Let’s Be Clear: It’s Not

And it’s probably never going to be.

And that’s why I stopped blogging for so long in the second half of 2013, and the beginning of 2014.

And by now, you are probably asking yourself what the heck I’m talking about.

I’m talking about clarity itself.  Or, rather, the lack of it.  And how that lack relates to the marketing darling of this new 21st century . . . . BRANDING.  Yes, in all-caps.  Because if you listen to marketing peeps and advertising peeps (which I do), BRANDING IS EVERYTHING.  And one of the central principles of BRANDING is to be clear with your message.  Keep it simple.  Keep it consistent.  KEEP IT CLEAR TO PEOPLE WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND SELLING.

I’m pretty much for that.  Life is complicated.  Keep things easy for people.  What are you doing?  Where can you find it?

But here’s where it becomes more complicated.

Because what marketing peeps and advertising peeps also advise is AUTHENTICITY IS EVERYTHING.

And even if I didn’t pay attention to them, I know more and more for myself that this is “true.”  Which means, I can’t even help it.  It’s getting to the point where if I am not being what I am, I get sick.  I shut down.  I stop creating.  I definitely stopped blogging.

Therein lies my problem.  And why I was flummoxed about what to write and do here, in my on-line presence.  And so, simply stopped putting it out on the blog.  Stopped blogging.

Because, guess what?  It turns out that when you let my spirit loose in the world — unfettered by the time- and energy-consuming jobs of the past (practicing death penalty post-conviction defense attorney; mom-of-kids-at-home; wife) — what that spirit does is create.  Apparently, endlessly.  It is some kind of content-making-and-manifesting machine.  Which loves to share its creations.  A lot of them, in a lot of ways.  And the entire process is a glorious, nourishing, inspiring, entertaining, engaged, enthusiastic mishmash of communication and creativity.  For others it seems, and for me for sure.

Simply put:  these days, I make a helluva lot of stuff.

So, how the hell do you brand THAT?

I don’t think you can.  It doesn’t fit.

And now I’m old enough and have enough experience to know that the way I need to live my life (to be creative, to be not mean and cranky, to be a productive person) is by the AUTHENTICITY IS EVERYTHING model that today’s sales/advertising peeps have seen actually means something.

And when that clashes with BRANDING IS EVERYTHING?  Well, branding’s just gonna have to take a back-seat.  Because I’m not going to stop making and selling different things just because I don’t know how best to be “clear” about all of it, within the BRANDING model.

I am not going to be able to keep it all clear for selling purposes.  And the thought of having to try simply shuts me down.

And I am too old to let myself be shut down.

But don’t get me wrong.  I still want my stuff to sell.  Hell yes.  I am not an artist who believes that financial suffering is necessary, desirable, inevitable.  Hell no.  I would like everything I make to sell.  Moreover, I love to — emotionally need to — engage with folks through social media, in art-sharing and cheering.

Therefore, I’m making an attempt below to clarify what the heck I am doing these days, and where you can find it.  To buy if you’d like, and especially to cheer for each other.  Because that’s where the juice is.

1.  Bean Up The Nose Art Greeting Cards

I now make three different styles of lines (click here for galleries) you can find at independent brick & mortar stores up and down the West Coast.  (You can click here for the happy list.)  Terrific shopkeepers and store buyers order directly from me, and my fabulous daughter Meryl (click here for her awesome website) fulfills the orders.  Answers to FAQs:  No, I am no longer equipped on this site to take individual for people . . . they’re only available in stores.  No, of course, no store carries all of the cards; different styles fit different places, and space is always limited.

2.  Kindle Books About The Art Business

Two years ago, I published How To Start Making Your Art Your Business:  100 DIY Tips.  Happily, the little sucker has turned out to do pretty fine.  Lovely reviews from friends to start . . . and these days, complete strangers, too :) And it is always a thrill to get a monthly royalty check from the folks at Amazon. So, I followed up recently with How To Start Marketing Your Art: 100 DIY Tips, which I think is even more helpful.  Because I know how much artists tend to hate the sales portion of the business.  And it turns out that I enjoy it.  So it’s my attempt to break down into steps how that enjoyment  . . . and increased sales from it . . . can happen.

3.  Art-for-Today

At the prompting of my friend Cathy Curtis, at the beginning of January last year, I started posting an art piece a day on Bean Up The Nose Art’s Facebook Page.  During 2013, I did it every day — including Sundays.  In 2014, I made no such commitment . . . but the practice turned out to be such a productive part of my life and on-line presence that I’ve found that it just doesn’t stop.  I don’t post for Sundays this year.  And I might take a hiatus some time.  But for now, you can find one six days a week here

4.  One Kinda Brave Thing

This is a weekly exercise of confidence-muscle-building encouragement, also appearing on Bean Up The Nose Art’s Facebook Page.  On Mondays, I post a prompt for the week to get us to do something kinda brave.  Not earth-shattering.  Not miraculous per se.  Not unsustainable.  Just an attempt to get a little braver.  And kind peeps log in with comments about what they’re doing.  And on Saturdays, we check back in for the week.  Easy peasy!!!

5.  Ch-ch-ch-changes

In that same mode of living creatively and authentically . . . the past two years have also provided me with experience and information about ways of doing business that are not working productively for me at this point.  So, I no longer give classes (tired of sensing my friends and family felt obliged to attend; too hard to drum up other business; and humans flake out and don’t attend at the last minute), I no longer do art fairs/shows (same reasons), and after considerable soul-wrestling and guilt, I no longer rep other artists’ card lines.  For many reasons — and after a wonderful year-and-a-half of doing it happily — it became a non-fitter with the rest of life.  Bottom line: felt not good feeling responsible for generating income for other artists when my own life’s schedule needed more flexibility.

6.  Fiction-writing

This fall, I will be self-publishing The Road Presents Itself — a murder mystery set in 60 AD in the Roman Empire.  With adult themes.  (See what I mean about branding issues?  Making this all fit into one cohesive marketing life?)  If you’d like a taste, Chapter One is up for free viewing on the Juke Pop website. As long as I keep getting enough “votes” there, Juke Pop will carry subsequent chapters through the summer.  I hope to publish the first 40% of the book there.  Then the entire book will be up on Kindle in November.  This novel is the first in a series of several, and I am currently putting together a completely separate website.  But just wanted to give you the scoop here, too.

7.  Social media creativity and connections

I tweet like a maniac.  I love connecting with people on Twitter.  I love playing “games” there — such as “Friday Phrases,” where folks post 140-character-or-less pieces of micro-fiction on Fridays.  If you love Twitter, too or if you’re a newbie just giving it a try and want someone to cheer you on, follow me and I’d love to follow you back.

Bean Up The Nose Art’s Facebook Business Page is another place I love to play.

And my most current favorite social media playground is Instagram.  You can find my photos — some of them my actual art pieces, but mostly just things I snap during the day with my iPhone (like Twitter — like a maniac) — at @tamholland123.  I’d love to follow you back :)

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Thanks for all the love, understanding, support and patience.  Thanks for the places that you follow me and talk with me and share.  And now that I’ve cleared this “being clear” log-jam . . . I’ll feel more free to blog more.  About unclear, inconsistent, mishmashes of issues.  Because that’s how creativity rolls.