Listening to Your Gut & Acting on Your Instinct

Quick summary:

  • A little first person story about following your gut and making instinctive decisions- regardless of rational thought.
  • Fighting with the inner-gnomes- really- I’m not insane.
  • The moral of the story- follow your gut.  But it’s worth the read!
  • A video from TED at the end- totally worth the 20 minutes!

At times, our body reacts to our reality in ways that our mind can not.  Our mind rationalizes our actions and decisions, it weighs the cost/benefit analysis of our actions and the future implications of our decisions on our current path in life. Our mind shoots in to the future 5 years and tries to predict our place in life based on the outcome of the decision we are making. Our mind takes our actions and rationalizes the positive effects- even if the rationalization is based on pure mythical results or best case scenarios that are not a reflection of reality.

But our body knows better.  Our body reacts.  Our gut knows when something is right or wrong- it just knows.

A shot from Kathmandu while I wandered the streets looking for chai.

Here’s a little story from my life last month- there’s a point amongst the words- keep reading.

Rewind to last month.  Mid-June, as my 35th birthday was rapidly approaching, I was driving down the road at 55 miles an hour, wallowing in my present Saturday evening spent at Barnes and Noble working on my writing while the rest of the world was engaging in a social life, thinking, “Damn, it’s a Saturday night, and I’m caressing my MacBook Pro with a cup of espresso.  Tragic.” As I’m lost in my self-reproach and self-pity, my truck makes a strange, slight noise that is almost undetectable.  Then, as I’m flying down an overpass- the engine just stops.  The dashboard lights up, my steering wheel feels like its drowning in cement and I’m coasting down the highway approaching an on-ramp with merging traffic.  SHIT!!

My poor Little Red limps off to the side of the road- miraculously missing the merging cars- and I just sit staring at the steering wheel trying to wrap my brain around what just happened.  I turned the key over- sputter, cough, ahhhhhh! Nothing.  She’s not gonna give me anymore juice.  She’s done.  Shit, so am I, I thought.  As the tow truck driver put her up on the flat-bed and she looked all lonely and broken, I couldn’t help but think- damn it, I should be in Egypt or Italy like I planned.  I wouldn’t need a car and I wouldn’t be wallowing in self-pity on a Saturday night.  What am I doing?  And then, the sheer fear of being stranded in Myrtle Beach with no vehicle sunk in. According to the “Walkability Score” from Rowdy Kittens (a fabulous blog that I spent my vehicle-less week indulging in), my current squatting location while I work on my Empire (i.e. my mother’s house) has a walk-ability rating of 14- with 99 being Portland- one of the most walkable cities in the US.  Sigh.

That night, after my tow truck driver said, “yea, that’s your engine” after turning the key over while I begged him to tell me the problem was just a fuel pump, I had a long conversation with Captain Morgan.

I went there.  I wallowed.  I watched Quentin Tarantino just to make me feel like, “damn, at least I’m not that guy getting gutted on screen”.

I emailed a friend who I knew was hiring a waitress at her work and figured I’d better prepare for the $3K dollar engine I’d be buying in a few short days.  There goes my plane ticket to Italy, my travel money to Ireland to find my McDreamy and my month’s worth of Turkish coffee in Cairo.  Damn, Damn, Damn.  And me and the Captain kept talking.

I began working in restaurants 20 years ago.  Throughout my freelance career, bartending has always been my fall back.  I am an excellent bartender, I love the act of bartending- the conversations, the mix-ology and the industry’s drama and stories!  But, for all the things I love about the bar, working there sucks the life out of my creative inner gnomes faster than a Hoover vacuum on steroids. It just does.  And this summer, I’m working hard to build my blog, grow my readership and finish my commercial projects so I can go overseas and really take my blog for a spin- using all the creative juju I can muster.  I’m sacrificing the normal luxuries of a 35 year old, single woman to chase my dreams down. I tasted my life as I envisioned it this winter- and the flavor was delicious.  And I’ve gone too far to go backwards.

