Day 364: One.Four.14

What a year of financial instability (and blogging) have taught me about opening a business

I’m no good with money.

There, I said it. My dirty little not-so-secret.

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life trying desperately to acquire bits of money, only to watch them float away just as quickly. The starving-artist mentality taken to all new extremes. The root of this problem of mine? Well it’s deep, to be sure, but the cliff notes version goes something like this; I possess an inability to reconcile my bleeding heart, heal the world, material things don’t matter mentality with my equally present appreciation of beautiful things. Because ugh, as much as I hate to admit this, things DO matter to me.

This past year I quit my lucrative job in administration at a middle school in Philadelphia, said goodbye to my health benefits and 401K, packed up all of my possessions and returned to Washington, DC with no real plans to make money, just a ten-year-old dream to open my own business. Oh, and a blog I’d started – a New Year’s resolution to do something creative everyday.

In the eight months that followed, I slept on my mother’s couch, sub-let my best friend’s basement apartment, moved into an incredibly overpriced (and out of my budget) studio of my own, secured multiple part time jobs, none of which amounted to pay that covered my bills, and ultimately fell into a deep despair.

This isn’t a ploy to make you feel sorry for me. Promise.

Rather, this is an attempt to shine some light on a way of being that doesn’t get much merit in our society – a way of life that involves being and doing good outside of the traditional capitalistic sense. Not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to make money. Just saying, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to, either. And that’s where we need a perspective shift in this culture.

I am well aware I had every opportunity to take the reasonable road – stick it out in a job I could tolerate, if not love, stay in a city I could tolerate, if not love, change my spending habits so I could save, save, save, and so on.

Except, I couldn’t. This need to be creative, forge my own path – it has always been my blessing as well as my curse. Too many years away from dancing, creating, contributing to the artistic world and I become restless, listless, hopeless.

And I have a great business plan.

I do. For as little credit as I give myself, for as much as I am my worst critic, even in those times I can admit that I have something special. A business model that doesn’t yet exist, really, and for which there is a great need amongst the creative community.

My business is an endeavor meant to fuel the creative economy, and meant to function as an organization that pays artists a fair price for their work, and gives them the recognition they deserve for their contributions. We’re not just talking art in the traditional sense, the hanging on a wall ready to be purchased by a gallery-goer kind. Although, we will have that, too. We’re talking about passionate, invested folk creating a meal, making a movie, designing websites, teaching classes, putting on performances… And the list goes on.

I know what you’re thinking, I think: A financially unstable director of an arts organization meant to pay artists well may seem like a complete contradiction. I have thought so too. So much so, I almost lost complete faith in my ability to open this business. But then, it occurred to me just how well suited I am for the challenge.

So here are nine things (in no particular order) my year of financial instability have taught me about opening my business, each accompanied by a corresponding blog entry from my year of The Daily Creative Project:

1. Hey. Be Nice

When you feel yourself to have hit bottom (or at least close to), it becomes an incredible vantage point for finding grace. A moment to appreciate the troubles of others. The suffering that others may face. Even when – especially when – they resist letting that vulnerability be seen. Being able to meet people where they are is a huge part of running a business, I am coming to learn.

Day ThreeHundredNineteen

2. Find Yourself a Virtue

Patience; man I have none. Or thought I didn’t. But ten years – dreaming this dream for ten years – that’s some patience if I’ve ever seen any. So, the fact that my business hasn’t now been built in a day? I’d say, that’s OK. By starting slowly, having lots and lots of conversations, asking advice from those I trust and admire, testing out the waters with snippets of what we intend to do, building an audience and cheerleader base, we’re getting all of our ducks in a row for just that very day when everything does become aligned to open our doors.

Day SeventyTwo

3. Faith

I believe as wholeheartedly in my mission now, as I ever have. I believe in myself. I believe in other dreamers and creative folks and the good in people. I believe, at the end of the day, my business will help and do good and be good for lots of other people, not just myself. My faith may look very different from yours, but it comes from the same place of wonder and inexplicable strength that makes things just seem, well, possible.

Day OneHundredEightyTwo

4. Ingenuity All the Way

I haven’t had the capital to invest in my current endeavors. I don’t have an eager philanthropist busting at the seams to support my work. When you can’t take the easy (or at least accessible) road, it forces you to find creative ways around roadblocks. Got an idea? How can you make it happen on a smaller scale, as a partnership, in pieces? Our event series, Reel Talk, began in the living room of dear friends, with a handful of people – all friends or relatives, and a dream to turn this vision of ours into something. Turns out, people who are already in your corner are the best customers. They were eager and engaged and supportive. And three months later, we were partnering with a real estate firm to hold the event in their beautiful offices, with advanced tickets purchased by complete strangers. It sometimes takes a perspective shift, but the outcome can be more rewarding than you ever expected.

Day ThreeHundredFortyThree

5. Become the Rubber Band

Resilience. The ability to snap back. If you haven’t hit low, if you haven’t tested your limits, how will you ever know what you’re capable of?

