At the Arts & Healing Network, one of the most frequently emailed questions to us is “how can I fund my art and healing project?” A while back, I responded to this question with an issue of AHN News dedicated to funding healing arts projects. Now, I want to offer a part two to that response. I am focusing this issue of AHN News on CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP and the practical business structures and support that allow one’s creative dreams to flourish.
I interview Lisa Sonora Beam, author of The Creative Entrepreneur, about using visual journaling techniques to answer key business planning questions. I also feature the e-book, The Right Brain Business Kit, and offer a list of three internet resources to help you fund your arts and healing project. Lastly, don’t miss our latest podcast with Christopher Ellinger, co-founder of Arts Rising, which bridges the realms of art and philanthropy.
More than ever, the world needs healing arts projects. May this issue empower you to bring your important creative work to fruition.
~ Mary Daniel Hobson, Director, Arts & Healing Network
Lisa Sonora Beam, author of The Creative Entrepreneur: A DIY Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real
"With The Creative Entrepreneur, I wrote the book I wished I had when I was struggling and trying to figure out how to make a living doing what I love (without selling my soul). I include the essential business tools you need to know, but they are all taught via the creative process. Having a positive relationship with your creative process informs and guides not only the manifestation of your creative dream, but a happy and meaningful life. Creative Entrepreneurs need both to feel successful. ” ~ Lisa Sonora Beam
Lisa Sonora Beam is a writer, visual artist, and business marketing strategist. Quarry Books recently published her fabulous book on creativity and business, called The Creative Entrepreneur:A DIY Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real, which is full of vibrant illustrations and creative invitations to use collage and journaling to answer left-brain business questions. Lisa brought to the writing of this book over 20 years of experience teaching workshops on how to transform your passion into livelihood. She also has a green consciousness and in 2003 founded Digital Hive Ecologic Design, the first marketing firm to specialize in green initiatives. In the studio, she creates mixed-media paintings, artist books, and assemblage structures.
She also blogs about creative business planning at lisasonorabeam.com. Arts & Healing Network Director, Mary Daniel Hobson interviewed Lisa in March 2009 about the art of combining business, creativity and passion:
Mary Daniel Hobson: Tell me a bit about your background, Lisa, and how you came to be a vehicle for bridging the worlds of art and business?
Lisa Sonora Beam: Well, when I think about it, I don't feel I had much choice in the matter. I need to do creative work in order for my life to feel meaningful. I also need to hang out with creative people - my tribe. I didn't have any lucky breaks or benefactors (ha ha!) or even support from my family, and so I had about a million hopelessly dull jobs to pay the bills where I felt incredibly underutilized and bored. I've supported myself since I was a teenager. I dropped out of high school and was in college and working full time at 16-years-old. I worked all through college, so I got a lot of experience in this regard. Boredom and feeling incredibly underutilized was a huge motivating factor in creating my right livelihood.
There are a lot of creative women in my family - my mom and aunts - and they are all so artistic, but have worked at jobs that were just to pay the bills. I thought it was really a waste that someone like my mom, who was so creative and naturally talented, didn't find the opportunity to merge her creative passions with her livelihood. It was a waste because of the years spent being underpaid, under-appreciated, and away from her kids (she was a single mom until I was 8 and worked a lot of jobs); a waste of the beauty that didn't get to exist - that only she could bring to life; and a waste for all of us who would have benefited from her particular genius.
I hope my mom doesn't mind me using her as an example. The fact is, she is one of the most creative people I know. Growing up with someone so creative, yet not finding the appropriate outlet for her creativity, definitely shaped my destiny. By the way, it's never too late to answer your creative calling. There are loads of examples of people who did not even start on their creative business path until midlife or retirement age. My mom, and people like her, can still make their creative mark on the world.
My desire is that the work I do will help nurture anyone who is frustrated by not getting their creative dream into the world where it can do them, and all of us all some good. Because when we are doing what makes us happy and makes us money, we have a profoundly positive influence on our families, employees, communities and beyond.
