN (These Are Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.) Check your Region for Something Similar.

Twin Cities Blogger Collective. I’m super pumped to have discovered this crew of capable women, who write about a bevvy of things like this:

Springboard for the Arts. This organization provides professional development, health care support, and incubator programs for individuals making a living through the arts.

Pollen. I always enjoy popping onto Pollen Midwest’s site. As if its job boards, events, and stories of local entrepreneurs weren’t enough, the site’s design is gor-geous. Seriously. These people know the meaning of good design.

Women Venture.  This nonprofit helps women create and grow small businesses. At their information session, I learned the two most common types clients start are food trucks and fitness ventures. Also: The organization serves men, too.

Whew. This may be the longest post I’ve written, so kudos for making it this far! I hope you’ve found some tools or inspiration for that venture of your own. So, what resources do you use to stay connected and complete projects? Do tell.

 

Finishing Projects: Build Your Success Pack

A few weeks ago, I announced my intention to start a side gig. Admitting this terrified me, and talking about it hasn’t gotten any easier. That said, I’m also drawn to bringing you along with me, in case you have similar dreams of your own. Whatever life project you’re undertaking (starting a business not required), I’d love to provide inspiration for your journey. And heck, I’d even consider it a good thing if any of my failures help you figure out what to avoid.

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Let’s talk about finishing projects. Are you a finisher, or more of a chronic starter? For me, ideas come fast, but willpower tends to lag. I routinely start WAY more projects than I complete. But this venture, my dream to to build a side business, is different. It’s tugging at me in a deeper way. So much so, that I’m actively putting structures in place to propel me from dreams to action.

This past August, at the summer camp for entrepreneurs called Camp GLP (a.k.a., Good Life Project), I attended a workshop that’s been gradually changing my life ever since. Led by Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing, Start Finishing was a session that provided us with 10 keys to finishing any project. Together, they’ve transformed my habits and equipped me with a structure to follow. (I hear he’s turning this workshop into a book. When he’s done, I’ll be first in line to buy it, unless you beat me to it.)

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The notes I took during Start Finishing continue to inspire me. “Impact doesn’t come from things you might do.” Indeed, Gilkey, indeed.

Right now I’m working on Key #4: Pick Your Success Pack. As you’ve probably guessed, a success pack is a collection of people that helps you make things happen. Gathering this crew is super important, but it’s a step people tend to blow past. An individual may think teams will come down the road, or worse, that he or she is obligated to go it alone.

Last month I attended an info session for budding entreprenuers at WomenVenture, a MInneapolis nonprofit. It’s devoted to helping women “achieve economic success through small business ownership.” There I learned that women are particularly susceptible to overstretching their emotional and financial resources. They’re more likely to believe they have to do it all, especially in the early days of their businesses. If not corrected, this miscalculation can lead to massive frustration, often causing the venture to fail.

During Start Finishing, Gilkey put it this way: “Every successful project has a team behind it.” I already believed this, but the part I hadn’t considered was the importance of building a team from the start. In fact, you’re considerably better off if you establish your success pack before you begin.

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The project-starters among you may be surprised, as was I, that doing the work doesn’t even come till Gilkey’s Key #9 (yes, of 10). Preparing for your project, as it turns out, is critical to success. Big sigh! Yeah, sure, I get this intellectually and have known it for a long time. Even so, planning ahead doesn’t come naturally to me.

My shiny-object personality is precisely why I’ve relied so heavily on Gilkey’s recommendations. I’ve found them helpful because they’ve taught me what to do and when. They’ve given me confidence to know I’m on the right track and keep going. In this case, Gilkey says a solid success pack includes four roles: guides, peers, supporters, and beneficiaries.

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Guides know more than you and have the ability to teach it. Peers understand what you’re going through, as they’re doing similar projects. Supporters cheer you on along the way. They may not understand every detail of your project–and they don’t need to–but they DO care about you. Presumably, they’re fun to hang around, which will come in handy when you’re ready to celebrate a milestone. These can be large or small, but make sure to plan on regular intervals to recognize them.