But, with $3K looming over my head for a vehicle repair, I retreated to my safety zone.  The restaurant. Now, you might be thinking, $3K for a 15 year old pickup truck is a little crazy- and you’d be right.  But I, for reasons that are personal and not to be discussed in this article, am emotionally attached to this vehicle.  Again, not rational, I get that.  Also, when you can not walk anywhere, ANYWHERE, you need a vehicle.  Moving is not an option at this point because I have two clients that are in the midst of projects- and I can’t leave.

So, I trained at my friend’s workplace.  An adorable little restaurant in a small coastal tourist town.   I’d make bank, work part time and replenish my travel kitty.  The training went well and I enjoyed working with my friend.  She’s very sweet and flamboyant and believes that her waitress shift is really just a cabaret and she is the star.  Interesting.

That night, instead of sleeping, I tossed and turned like nobody’s business.  It was the night before my birthday and I was about to work my second waitress shift on the day I was supposed to celebrate my special day on the beach.  But that wasn’t the problem.  I dreamt, repeatedly, that I forgot to show up for work.  I normally dream about forgetting drink orders or getting double sat when I start at a new restaurant, but in the 20 years I’ve been doing this, I never dreamt that I just forgot to show up for a shift.  Oh no.  This is not good.

Each time I woke up, my inner gnomes were engaged in a heated debate.  They were pissed and they were arguing. The practical gnome was arguing about money and the fact that I would be making money at the restaurant like normal 35 year old people do when they work.  The artistic gnome was crying because she really was looking forward to a summer of freedom to wander into the creative cave at a moment’s notice- a luxury that makes freelancing worth the effort.  The entrepreneurial gnome was throwing things because working at a restaurant would detract from the progress being made towards complete location independence and passive income generation and the nomadic gnome was curled up in the corner, rocking back and forth and muttering about the chai wallah in India that he needs to see, the espresso in Fiorenze that he needs to drink and the hookah in Cairo that he needs to smoke. And all this arguing gave me a huge stomach ache.  My gut was rebelling against the restaurant.  When the gnomes start to arguing, I hear them out.  But when the gut reacts- I have to take action.

Around 4 am, they all agreed that I had to quit the job I worked at all of one day and began the conversation I would have with the owner the very next morning.  And I laid there in bed, rationalizing the action and having the conversation.  I created elaborate excuses and reasons  for why I couldn’t work anymore.  I had it all planned out.  But when I went to the restaurant, I just looked at the owner, apologized profusely and told her “it’s not you, it’s me”.  Like I was in high school breaking up with a pimply boy from the basketball team.

I was that person.  I flaked on a job after one day.  Shit.

Good lord, what am I doing?  I went to the beach, thought about what I was doing and said, well, I’m opening this up to the Universe at this point.

If my gut reacted to my rational action of taking an outside job in such a strong way, there must be powers at work here a little stronger than my rational mind.

But, my inner gnomes all agreed, if you’re going to go this route, there had better be some serious progress being made towards your goals.  I began pulling 10-15 hour days, working on my branding, social media and blogging.  My E-Book is ready to launch next week, I’m publishing guest posts and finally tying it all together.

And as I sit here today and look at the small baby steps that I’m taking towards my goals, I thank my gut and my inner gnomes for that long, sleepless night.  Had they not taken over, I might still be serving sandwiches and kicking myself for not moving forward- again.

By taking this risk and tossing myself at the mercy of the Universe, I have no one to blame but myself for my missteps and shortcomings.  If I don’t make this happen now, I have no excuses.

Here’s a little video from TED talking about our brains and leadership and the Why?  Excellent!

Five Simple Steps for Maintaining Your Identity Once You Ditch the 9-5 Chains

Does this sound familiar? Study hard, get good grades, get a college degree, climb the corporate latter for 50-70 hours a week, exit 30 years later with your shiny reward, then sit on the beach and watch the world pass you by, too tired and over worked to truly enjoy any of life’s little nuances and joys.

That sucks.

Obviously, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve chosen a different path or are considering it. And in choosing this path, you’ll be making your own set of shiny new rules, such as work hours, income types- passive versus active, and the definition of your work day.