It took many years before I felt like I was living my creative dream and had the resources to support it. And I did it all by intuition, without having any specific tools or teachers. It was all trial and error, and believe me, plenty of error! By the time I went to business school, I had already run several successful creative businesses and worked internationally as a creativity teacher for individuals and in corporations. I went to business school because I thought it would honestly help me understand the world of money better - making money, that is. I'm quite skilled at spending money. I wanted to launch a new business and was worried that all I had was my intuition, and that it wasn't enough (which is true in some ways). Business school (the useful parts) helped me develop a solid set of tools to test and back up my intuition. It was like learning a new language. I learned the language of business, and that helped me greatly speed up the trial phase of an idea and eliminate a good deal of the errors.
Eventually, my creativity classes that I had been teaching since I was a therapist in the late 80’s, morphed into teaching business strategy to creatives, which is how the book material was tested and documented.
With The Creative Entrepreneur, I wrote the book I wished I had when I was struggling and trying to figure out how to make a living doing what I love (without selling my soul). I include the essential business tools you need to know, but it is all based on and taught via the creative process. So your new, healthy relationship to your creative process informs and guides the business essentials. Plus, learning about business this way is just so much more fun and engaging. When we learn something new with a sense of play, and using our creativity, that knowledge becomes deeply absorbed in a very practical way that can be used immediately. Most courses on business remain very abstract for small businesses, and especially creative folks who just don’t learn very well through linear, left-brain methods of teaching.
And very few business development courses even address the challenges of dealing with the emotional and psychological factors that are crucial to our success. That’s why so many creative business owners (or would-be owners) are struggling. The Creative Entrepreneur addresses the psychological and creative roadblocks that are unique to us, and teaches the business essentials in a visual language we can understand, and apply.
Mary Daniel: Talk a little bit about why you believe the myth of the starving artist can be just a myth and not a reality?
Lisa: I am living proof. I am living my creative dream, which blossomed out of some pretty improbable circumstances. I grew up with hard-working, working class folks from Michigan and the suburbs of Chicago. I always wanted to be an artist and a writer from the time I learned the alphabet and used finger-paints. Writing and painting made me immensely happy then and still do now.
But there were no role models for combining immense happiness with working for a living. So I did what I knew. I worked hard and held fast to my creative dream and made appropriate sacrifices and detours as necessary. Some of those sacrifices have been making sure I have time and space to create. For me that means a lot of quiet and a lot of solitude, and so I wasn't a good fit for family life or corporate life. I used all of my available resources - time, money, and mental space - to work at what was important to me, often while doing just enough freelance or contract work to keep me, well, not starving.
For many artists, the ability to do work they love, no matter how little it pays, is such a blessing. Sometimes we think we should just be grateful for that and not be so "greedy" to want more. Artists are a special breed of people who naturally do work for its intrinsic value. We create because we must, whether or not there is payment involved. And that's just fine if you don't need to make a living from your artistic endeavors.
But the people I am working with want both creative and financial fulfillment. Taking the steps to learn how to make money doing what you love is something anyone can do, if they have the appropriate role models, guidance and support. In terms of role models, we would all do well to stop comparing ourselves with the superstars in our fields. Those superstars all started exactly where everyone does, at the beginning – unknown, overworked, under-appreciated and likely underpaid. It is not kind to compare ourselves at the beginning stages of our creative career with someone fabulously wealthy and famous. We need to compare apples to apples. Actually, don't compare yourself at all! That can be destructive. Just find some realistic role models for what you'd like to achieve in a reasonable time frame. The Creative Entrepreneur has lots of tools that help sort out accomplishing goals realistically. One of my plans for the website and future books is to feature role models in various creative fields so we can all learn from them.
Mary Daniel: What are some classic roadblocks you see artists encounter over and over, and how would you suggest moving through them?
Lisa: Number one is a lack of a healthy relationship to the creative process. I want to underline healthy – in healthy relationship to the creative process. If you dare to create, which is a lot like playing with fire, then you have to learn to respect the fire, so that you don't get burned by it. Every suggestion and journal exercise in The Creative Entrepreneur is founded on building this healthy relationship to your creativity. The workshops model this from the inside out. A lot of the transformation for participants comes about because they are – maybe for the first time ever – in an environment where it is safe to be who they are, without any pressure to produce something genius or spectacular, which paradoxically invites our genius out to play, full-on.