Gilkey emphasized the importance of sharing and celebrating socially. He made a point of telling us that “any progress counts.” Boy, is this last piece of advice tailor made for you and me or what? It’s easy to minimize things you’ve already done, focusing instead on the mountain of tasks ahead. Finally, beneficiaries are the ones who’ll make use of your project’s end result. Understanding their needs is vital, so you’ll want to check in with them regularly, too.

Can you identify people in your network who might carry out these roles on your project? Think about it, then think about it some more. Then, if you feel inspired, feel free to chime in and let me know. I’d be curious to hear what your project is (or not), and how you’re using success packs to help you get there.

By the way, I’ll be sharing more about my process of picking a success pack in Part 2 of this article. Until then, happy pack building!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adopt-a-Crop: Choose the Best Pic

One of my fave things about photography is the cropping tool. Seriously, y’all, I looove cropping photos! But why should I get to have all the fun? Let’s play a game I’m calling Adopt-a-Crop. The rules are simple: I create multiple crops of the same shot; you choose the best one. Last weekend at the park reserve near our house, my guy snapped a pic of me with our Frankie girl.

Ready to play? Great. Now, adopt your crop by taking the poll below.

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A: The Sky’s the Limit to Doggy Fun

 

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B: Golden Tree, Golden Girl

 

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C: Grounded in Snow and Love

 

 

Feel free to explain your answer in the comments. I’d be curious to hear what drew you to your choice. Either way, thanks for playing along!

I Want to Feel Empowered in 2016. How ‘Bout You?

A few weeks ago, I did something I’ve never done before. I went to the dark side and bought a planner. Yes, you heard me right. A planner! Mind you, I’m not talking some online version. This a spiral-bound behemouth, and I intend to carry with me everywhere.

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Despite its thickness, I decided to spring for the daily planner. Created by Danielle LaPorte, this one asks me to consider, “What I Will Do to Feel the Way I Want to Feel.” Time is a precious commodity. I like the idea of organizing my hours this way.

Perhaps to some of you, the act of buying a planner is no big deal. If this is you, I can only assume you’re one of those organized people. Uh-huh. You may be one of those, the type who writes a list of tasks, then actually GOES AND DOES THOSE TASKS.

If you were standing in front of me, I’d be eyeing you suspiciously, trying to figure out what magic sorcery you’re hiding. For me, motivation doesn’t show up systematically. No, it comes through inspiration. Sure, I can appreciate a good system, but not for system’s sake. If the structure serves a wider vision, though, then you’ll get my attention.

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I look foward to filling out prompts like this every day. If we all planned our days around core desired feelings, how might our lives improve?

And so I ask: How do you want to feel this year? Pick a word. Then choose three more. What actions can you take to feel this way, at least more of the time? Consider how you can arrange your time to make it happen.

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For me in 2016, word number one is empowered. I’ll say it again: I want to feel more empowered this year. I’d also like to feel vital and rested and centered. And so, here I go. One day, then the next, then the next, I’ll think about this as I fill in my calendar.

Whatever words you select, I commend your goals. (Unless you happen to be Donald Trump and have also chosen empowered. In that case, I have to believe you’ve already got more power than you know what to do with. And, hey, what the heck are you doing on a blog for women creatives, anyway?)

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As it happens, today is my blog’s one-year anniversary. Or is it a birthday? Either way, I wanted to commemorate it. More than any single thing in 2015, starting a blog has made me feel empowered.

Planner or no planner, I hope in 2016 you find lots of ways to honor your chosen feelings and live them out. And I really do want to know the words you choose, so feel free to let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the Holidays Bring You Grief, This One’s for You

“I need your help .  . . without you, I don’t know how to be me.” This post, addressed from a mother to her daughter, came across my Facebook feed this past October. Less than two months earlier this daugher, the mother’s only child, had passed away from luekemia, just shy of her 14th birthday.

Say what you will about the coldness of online communication, but here was a case where technology was no shield for human emotion. Grief spilled through the keys and could be felt, in every direction, for miles and miles and miles.

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Here’s a project you can do for somebody who’s grieving. Several months ago, I pinned this Altoid-tin upcycle project from Junk & Stuff, hoping to try it soon. Now I’ve finally had the chance to make this, my own interpretation.