Information about launching and running your minimalist business abounds, hence your eyeballs on this page, but one element of this style of work, and really, this way of life, gets very little lip service.  Redefining and maintaining your sense of identity once your location independent and lifestyle begins to work.

That initial programming from society geared our minds and our peers to gauge our self-worth based on the numbers of hours worked, money made and the quantity of shit purchased to fill the empty void in the life you created. And for a good reason, our economic system needs worker ants to keep it slogging forward through time.

But once you leap off of the ant hill, build your location independent empire, launch yourself into the simple lifestyle and see your work hours shift dramatically, how do you maintain your identity and still live in this country?

For those who don’t follow this blog and don’t already know, I’m a mid-thirties, single woman whose taken the nontraditional path my entire adult life. I never truly bought into the programming tossed my way by society and am truly grateful for the struggles and triumphs my path provided. I never truly garnered my self-worth from the definitions of society and most of my friends stopped gauging my success on work hours, cars and money long ago- or I just cut them out of my life.  Yet, I still catch myself feeling this sense of guilt from working a minimal amount of hours a week on pure income generation. I devote my time to this blog, building a community of readers, my art and my passions, but they aren’t always generating direct income.  My income generation varies dramatically from one week to the next, regardless of the amount of hours I work for money.

Still, after all this time, I struggle with this sense of identity.  So, what can we do to combat this- besides the obvious answer of “get over yourself, already”?

1. Pull your artistic and creative business ideas off the shelves and devote some of this new time towards cultivating that fledgling idea. As an entrepreneur (which you are if you’re reading this- or at least want to be) you will regurgitate business ideas and artistic endeavors like the girl from the Exorcist. They will spew forth and shoot all over the walls as your head spins from the sheer energy of these fabulous ideas. Yet, in a former life of 50 hour work weeks and weekend warrior escapades, these poor lonely ideas withered on the shelf from neglect. Dust them off, coddle ‘em a little and resuscitate them.

2.  Surround yourself with fellow minimalist business folks. You need a community. Yes, you do. And if your community is like mine, where the word minimalist was violently removed from the vernacular decades ago, move. Now. Pack up your crap (and since you’re a minimalist- that should take less than a day) toss the dog in the passenger seat and drive off into the sunset.  Find your community-  your support system. When you’re friends value time the same way as yourself, they will understand the beauty of a 3 hour brainstorming lunch or the necessity of that quintessential coffeeshop/remote office. Best of all, they will not judge you when you mention that your income generation activities took a whole 8 hours that week. They will applaud.

3.  Live in a beautiful area and find some nature.
Nature is a fabulous friend to have when you have a little extra time on your hands.  She can nurture your creative ideas, provide you solace when your E-Book is driving you mad or simply give you a rock and a view to admire when you’ve found your happy place.  I balance the ugliness of my current community with the beauty of the beach. I live about one mile from the beach and after my coffee shop visit, I spend a 3 hour lunch there everyday, reading business books and brainstorming about my next adventure. It’s the only reason I’m still here and not curled up in the fetal position on a shrink’s couch.

documentary photography, sunset at the beach, crystal street

My family poses for a self-portrait during a beautiful sunset on the beach.

4.  Change your filters. Huh?  Yep, your filters- given to you by society at that young, impressionable age- need to be taken out and replaced with new, shiny, minimalist filters.  Make a list of all the precious things you value in life.  People, moments, memories and experiences- write them all down on a piece of paper and visit them often.  When you see a neighbor or old classmate and the conversation steers towards the dangerous cliffs of “What do you do?” and “Where do you live?” compare the conversation with your list of experiences.  When some douche bag you knew 15 years ago starts bragging about his corner office and unlimited expense account, mention the time you sailed through the Greek Isles for three months while your assistant just dumped your passive income into your bank account and you worked a couple hours a week from your laptop while docked in some ridiculously gorgeous Greek Isle that you can’t even remember the name of.  That should shut him up.

