Business and Art: A Series in Five Parts

The Business of Art

I sat down heavy on the bed, tears pricking at the corners of my eyes as the emotions of the entire experience threatened to swallow me whole.

I was alone at a conference for bloggers and writers, and I’d never felt more out of place in my life. When I left for the weekend, I had big plans.

I’d network with the right people immediately, and we’d all share drinks and swap business advice like old friends by the end of the weekend. I would sniff out the best opportunities for writers like me who wanted to take her career to the next level, and I’d pounce on them like a lioness in the wild.

Oh, I had big plans. Maybe they were a little too big.

It was the final morning of the conference, and I was tired of trying. I’d made attempt after uncomfortable attempt to mingle with others only to feel the sting of rejection. Turns out a lot of people had met up with girlfriends for the weekend and there wasn’t space for a shy outsider with poor conversational skills.

There seemed to be plenty of opportunities to network at this conference, but I wasn’t finding them fast enough. Always a few minutes too late, I felt dejected, frustrated, and confirmed in my assumption that I simply wasn’t cut out for the “business”.

“You’re not cutthroat. You’re too sensitive. You’re not nearly confident enough. And let’s face it, you’re really not that good.”

All the lies of the enemy rolled through my head on that final morning as I wondered if I should simply shut down my blog and quit dreaming of more. I had three little kids at that point, so maybe motherhood was all that was meant for me.

Wasn’t that enough?

There’s more to this story, of course. It’s been four years since that lonely morning in my hotel room, but something happened on my last day of the conference that would eventually lead me to today.

I’ll tell you all about it another day. *wink*

 

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For the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing ways that you can turn your creative hobby into something more. Maybe it’s a business, a ministry, or simply a tool to bless others. I want you to walk away with the tools necessary to take your skill to the next level.

The first step in this journey is simple, and yet it’s so very hard.

Turning Your Creative Hobby into a Business Starts with Confidence.

Believe yourself worthy of the task. You have been uniquely gifted by a Creative God with certain skills and talents. They are not like anyone else’s, because they were knit specifically into you for the good works He has planned.

Trust in your unique God design, and believe yourself worthy of the dream.

Taking this step may be uncomfortable, particularly if you’re an awkward people person like myself. (If you’re an outgoing sanguine who loves a room full of strangers, consider yourself greatly blessed.)

A few things to consider in this first step

1.) What is your creative hobby?

2.) Do you have dreams beyond simply creating for fun? (It’s okay if the answer to this question is no. Sometimes a hobby is simply a hobby. More on that later.)

3.) If you long to take your creative hobby to the next level, whether it be starting a business, expanding it beyond the walls of your home, or using it to impact someone in need, what’s one step you could take this week to make that happen?

4.) What scares you about turning your creative hobby into a business?

The first step is always the hardest in any endeavor. The point is never to aim for perfection from the beginning, but rather to simply take the step, however fumbling it may be.

The Business of Art

Join me the rest of September as we continue to discuss how to take your creative hobby to the next level. Subscribe to my blog in the box to the right so that these posts will appear directly in your inbox!

Part Two: Invite Yourself to the Party

Part Three: Maintain Perspective

Part Four: Treat It Like a Business

Part Five: Finding Your When

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LC-BookCoverThis series is inspired by my upcoming book Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom. *

Co-authored with Wendy Speake, this book is specifically for the creative mom who wonders why on earth God designed her creative, and then gave her children. It’s full of encouragement and stories of renaissance moms who are impacting the world with their art, oftentimes with little ones by their side.

As a special incentive, if you buy your copy by the end of September you will receive a free pdf downloadable that expands more on how to turn your creative hobby into a thriving business. Offering practical tools that will help you take your art to the next level, this is the encouragement you need to move forward toward your creative pursuits.

Purchase your copy of Life Creative now, then come back and fill out the form to receive your free pdf downloadable.

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Life Creative Order Bonus: 5 Steps To Turn Your Creative Hobby into a Thriving Business

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An Invitation to Celebrate a Life Creative

I was twenty years old, and I was living alone in Kiev, Ukraine.

Not totally alone, of course. I was living with a young, Ukrainian couple who spoke English (but often refused to speak it because they wanted me to become fluent in Russian), but I didn’t have any peers with me on the trip.