In the weeks following, I became repeatedly humbled by this particular mama’s ability to open herself up. She sprinkled her feed with photos and dreams and stories and laments. I happen to be a believer in vulnerability, so I quietly cheered her on for having the guts to express herself so candidly. (She owed the rest of us nothing, of course. All grief is personal, and nobody but the person living it gets determine what feelings need to arise, when, or how.)

Still: Oh, how I wish we could all learn to “craft love from heartbreak,” as researcher-storyteller Brene Brown outlines in her 2-minute video, Manifesto to the Brave and Brokenhearted. I’m grateful for Brown’s relentless work in encouraging us all to embrace vulnerability more.

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Choose what you want to say, then make them into tiny cards that fit in the tin. I made these by cutting up old postcards and fabric, then attaching them to each other with Mod Podge.

Last month, another friend published a Facebook post about grief. This time, it was a poem about how she’d moved through mourning over the course of several years. Fortunately, she later posted the piece, What I’ve Learned About Grief, on her blog Sheri Hoeger’s Art to Live By. Hoeger’s words inspired me right away, as she’d managed to verbalize things I wouldn’t have thought to say myself.

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I chose to make each card different. Grief expresses itself differently on different days, so why not reflect that in the cards?

So, as I’d undertaken before during a friend’s hardship, I did the only thing I knew how: I made something with my hands. Hoeger’s words struck me as a great match for the keepsake-box project that had been swimming in my brain ever since glimpsing the tutorial I’d found online.

Perhaps what struck me most about Hoeger’s piece was that that its paragraphs didn’t necessarily have to be absorbed in linear fashion. Rather, its segments could be cut apart and savored, one by one. They could be placed on cards, each decorated with its own special fabric. Like memories of a loved one, the words could be delivered in fragments that have no chronology.

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Feel free to express your grief, or not, however is right for you on any given day.

My hope was that the recipient of my comfort box (yes, the mother from earlier in this story) could choose to take in Hoeger’s bits of comfort as she felt ready. Sometimes she might feel moved to read them all. Other days, she might respond to just one. Who knew? Maybe she’d feel compelled to put a little card in her purse as a secret special reminder, just for an afternoon.

Regardless, it felt good to make it. Perhaps it was a partly selfish act, my own vain attempt DO SOMETHING about a situation I can’t control. I love words and all, but sometimesmy brain comes up short, and my hands are only ones who can take over and create.

If you’re experiencing grief this holiday season, I hope you know it’s okay to be patient with yourself. I hope you know your vulnerability isn’t weakness (thank you, Brene Brown), and that you can find the courage to express it however is right for you. I hope somehow, some way, this day, this night–whatever your individual story may be–you can find a tiny box of comfort of your own.

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(Photo by me.)

 

 

Podcasts that Keep Me Sane: Importance of Creative Expression

Two months ago I wrote about podcasts and how they keep me sane. Soon after my techie man sold me on the benefits of Stitcher, which knits content together like a radio station, I made an unexpected discovery. Podcasts helped lessen my insomnia. This was no small feat, as I’d wrestled with it off and on for years.

Over time I incorporated podcasts into other parts of my life: workouts, walks, and commutes. I found comfort in filling my mind with positivity and knowledge. I liked hearing the voices of can-do types hosting dialogues about things I care about, like wellness, entrepreneurship, and creative women. So you can imagine my joy to come across an episode that incorporates all three topics in a single conversation.

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Life on Purpose‘s Gregory Berg is up front about the times he interviews people he knows personally. In that spirit, I’ll put out there that I met both Berg and Morris at Camp GLP this past summer. I can attest to the fact that they’re as thoughtful and genuine as they sound online.

Life on Purpose, Ep. 38 is an interview with creative entrepreneur Cynthia Morris: The Paris Tragedy and Creative Expression as a Force for Good. This compelling show demonstrates the kind of conversations that routinely draw me to the podcast. I started listening around a year ago, well before The Huffington Post sang its praises, pointing out that “this podcast will open your eyes to what it means to live your life with intention.” I’ve been wanting to write about it for awhile, and this episode provided the inspiration I’d been waiting for.