5.  Learn the right answers. A little tricky, but you will always be asked questions about work and where you live. It’s inevitable- it’s our way of politely saying “how are you today”?  Even my barista, who knows what I do for a living, always asks me, “Are you working today”?  And I never have a good answer for her.  I usually shrug and give a noncommittal “maybe”. I feel guilty because she’s got a line of impatient tourists winding out the door and is working way too hard.  When your tan rocks, people will think you don’t work very hard, and roll their eyes when you tell them you were working on the beach.  Learn to love your answers and their reactions.  Get creative- tell them you work the streets at night, so you have plenty of time to tan during the day.  Tell them whatever- tell them you’re sleeping with Donald Trump and he pays you a million bucks a month because you’re so good in the sack.

The point?

Understand the reasons why you work this way and embrace the passions that drive you forward. These passions and understanding of your self-worth will insulate you from the judgments of others.  And while we truly don’t care what that douche-bag bully from high school thinks of us, we do care what our parents, siblings and loved ones think of our work.  And if you’re passionate and dedicated to living this life of simplicity, your loved ones will understand and be your biggest champions.  And one day soon, they may follow you.

Finding your Workspace in a Sea of Neon- The Value of a Coffeeshop and its Reflection of a Community

Sad to say, I have returned to the land of neon and consumption.  Its bittersweet really, I’m with my mom and my dog, so I really have nothing to complain about.  But once I leave the little bubble of my mother’s home, I’m thrust into this daunting world of neon, big box stores, Wings and Eagles “everything here is made in China and you really don’t need it” stores and a plethora of fast food joints.  I am in Myrtle Beach and they don’t call it the “Redneck Riviera” for nothing.

So true!

So true!

After 4 days of searching in vain for a spot to work that meets my requirements, quiet- but not silent, has a sprinkling of character, locally owned, has decent espresso and is within a 5 mile radius of my current dwelling, I believe I may have found my squatting location. (Disclaimer here- My favorite Barista is probably reading this and she has by far the best coffeeshop on this island, but I burn through almost a quarter of a tank of gas to get to her place- I will be working there too- but can’t afford to make it a daily occurrence-Barb, if I could afford a place in your neck of the woods- you’d see me every morning!) Granted, this new spot isn’t 5 miles away, more like 8-10, but, its a compromise to keep my sanity.

On a mission this morning, I pulled up to the little house by the highway which is covered by artwork. I open my truck door and was greeted by a lovely older dog who seemed to say, “hello, welcome.” I opened the door to the shop and was greeted by another furry friend, a beautiful weimaraner.  He checked me out and said “welcome, your espresso is just over here.” Now I’m sitting in this old little house, sipping on my espresso (yes, Luca, I can not function without my espresso) which is also an art cooperative.  I’m tucked away in a little room in the back and surrounded by beautiful artwork and right next to a window and the four legged friend checks on me periodically.  I think I may have found my spot. I was beginning to feel like a caged animal with no close to home coffeeshop to save my sanity.

Ahh, yes, glad we have those thumbs.

Ahh, yes, glad we have those thumbs.

This brings me to an important point, even if it has taken three grafs to get to it.  If you’re a location independent professional or just a creative being, having your workspace is imperative. It’s not an option, its a necessity.  Like water, food and vitamins.  We must have it. And you have to know what you must have and what elements of your workspace you can compromise on when you land yourself in a non-conducive environment. Rural, southern, East Coast communities do not do espresso.  The only shops are run by folks who came from another location and brought their culture with them.  Obviously, that’s not a universal statement, but just my observation from living in communities like this for many years.  When you know you are entering an unfriendly work environment, what do you do?

Compromise. I know I have to have people milling about and socializing in order for me to be creative when working at a coffeeshop (also highly-recommended are a pair of quality, noise-canceling headphones.  Helps turn any noisy establishment into your private writing studio).  I’ve tried libraries, I really have, but there’s something so sterile and controlled about these workplaces that just doesn’t stir the creative juju. In an act of desperation, I went to the local library yesterday, took one look around and walked out.  Not an ounce of beauty, serenity or even comfortable workspaces.  But, I ventured over to the Atlanta Bread Company and accomplished some meaningful, paying, work while watching people order bagels all day.  I normally don’t work in places like this, but I had to compromise or miss a few deadlines.

