creative entrepreneurship

A Modern Entrepreneurial Hero's Journey, #365StrongStories 14


A Modern Entrepreneurial Hero's Journey, #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyLast fall, I wrote my way to the edges of my own mastery when I realized I couldn’t confidently complete the sentence “a good story is…”

As a lover of both fiction and creative non-fiction, this was disconcerting. For a writing coach, this was terrifying.

For months, I turned inward.

I was writing more than ever, but I wasn’t producing many full sentences. There were lists and notes and lots of arrows slicing across the page.

This was the stuff of discovery, not publication. And yet, something magical was happening.

The hero's quest is realized when she brings home the healing elixir to serve the greater good. And so, it was my mission to understand and then teach what makes a strong story.

First, I had to understand why I cared so much. Only then would I know how to help anyone else understand why stories and storytelling matter.

Stories are how we understand the world.

Stories are how we transmit ideas.

Stories are the building blocks of consciousness.

In compelling stories of growth and transformation, the hero may be may start the story as an innocent, but she is not without skills. (Rey flew the Millennium Falcon, didn’t she?) Instead, the journey is an awakening of latent powers and wisdom.

That’s what this journey into “what makes a strong story?” was for me - a chance to realize that I’d been a storyteller all along.

Ultimately, what I gained, in addition to confidence, was the ability to be a guide. And so, as I did what all modern entrepreneurial heroes do: I created an ebook.

(Do I see the irony that my heroes are Jedis and my great quest involves a subscription to LeadPages. Yes, but that’s a whole other story).

I wrote this guide for you, dear reader, and I would like you to read it. I want you to read it because I know you're a storyteller too (even if you haven't discovered your powers yet) and because I want you to tell your own Strong Stories too. 

Send Me My Free Guide

Burned Out? Maybe It's Time to Split the Creative from the Professional

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Sovereign Standard, Issue 16

Well, that was unexpected: entrepreneurship = a soul crushing experience

Imagine What if  the paid work doesn’t have to hold all your creative energies? So many working artists and self-employed creatives are feeling the crush of entrepreneurship. It’s not the long hours or even the uncertainty that gets them. It’s the assumption that the goal has to be "build something bigger than you." They're told that success equals developing something that scales and sells.

Why have so many impassioned, independent souls got caught up in “make it bigger” even though that set them up for the dreaded “not enough” trap?

Because we mixed our creative passions with the reality of making a living. Instead of realizing a holistic vision of create-work-live, we've brewed up an unpalatable concoction that just isn't nourishing and definitely isn't sustainable.

Trying to make one sweeping entrepreneurial venture hold the creative dreams and the professional drive left them with too little time to create, too little in the bank account, and stuck in a chronic state of “not-enoughness.”

Oh, am I slipping into collective nouns here? I’m daring to speak for others on this  because so many readers - lets be specific: so many women business artists* - responded to my latest post, Nutella on a Spoon (Or, Why Entrepreneurship Can Leave You Starving).

We are sick of trying to get the mix just right. We're too tired to contort ourselves to fit into the entrepreneurial container.

What creative women in business want

We want freedom of creative expression and the power to earn an independent livelihood.

We want to make something that matters and we want to make some money.

Here's the kicker: we're mature enough to recognize that we won't always be doing both things at the same exact time.

For some, "what you want" may really mean being an entrepreneur and building a company (particularly if you’ve got a gift for sales). On the other hand, it may mean freelancing. It may mean getting a J-O-B in order to recoup the emotional and mental energy that went into being in business for yourself.

Living and working like the creative-in-business you want to be may simply mean adjusting how you do business by offering the basic, “useful” services.

You’re downshifting from entrepreneurship into freelancing. It’s time to do the work that immediate rather than pioneering a visionary program or building a firm (at least for now).

This is why I am shifting my attention to offering the right people my copywriting services while the “real” work gestates in the dark for a while.

In any case, it's about looking closely at what's working and what isn't working and making decisions for the future based on what really matters - personal relationships, creative practice, and earning a living.

When “I quit entrepreneurship” doesn’t really mean “I quit business!” or "I reject my passion!"

Things haven't been working for you? Maybe it's time for the “I quit!” epiphany. It feels so liberating to smash those glass walls and peel back those labels that were hiding who you really are.

But what if the “I quit!” breakthrough doesn’t really mean you’re collapsing your stall in the marketplace? What if abandoning entrepreneurship doesn’t mean you’re taking a vow of poverty or trying to remember how to draft a resume?