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Here I am listening to a podcast during a workout. My bike trainer allows me to lock the bike into place anywhere in the house. Yes, Frankie the golden retriever and Tiger the cat like to gather around. (My apologies for the bad lighting and weird panorama effect. Sigh, not every moment of my is life photo-shoot worthy.)

Morris and host Gregory Berg discuss topics like growing as a person through travel, overcoming fear of discomfort, and responding to the Paris terrorist attacks of Nov. 13, 2015. (For years, Morris has led creativity workshops there.) Woven through this material was the theme of creative expression. My favorite part was their dialogue on a well-known quote from researcher and storyteller Brene Brown: “Unexpressed creativity is not benign.”

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I took this photo while visiting family in Raleigh for Thanksgiving. Within walking distance of my parents’ house, Forest for the Trees is a place I always draw comfort from. Taking a stroll to the scuplture park at the North Carolina Museum of Art is something I do on every trip to Mom and Dad’s.

According to Morris, these words brought her to tears when she heard Brene Brown speak at the World Domination Summit in 2011. Helping people express untapped creativity is at the core of Morris’ work as a coach for writers, artists, and even those who think they’re not creative.

For me, too, Brown’s quote is visceral. I feel it in a way that eludes conscious thought. It’s only been in the past few years, though, that I’ve become aware of it, slowly, over time. I started this blog last January after a girlfriend suggested I join her Blogging 101 course. As it’s turned out, establishing this vehicle for my writing and photography has changed me. It’s made me stronger in all areas of my life, which is mostly a good thing.

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Here’s a shot I took when visiting Brooklyn for the first time this past October. I immediately fell in love with the use of streets and walls as a space for dialogue and art. I wished I’d had time to spend an afternoon just capturing a photo series. This one, though, I absolutley could not pass up.

Along the way another thing’s happened. Now that my creative voice has been given a place to speak, it wants more. As I’ve grown more confident in speaking out, I’ve also become more aware of times in life when that isn’t possible. Things I’ve accepted for years as normal–my normal, anyway–may no longer be sufficient.

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A few years ago I adopted the habit of buying a letterpress calendar from an artist online. This image from DittoDittoWorks is the one I can’t get out of my mind. If you were to draw a picture of what my blog’s done for me, this would be it.

The idea of looking further is what brings me to Quest2016 from Tracking Wonder. It’s an online community I recently discovered. During December, participants submit responses to prompts about the coming year. A recent prompt, from professor and author Tina Seelig goes like this: What advice would your future self a year from now give you today?

I’m insanely curious to find out what my future self will be able to tell me in a year. Based on ways I’ve grown this past year, I’ve committed to continue learning. I’m on a specific path of expressing my creativity in several ways: writing, photography, sewing, and–most unfamiliar at this stage–starting a side business.

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I learned in another episode of Life on Purpose that Berg nearly died while in his teens. Now in his 40s, Berg still draws meaning from what the experience taught him.

I can’t say exactly what will happen this year, but I’m confident my future self will have concrete examples to show. It’ll remind me of ways I’ve benefitted from expressing my voice. My future self will encourage me to take a breath, a palpable one, and celebrate these accomplishments. With a gentle nudge, though, it’ll also remind me how important it was to take action.

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These bleeding hearts caught my attention on walk I took over Memorial Day weekend. I never get enough of our neighborhood trail system.

My future self will point out that the things actually happened, only did so because I acted: sent an email to an entrepreneur who inspires me, wrote down a schedule, or published a post. It’ll prod me to remember Cynthia Morris’ words: “The work we make, make us.” Indeed, it was the process of doing my writing and my business that brought the growth and reward.

No advice from my future self would be complete without a reminder to to be patient. To take a longer view. “I know you love shiny objects,” it’ll say. “I love them too, and I always will.” But you simply cannot chase them all. “Look back at the ones that mean the most,” it might whisper, “and remember they took time.” After more practice, I think I’ll be better at heeding than advice than I used to be.

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This shot was taken by blogger, gardener, sewist, and former roller-derby gal Lilly Warner. Also a photographer, Warner told me she still loves jumping shots, even if they may be passe. We decided, why not take one at that moment? My camera was too slow to catch me in air, but I love how it turned out. Much of my life I’d have been too shy to jump like this, openly on the streets of Brooklyn, in front of someone I’d just met the night before. These days, I say to heck with the shyness. Look what I’d have missed!