Number two is a lack of respect for the vessel that creativity moves through – that would be you: your mind/body/spirit. There are so many professions that require the practitioner to "create on demand" day in and day out – constantly having to make something new, whether we "feel like it" or not. If you have a client, you have a deadline and you have to create. This is true for everyone in creative businesses: chefs, hair stylists, yoga teachers, graphic designers, sound editors, etc. When you get on a roll and are cranking stuff out, it feels good to be in demand and getting paid for it. But if we don't step back and nourish ourselves, we will experience burn out. Creativity creates a lot of energy, and it also uses a lot of energy. Everyone experiences this differently, so it is important to get to know how it works for you.
Mary Daniel: You have so many wonderful tools in your book. I would love it if you could talk about one of them in particular – “The Creative Entrepreneur Mandala.” Where did the idea for this exercise come from? What do you hope it will help artists do?
Lisa: First of all, I wanted to come up with a way to visualize the way into a question that every one of us needs to explore and articulate in order to achieve our meeting of passion, purpose and paycheck. That question is: “What is the unique gift I have that has a value in the marketplace that people will pay for?” Second, I wanted a system or formula that anyone could apply to test any type of opportunity, whether business or personal. The mandala is meant to be used as a strategic and critical thinking tool not just once, but over and over as a process of inquiry and problem-solving, which is very important for navigating the changing waters of business.
I really like Venn diagrams. Venn diagrams illustrate what new, unique thing emerges when you overlap two or more different ideas. But there wasn't one I found that could incorporate so many variables. These variable are the four aspects (I call them pathways in the book) to being a successful creative entrepreneur that I've identified over the many years of working with people.
Those aspects are four distinct areas:
- What has heart and meaning to us
- Where our gifts and flow are
- What is the value provided to the client from areas 1 and 2
- Gaining the skills and tools to make all of the other 3 areas work
It's not enough only to excel in one area. It might work for a while, but I am interested in how a person can have a healthy (there's that word again!), thriving and sustainable business that grows with them over time and can adapt to the changing needs of the marketplace. It is impossible to have that if all a person cares about is "doing what they love," which is where a lot of career counseling begins and ends. Many artists are excellent at their craft, but they haven't found a way to market their offer appropriately, or make money from it in a sustainable way.
Others may be wonderful at making money, or marketing, but they are lacking a passionate connection to what they are doing. The creative entrepreneur must have it all to be happy. That's a strong statement, but I have found it to be true. When readers and workshop participants do the exercises, they are able to come to this understanding, and with that, start creating real miracles in their experience. It's the most rewarding thing to watch. I am always amazed how it works out this way.
The Creative Entrepreneur Mandala is a visual way of looking at our unique situation, with a birds-eye view. I called this tool a mandala, because it is such a powerful symbol of growth and individuation that has been found cross-culturally since ancient times. Plus, as I was drawing out the four pathways and trying to come up with an intersection that was visually accurate, I kept drawing flower shapes and mandalas. It was a very organic process. The logo for my design firm, Digital Hive, was created about six years ago, and I just noticed it is not just a flower, but a mandala. So this image is a part of my own visual lexicon, and something that continually appears to teach things to me.
Mary Daniel: I love it that you encourage visual responses to practical questions by using visual journaling as a tool. Do you journal regularly? Could you talk a little about the power of working visually rather than literally.
Lisa: It was my own process of keeping a visual journal that really kept me sane, or at least reasonably sane, during music school, and well before music school during a difficult childhood. As I say in the book, "Creatives tend to be visual, action-oriented learners. We respond to visual stimuli. We also need to be engaged in a personal, meaningful way with the material. We don’t learn well through abstractions. For the past 20 years, I have taught visual journaling as a powerful way to develop problem-solving abilities and gain insights in ways that linear, non-visual approaches to thinking and learning don’t access. Visual journaling helps us go beyond what we know in our rational mind, so we can access other ways of knowing — the kind of knowing that results in truly original thinking, ideas and creative breakthroughs."