Day TwoHundredEightyNine

6. Keep Your Head in the Clouds

The only way to make this crazy thing a reality is to keep on dreaming. People may tell you to stop. To get your priorities straight. You may even tell yourself that. But if you wake up day after day with the same dream, you owe it to yourself to give it everything you’ve got. And to know that, while you may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel (apologies for all my terribly cliche idioms I’ve got going on in here – don’t know what’s come over me), the light, it’s there. And you’ll see it soon enough. Just as long as you don’t. give. up.  This of course comes with a hearty dose of reality and sacrifice along the way – a deep willingness to do whatever necessary. And may mean you have to make some deviations along the way. But oh how sweet the sunshine will feel when you come out the other side and can say ‘I. Did. This.’


7. A Slice of Humble Pie

Take advice from others. Admit defeat. Ask for help when you need it. Cause hey, we all need it, once in awhile. And yes, even us perfectionists fail (or ahem, encounter obstacles) once in awhile.

Day ThreeHundredTen

8. Put Your Best Assets Forward

Like to doodle? Good at taking photos, or talking to people? Those seemingly dissimilar or unnecessary talents will become the lifeline on which you walk through this process. They are also, hopefully, the very reason(s) you are starting this endeavor in the first place. They are the things that make you happiest. And therefore in turn, will make you successful-ist.

Me? I love to design interior spaces. (And dance. And connect with other inspiring artists to make even more inspiring work. And plan events. And work with young people. And. Oh, well, you get the picture.)

Day TwoHundredNinetyTwo

9. Find Your Happy Place

If at the end of the day, even in despair, you find yourself happier, somewhere deep down, than you were at the height of your non-dreamer life, you know you’ve done it. You know you’ve followed your heart to the place you are meant to be. I’ve shamed myself into thinking for so long that my way isn’t the ‘right’ way. And in this society, it’s not. But I have to, have to, believe that my way will be MY right way. Just as soon as I let go of this guilt I’ve built up around myself.

Day OneHundredSeventyFive

Bonus post: Pharrell Williams will make you Happy.

*Now, I just want to make clear that I am in no way implying that being in debt and relinquishing all responsibility are the way to go here. Just the opposite. I believe I will finally be able to find peace and the ability to manage my finances, a business, etc. when I accept who I am and find ways to work WITH my abilities, instead of in direct opposition to them.

I’m different.

There, I said it. I have a hunch there are a lot of us out there. And I think we can help each other, and our society, by unashamedly, loudly, intensely, shouting it from the rooftops. (And then making big things happen. With a dose of compassion. A dash of ingenuity. And a whole lot of heART.)

Here’s to another day of creativity…


Day 362: One.Two.14

Heartbreak is an unwelcome houseguest, to be sure.
A terribly persistent one.

Coming this time, to settle amidst my thoughts, atop my chest, beneath my skin.

An inexplicable sadness. Loneliness.
A heartbreak I didn’t even know was such.

It’s for no one love in particular. Rather, a year of un-loves.
Moving in to claim my heart-space.

Heartbreak shows up to consume me and suddenly, I no longer have any desire to love any other way than wholly.

Just as soon as heartbreak packs up and moves on. Making room in my heart for a fellow heart; worthy and deserving and true.

Here’s to another day of creativity…

Day 358: Twelve.TwentyNine.13

Oh to be productive. I had such high hopes for this day.

Oh to lack the willpower to see it through. I had such low outcome on this day.

Here’s to another day of creativity…

Day 326: Eleven.TwentySeven.13

As posted to my fb page earlier:

First of all, this is FANtabulous. High fives to everyone involved in this video.

Second of all, it is my (not-so-secret) dream to do exactly this with a warehouse space that we can then turn into the ReSourceArts headquarters. A place where art runs wild. Creativity reigns. People make awesome happen everyday.

We’re getting soooo close. (It’s not just a dream anymore, it’s really happening!) New name, new branding, similar (but even better) concept and business model alll in the works as we speak. Wait for it, wait for it…

And space is the next frontier – we’re working on a location in DC starting in the new year. (Where should we be?? Who’s got a building they want to let us artify??)

OK so finally, back to my original point of this post… when we have all those things in place… LET’S DO THIS!!! Artists, creatives, awesome people, who’s gonna join me??????

Here’s to another day of creativity…

Day 312: Eleven.Thirteen.13

This is crazy. I would do it in a heartbeat.

The craziest OKCupid date ever

In an online exchange after I posted the article and exclaimed I wanted to find a romantic fella like him to take me on this type of grand adventure, a friend told me it was a ‘special’ type of person that would do this (she meant it with love).

It was then I had a sort of epiphany about the kind of person I want to be (am?!), and the kind of ‘special’ a person who wants to be my significant other needs to be. Thank goodness it came when it did. Before that I was swimming in my own salty, wide open ocean of thoughts. Feeling discouraged and downtrodden about the prospect of me ever finding a special someone who lives up to my potential.

