I was too young.
Nobody cares about your ideas or words when you’re ten. Or seventeen. A person I trusted told me to wait until I was at least thirty to expect people to. I believed them. I wrote, but hid my words.
Writing would be a distraction.
I was in college. There was enough mandatory writing.
I would write for pleasure later.
Writing would be selfish.
I had a business to start with my husband. It would be selfish to write for pleasure or future dreams right now. I needed to write blog posts for our business, not novels or literary criticisms.
Writing would definitely be impossible now.
My daughter was just born. All I had time to do was care for a newborn. Nothing else. The rest of life suffered, so there definitely wasn’t time to add a new hobby. It would be selfish, just as it would have been in college and during the birth of our young business.
It would have to wait until life was more organized.
I was too old.
The lines under my eyes said so. They also said, “Nobody cares about your words and ideas when you’re in your thirties. They only care about the young and beautiful.”
That thought took it a little too far. The hypocrisy of the inner voice I had been heeding for decades hit me between the eyes like a cold, wet wave.
Where was the magical space between too young and too old?
There was none.
And looking in the face of my young daughter, I knew life wasn’t waiting for me.
I wrote sleepy, blinking back the desire to close my eyes, often realizing later that what I wrote was unusable.
I wrote while the dishes piled up.
I wrote on lunch breaks.
Anneka started sleeping more and so did I. Now I wrote awake. Some of what I wrote was acceptable.
I worked during the day and wrote at night, only after Anneka was asleep or rarely before she woke up.
Now having committed out loud and publicly that I wanted to be a writer, I knew there was no turning back. I needed to write, but I also needed to be a solopreneur in this world where marketing often comes out ahead of talent. I needed to connect with readers.
I changed the focus of my Instagram. This was agonizing and took many months. At one point I had three Instagram accounts because of indecision. Now I just have @virtuallymarisa, (not counting our business Instagram accounts, which are @wannapixelinc and @ukuupeople.)
I redesigned my disorganized blog, Virtually Marisa.
I started an email list. I wrestled with email marketing. I made mistakes. I didn’t consider whether the hours I spent on writing and marketing my writing were selfish anymore. I just did it, making sure I put the bill-paying and family priorities first.
I connected with indie authors. I got advice on what kind of emails to create. I wrestled with Instagram again.
I forgot to write.
I remembered to write.
I wrote some more.
I forgot to market.
I remembered to market.
There were weeks I wrote thousands of words and grew my Instagram and sent out an email and networked on Facebook.
There were weeks I wrote 500 words and put one Instagram post out and forgot about my blog and email completely.
Now I wrote and marketed in the few spare minutes I had. With my dream hustle (writing), I was goal-oriented, not hourly oriented. I learned what was effective and did that.
I wrestled with plot holes. I wrote them down and turned them over in my head and woke up thinking about them. I forced my brain to imagine scenarios I hadn’t yet thought of. I traveled down the imaginary “choose your own adventures” roads with my characters and made decisions. I created characters who took on lives of their own, then I tried to figure out how they would react to certain sets of circumstances.
I wrote a short story and published it on Amazon. People liked it. They asked for more.
I created blog posts and email campaigns.
I felt twinges of guilt. I was a designer and a coder for my company, Wapix, Inc. I worked hard at my job, but shouldn’t I have spent those precious evening minutes and hours to market Wapix?
One day Nate messaged me and asked me if I could finish the user case scenarios for a high-profile client of ours. After all, I had been at the discovery phase.
I sighed. I could design. I could code. I could write. But I could not create complex database relationships, create new app flowcharts, or understand user flows unless the blueprint was already drawn for me.
But I opened the document up and read the first few stories.
I imagined a new couple driving up to the springs, tired, exhausted, and wanting a place to stay. I imagined another family planning their family trip. I imagined a returning fan bringing his friends. I forced my brain to imagine scenarios I hadn’t yet thought of. Now I traveled down the imaginary “choose your own adventures” roads with my new-found characters and made decisions. I created other new characters who took on lives of their own, then I tried to figure out how they would react to certain sets of circumstances.
I wrote the user case scenarios in record time. The stories turned out to be helpful and a foundation of the project.
I examined our email and content marketing and started jotting down every idea that came to my mind that could work for a blog post or email. I started segmenting our email lists and imagining who from our lists might be inspired to try products they hadn’t thought of trying yet. I imagined their lives and wondered how to connect them with solutions. I created blog posts and email campaigns. I delegated blog posts and email campaigns. I wrote to humans instead of broad demographics.
I reimagined how our Instagram content could be more effective.
My work for Wapix became much more focused and targeted.
Writing wasn’t selfish, a distraction, or impossible. Writing was making me a better me.
And that better me was better, not just at writing fiction, but at writing user case scenarios, marketing copy, and blog posts. The better me was better at empathizing with others, networking, and imagining solutions.
The better me was also better at coding and design.
Things that were hard became easy, and things that were boring became interesting.
Before writing I was more distractible and had more nervous energy, always thinking at the back of my mind about what I could be doing. I still struggle with that and always will, but now I’ve dedicated part of my day to my fiction writing and can dedicate the rest of my day to the person and task at hand.
While the months of trying to figure out my story and marketing ideas were squeezing me until I felt like I was in a pressure cooker of creative agony, my brain was learning a few new skills.
- Attention to detail
- Stretching my imagination beyond its assumed limits
- Connecting the dots
- Enjoying life and my work
- Efficient use of time
All of these things made me a better business owner.
You can own your business, work your job, and still have a thriving side hustle. In fact, you should.
Your passion will make you come alive, and you will still be alive when you face everything else you have to do in life.
You cannot be good at anything until you’re good at one thing.
Being excellent at one thing makes you approach everything with excellence.
Once you focus on one thing, you can learn to focus well on anything.
How you do anything is how you do everything. (This last one I learned from Dave Farmar, my yoga teacher).
What about you? What would you do if you could? What are your million excuses not to do it?
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