Mary Daniel: Do you believe the creative process can be healing and transformative?
Lisa: The creative process, if it is truly entered into and engaged with as a process, is absolutely healing and transformative. When we engage with creativity as a project, or to obtain a specific result or product, then we are not in process any longer. It is a paradox that to get the insights that support healing and transformation, we have to give up the idea of progress, of having neat, tidy answers.
Having an understanding of the creative process is something that every artist and would-be artist needs, but this is not taught in most art schools. All you get in art school, for the most part is technique, along with a lot of judgment and comparison. My music school education (I have a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy, and my instrument was Jazz Piano) was traumatic in this regard. I had to learn about the creative process on my own, because I was really so damaged from professional music training. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way , helped me so much in this regard. I had the opportunity to study with her (before her book was published) when she was living in Chicago.
I have learned much about creativity and healing from other cultures around the world. I observed mark making, story-telling, dance and music (the arts), not as an artistic means, but as a spiritual one – art as medicine. Medicine people of indigenous cultures have a rich repertoire of creative treatments. They do not necessarily consider themselves artists. Their sensibility resonates deeply with me. As a child, art making and being in nature were constant sources of healing and nourishment in a chaotic upbringing.
My undergraduate degree is in Music Therapy, however I was a student of visual arts, writing, and dance as well. As a Music Therapist, I worked in a multidisciplinary arts therapy milieu. Our work wasn’t isolated to one medium of creative expression, but woven together. I went to work everyday and felt I was a sort of modern shaman, or medicine person. Originally, I planned to be a psychiatrist. I was a pre-med major when I started college, but the emphasis on math was a deterrent. A wise teacher told me to pursue a more creative major, so when I found Music Therapy, it was a natural fit. I still got to do psychological work in hospitals and also study music. Art was always healing for me...that has been its primary purpose in my life.
Interestingly, the shamanic healer of a tribe is characterized by being deeply wounded in some way. In Jungian and more modern terms, this is referred to as the "sacred wound." If we take the high road of transformation, rather than the low road of self-destruction, we will find that our deepest wounds inform and inspire our work and purpose as creatives. That is why I emphasize a healthy relationship to our creativity so much. Any person who has transmuted their suffering into something useful for themselves, and for the world, is doing shamanic work, because it is healing on so many levels. To me, this is the purpose of art in the first place. My next book is exclusively focused on the healing power of creative expression, so I could go on and on. It's a huge topic! My short answer is, yes — the creative process is the ultimate healer and transformer.
Mary Daniel: In these challenging times, what advice do you have for artists?
Lisa: Now is the time to thrive. All you have to do is make up your mind to do so and then get the right tools and resources to help you make your vision real. A financial downturn is the ideal time to sharpen your tools, re-brand your company, take classes that help your business, and/or rethink how you can now do what you've always really wanted to do. Go through the mandala exercise now. It will show you where your unique possibilities and opportunities are.
Mary Daniel: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Lisa: I love this quote from Martha Graham (in The Life and Work of Martha Graham), because she was not only an incredible artist, but also an inspiring and encouraging teacher. These words from her live on long after her physical life, and each of us who are lucky enough to hear them and to read them, has the benefit of being mentored by her:
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever, at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
To learn more about Lisa Sonora Beam, please visit www.creativeentrepreneur.biz.
The Right Brain Business Plan
by Jennifer Lee
This e-book offers a lovely companion piece to Lisa Sonora Beam’s The Creative Entrepreneur in that it combines creative visual process with answering business planning questions. The Right Brain Business Plan makes the planning process fun, creative, and accessible. Written in free handwriting with colorful illustrations, this e-book immediately engages one’s artistic sensibility and helps transmute the seriousness and weightiness that business planning can induce. Simply put, this is a tool that helps you articulate and clarify your long-term vision as a creative person and then express it visually in a tactile way. Your business plan can take the form of a collage for your wall, an accordion book, a special bracelet you wear – the sky is the limit! All that matters is you make something visual that you can interact with regularly as a reminder of your creative vision and the key steps to implement it.
