Feb 5, 2016

The Online Luddite (teaser)

For today's post, I'd like readers to head on over to David Abrams' The Quivering Pen blog, where I'm happy to be the guest blogger on tap. David has a great book about the Iraq war (FOBBIT), and he manages to be funny and realistic about a very hard subject. It's quite impressive. Meantime, his free blog subscription includes all kinds of writing from authors around the globe. Here's how my guest post begins, on being a luddite teaching an online class:

"I’ve been giddy all month, but as someone who is labeled “a Luddite” by family and friends, I’m hesitant to talk about why. In a few weeks, my online flash fiction class for 49 Alaska Writing Center goes live. Working quietly from home, I’ve been creating the syllabus for this class, which will pop up for the month of March like a circus—dreamy, full of wonder, with a lot of good one-liners—then move on to make way for other classes. 

My relationship with technology has been strained since I was a grunge-fuelled teenager. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest during the height of Pearl Jam and Nirvana. I saw Everclear perform for a cover charge of one can of beans (donated to the local homeless shelter). That was my kind of technology—person-to-person, pay it forward, experiential. By the time I moved out to go to college, I’d become one of those people with a “Kill Your TV” bumper sticker and have opted to live without television ever since. Smartphones? Suffice it to say, I made Verizon deactivate email capabilities on my phone and requested “the dumbest smartphone you can find” when signing my latest contract. 

So what does being a Luddite have to do with flash fiction (and an online course, at that)?"

...Read the post in full, including craft tips about flash fiction writing, right here.

Jan 29, 2016

Think Big: Fascination

The big news in my new, THINK BIG category of blog posts, is that I've hired a creative consultant. Why? Read here. [Oh, and the other big news is that I got a mention in The Washington Post -- woot woot!]

The end result will be a clearer, more elegant business model and online presence; one that celebrates my work as an author, highlights my expertise (and heartfelt care!) with my writing participants, and positions me as a thought leader.

To that end, my new best friend (aka the creative consultant) will help me consider some of the following...and this is just the beginning of a 16-week process:

  • What is it about me (my work, my offers) that fascinates people?
  • What's evolving out of my contributions to the world? What is the impact?
  • What conversations do I contribute to and am I contributing effectively?
  • Is there a business name that comes from who I am, not necessarily where I am in relation to others?
  • What is my audience yearning for?
  • What is my audience's biggest challenge(s)?
  • What is the premise, the promise, and the destination of each service I offer?
We're 3.5 video consult hours into this (including the pro-bono consult, discussion of the proposal, and solidifying the agreement) and my mind is already spinning, expanding. I'm so excited for what's to come, not because I think that what I'm doing now isn't authentic; quite the contrary. What I do now is strong and meaningful and matters a lot to me...it matters enough that I'm going to use baking soda for toothpaste and sell every spare item in my home for the next four months in order to make ends meet. Right now, a complete stranger on the outside, looking in, cannot keenly glean the impact of my creative pursuits and passions in the world.

With help, that will change. And by mid-May, that change will go public.

Jan 26, 2016

Think Big: Clarifying Vision

There are times in our professional lives as artists, when we have to take creative leaps. These leaps have been well documented in discussions of creative flow, and similar themes. But what I want to make note of today are those leaps we have to take that are financial. I’ve often expressed that one of my goals with The Writing Life Blog is to document the highs and lows of the life of a working writer, even if that means sharing professionally vulnerable experiences. I’m motivated to do this, in large part, because when I searched for examples of creative thirty-somethings that were taking book tour and travel leaps like me, I didn’t find very many resources that shared the hard facts.

To that end, I consciously blogged about my book tour, including an exposing interview sharing the financial realities of my experience. I also blogged about reframing failure.

Now, it’s time to talk about what to do when you’re confronted with one of the best problems in the world: a successful business model that has reached its flex-capacity. Writer@Large private students reading this, never fear—my work with you is always at the forefront of my efforts. Those waiting for new enrollment in May, or future full manuscript critiques and consults—likewise rest assured; I have room for your writing and am still actively seeking more students. Please do stay in touch and/or reach out to learn about my services.

But as I navigate my roles as CEO, Board Chair, Founder, Executive Director, Administrative Assistant, Blogger, Arts Writer, Platform Designer, Educator, Public Speaker, and Author for my own business, it’s become increasingly clear that in order to have the flexibility my business needs to grow (rather than simply maintain), I’ve got to hire help. In private conversation with a handful of creative women entrepreneurs, I’ve found that I’m not alone. We all care deeply for what we do, and we likewise believe in asking to be paid what we deserve, while also silently running our own ships behind the scenes of our public creative profiles.

Time to put a name to what I’ve known for a while: “Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I have to be the one who does.” I learned that lesson when I was a full time Montessori middle school teacher and now I’m learning it again. I’m proud to say it didn’t take reaching the same level of mental and physical fatigue this go-round before I committed to the leap.

I’ve looked long and hard at what brings me the most joy, what brings financial rewards I feel good about, what costs me emotionally, and what costs me creatively. The decision is clear; there are many skilled professionals who understand how to clarify a brand, how to elegantly upgrade a website, and—this is what’s most important—how to refine an artist’s offerings by distilling them down to manageable, tangible, go-get-‘em resources that a) fulfill the private students, b) fulfill the artist, c) pay for the bills and the retirement, d) contribute to a meaningful “bigger” conversation and, c) embody innovation and originality.

What I do now—and have been working toward since 2009 when I founded Writer@Large—hints at all of this already, but it could benefit from an easily articulated, concise vision. In this New Year, I raise my glass toward that vision. With high hopes, with gratitude (for you, readers!), and with an eye toward a continually creative future: Cheers!

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