First Third of 30 Days of Creativity: a love letter to Gwen Bell

Things have been a bit nutso around here, all in good ways I assure you. It’s summer, and because I’m not freezing, I’m not going to complain about the 107 degrees my thermometer says it is. Besides, heat makes tomatoes grow like weeds!

So, to get back to showcasing my creativity endeavors, I’m going to list them here. Sadly, no photos, so that’s something I will amend for the next 66% of the month.

June 1: Posted to the blog

June 2: Lavender & Lemon souffle; sometimes two powerful exotic foodstuffs go together well. Not true with daikons and durian (forget not trying it at home, don’t try this anywhere).

June 3: Sat on a friend’s porch, drank red wine, discussed theology, and learned that British men, when cyclists they have just struck wind up on the hoods of their cars, will throw punches which look like cats abusing a scratching post.

June 4: Took a nap. Seriously, the next time you get stumped on a project, a good nap just might shake something loose for you. It did me.

June 5: Built the bones of a rock garden.

June 6: Created some kick ass labels for a boutique bakery.

June 7: Participated in some much needed retail therapy.

June 8: Made kool-aid playdough. The recipe needs some work but the journey was the thing.

June 9: Drove to the city from a completely foreign direction with no map or directions. Exhilarating!

June 10: Answered Gwen Bell’s request for a follow-up to potentially use in her new Fucking Fierce offering.

Narrowing down what she did for me during our 101 last year into a few sentences was almost impossible. In looking at it afterwards, it made me realize that I didn’t make a big enough hoo-ha of what brought me into the world of design blogging, and ultimately what spurred on the entire Aria rebrand. I aim to change that right now by sharing with you what I sent her mere moments ago:

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” While a pro pos for working with you, it still doesn’t address the Gwen Bell slow-release time bomb!

The immediate returns of our collaboration were great, but the real value came with the after effects: I realized that my business and my personality were walled off from one another such that I wasn’t being as authentic as I wanted to be. As hard as it was to do it, pushing through that was invaluable. I’m happier, my clients seem to get (and appreciate) me, and my creativity is blossoming. Now I just get to be me—and that’s such a relief.

What I didn’t include, and probably should’ve, is that relief means I can concentrate more clearly on my clients’ work.

The irony that I help businesses find their voice and yet wasn’t fully connected to my own is not lost on me. Where Aria acts a conduit for change with others, I wasn’t allowing myself that same opportunity or flexibility. Working with Gwen made me realize that I need to trust who I am, and if that’s a hillbilly hootenanny that’s ok.

Making the jump to the new web design, getting new head shots, putting myself “out there” in front of my business—and my life—was more terrifying than sky diving ever was. But I can’t recommend it enough to those willing to do the work.

Do it.

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That old black magic

We are at an impasse, one I hope we can all roll up our sleeves and tackle together.

It started out because business repeatedly said to creatives, “Here is all the information you need; now go work your magic”. The creatives inwardly rolled their eyes, because where it may have implied a sense of awe, what it actually meant was that business expected creatives to go back to the work space and poof! problem solved in mere moments (just like magic!). Creatives knew that in fact—after they put on their sorcerer’s hats—they needed to compile mountains of research on products/services, competitors, and audiences to find the best way to solve the given problem. But, like The Wizard, they never let business pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

Some creatives perceived that the path to increased value in the eyes of business involved outlining the process by which innovative solutions were developed, drawing specific comparisons to a scientific research and discovery process. This gained some traction, and all beheld it and said, “Lo, verily, this is good. Now we all understand one another.” Only, the gods of business smote them for thinking that creative solutions could be stamped out like wallets, in a repetitive, predictable fashion. Creativity, she is a fierce goddess who will not be chained!

Now everyone is running around talking about the end of branding as if what we’ve all been talking about for the last ten+ years is a house of cards waiting for one stiff breeze to take it down. How is the slight movement from promoting a brand to actually telling its story that different from where we were before advertising’s golden era? How is it different from how small businesses have been marketing locally since civilizations began? Even in cities people have relationships with their area businesses—barbers, stylists, restaurateurs, bakers, dry cleaners—and by interacting on the smallest personal level, they create a bond. This small bond is what made people in my suburban town support a local businessman who lost everything when his business of 50 years burned down. I doubt they’d have done that for Target had it burned down!

Creatives, you are not blameless in this either! Now more than ever your clients need your creative problem solving skills to help address the continuing sea changes. If your craft is rusty, collaborate, research, brainstorm, and just plain old DO IT. Get that magic crackalackin’!

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