Tag Archives: Strategic Communication

Like A Boss

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about making a big change in my life. Well, the times they are a changin’, my friends.

I am working toward my Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication. And this semester, I am completing my Capstone Project which is basically the thesis project for the program. (Not that I am completely done after this, I just decided to take the Capstone this semester.)

So I had a project figured out and a proposal approved. Cue the angst and the (Wo)Man in the Mirror moment.

I was thinking, what could I do to change my situation? Clearly, the job hunt is not going well. What am I doing wrong? Maybe I should stop looking for a job?

I’m intelligent and hardworking. I’m a good writer, a decent accountant and knowledgeable about web marketing. I have an eye for design and enjoy refinishing furniture. Where could all this skills converge?

James made some suggestions, and then something my brother said came back to me.

“You could clean out some space in your garage for a workshop and start selling your furniture.”

“I don’t have time for that.”

But maybe I did? Maybe if I focused my Capstone Project on writing a business plan for this potential business I could make time?

Like I mentioned before, I called my mom. Then I shot an email to my professor with the subject line  “Shooting myself in the foot?”

He approved the project change and my new proposal.

SO.

The shop will sell furniture I have rescued from garage sales and consignment stores and then refinished with paint or stain. I will also sell home goods and clothing, some of it vintage pieces and some of it just well-treated used clothing. All of this will be available for purchase through my website, though I will only sell the furniture to local buyers.

My future customers are people with big design dreams, but limited budgets. People that don’t want to see beautiful, old furniture end up in the dumpster. People kind of like me.

The shooting myself in the foot feeling has vanished. There are a lot pieces to figure out, but I am excited. Like really excited. I started my business plan and have been working on things like gross profit margin and market share. Not even that has dampened my excitement (or at least not much).

And to be clear, I am not giving up on the writing thing. Obviously, I will write the copy for the website and online ads. I am essentially creating a copywriting job for myself. I will be my own boss, which I have to say, sounds pretty fucking great. (Although I am keeping the day job for the time being.)

I’m still doing other writing too. I am here, writing this blog. I sent out another story yesterday, and I’ve got two more almost finished.

I will always be a writer, but now I’m going to try something new, try to keep on changing.

I am also looking for potential collaborators too, so if you know anyone or if you are interested in getting involved in the shop, let me know. And if have some great old furniture that you want to get rid of, please contact me as well.

This week’s video is “The Times They are a-Changin'” by Bob Dylan. The video is not perfect, but Dylan sounds great.

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How to Become a Writer in Just 33 Years!

“First, try something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably.” -Lorrie Moore in “How To Become A Writer”

The first time I read these words I was working on my English and journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

Yes. That writing school. No. I wasn’t in the Writer’s Workshop.

And yes. I do think Hannah Horvath was insane for dropping out of the program. As another friend who is getting his MFA said, “You don’t just get into program and drop out. You just don’t.”

And yet, I’ve had many Hannah moments. If you write for a living or you want to write for a living, you’ve had these moments too. Self-doubt is perhaps one of the most inescapable parts of being a writer, or really being any type of artist.

Reading Moore’s work blew my mind. I imagined her poring over a story for hours, tucking and then re-tucking her hair behind her ears as she perfected her sentence structure. It all seemed so romantic.

But me, I was trying to be practical. I knew you can’t just graduate with an English degree, start writing a book, and then become the next J.K. Rowling.

I double-majored in English and journalism, and I worked for the school newspaper, The Daily Iowan. As it turns out, I don’t like working for a newspaper. So much for practicality.

So I did what Moore and many other writers before me did. I worked other jobs. I worked as a visual manager. Then I moved to NYC and started working as visual merchandiser and eventually a visual stylist. I created beautiful displays at an overpriced department store in Midtown.

All the while, I tried to get my foot in the door at a publishing house. And I continued to write. Mostly poetry at the time. I had plenty of angst about dating in NYC and being a twenty-something, much like Hannah Horvath. Minus of course, the money and good connections Hannah has.

I never got that publishing job.

By 2008, I was sick of the city. I fled back to the Midwest and moved to Minneapolis. I looked for writing jobs as the recession worsened. I started temping at an appraisal management company in the accounting department.

I was still writing, but not as much. I wasn’t reading as much either. I was distracted. There were too many things to do. There were too many people to please.

Then in 2012, I got divorced. My old life was suddenly gone. I was crushed.

A friend recommended I read Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds. I did. I also read When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams.

“And it is here, I must have fallen in love with water, recognizing its power and sublimity, where I learned to trust that what I love can kill me, knock me down, and threaten to drown me with its unexpected wave. If so, then it was here where I came to know I can survive what hurts. I believed in my capacity to stand back up and run into the waves again and again, no matter the risk.” –Terry Tempest Williams

These words were a salve to my broken heart. I wasn’t alone. Other writers suffered through heartbreak like this. From their suffering, they created stunningly, beautiful poetry and prose.

I began to write more. I took a flash fiction class at The Loft Literary Center. It was my introduction to flash fiction, a genre that limits stories to under a thousand words. Basically, a very short story. I loved the challenges and opportunities of the genre.

Flash fiction became my medium. I was writing more and ready to start looking for a new job. I found an online degree program through the University of Iowa. It wasn’t an MFA, but a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication. The degree was basically business writing that focuses on emerging channels and mediums, like social media.

I took the GRE and was accepted into the program. I started submitting stories. I started getting rejections.

I took a poetry class at The Loft Literary Center. I wrote more stories. I wrote more poems. I continued to get rejections. I met new writer friends online and IRL. We exchanged writing. They gave me their notes, and I gave them mine.

“Early, critical disillusionment is necessary so that a fifteen you can write long haiku sequences about thwarted desire…Show it to your mom. She is tough and practical. She has a son in Vietnam and a husband who may be having an affair. She believes in wearing brown because it hides spots. She’ll look briefly at your writing, then back up at you with a face as blank as a donut: ‘How about emptying the dishwasher?’ Look away…This is required pain and suffering. This is only for starters.” -“How To Become A Writer”

My friend Rob has published a few of his stories. My friend Jeni is writing her second novel. I just read her first chapter. It’s good.

There is no easy or direct path to becoming a writer. I know many other writers try to be something, anything else. I certainly did.

There is also no magic potion to take, which poof, makes you a writer. I wish there was. There is only the doing.

I read often, which is necessary. Reading inspires you and helps you figure out what kind of a writer you want to be.

From there, you just need to sit down and do it. You need to write. Then write more. And then keep writing.

It’s ok if it takes you 33 or 45 or 70 years to get there. As long as you put in the work, the required pain and suffering.

This week’s video is “Avant Gardener” by Courtney Barnett. She’s a great writer, and some lines in this song really resonate with me.

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