On Being a Corporate Creative

I’ve teamed up with State Farm® as part of their Color Full Lives campaign, an initiative that promotes positivity & empowerment and celebrates all women in the African American community through a multitude of experiential and digital engagements. You know how this works-views, opinions, and musings of the unscripted kind are all my own. 

Somewhere along the line, I threw away either/or and picked up this and that. Somewhere along the line, I quit trying to commit to just one, linear, easily identifiable road and instead started making sense of my identity as a corporate creative. To paraphrase a tweet I recently read, I started to realize my plurality. I began to understand that the path I’m sculpting is complete with twists and turns, but it does not necessarily include some sort of fork in the road that will require me to choose one route.

My heart doesn’t vibrate accordingly to one passion. Instead, I am an assortment of layers. Interests. Skills. Talents. I am equally invested in my career in corporate communications and my creative journey as a writer. So, these days, my mindshare is devoted to everything from considering heading back to school to get my master’s to outlining what’s in store for my second book. And while I’d like to think this path, its consequences, and its sacrifices are unique, they are not. Instead, more women–both those close to me and those I observe from afar–are balancing multiple businesses, deriving income from various sources, and leaving their mark in more than one way.

I listened to strong examples of women like this in the latest “special edition” Color Full Lives podcast episode. As you may recall from this blog post last year, the Color Full Lives podcast, sponsored by State Farm, combines the influential voices of American radio personality Angela Yee, self-proclaimed “Duchess of Tech” Tatiana King Jones, and lifestyle influencer Francheska Medina, known for her brand Hey Fran Hey. The ladies are back with a limited edition run of the show, and they kicked it off by giving us a glimpse into how they’re running businesses, taking risks, and making headway on their goals.

We reunite with the ladies just as Angela has recently opened a juice bar, Fran is planning an 11-city wellness tour, and Tatiana is beginning work on a science fiction novel. Outside of these key projects, they are all also nurturing their personal lives, developing self-care and wellness regimens, and growing other professional endeavors. I identify with each of their demanding balancing acts and gleaned several gems from their conversation.

 

On writing“You have to allow yourself the slot to write, but allow yourself the slot to think. There will be times when you set aside time to write and that whole time, nothing comes out. ” – Tatiana

While I once considered writer’s block to be a complete cop out, Tatiana’s words now ring more true than ever for me as I work on my second book. Curating a body of work from the ground up is equal parts thinking and writing. A book is ultimately just as much what the author thought and felt as what that person ended up pouring on to the page. I’ve learned how to be more graceful with myself so that the thoughts and feelings have time to take shape, trusting that the words will always follow.

On understanding your worth and the value of your work:  “You can’t work for free forever; it’s just not sustainable. But how can I do that and still be fair and still be a businesswoman?” – Fran

This was one of those quotes that stuck with me long after I listened to the podcast. Fran, like many other bloggers and online content creators, has offered tons of quality content for free for years. She’s now transitioning to offering services at a price. It can be a tough and uncomfortable passage to move from free content to paid products and services, but I have found most people, myself included, usually reach that tipping point. It’s a natural evolution if whatever you’re offering is filling some sort of void in the universe. So, I’ve learned it’s important to confront your value head-on and stand firm in what you know you’re worth. When you do that, your magic reaches the right people.

On remembering to show gratitude:  “With the people that work with me, I just like to make sure I’m very grateful…when people mess up, we’re so quick to get upset, but it’s really important when people do things well to let them know they did a great job.” -Angela

I’m a sucker for handwritten notes, and thank you notes are no exception. I just recently sent out a slew of them for everyone who participated in the Love Me Well project and also dropped a few on my colleagues’ desks after a big event we hosted last month. It’s easy to move through life at hyper speed and forget to thank people along the way. But, I’ve never seen a boulder pushed uphill without at least three or four pairs of hands behind it.

I’m unsure where my windy corporate creative path will take me. I can’t quite pin down what’s next or even what it will take to get there. But, I do know that there are timeless tenets like allowing myself time to think, acknowledging my value, and remembering to show gratitude that will always keep me lifted and move me through.

This post was sponsored by State Farm, as part of their Color Full Lives campaign. For more information, or to contact an agent, please click here.   