What if "I quit creative entrepreneurship" simply means that you're no longer forcing creativity to grow in the same container as the work you do for money?

You might be like Jennifer Boykin who boldly declared she’s quitting her Life After Tampons project. Really, it seems she’s rebirthing her relationship with her creation and finding a way to detangle her passion work from her purse strings.

The Wild and Wise Women Over 45 who love Jennifer's work will not see her as quitter even as she frees herself from the chore of building a business venture that didn't serve her. She's still going to show up, but she's not going to pressure her passion with the needs of her pocketbook.

My "entrepreneurial crisis" has been a personal one. I think Jennifer's was too. Many women are sharing their own stories about why the "e" word doesn't fit and how they're reframing the relationship between the creative work and the paid work.

Is your entrepreneurship problem actually about the relationship between life, art, and work?

My business woes were not about being self-employed. They were about how the “go big” entrepreneurial imperative was squeezing out what really mattered - being present when I was home with my kids, devoting myself to the real creative work, and earning the money to replace the steady income I abandoned five years ago.

Here’s the good news:

If you structured your business based on someone else's definition of success and basic misunderstanding of your own goals, you can readjust your course without tossing away everything you've worked to build.

When you make changes in your business in order to better suit yourself, most people will only notice that you seem happier all of a sudden. (They may also note you're wearing a new pair of shoes because you found a more reliable way to fill the bank account).

Big dreams got you into entrepreneurship. You're leaving entrepreneurship to preserve those dreams.

We know that many wise businesswomen feel trapped by their choice to mix creativity and entrepreneurship. The solution isn’t to abandon either. The answer - at least for me - is to decouple them.

Before you can mediate a peaceful split, however, you have to figure out why you hitched together your creative drive and the promises of entrepreneurship in the first place.

Big creative dreams like yours deserve a big, beautiful container, so you picked the grandest, most promising one you could find: entrepreneurship.

But then you realized that it takes a lot more than vision and passion to build and sustain a business that is bigger than you are. Marketing, staffing, bookkeeping (if you could even get to that level) takes more time and attention that you have right now. Most likely, you got distracted from your original creative dreams because you were scrambling to structure an organization.

What if the work you do for pay doesn’t have to hold all of your creative energies? Suddenly your professional venture doesn’t have to be so big.

Liberating the creative from the professional - at least for a little while - is how you create the right size container for your dreams, your responsibilities, and your financial realities.

This is how novels get written. This is how debt gets paid off. This is how happy women support their families - with love and presence as well as money for groceries and the college savings account.

And saying "no" to entrepreneurship may really be about saying "not right now." It's in the pause, in the freelancing or the day job that the signature approaches that make life more beautiful, bearable, and bold get created: in their own time by creative, practical beings who refuse to see their creative ambitions vanish in entrepreneurial smoke and mirrors.

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* Deep bow to Jeffrey Davis for bringing the term "business artist" to the fore and for being the community creator who introduced me to so many of the brilliant women who make up my readership. Not convinced that you need to separate the creative from the entrepreneurial? Dive deep into Jeffrey's work, starting with this video - his approach to "business as unusual" may be exactly what you're looking for.

5 Reasons to Quit Curating Content and Just Get Writing

5 Reasons to quit curating content and just get writingContent curation seems like an easy way to boost your online visibility and prove you're a useful, fascinating resource. You pull together ideas from lots of smart people and then weave them together with a common thread plucked from your own life and work. You publish and share. You tag both the new and established content creators who are featured in your piece. Take the weekend off and start it all over again on Monday.

I took it on good authority that this whole curated newsletter thing was a low sweat way to build credibility. And grow a list.

5 Myths and Truths About Content Curation for the Creative Entrepreneur

content curation: 5 myths and truthsThis list is based on ten weeks’ experience of research and writing about 15,00 words. Is this enough time to be an expert in the field of curated newsletters? No, but I am an authority on the Sovereign Standard and my own definition of what it means to be a successful creative entrepreneur.

My intention is to give you some insights from inside a content curation project because there’s a lot of good press about it out there.

Truth is, you might just be better off writing rather than curating. I’m pretty sure I am...

Myth #1: Content Curation is Quick and Easy

The Hope: Curating others’ content would be easier and faster than writing my own post/newsletter each week.

The Truth: Weaving together other people’s posts and interviews often took more time than just writing and organizing my own ideas. Though I started with three set categories (livelihood, message, and everyday creative magic) and intended to share a couple of posts for each, I quickly rejected what felt like an overly simplistic system and wrapped all the ideas together in prose. (Lots and lots of prose...)