The Right Brain Business Plan includes a pdf download of the text, an mp3 file of a 15-minute guided visualization to help you clarify your vision, and a “right brain” template for getting started on the “left-brain” numbers. You can order a copy online by clicking here.
You can also download some additional free tools and forms on Jennifer Lee’s web site at www.artizencoaching.com/tools/forms.html, and learn more about right-brain business planning on her blog at www.rightbrainbizplan.com.
Jennifer Lee is a certified coach, artist, yogini, and founder of Artizen Coaching. In addition to the Right Brain Business Plan, she has also created The Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit, and her work has been featured in both The Vision Board: The Secret to an Extraordinary Life and The Girl’s Guide to Kicking Your Career Into Gear.
You can learn more about Jennifer by visiting her website, www.artizencoaching.com and by reading her blog at www.lifeunfoldsblog.com. You can also listen to a podcast interview with Jennifer on Britt Bravo’s Big Vision Podcast.
Three Web Resources for Funding Your Healing Arts Project
It’s really exciting to see how the internet has democratized philanthropy, allowing people to connect across nations and support each other. Below are three links to resources that could help you in raising funds and support online for a healing arts project. Please let us know about other resources you know about, by clicking the blue "Comments" button at the bottom-right-hand side of this page.
1. ChipIn – www.chipin.com
ChipIn is a little widget (flash application), which can be added to any web site, blog or Facebook page, that allows one to easily ask for and receive funds for a project or organization. You can set a target, fund-raising goal and collect funds via PayPal. Pictured to the right is a sample ChipIn Widget. Please don’t be turned off by the technological terminology of widgets, etc. The ChipIn web site walks you through the process in three easy steps – create, promote, and collect. Click here to read a case study of how Beth Kanter used the ChipIn widget to raise $800 for a Cambodian orphans’ college education in just a few weeks.
2. DonorsChoose – www.donorschoose.org
There are now a number of sites online that help generate funding support by collecting projects of a similar nature together on one web site and then inviting donors to make contributions to the project of their choice. DonorsChoose is a really nice example. Their site is dedicated to projects in education, connecting public school teachers with people who want to support classroom learning.
For example, a third grade teacher could register on the DonorsChoose.org and fill out a form expressing her need for $90 for paint and large paper for a classroom mural on the rain forest. Then her project gets listed on the site and can be funded by any visitor to the site. Once fully funded, DonorsChoose buys the paint and paper and delivers it to the teacher in need. This resource could be really useful for anyone doing healing arts projects in an educational setting.
3. CharityFocus – www.charityfocus.org
CharityFocus is “an experiment in the joy of giving.” Their web site offers a host of services including a number of tools to support nonprofit organizations. You can create a free web site on CharityFocus for your organization – all you need is a basic knowledge of Microsoft Word and a mission that involves helping others. You can also create a PledgePage, which allows you to create a web page for your favorite cause and invite people to donate to support it. To date, more than 4,500 "PledgePagers" have raised more than 3 million dollars. You can also feed yourself inspiration by subscribing to one of their many e-newsletters such as the Daily Good (inspiring news every day), KarmaTube (inspiring video every week), and the CharityFocus Blog.
Christopher Ellinger, Co-Founder of Arts Rising
Christopher Ellinger is a multi-talented individual who bridges the worlds of healing arts and philanthropy. Together with his wife Anne, he founded the Zing Foundation which helps generate funding for creative projects that emphasize healing and transformation. Christopher and Anne are also co-directors of True Story Theater, an improvisational performance company that builds community by "playing back" the true life experiences told by members of the audience. On March 24, 2009, Christopher talked with Arts & Healing Network's Director, Mary Daniel Hobson, about his latest project, Arts Rising, which aims, "to increase funding for arts and social change by engaging new and existing donors using the funding circle model and educational programming."
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