They Can’t Nurture Your Core.

nurture your core

“If you give people the power to feed you, you also give them the power to starve you.”

That’s the quote I saw somewhere. I don’t remember where. I just remember the quote and how it came to me at a time where I had given people too much power to feed me. Then they starved me. And then I just fell off the face of the Earth.

People have been asking for me. They’ve been texting me. They’ve been emailing me. They’ve been tweeting me. They’ve been sending me emoji eyes.

I’ve responded to all of them because I try not to be a total and utter jackass. But I have deliberately, purposely and intentionally been away. I’ve been hibernating. I’ve been working. I’ve been positioning myself for a new season of growth. Balance. Change. Success. I have been basking in the privilege of not living out loud for once. I have been embracing the security of being able to work on a project, arguably my most important one to date, without everyone breathing down my neck.

Living out loud is exhausting. And I have been living out loud for three long years now. Those three years have been beautiful and life-changing, but they have also been draining and imbalanced. Sometimes I see my fellow bloggers tweeting about their next event or workshop or project or blog post, and I think, “Don’t you ever just get tired?”

Shit, I do.

I get tired of asking people to come to events. I get tired of promoting new blog posts. I get tired of showing up to other people’s stuff because it’s what I’m supposed to do. I get tired of interviewing people for my site. I get tired of putting on a happy face when all I really want is for everyone to leave me alone.

Passion is one thing; brand-building is another. One fuels you, and the other wears your ass out.

Bloggers aren’t supposed to say that. Entrepreneurs aren’t supposed to say that. We’re supposed to inundate you with inspiration and tell you how much we’re grinding. We’re supposed to keep you afloat. We’re supposed to keep ourselves relevant. We are not supposed to say fuck it, and go off the grid for weeks.

But, fuck it. I went off the grid for weeks.

And you know what? It was phenomenal.

I canceled everything. I canceled dinners and interviews and showing up to events. I probably let people down. I probably came across as a full blown flake. I probably burned some bridges.

But, I also spent an afternoon with my mom and dad and sisters and nieces. I finally made it to the doctor’s appointment that I have been putting off for months, and I finally got some migraine meds that work. I finally fell into a pattern of cooking dinner for myself instead of relying on fast food. I finally finished a long-term project that has been brewing for years. I finally got laid again. I finally felt like I am not so inherently tied to whatever comes next for Twenties Unscripted, because I finally felt what it was like to just take care of myself. I finally feel ready for the unpredictable, gorgeous and wild road ahead.

No one else get to starve or feed me. Not now and not ever. No one else gets to make me feel like I’m tied to hits or numbers or page views or tickets sold. No one else gets to fool me into believing I’m forever bound to their opinions or criticisms or assumptions or judgments of my success or failures. No one else gets to say anything that breaks my core. No one else. Not now. Not ever.

That’s what going off the grid taught me. They will love you, and they will hate you. They will remember you, and they will forget you. But if you learn how to take care of yourself, they will never, ever have the ability to starve you or feed you. Only you get to decide how you nurture your core.

Not them. Not now. Not ever.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Reader Question: Writing While Uninspired

Question: What I’d like to know from you, Tyece, is how you stay inspired while staying consistent. Of late I’ve had to take a personal break from writing for an extended period of time just so I could go out, to live, to actually have something to say. It was either that or just continue in my habit in shutting off the real, physical world to sit at my computer after work each day and try to squeeze out whatever trivial idea that might be sexy enough for a few clicks. I’ve always seen your writing as very different from mine, as yours lies in personal essays and responding to readers, while mine is more based in academic citation of black feminist texts and journalistic writing. So perhaps your habits of time management and work/life balance don’t fully apply to my situation. But I’d love to hear more about how you find the balance between living a fulfilling (and spontaneous) life while still making the time to build your content. How do you tackle the catch 22 of needing to carve out a huge amount of time to create content for your blog while still carving out enough time for other aspects for your life so that you’re still gaining wisdom and happiness? As hard as one may try to avoid it, bullshit can come across in one’s writing if they’re not going about living the life they want to live. (That last line was a critique of my own work, not yours) –Monique

Monique,

As I write this response to you, I am completely, utterly and unquestionably uninspired. Like every other Black American right now, I am having one of “those weeks.” My heart is heavy, my soul is depleted and my mind is drained. I vowed to myself that because I have a weeklong feature series debuting next week, I would not write anything else original for my blog until August 25. But, I am going to write this anyway. Because the very act of my writing this in spite of the aforementioned circumstances will answer your question.