Outcome: I was producing long, “heady” posts each week that were well-made but ultimately too much for the majority of my readers.

Myth #2: Content Curation Makes You Smarter

Hope: I would read more widely and with more focused attention.

The Truth: I stopped reading things for pleasure or personal growth and would scan only for Sovereign Standard-related ideas. It’s likely I missed out on the best stuff because I was preoccupied with my agenda - my topic of the week.

Outcome: Reading others’ content became a chore. And, for brief and terrible periods, I started playing Two Dots or Candy Crush to avoid it.

Myth #3: Content Curation Encourages People to Share the Posts

Hope: Content creators would be so happy to appear in the Sovereign Standard that they’d jump on my list and share the posts with enthusiasm.

The Truth: Some people were awesome about this. Heck, Margaret Atwood tweeted at me and must have visited my blog (because she thought I misread her poem, but still…)! For the most part, however, there wasn’t any detectable bounce from all my dedicated linking and tagging.

Outcome: Over this ten week period I was producing two posts a week. The post that was all “mine” and more directly related to writing advice was just as likely to be shared as the Sovereign Standard piece.

Myth # 4: If It’s a Good Idea, It’s Worthy of Content Curation

Hope: Great posts related to the week’s topic would be easy to share and link to.

The Truth: The Sovereign Standard is about setting one’s own standards. Everything that was included in an issue had to meet my own (rather exacting) standards. As a writing coach with extensive website creation experience, I size up the effectiveness and quality of a site in about three seconds flat. I had to reject lots of content related to my weekly topic because I didn’t think the post or the site worked overall. If the post didn’t include a clear call to action or the website left me wondering “what does this person actually do?” I couldn’t include it.

Outcome: I did identify some potential clients and I became certain that people need my help when it comes to clarifying their message and presenting it through clear website copy. (Yes, this ultimately is a win, but it never made assembling the Standard any easier!)

Myth #5: Content Curation Frees Me to Focus on My Own Creative Projects

Hope: As in point #1, I was seeking a quick and easy route to visibility because I have a novel to write (and children to mother and a husband to love and clients to serve). 

The Truth: Because content creation didn’t really feel like mine (even though I was expending loads of creative energy as I tied all those ideas and sources together), I felt compelled to write a second blog post each week that explored my signature idea - Writing to Sovereignty. The novel? I’d be lucky if I made few notes while nursing or hanging at the playground. Those two blog pieces took all my writing and production mojo.

Outcome: I started to feel like a fraud calling myself an “author” when I hadn’t typed a word of fiction since launching this curated newsletter. I was starting to resent whomever had appropriated my creative fire… and I realized it was me. 

Still Curating, Still Sending a Newsletter, Just Not a Curated Newsletter

When it comes down to it, there is nothing wrong with content curation. I’ll never actually stop doing it.

After all, every time you share something you’re a “curator.” And linking to other people’s posts is a longstanding tenet of blogging that deserves to be preserved.

The problem was the way that I went about it. I lavished time and attention I didn’t really have on a project that wasn’t giving back what I was putting in.

The hope was to create something credible and substantial. The truth was, I believed that no one would be interested in what Marisa Goudy had to say about writing, entrepreneurship, and creativity, so I decided to share the spotlight with other creatives (many of whom hadn’t asked for the privilege).

I was afraid to stand Sovereign.

I’m grateful for this 10 week journey - for all that it has taught me and for managing to fail quickly (to borrow Chris Brogan’s line). I’m taking this opportunity to reset my course so I can tell my own Sovereign Story and offer you, dear reader, something useful that will help you identify your own.

Focus On What Actually Builds Visibility & Brings in Clients

What will change about the Sovereign Standard? Even my most loyal readers may barely notice.

The important thing is that I am shedding a term that became heavy and restrictive for me. I wanted “curated” to be a container that helped me shape my thoughts easily each week. Instead, I was perpetually over-delivering (in ways that didn’t add tangible value to readers or boost my business) because that container was never the right size or shape.

Likely I’ll end up blogging on my own site once a week and focusing on guest posting (please go read my essay about grief, motherhood, and a crazy dog on Suzi Banks Baum's Laundry Line Divine). 

Most importantly, I’ll be making my foundational website copy absolutely perfect so no one ever says “I love your work! But… what exactly do you do?”

 Need help focusing in on what writing projects are really important to building your business? Let's set up a free initial consultation.