Today I’m excited to be back on the Female Entrepreneur Association website talking about how brands and businesses can become about more than just profit–how they can influence and change the cultural conversation about how we work, play, and live.
Feeling stuck in your work? Get the inspiration flowing again with this quick read, which is about my personal sandwich hero, Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Not only is he an absolute god with a muffuletta sandwich, but he jumped into building a business with only his good sense and solid values about him. (Too many people check those two things at the door when they enter business.) He decided he didn’t want to be the biggest business, or the most profitable business—he just wanted to be the greatest.
At a certain point, anyone in a creative endeavor, including business, has to decide what kind of company/writer/artist/boss/blogger they’re going to be. Creatives can be especially prone to endless comparison, to always wondering what the other guy is doing. Which leads to doing things like the other guy does them. And we all know that conformity is anathema to creativity (and to happiness, which we can’t pretend doesn’t matter at the end of the day).
Now. Always, always now.
I was at a writer’s conference this weekend full of fabulous, motivated writers who were eager to crack the code of publishing. They had spent months, sometimes years, on their manuscripts, and they had worked extremely hard to polish those manuscripts and proposals to a perfect shine.
But, on occasion, I also heard a familiar refrain, one I hear often in the hundreds of query letters I receive a week: “My website is in the works…” “I plan to launch social media accounts …” “I will create a site to promote…”
The truth is, “I will…” has very little weight with publishers, agents, retailers, or any other gatekeeper. “I have…” is what we want to hear. “I have…” means you’re committed; you’re all in; you’re creating a community of customers now, before you even have a product.
I read an interesting essay this weekend about how the world is split into Makers and Managers, and why these two types of people work completely differently. The idea is that there are those of us whose job it is to make something—programmers, writers, creatives, artists, chefs, designers—and those of us whose job it is to keep the whole shebang running smoothly. (Here’s the whole essay; it’s written by Paul Graham, co-founder of the seed capital firm Y Combinator, found via The Nester.)
But I actually think more jobs fall right in between Maker and Manager these days. The job of an agent definitely requires a bit of Maker and Manager. We’re managing our author’s careers; we’re meeting with editors; we’re coordinating and mediating and generally making sure projects run smoothly. But we’re also creatives, particularly in the initial stages of a project, when ideas are still being molded and the proposal or manuscript is being revised and often rewritten.
I also thinks that most authors are all also part Makers and part Managers. Yes, a big part of their work—the writing—falls strictly in the realm of creative work. But the other stuff that’s just as important—the platform and brand building—requires managing designers and often employees, meeting with potential partners, crafting business plans, marketing, networking, etc. After all, an author who is building a platform is essentially a small business owner, and therefore wears many, many hats. And what does that lead to?
Hat hair. Oh, and burnout.