Character.  A place must have character.  Some artwork on the walls, comfortable furniture that reflects the owner’s tastes, dogs, a good color palette and some decent lighting.  Ambiance is a necessity. Prior to my friend purchasing the coffeeshop in the next town, the owners had decorated the walls with overt religious symbols and played christian music all day long.  While I feel we all have the right to whatever religion floats our boat, I got the heebie-jeebies every time I went there and had to sit at the table underneath the concrete ten commandments.  I had to do a mental check and be sure I’d been a decent human being that morning so those damn tablets wouldn’t fall onto my table and crush my computer. The irony would have been well received though.  My friend took over, painted the walls and added her own personal touch.  And while she is a woman of faith, she created an environment that is calming and welcome to all.  Thanks lady!

While on the topic of character, sometimes, the character can just be the people who frequent the coffeeshop.  While in Richmond, I spent many an hour at this fabulous coffeeshop in the city and the regulars were wonderful.  A group of 4-6 men would gather everyday, sit on the porch and read the paper, debate the headlines and talk about their latest endeavors.  After some time, they welcomed me into their circle and I would spend my mornings listening to their conversations.  Fascinating.  My recent espresso office in Quartzsite had a slew of characters.  Granted, the building had lots of character- I mean, if you were over 100 years old, you’d have character too.  But it was not your ideal urban coffee establishment- the espresso came in a packet and hold onto your hats if you order a cappuccino.  But the people were wonderful.  They had drama, they had a bone to pick with each other, they had children and lovers wearing guns wandering about and the occasional soap opera would be on the TV some afternoons.  They had character, which made going there an interesting endeavor.  I never knew what I would find when I walked up to the front door, new friends, crazy drunk musicians or shiny new Airstreams.  Random is wonderful.

Quality Drinks.  Yep, this is a big one.  Having quality espresso is a must, I drink it straight, so it can’t taste like ass.  Now, sometimes I’ll compromise on this, if I have to, but it is imperative.  I need that jolt of espresso to get my fingers flying over the keyboard.  I enjoy that burst of energy that creates the words I publish. (Ask a friend about those novel length emails that happen after my morning espresso- hilarious) And, for those times when I need to drag out the caffeine wave, a quality, yummy soy latte is a god-send.  During the walkabout, spending time in the Northwest was this coffeeshop hound’s wet dream.  Seriously, they have the coffee culture down to a science.  Even Walla Walla, which is not the haven of the liberal, progressive coffee culture, had an wonderful, warm coffeeshop that was filled with people at all hours.  In fact, this blog was born while sitting at the bar in that coffeeshop that faced the streets of Walla Walla.  Staring out the window is always an inspiring activity.

Community.  Coffeeshops should, in a perfect world, be the hub of a community. One of my areas of documentation is communities, and I am totally enthralled with the concept of the “Third Place”.  One of my mentors at UNC told me about the concept and recommended the book “The Great Good Place” and I have always tried to find the third place in a community to get the feel of that community’s soul. The third place refers to the community gathering locations that people incorporate in their daily lives.  The first place is home, the second place is work and the third place is the gathering spot.  Think of Cheers.  Same thing.  And I believe that the coffeeshops are a reflection of the community’s soul.  What does it say about the area I’m currently staying in that the only good coffeeshops, the only coffeeshops period, are at least a 20-30 minute drive?  Speaks volumes.

Well, I believe I’ve made my point.  If you’re a traveling professional or a vagabond artist, always know how to find your workplace and just how many compromises you’re willing to make to be in a certain location.  And, regardless of what you do and where you work, find your locally owned coffeeshop and support it.  Get to know your barista and make a personal connection over the art of caffeine.

A new workplace!

A new workplace!

