Note: For the fullest experience, I recommend listening to the podcast, as the audio version always contains additional comments and tangents not found in the blog post version.
Confession: I’ve been going through a bit of a rough time lately.
I’ve been feeling like I want to “burn it all down,” as those of us who run our own businesses are wont to say every so often.
Running a business is hard. Trying to get everything to work, when it’s all — all of it — is unknown, uncertain, a big, ol’ experiment — is hard.
And trying to build two businesses at the same time is… well, let’s just say it’s totally mad.
Really, nobody in their right mind would do it.
And yet, here I am.
I’ve got my online community for women, the Creative Sandbox Community, which is undergoing some massive behind-the-scenes transformations right now, thanks to a big update to the software we’re using, Mighty Networks. I’m madly working to get it ready to open the doors to new members, which is a ton of work.
And I’ve got my new consultancy, Creative Sandbox Solutions, which helps companies and organizations with the people side of business strategy through the strategic use of play. We do team development, leadership development, that kind of thing, and I love the work, but starting a new business from scratch is slow going.
And ever since I started the consultancy I’ve been kind of feeling like I have multiple personality disorder, with these two different businesses and their two different audiences.
The community helps individual women get creating, and the consultancy helps companies and organizations grow stronger teams and leaders.
There’s a through-line — the through-line is creativity and play, but it was still making me feel boggled.
Then a business mentor in a mastermind group I’m in suggested I rethink everything.
What if, she asked, I imagine I were starting from scratch, and I had one business, and there was a community, and a corporate consulting component?
What if, she asked, the community were a network of professionals, using creativity and play to further their professional lives?
That made a lot of sense to me. It was a huge paradigm shift, and for the past three months this is exactly the question I’ve tried on.
I’ve tried seeing the Creative Sandbox Community through this lens. Writing the sales page from this perspective, to attract professional women — the kind of women who would be employed at the kinds of companies that might at some point be interested in the services of my consultancy.
And yes, there are plenty of professional women who are the perfect fit for the Creative Sandbox Community just as it already is and was. Women who either identify as creative, but tamped that part of themselves down, the way we all do, because life got in the way, their careers got busy, family took over — whatever — and they’re feeling hungry and malnourished.
And professional women who don’t self-identify as creative, who even self-identify — as I did for many, many years — as “not-creative,” but who feel a longing do something playful and creative-ish, even if they don’t know what it is yet.
But I got really stuck in a box, trying to market “leadership.”
And although the truth is, when we allow ourselves to fully embrace our creative selves, when we allow ourselves to do the creative things we long to do, that is leadership, trying to market “leadership” was getting me all tangled up, because “leadership” has such connotations of managers and expectations of what they’re going to find inside my community.
And that was making me feel like a total fraud.
And those fraudy feelings were making me feel like burning it all down.
But really, the problem is probably in that word, “leadership.”
Here’s the truth: the more we open to our creative expression, the more we are our fullest, most authentic selves. And that is where our true leadership comes from.
Doing your creative thing takes courage! It takes courage to do it, and it takes courage to share it.
Every single time you do your creative thing (or any creative thing, if you don’t have one that feels like yours yet), you have to lean into uncertainty, which takes courage.
And every single time you share your creative thing (or any creative thing, if you don’t have one that feels like yours yet), you have to overcome fear of rejection, of failure, of criticism, which also takes courage.
And the courage muscles you build up for one thing, can help you in other areas of life.
So when you do your creative thing (or any creative thing, if you don’t have one that feels like yours yet), you are building up courage muscles that can help you, for example:
- ask your boss for a raise
- say “no” to a request for something you don’t want to do
- step out on stage to give a presentation
- throw your hat in the ring to run for office
Call it what you will, but that’s leadership.
Plus, every time you make time to do your creative thing (or any creative thing, if you don’t have one that feels like yours yet), you are modeling for others that this kind of radical self-care (which is exactly what making time to do your creative thing is) is important.
Again, call it what you will, but that’s leadership.
Still, on the advice of my business mentor, and stuck in my own head, I overhauled the sales page for the Creative Sandbox Community to try to make it appeal to professional, corporate types.
And I changed the intro to the podcast, to try to make it appeal to professional, corporate types.
Nothing felt like it was working to me. I was doubting myself, doubting everything, feeling like a fraud and a failure, wishing I could go back in time and live my entire life over again.
Then this past week, two things happened in quick succession:
First, I had a long conversation (actually, two long conversations) with Daphne Cohn, for her podcast, The Creativity Habit, which will be coming out sometime in the next few weeks.
Over the course of two days, we literally spoke for close to four hours.
Daphne is an amazing dot-connector, and incredibly gifted at drawing out people’s stories. And the experience of having her reflect my entire life story back to me, helped remind me of what I already know:
I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. The gift of my life, with all its missteps and false turns is that I am able to take the lessons of my life and transform them into gold for others.
Second, I had another long conversation, though not quite as long as my four hours with Daphne, with my friend Lou Blaser, host of another podcast, Second Breaks.
Lou was able to help remind me of something else I already know: that my superpower is getting people creating.
I don’t have to pretend to be an expert in management or business — leave that to the management and business experts!
Just as professional improvisers go into corporations and leverage their expertise as improvisers in corporate workshops, I leverage my expertise in getting people creating, and I use my toolbox of tools — performance, improv, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, singing, facilitation, drawing, visual thinking, etc. — in the workshops I lead.
So no more trying to pretend I’m someone I’m not.
No more trying to make this podcast something different from its original mission.