If I’m lucky, advice from my future self will have the warmth and urgency Morris’ voice. Like hers, my own voice will want me to step up to my crative impulses and do what I want to do. Yes, even if I have no idea where it’s going to take me.

Know, too, that I wish the same for you. Where do you want to go in the coming year? And what what will your future self say to you when you get there?

[BTW, if you’re a blogger looking for link parties, try Women with Intention Wednesdays.]

 

 

Get Cozy with Your Inner Crafter

Chances are, you’ve got a thing or two on your to-do list this month. No matter what it is you’re fired up to do, it’s going to require some energy. You know you need to take care of yourself to preserve it, so I’m here to give you a little nudge and make sure that happens.

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Let me tell you about two of the best hours I spent this week. Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month, which meant it was time for Crafternoon at my friend Heidi’s place. She’s been hosting these gatherings for more than a year, and yesterday she joked she’s really just looking for an excuse for free advice about how to decorate her apartment.

The truth is she’s one of the best connectors I know, and she brings an orbit of welcome wherever she goes. She brims with project ideas, and I never tire of seeing what she’s making. Even so, I don’t get there every month, sometimes because–say it with me–I’m just too busy. But this time I made self care a priority, and it was the right choice. (Hint, hint.)

The format of Crafternoon’s pretty simple: Show up with the project of your choice, find a spot, and hang out for a bit. (Heck, having a project isn’t even a requirement. Just show up, like Katie did this time.) When I walked in the door, the word cozy came to mind. Everybody was working on something warm you’d reach for during the winter months ahead.

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Don’t you just love the cushiness of Sammi Jo’s scarf? She introduced me to arm knitting, which creates this chunky texture. No needles required!  Check out this arm knitting video from The Crafty Gemini. Then let me know how it turns out!

Rachel was knitting a hat, in the loveliest shade of purplish grey. “Name your color, and I’ll make you one,” she offered, without missing a beat. Sure enough, this hat had been requested by her coworker.

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Why yes, I think I’ll have some tea with my knitting.

This month Heidi continued her watercolor series depicting the Twelve Days of Christmas. As she completes each day, she finds a frame and hangs it on the wall. Continually making room for her newest creations, Heidi’s walls feature a different display each month. Can you name the four days from the song  depicted here?

The coziness continued with some rooibus tea. (We may not have been clear on how to pronounce it, but we enjoyed it just the same.) Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Heidi’s without being offered some tea. Her display cabinet features an artful supply of mismatched cups and saucers, ready for the choosing.

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This sweatshirt, a favorite of Jill’s, was was a gift from her mom years ago. Since moving to Minnesota 15 years ago, I’ve learned the value of having a comfy loungewear rotation.

In addition to the treats Heidi provides, we often bring our own. Because Crafternoons fall on Sundays, the group sometimes scrounges leftovers from events the night before. This time Jill brought cupcakes from her book club’s annual party.

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I couldn’t stop taking pictures of these. Jill made a tiny version of each book her club read this year, complete with marshmallow cream and fondant.

 

The last to arrive, I was also the last to leave. It was just getting dark when I packed up and headed home. Since Heidi lives across the street from the St. Paul Cathedral, I figured I’d take shot for the road.

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Till next time, Crafteroon!

So that was my favorite self care moment from the week. It felt good to surround myself with friends and the chance to be creative. So what about you? What can you make time for that will help maintain your energy?

Becoming My Own Boss

For about a year now, I’ve been mulling the idea of starting a business. Earlier this week I decided to announce my intention publically, ready or not. So, here we go: Over the course of the coming year, I plan to track my progress (here’s hoping) through a new series I’ll call Becoming My Own Boss.

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If nothing else, I hope my explorations can give you some dose of courage. Have you, too, decided to put your foot on a new path? Who knows, maybe something I encounter on mine will help you navigate yours. First up: I need to get clear on exactly why I’m doing this.

GET CLEAR ON THE WHY

Entrepreneurs tend to be shiny-object types who have lots of new ideas, and I am no exception. But at 42, I’ve come to know that time and energy aren’t infinite. I’ve learned the hard way that self-care isn’t a luxury, and I’m committed to protecting it with a fierceness I never knew in my 20s or 30s. So before I rush ahead, I’m making sure I understand my motivations so I can stick to them as I go.