Tips for Finding Your Balance in Art and Commerce

So, you’ve done a little soul-searching and brainstorming about your art and commerce balance.  Here’s a few tips I’ve learned over the years to help find the balance.  As I’ve said before, its not always achievable without drastic measures and nothing is absolute in art, but hopefully these tips will help a little.  Let’s dive in!

Tips to maintain your creativity while being an artistic entrepreneur.

  • Make a list of the reasons for selling your art in the first place.  What’s your reason?  What’s your purpose? If the goal is strictly monetary, can you find another way to make a living- remotely related to your art- and sell the finished product?
  • Write down each task, both artistic and business, that you perform on a regular basis to keep your business a float.  Taxes, accounting, marketing, production, shipping, etc.  Leave a blank space next to each task.
  • Analyze and understand which parts of the artistic commerce process you like, hate and must have.  Make a small notation next to each task indicating your preference.
  • Next to each task, estimate the amount of time each task takes, use hours per week or percentages.  If you are having problems with creativity, pay close attention to the business side of things and the amount of time spent on these tasks.  Also note the time in-between the art tasks and business tasks.  Are you balancing your accounting books prior to painting your masterpieces?  Problem.
  • Look at your lists and make a decision- can you take the hate section/time suckers and hire someone to do it?  If you’re unfamiliar with outsourcing and hiring virtual assistants, take a minute and go read some info on the 4HWW.  Delegating some of the menial business tasks will help alleviate the pressure on your creative juju.
  • Can you separate the money making aspects enough to protect the creativity?  If you produce a product, can you hire someone to run the business side of things completely?  If not, can you produce for a certain time period each week or month and then designate one day or one week to just business?  Maybe selling at festivals and trade shows would provide a balance and separation between production and commerce.  Is there a portion of your art that can be sold on the internet as passive income- requiring no activity from you to generate sales, such as e-books, print-on-demand artwork or selling patterns in an automated PDF download format? Get creative and separate the art from the commerce.
  • Take a long hard look at your hate/must have list and start to eliminate.  We’re steering towards Pareto’s principle here, or the 80/20 principle.  Pareto, an Italian economist created a theory in the late 1800s that 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of your results.  After looking over your list, do you see anything that is taking up large amounts of time and producing little rewards?  Are you spending too much time keeping one client happy who only produces 20% or less of your income?  You may find that in eliminating some of your activities and slow producing income streams, you’ll find more time to focus on the activities that produce rewards.  Take some time to read this theory and find a book or two which apply Pareto’s principle to business.  Seriously, its pretty damn valuable.
  • Does your art have multiple facets that can be separated and make only a portion of it for sale?

Be sure to do the following on a regular basis…

  • Produce art for the sake of art.  Just be an artist- as much as possible.
  • Find another artistic endeavor totally unrelated to your commerce art and engage in this when you come to a creativity block and on a regular basis for rejuvenating creative juju.
  • Find a group of creative souls to share your time with. Both business related and just for fun.
  • If you’re really stuck, or just want to learn more about the mind of the artist, check out the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
  • Teach. Teaching your craft is an excellent way to fall in love with the beauty of it all over again.  Seeing someone learning your craft and seeing their creativity is an excellent way to rejuvenate your own.  There’s a saying which I hate that is sometimes used as an excuse by artists not to teach.  “Those who can’t do, teach.”  Not true.  Just because you are being of service to others and sharing your craft through education does not make you less of an artist.  Remember this when the little cynical gnomes pop up on your shoulder and degrade your decision to teach rather than create.
A view from hole 14 at the desert golf course in Quartzsite.

A view from hole 14 at the desert golf course in Quartzsite.

The Yin and Yang of Art and Commerce ~ Finding a Balance Between Making a Living and Holding onto Your Creativity.

Every so often, the creative juju just leaves us.
It doesn’t go far, but it takes a little hiatus while the artist clears the crap out of their brain and gets back to the balance that keeps them sane and productive.  As someone who makes a portion of their living from artistic endeavors, I hit this wall every so often.  And sometimes it can last for months, or longer.  What I’ve discovered over the years is that a guaranteed method to erect the wall is to begin the logistics and planning stages of a multimedia production or major commercial photography project.