I was in Ukraine for two solid months before I even met another American. Looking back, I know this was a good thing. It forced me to adapt to the culture and the language, and it made me brave.

But I was lonely those four months. Trying to communicate in another language is exhausting. In the early days when I was completely alone, my only respite came from 3:00-4:00 in the afternoons after school.

I’d arrive home to an empty apartment and turn on the TV. Beverly Hills 90210 played weekday afternoons, and the translation lagged just enough behind the English that I could tune it out and listen to the show in my native tongue.

I never watched that show as a young girl, but I saw nearly every episode in Ukraine. I became well acquainted with Brandon, and Brenda, and Dillan, and Kelly, and all the others whose names I can’t remember now…

Outside of riveting television, though, I found my greatest comfort inside the pages of my journals. I wrote until my hand hurt, recording everything from the mundane moments of my days to the hysterical gaffes I made (I slipped on ice and fell on my butt more than once rushing to and from school).

After a weekend excursion to Prague, I came home with an English language copy of the book Jane Eyre, which I’d found in a little store near Charles Bridge. I devoured that book twice in my remaining months in Ukraine, and suddenly my journal pages were filled with poetic imagery. I used language like, “the leaves dance to the ground in a silent waltz,” and “the birds soar above my head on wings of freedom.”

WHO TALKS LIKE THAT?!

Twenty-Year-Olds who have too much alone time, that’s who.

It’s been 18 years since that life-changing experience. 18 years since I sat on a bench on a Ukrainian hillside overlooking the Dnieper River, and vowed to become a storyteller.

The book that began simmering and bubbling in my heart all those years ago is now receiving rave reviews, and I still can’t believe that dream came true.

But what’s even more amazing is that it was just the beginning. That was only the first spark in my creative journey. It’s been a slow burn, sometimes dimmed by the pressures of every day life.

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Motherhood slowed down the dream, but in a good way, because motherhood was a dream in and of itself. I’m living both dreams side-by-side, and it’s a messy little blending of the two. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because this is better than anything I could have imagined 18 years ago as a lonely American student in Ukraine.

It’s also harder than I thought it would be.

Beautiful. Hard. Messy. Dream.

Those words all fit together in this puzzle of life. They’re tangled up, each piece getting its turn to take the spotlight.

In just one short month, my second book hits shelves.

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Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom releases on September 27. This is a book written for moms who are walking the line between motherhood and art. It’s a book for moms who had dreams long before they had children, and they want to know if it’s possible to blend the two parts of themselves.

Would you like to read an early release copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom? The launch team is forming, and a PDF copy of the book is available for download for a limited time.

Click here to sign up for the launch team. You’ll be sent instructions on how to download the book, as well as how to join a private Facebook group for launch team members.

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Creative moms are coming together and linking arms, all of us agreeing that this life creative is equal parts grand and exhausting. We’d love to have you join us as we bring this encouraging message to all the moms who remember dreaming on a hillside so many years ago.

Join the Life Creative Launch Team today!

One Thing Every Day

I get a lot of comments these days saying something to the effect of, “I don’t know how you keep up with all the things you’re doing. You must be superwoman!”

While I do appreciate this sentiment, the truth is I am not superwoman. Actually, I’m not super-anything. I don’t have any super powers, unless you count my ability to sense when the toddler is up to no good, and I could never pull off a skin tight super hero outfit.

I am ordinary…and that’s okay.

Most of us are ordinary. Perhaps even all of us are ordinary (unless you happen to be the actual superwoman reading this, in which case I’m willing to concede that you are more than ordinary).

We’re all doing the best we can inside each of our unique circumstances.

I used to think that in order to be successful, one had to be constantly in motion. But the more I push my way through this ordinary life of mine, the more I realize that success comes in the quiet moments – those quiet pockets of time when the frenzy dies down.

A few years ago, I attended a conference that was designed specifically for moms. On the second day, a woman stood in front of us, and she acknowledged the obvious: Moms don’t have a lot of time.

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“What do you do,” she asked, “when you want to build your business, but the children are clamoring at your feet, and the moments in your day are parsed out?”

I leaned forward, ready to accept her answer to this question that often left me befuddled.