Here are a few things that I am now, gratefully, coming to know about myself:

  • I live for this type of spontaneity, while at the same time I live a life anchored by details and plans and organization. It’s not a contradiction. It’s what makes navigating open, adventure-filled waters manageable; knowing there is something to keep me grounded when needed.
  • I live for this type of creativity. I crave it – no, require it – in equal parts to the oxygen-rich particles my lungs depend on for my existence. This goes well beyond the “forge your own path” mentality. This is about continuously expanding and inventing our reality. Stagnant and status quo will never be good enough to enter my life’s vocabulary.
  • I’ve got a full life. This is not me bragging. This is me coming to terms with all I have worked to build. I simply don’t have time to pull someone along for the ride. They need to come equipped with their own full sail, ready to chart even greater distances with me.
  • I don’t have a list of required characteristics for my significant other. Except now, it seems I do. Whoever they are, whatever their background (and hopefully, it’s vastly different from mine) they have to, HAVE TO, understand, identify with, and encapsulate the above epiphanies.
  • I so want my heart to catch up with my head and let this person in. I don’t want to spend a lifetime of settling in my romantic field all the while planting a rich, abundant life in all other realms.

Here’s to another day of creativity…

Day 310: Eleven.Eleven.13

I wish I had written this.

I wish I was at the point where I could reflect on, and write this, with some amount of clarity and security.

At least, for now, I’m grateful to have read it.

11 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Business

Here’s to another day of creativity…

Day 306: Eleven.Seven.13

This whole social media #tbt (#throwbackthursday) thing has gotten me. I tried to resist, but now I post away with the worst of them. Ugh.

Today’s selection was taken at a photoshoot a little over a year ago. I was living in Philly, was wishing I was dancing, and was wondering how I was going to get out of my current life situation.

It was a nice reminder of how much has changed. How much I have changed.

Photo by Aanya Photography. Styling by Styled by Ali

Photo by Aanya Photography. Styling by Styled by Ali

Here’s to another day of creativity…

Day 289: Ten.TwentyOne.13

I’m struggling. Like, really struggling.

Financially, personally, emotionally, existentially even?… ha

You wouldn’t know it, necessarily, from looking at me. Talking to me.

I’m doing a fairly good job of hiding it all, if I do say so myself. From myself, even.

But it’s there. And it’s catching up to me.

If you found the right thread and pulled, you might unravel me.

Except, I haven’t become completely undone.

Close to it, perhaps.

But there is still something underneath holding enough of me together to keep me moving forward.

This is the change. The strength I didn’t know I had developed.

Most days I convince anyone I speak to that my business will be open soon while simultaneously feeling like I will never get there. Not because I can’t make it happen, but perhaps, because I still can’t SEE it happening. My doubts keep escaping from where I have them locked deep down, and surfacing as whisperings in my ear.

I know how to get this far – the beginning stages. I don’t know how to get to what’s next. I’m terrified. And on top of it, I have no patience to see that this is the exact right timing for all of this. It seems it should all be happening NOW. Other people are making their dreams come true now – why can’t I?

Except, I have enough patience, and fortitude? to have held on this long.

Piecing together part-time work that feels less than worthy of my time.

Creatively spacing out bills and rent and groceries each month because I no longer have the comfort of a steady paycheck.

Gathering those around me who will be strong allies and partners in my dreams.

I feel scared and lonely and sad perhaps daily.

But there is a stronger feeling that now lives with me. It’s catching me off guard and I’m not always able to reconcile these two sides of me. But it’s there: I am steadfast in my desire to do better. Be better. Live better.

So. I keep on. And when that thread seems ready to unravel, I remind myself there are many more holding me together.

Forever a point of inspiration these days, here’s Wonder by Emeli Sande and Naughty Boy:

Here’s to another day of creativity…

Day 269: Ten.One.13

I fall in love with artists and spaces quickly and fully and wholeheartedly. And then repeat. Often.

I don’t consider this cheating – my creative heart has plenty of room for all of the amazingly talented people and places I encounter. Ever-expanding. Ever-growing. It’s a wonder my creative heart even has space inside the walls of my chest for all this artsy love.

I posted about my falling in creative love with artists early on in this project. (Day 5, if you want to read it.)

But the falling in love with space has always been true as well. There has been this lifelong search for buildings and spaces and interesting places. It is becoming even more clear to me now, as I focus on finding a space for my business.

It happened again tonight – falling in space-love.

A warehouse down a fairly quiet, residential road in Northeast DC being renovated and turned into a really creative mixed-use arts/small business collaborative.

I want to be a part of a space like that.

I want to buy a space like that.

I know I’m getting closer to finding my perfect space – being able to make owning/leasing/operating a space a reality.

In the meantime, I’ll just have to keep settling for falling in love over and over. There are worse things, to be sure.

Here’s to another day of creativity…