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Evidently midlifers often change careers to find purpose. Flush with cash but empty with meaning, they seek a deeper call. For me, though, a primary motivation is precisely the opposite. For 15 years I’ve worked at a nonprofit whose mission is dear to my heart. My roles there allow me to contribute to an undertaking I still say is the single-most important in society: education.

But a funny thing’s happened over the past year or so, as my inner entrepreneur has emerged. Its voice started quietly but has grown steadily louder. These days, it’s nothing short of a scream. For the first time in my life I’ve started to realize, “Hey, wait a minute, I want to make more money.” Not enough to earn a spot on Richard Branson’s Spaceline or anything, but enough to build a freaking savings account.

What’s more: I’ve gained skills that are worthy of being paid accordingly. I wonder if you have any idea, though, how hard it is for me to say these things. For the better part of a year, my inner dialogue has gone something like this: “Huh, I wonder if there’s a way to add to my savings rather than drawing it down?” Then: “Whoa, hold on a minute there, Missy! Who do you think you are? Educators don’t make money. Niether do artists or creative types like you.”

Even as I type this, I feel a strong sense of guilt. I’ve never had to worry about where my next meal’s coming from, and hunger is a crushing problem in my city, for starters. (Just ask Second Harvest Heartland.) I know I’m privileged in a myriad of ways. Still, as I’ve contemplated starting a side gig, I’ve had to face some deeply ingrained assumptions around finances, earnings, and worth.

BOOKS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS

One resource I’ve found helpful is Kimberly Palmer’s Economy of You. Through stories and an approachable tone, she underscores the importance of “recession-proofing your life.” I found the book so useful I took notes and found the experience empowering. I didn’t formally use her exercises and worksheets, but I’m thinking now they’re worth a second look.

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Palmer’s book also resonates with another of my entrepeneurial whys: I’m inspired by women business owners and I want to join their ranks. There are many reasons for this, but here’s a main one: I’m tired of asking permission. In recent years I’ve observed the amount of energy I’ve wasted, waiting for it to be bestowed: Permission to speak, permission to lead, permission to be noticed.

Yes, we still live a society where women are rewarded for compliance and constantly feel the need to apologize. (Oh, how I adore Amy Schumer’s skit skewering this phenomenon.) I recently came to the understanding that I’ve been waiting, for years, for somebody to give me a shot. I’ve yearned to be given the chance to put my skills together and make an impact. At some point in the last year, though, I had a new realization: Daaaaang, what if the person I’ve been waiting for all this time is me?

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Why not me, indeed? After all, nobody is better equipped to know my skill set. Barriers to the marketplace are growing ever thinner. And thanks to podcasts, youtube, online communities, networks of fellow doers, and good old-fashioned books, I have access to a multitude of tools. (My warm appreciaton goes to commenter Peggy for sending me “Artist’s Statment Part Two” from The Pale Rook, which absolutely struck a chord.)

And so, after months of pondering and research, I’ve narrowed my ideas to two possible business ventures. Though I love both, I must force myself to choose. I still work a full-time job, after all, and I need to be realistic about the fact that anything I start will be a side gig.

This is where Quest2016 comes in. Yesterday’s prompt came from the ever-inspiring Jonathan Fields, who runs the camp for makers and world shakers I attended this summer. By the way, it’s responsible for much of my recent entrepreneurial audacity. Here’s his prompt:

You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.

You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.

What is your question?

For me, defining the question was relatively easy, as I’m already on the path to exploring it. Seeking the answer, though . . . now that’ll be the trick! Here’s the question I’m contemplating:

How can I start and maintain a side business that hits the sweet spot among these criteria: 1) heart and meaning, 2) gifts and flow, 3) skills and tools, and 4) value and profitability? I came across these pieces in Lisa Sonora’s The Creative Entrepreneur, which gives its own prompt for journaling about this, in the form of a creative mandala.

creative_entrepreneur_mandalaI posted about this book the other day and was surprised to receive not one, but two messages from women who know the author. The fact that an ACTUAL PERSON wrote the book came as an odd suprise to me. Sure, it’s filled with personality and heart, but–hey–my only encounter with the book had come through a random search on Amazon.