“You do one thing every day,” she said. The room was silent as a hundred moms with dreams soaked in this freeing nugget of wisdom.

“You can’t do all the things when you’re a mom, but you can do one thing. So do one thing every day that helps grow your business, develops your ideas, makes you money – whatever it is you’re working toward, keep pressing on, one step at a time.”

Yesterday was one of those days that seemed to spiral out of control. Between homeschool and toddlerhood, and all the life that crept into the cracks of my day, I found myself antsy and frustrated.

There simply wasn’t any time yesterday for me to sit and work.

By 8:00, I felt panic beginning to well up in my chest. I just wanted the kids to go to bed so the house would grow quiet, and I could find a moment to complete a thought.

It was 9:30 before I found that moment, and by then I was so exhausted the thoughts were tangled together, and I just wanted to go to bed myself, but I knew that if I could do just one thing I’d sleep a little more soundly.

As a writer, I’m finding this process of marketing books in the new media age to be rather intimidating. I’m not good with video or images – I’m a word girl. Facebook is my happy place because WORDS, all the WORDS!

Instagram bores me, and Pinterest intimidates me, and don’t even get me started on Periscope. But I need to step outside of this little comfortable box of mine, and I need to learn how to better utilize these online tools. So before bed, I went to Pinterest and poked around a bit.

I added a few photos to some character boards I’m developing for my book launch, and I looked at what other authors are doing on that platform.

This didn’t take a lot of time, and it didn’t require me to formulate any ideas. This was my one thing and it was all I had, but you know what?

I slept like a rock last night.

Doing one thing every day frees us up to enjoy the bigger picture. This season of my mothering life doesn’t offer loads of free time. I’ve got slivers of time in each day, and so I have to utilize those slivers to the best of my ability.

I slept so well last night because I went to bed knowing I’d done one thing. I didn’t toss and turn all night, chasing down ideas or fighting bitterness at all the stolen hours of my day. I felt a peace knowing I’d done something – one something – to get better at my job.

There will be other days when I can conquer my to-do list; days when the house is quiet and I can do a slew of book-related things. But those days are not the norm.

So I’ll keep doing one thing every day, then focus my attention on the children clamoring at my feet. And in this way, I manage to  survive this ordinary, maybe even slightly extraordinary, life.

 

The One Thing I Refuse

There’s a certain flaw in my personality. I know this comes as a shock to you, but it’s true. I am not perfect.

This certain flaw of mine resides firmly inside my stubbornness. I hate being told I have to do something.

Maybe you can relate?

Image Credit: Claudia Otte/Shutterstock.com

Image Credit: Claudia Otte/Shutterstock.com

My first reaction to someone telling me I have to do something is to dig my heels in and say, “Nope. Not gonna happen. Thanks for asking, though.”

Now that I’m a grown up girl, of course, I’ve gotten better at controlling this impulse. I’m better at listening and receiving advice, and much more willing to concede the wisdom of others than perhaps I once was.

But I still don’t like being told I have to do something.

Writing books is a funny business. You think the book writing part is the hard part, and to a degree it is. As a writer once famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” (This quote is most often attributed to Earnest Hemingway, but as it turns out, he wasn’t the one who said this. Thanks, internet, for ruining my morning.)

Once you get past the draining nature of bleeding onto paper (screen…whatever), you then get to enjoy the process of finding someone to validate your work. I thought that was the hard part, until I finally got set up with the agent and the publisher, and got back the first, second, and third round of edits.

Surely that was the hard part, right?

It turns out I was wrong about all of it. The hardest part of writing is the marketing and the launching and getting the word out there about all that bleeding you did on paper (screen…whatever).

THIS IS THE HARD PART!

When I’m not nursing sick babies (hello strep throat! You’re no longer welcome), homeschooling, shuttling from baseball to soccer to flag football to youth group to gymnastics, and trying to fit in conversations with my husband, I’m working on the launch plan for the books I’m releasing this year.

I’m not complaining about this – not in the slightest. It’s terribly exciting, and the process is invigorating, of only slightly overwhelming. But there’s one problem:

This process of launching books can take over your life.