No more trying to make the Creative Sandbox Community something different from its original mission. (Oy. I have a lot of work to do on the sales page… Again… Well, that’s how it goes when you run your own business.)
Anyway, all of this has inspired me to try out something new.
I haven’t been very active on Instagram Stories. Partly because I can’t figure out technically how to get them to work — how to post multiple images, and videos, and put the graphics on top, and all that stuff — and I just haven’t put the time into figuring it out.
But just this past week I decided to start doing some live doodling on Instagram. Because why not?
I used to do Facebook Lives every so often, but I’m honestly not on Facebook very much anymore. I’m never on Twitter, but I post on Instagram pretty much daily.
So I figured why not try out live doodling on Instagram Stories?
I honestly didn’t think anyone would be interested, but to my surprise, I got some really lovely responses from people!
One person said it was like watching Bob Ross! Which I thought was hilarious, because Bob Ross teaches people to draw landscapes, and I draw abstract doodles.
And a number of people have sent private messages, or posted their own doodles and tagged me, to say how the videos have inspired them. And that makes me so happy, and is why I share!
I figured out a long time ago that for me, making art used to be about ego — I used to want to be known as a Great Artist. But now making art is about the process — feeding my soul — and about getting other people to create.
So I’d rather make something crappy that gets someone else to pick up a pen, or a camera, or a whatever, than be known as a Great Artist.
I’d rather be known as a Great Instigator.
Anyway, this is what’s been going on with me lately. Stay tuned for an overhaul of the Creative Sandbox Community sales page (and the Creative Sandbox Solutions website, too, which is also in desperate need of work… sigh… Always so much to do when you’re the only one doing the work. I look forward to the day when I have the revenue to hire other people to help me.)
I hope the inside view of what’s going on at Creative Sandbox HQ is helpful for you. Let me know!
Today’s Something Cool is an article by Danny Gregory, called Hate your drawings? Read on.
One of my perpetual comments in my doodle livestreams is that it doesn’t matter if you like it or hate it. The reality is, I often hate what I draw. I’ve learned to live with that!
When I simply keep going, usually I like a drawing by the time I’m done with it. Imagine if I’d stopped when I hated it!
But I don’t always like it when I finish it.
In those cases, I remind myself of all the times I’ve visited any Museum of Modern Art.
It’s a given that I will find at least half the artworks at any MoMA butt ugly! And yet some highly-paid curator paid five or six figures for each and every one of them.
When I look at my ugly art through that lens, it doesn’t look so bad.
Danny Gregory has another great perspective to add to your arsenal when you’re feeling downhearted. Check it out!
Has the Creative Sandbox Way™ podcast made a difference in your life? Would you like to be featured on the podcast?
I love sharing listener stories, so if you have a story of how listening to the podcast has changed your life for the better in some way — big or small — I want to feature you in a Listener Spotlight.
Here’s how it works:
1. Just log into iTunes/the Apple Podcast Player and leave a rating and review. (If you don’t know how to do that, you’ll find step-by-step instructions at creativesandboxway.com/itunes-review).
2. Then copy and paste what you wrote in your review into an email, and send it to me, along with why you want to be featured in a Listener Spotlight. How has the podcast made a difference in your life? You can email me at creativesandboxway.com/contact.
If I pick you for a Listener Spotlight, we’ll have a relaxed, fun conversation, and the recording of our conversation will be part of a future episode! How cool is that?
Want a creative kick start?
Check out my book!
What would change for you if you could totally revel in the joy of creating? You CAN, with The Creative Sandbox Way!
- Melissa’s 10 fool-proof guideposts that have helped thousands get joyfully creating.
- 5 reasons why creative play is good for you, AND for the world (it’s neuroscience, baby!)
- Why “I’m not creative” is always a lie, and how to bust it.
- How to turn creative blocks into friends.
AND you’ll get creating right in the book itself.
“It’s one part field guide, one part creative practice—and I loved it. The Creative Sandbox Way is an adventure packaged as a book.”
NYT best-selling author of The Happiness of Pursuit and The $100 Startup
Hear ye, hear ye! This is to serve as official notice that all links to anything for sale, be it books or courses, are likely to be affiliate links. What this means is that if you click through said links and make a purchase, although it won’t affect the price that you pay, a few coins will jangle into my coffers, enabling me to buy a packet of hard gluten-free biscuits to feed myself and my husband for another day, or perhaps a pen with which to create some artwork. Or perhaps they will contribute toward paying a fraction of my web hosting bill, so that this blog and podcast can continue to exist. Thank you kindly for your attention.
Thanks for Listening!
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Now go get creating!
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I appreciate the inside peek at your thought process and challenges, Melissa. I don’t own a business, but I’m struggling with some things that center on fear. I admire you for having the courage to share your story and for trying something new even if the self-doubt gremlins were telling you it was a bad idea. I wish I were half as brave. I’m a “pansy” when it comes to taking risks, especially for creative stuff. I’m getting better at it, but am hardwired to run in the opposite direction.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Hey Dawn, thanks for your comment.
Here’s the thing, though: most of us are hardwired to run in the opposite direction when it comes to taking risks. It takes practice to lean into the fear and uncertainty. It takes practice to figure out that when the gremlins say “BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DO THIS!!!”, they’re lying, and it actually means to go in exactly the direction they’re telling you NOT to go.
I’m not going to kid you: it’s still scary. But I’m getting better at discerning true “run away, because this could really kill you” kind of fear from gremlin fear.
I do not have it down yet, by any means, but I’m getting better at it!
Practice, practice, practice. 🙂