I do not believe consistency and inspiration go hand-in-hand. It’s great when they do, but you arrest yourself as a writer to think you have to be inspired to remain consistent. I am now fortunate enough to incorporate other voices into the blog so that I do not always have to produce work four times a week (although I typically still do). The infusion of those other voices gives me time to break away from the writing while maintaining a blog with fresh content.

I would disagree with you that because our content is different, our time management/work-life balance approach would be different. It’s all writing. Perhaps that’s a reductive way to look at things, but it’s really all writing. It is all producing words that will exist in a public domain. The type of content doesn’t change the fact that it all needs to be relevant, recent and resonant. And, in order for it to be all of those things, consistency has to be at the helm of what we do.

You asked how I maintain a fulfilling and spontaneous life. I will tell you that spontaneous is not a word I would use to describe my life; I’m a routine-driven, schedule-abiding kind of girl. Spontaneity for me means maybe I texted someone that morning to ask if we could hang out that night. It typically doesn’t get more spontaneous than that. For some people, that would drive them nuts. For me, it works and provides me with the space and schedule to create.   A friend of mine once joked that I’ll know when I’ve met “the one” because I will write a blog post early just to go out with that person later. In my life, that would be COMMITMENT. But, I’m still going to write that blog post though.

Whether or not my life is “balanced” right now is questionable. I am intentionally devoting a sizable chunk of my energy to my career. I am well-aware that my social and romantic lives are taking a hit; but those are hits I’m willing to let pieces of my life take right now so that I can get to where the hell I want to be. I have not physically seen my best friend in a month because our weekends just haven’t aligned. I haven’t seen my core group of friends since around that same time. However, I have faith that the dust will settle, the frenetic pace of building a brand will slow and I will have space and energy to focus on other areas.

Nonetheless, Monday through Thursday is about my day job and my night writing hustle. Weekends are for myself, friends and family. I usually see my parents every two weeks. My Sundays are entirely for me unless it’s a special occasion. If you want me at a brunch, it will have to happen on a Saturday. I have declined Sundays plans for no other reason than that I planned to spend the entire day alone. Because I find now that I give more and more of myself to others based on my writing. People want to pick my brain, ask me questions, have me edit their work or just contribute my general thoughts to situations. All of that is motherfucking awesome. And, it’s also motherfucking exhausting. So Sundays are a day where my only obligation, for most of the day, is to rest and revel in laziness.

If you are the kind of person who needs inspiration to write, I’d suggest you look at every possible thing as inspiration. Remain open. Observe. Absorb. Consider anything from a tweet to a two-week European vacation as potential inspiration. You also have to decide what words like “balance” and “fulfilling” mean to you.  As I said, balance for me means hopping on the writing machine four days a week and then devoting the weekend to my people and myself. If you want to be social on weeknights, maybe my definition of balance does not translate well in your life and that’s completely fine. These ideas of fulfillment and work/life balance are subjective and fluid; define them for you, not according to what you think they should look like.

Finally, I would say that you do not need to have a grand life to have grand writing. What I mean by that is that your experiences don’t have to be vacations in Bali for them to qualify as experiences. I do believe you have to live some life if you are going to be a damn good writer. But, living some life could mean having a moving conversation with a co-worker at lunch. Living some life could mean lying poolside one afternoon. Living some life could mean getting entrenched in the pages of a book. You do not need to go out to live nor do you need to do so to have something to say. Look at your comment; you have something to say. You penned an entire paragraph and you didn’t need to be out and about to do that. Living some life does not have to be a grand experience. You are alive. In this moment. Right now. To be alive is to be inspired.

As I write this response to you, I am completely, utterly and unquestionably uninspired.

But, I can write it because creating has become a part of my DNA. I don’t know how not to do it. Even my state of being uninspired is somehow inspiration. Let it be in your DNA. Let it be in your blood and your veins and your fingertips. Let creating be such a knee-jerk reaction for you that even when you think you are empty, the page is somehow full.

Xoxo,

Tyece