Every spare moment I have – every quiet, free second when the kids are playing, or the baby is sleeping – I am working on my plan to launch these books. And the more that I feel pressured to do to make this a “successful” launch, the more I want to dig in my heels, shake my head, and say, “Nope. Not gonna happen. Thanks for asking, though.”

Here’s the thing: I see the wisdom in all these things. If I were to do everything that was recommended to successfully launch and market my books, I can quite easily see how it would work.

But I can also see how it can control a person.

It will be summertime when I launch my novel – the time of year when all my children are home all day every day. Those are short months we’re given each year in which we get to make memories – to enjoy one another as a family without all the pressures of life.

I refuse to be controlled by book launches. I refuse to sacrifice my summer, and my children’s summer, with marketing. So, what does that mean?

It means I have to be strategic. It means I’m listening to the advice of my launch manager who is helping me control my strategy so that it doesn’t control me. 

I’m working ahead of schedule as much as possible so that when summertime rolls around I’ve got a bulk of the work pre-done.

I’m listening to the words of wisdom, and I’m sifting through it, tailoring it to fit my life – the life of a mother with four young children who don’t necessarily need me to be a bestselling author.

They need me to be their mom.

Image Credit: jakkapan/Shutterstock.com

Image Credit: jakkapan/Shutterstock.com

Do I want to see these books thrive?

Absolutely.

Would I love to hit a bestseller list?

Of course!

Am I will to put in the work to make that happen?

Yes…but not at the sacrifice of the people closest to me.

So I’m navigating these waters cautiously. I may not be doing as much as I should be. I’m dropping balls left and right (some of them here at home, and some of them in marketing).

But I refuse to be consumed completely.

Turns out that stubbornness of mine comes in handy now and again.

 

The Magic of Exploration

Our little house sat nestled on a five-acre field, the sprawling Wisconsin woods providing the backdrop to what was a pretty idyllic scene. I was a child, so my memories of Wisconsin winters are filled with nothing more than magic. Hours spent tunneling through the snow, building igloos, eating snacks inside our burrowed out snow caverns in six and seven foot drifts.

We lived at the top of a large hill, so the neighborhood descended upon our back yard daily to sled. We’d bring out pitchers of water at the end of each day, and build up a ramp of snow, sprinkling it with water between each layer. By morning, we’d have a frozen solid launching pad for our toboggans.

My bedroom was on the second story, and I’d wake up each morning to look out over the stark white landscape, a wonderland of possibility for my imaginative mind. I didn’t need a wardrobe to reach Narnia. It waited for me in my backyard.

It’s easy to remember those Wisconsin years with great fondness. I was a child, and my only responsibility was to bundle up and give in to the imagination. As an adult, I shudder at the thoughts of frigid winters and snowy fields, but as a child?

I lived for winter.

When I was little, there were few things I enjoyed more than exploring. My brother and I would wake early and make plans to traverse the woods behind our house. Of course, during hunting season it was imperative that we wore bright colors and made enough noise to not be mistaken for deer, but in the summer, when the snow finally melted and the trees turned vibrant, we’d spend hours and hours in their shade.

There’s magic in exploration, and I miss it.

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There are days when the mundane feels like a blanket over my head. The predictability of life presses down, and I find myself longing for those early years  when I was nothing more than the girl in the trees, swinging from one grand adventure to the next.

There are other days, however, when I’m completely smitten with this life I’m living. As the cooler Florida weather kisses my bare arms (I’ll take a Florida winter over a Wisconsin winter any day of the week now), I watch my husband and kids play in the backyard.

The boys kick the soccer ball, whooping and hollering in delight with each scored goal.

Tia flips and tumbles over her mats, the very same mats upon which I used to flip and tumble in my Wisconsin yard as a child, and I feel her delight as she takes in the world upside down.

And Annika tromps through the yard, high stepping over the areas where the grass is a little too high. Her face is filled with that rapturous delight that only toddlers possess when they’re given the freedom to roam unhindered.

All the sights and sound assail my senses, and I realize there’s plenty of adventure left. Some of the adventure is awesome, the imaginations of my small people lighting the path for grand adventures.

Some of the adventure I could do without – like broken bottles of nail polish and shattered snow globes, and everything else the rambunctious toddler longs to attack inside the house.