Independently, both women informed me Lisa Sonora would be pleased to know her work is impacting me. Now I feel doubly encouraged that I’m on the right path of owning my dreams and putting them out into the world. That said . . . I’m curious see what comes next.

For 2016: It’s Okay To Be on a Quest

“When you want to hit the delete key, that’s often the good stuff.” I heard these words more than three months ago–on August 28, to be exact. Yet here they’ve come again, worming their way into my mind. Maybe I’d prefer to ignore the sentiment, this advice I received at a writing workshop led by the amazing Cynthia Morris. Perhaps I really like the delete key and all the power it provides.

Deleting allows me to avoid vulnerability, you see. It lets me pretend I’ve got it all together, and, ahhhhhh, doesn’t that sound just grand? I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, avoiding uncertainty sounds nothing short of fantastic, in writing AND in life. But–you know where this is headed–that ain’t gonna happen.

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And so, here I am. Announcing to you that I want to start a business. I’m afraid it might sound silly, but that sentence was really hard for me to type. Writing it down nearly (not quite, but nearly) brought a tear to my eye. I ended up taking a long pause afterward, for, I don’t know, probably 40 whole seconds. Just to let it sink in. Then I read it over and an actual tear came next. Next, the fact of the crying made me mad. (I’m SO not a fan of the whole vulnerability thing, remember?)

Thankfully, I’ve just signed up for a forum that’s giving me a structure to start talking about this. A few days ago a FB friend of mine suggested I check out Quest2016 on Jefferey Davis’ Tracking Wonder site. Over the course of 12 days (starting today), participants receive 12 prompts from 12 visionaries to help them envision the next 12 months. I’m glad my friend suggested it, because the Quest does in fact suit my intentions right now. Indeed, I signed right up.

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This is my entrepreneurial art journal. You heard me right. I keep an art journal devoted to my business aspirations. Adding art to an endeavour always sweetens the pot for me. So I bought a discounted sketchbook, then used fabric scraps and ModPodge to decorate the cover. The pages contain  collages of paper scraps and washi tape.

Today’s prompt (which comes from mindfulness expert Susan Piver) goes something like this: What do you need to tell yourself about 2016?  For me, the timing of this new year happens to coincide with plans to explore my business ideas. Last month I sold a townhome I’d owned, but hadn’t lived in for years. No longer a reluctant landlord, I now get to focus on starting a new part-time job. This time, it’ll be one I choose, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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I discovered The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam several months ago. Its combination of art and practicality is what drew me in. I particularly love that it features a shiny silver SWOT analysis, a key tool in making a business plan.

Having this new burst of time, energy, and money, is a huge and necessary advtantage. Still, in order to succeed, I need to give myself permission to let it be a quest. If I look at this new venture as a finite thing, a task to be completed, I’ll choke my dreams before they start. Getting caught by perfectionism can sometimes be my M.O. But I’m learning to overcome this tendency. I’ve found that it cripples me, and these days I’m more interested in progress than proving I can get everything right.

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Discipline, meaning, heart. All these will be necessary as I move foward.

Instead, I need to embrace the act of seeking. I need to turn curiosity into a verb. After all, there’s a reason quests have endured throughout time in literature. There’s a reason just about every grade-school student loves video games. Quests aren’t interesting because their heroes already live where he or she wants to be. Rather, such stories live on because their journeys–yep, usually long ones–involve discovery and travel and failure and confusion and hope and renewal. I’ve never started a business before, but I’m pretty sure the process will be less like a static accomplishment and more like an epic trek.

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I ripped this heading out of an old book given to me by my friend Heidi at one of her Crafternoons. She’d fished the book out of a recycling bin, solely for use in a future craft project. Thanks, Miss Heidi!

“It’s okay to be on a quest.” “It’s okay to be on a quest.” This is the mantra I need to keep telling myself next year. Along the way, I plan to record some things I discover about becoming an business creator. No, I don’t know where it’ll lead. But, hey, maybe that’s all right. Because, as the saying (now) goes, it’s okay to be on a quest.