Shoppers try on a hand-crafted jacket at the QIA craft show in Quartzsite.

Shoppers try on a hand-crafted jacket at the QIA craft show in Quartzsite.

Yes, that’s a conundrum for a professional photographer and multimedia producer.

Many photographers advise keeping a personal project in the works to help find balance, but that never seems to work for me.  I become so engrossed in the planning, strategy and details of proposals, estimates and negotiations, that I lose all ability to function in a creative manner.  Last week I lost the ability to write anything of value.  I could barely compile an email!  So, I took a night off from everything and tried to retrace my activities of the week to understand why my creative juju disappeared.  Was the moon in the wrong phase?  Was Mercury in retro-grade?  Was it PMS?  No, no and no.

Then a simple realization struck me.  In fact, it was so simple that I just had to laugh.  Its the business side of things.  The business logistics of multimedia production sucked every ounce of juju out.  So, how does a multimedia producer move forward knowing this?  She chooses another path, for now.

A little clarification.  I love entrepreneurship.  I think creating a viable business, no matter how small, is such an amazing and wonderful process.  I even like the strategy and logistics- sometimes.  But the implementation- not so much.  I once had a very successful businessman point out this flaw of mine in very simple terms, “you love the idea phase, but you don’t like the implementation part.” So true!  He followed it by saying he is the same way.  I love problem solving and business is full of it.  But I love to do this for other people, not necessarily myself.

So, as I’m returning to my epiphany (this isn’t necessarily new- happens often and I usually reinvent my business goals or just go bartend for a while) I am forced to really take inventory of all my artistic business ventures at the moment and weigh the value of actually doing each one.  Some of them have the balance of business and art inherently in their model and they are simple enough to not require lengthy logistical processes and project management.  Other endeavors are not so cut and dry.

Does this mean I will never produce a major multimedia project?  Of course not.

Does this mean that I will closely weigh the outcome of each project, do a detailed cost and benefit analysis and make damn sure the creative juju that may be squashed will be rewarded by the outcome or an extended artistic project to follow shortly afterwards? Yes!

In doing this analysis, I’ve come to several conclusions and eliminated some activities.  And the creative juju has returned!  I’ll share the rational for all those wondering about the same issues for their own creative commerce.

The art of writing, as a profession, is a new emergence for me as an almost full time gig.  I really enjoy the process of writing, and at least for the time being, the creative writing and the writing to pay the bills are not conflicting- they have a balance.  In part, because both of them emerged on the scene at the same moment- so they had a natural balance.

Photography is my passion, it is who I am, not necessarily what I do.  I sometimes forget that little fact.  So, if money is to be made off the photography, it needs to be after the work is produced.  Stories sold after they are finished, artwork sold once it is printed and multimedia projects purchased after completion. That’s not an absolute statement, by any means, but an excellent guideline.  Now, I won’t be turning down the random portrait shoot, small wedding and amazing -simple- commercial shoot if it arises, but the above guidelines will hopefully help keep that in balance.

Lapidary arts (cutting and polishing stones) and silversmithing are emerging interests and I believe in several years will be a new artistic business venture.  I am curious to see if the creative juju balance applies here because the art and the business will emerge together.  The photography emerged about 10 years prior to the commerce, so the passion was already inherent and had no association with the commerce.  I resent the commerce associated with my photography- hence the lack of balance. Oh, conundrums.

The Bottom Line

It really boils down to keeping things amazingly simple.  While I love the thought of the large multimedia company, employing all the amazing storytellers I know and producing powerful work to help balance the media, for my sanity, this business model is not an option. Though I would love to be a consultant on setting that business up for someone else!

Find your balance.  Know your boundaries when it comes to art and commerce.  Understand what will support your passion and what will suck the life out of it.  Then guard those truths with all your abilities, even if that means making money with a skill totally unrelated to your art.  Sometimes that backup skill will save your creative juju- so don’t be afraid to use it!

Stay tuned, the second part of this article is on its way.  Tips on finding your Yin and Yang of art and commerce.