It’s all an adventure, even the monotony. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective, and a willingness to use your imagination. Because the truth is, we were made for adventure. We weren’t made for monotony because it leads to complacency, and there’s no power in complacency.

If you sit back and think about it, I imagine you’re seeking adventure just like I am. Maybe you’re an obvious thrill seeker, always open and game for the next wild endeavor.

Or maybe you’re a homebody, content to stay nestled inside your comfort zone.

But I imagine you still long for adventure. 

So what does adventure look like for you? Is it the challenge of your work? Is it the delight you take in watching your children grow? Is it travel? Do you find adventure in a good book, or in the creativity of your every day life?

What is it that breaks you free from the monotony of the day to day? When was your last adventure?

Has it been too long?

Helen Keller told us that “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” If this is true, and if you believe it, then what are you doing to enjoy the ride?

Happy Tuesday, friends. Make today an adventure.

 

Dear Writers – I Am For You

It’s cold in here. I’m sitting in the corner, bundled up as I stave off the air conditioner that refuses to quit running. Thanks to an unseasonably warm Florida fall, most buildings are keeping their spaces unbearably cool. Perhaps this is our only means for experiencing fall weather here in the Sunshine State.

The cafe is loud, but I don’t mind because I can smell the stories in the air. The scent of imagination mingles with that of my Cinnamon Spice hot tea, and I feel heady with delight.

If I had my choice, I’d hunker down in more intimate location. Barnes and Noble is a chain, and the cookie cutter nature of this space is less delightful. But still…the books.

I love books. I love words. I love imaginative storytelling.

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As a new author, I have such a deep appreciation for the work that went into these books. I had no idea. Writing looks romantic on TV. It’s grittier in real life.

Writing isn’t just sitting in front of a typewriter in a quiet, breezy room tapping rhythmically on a typewriter. Mainly because no one uses typewriters anymore.

But also because writing is awful lot of sitting in front of the screen and staring at a blank page until some muse chooses to show. It’s hard, and solitary, and feels an awful lot like bleeding openly for the world to see.

Then you put your book out there, and you ask everyone what they think. And they can choose whether or not to love this work of your heart.

In short, writing is a profession of vulnerability.

Writers pour their hearts and souls into their stories, and then, if they’re willing to wait and fight for their stories, they find a publisher willing to print their words on paper. After all that, they turn their books in to the waiting publisher, and it’s all VICTORY! YOU DID IT!

Now get to work.

Authoring a book is more than just writing pretty words, and finding a publisher. There is marketing and promotion, pulling together a launch team, and finding endorsements.

Writers have to get their books in front of people who are willing to read them.

Launching a book may be the hardest and scariest part of the publishing journey. It is the moment when writers feel the most vulnerable, because this is when others decide is the work is worthy of their endorsement.

 

In the rocky soil of Texas, there’s a yearly beauty that springs up. Bluebonnets carpet the hot ground each spring, blanketing the state in vibrant color, and they always spring up from the rocks.

In an environment that seems completely unconducive to growth, bluebonnets defy the odds and bring beauty to the landscape.

You writers are doing the same. The terrain is rocky, saturated with others already fulfilling publishing dreams, and it seems that everyone else is springing up, and you wonder if there’s any space for you.

Dear writers – I want you to know that I’m standing in the gap for you. I see more than ever before the fight it takes to get a book to market, and I want you to know I’m on your side.

You’re doing hard things. You’re writing every day, sharing stories and messages with a world that needs to hear them.

You’re facing rejection, fighting to get your words out into a void already full of great works. But you believe you have something to add, so you don’t give up. This is hard, and I admire your tenacity.

You’re putting yourself in vulnerable positions, emailing friends, and perfect strangers, to ask for endorsements. You’re asking people to decide if your words are worthy of a recommendation, and it’s terrifying. I see you, and I’m for you.

You’re sharing your gifts with a small group, but longing to see that message spread to a wiser audience. As you seek to plant yourself in this rocky terrain, I want you to know I see you and you’re doing a good job.

Writer friends – don’t be afraid of the hard things. Keep typing those words and sending those awkward emails. Keep putting yourself out there, because beauty grows in the rocky places, and your dreams are beautiful.

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