If Drawing Is Hygiene, Then Writing Is Fitness

I started this blog because I thought it was something that I had to do. It took me a long time, and some gentle nudging from a stranger to finally get serious about writing regularly. And by regularly, I mean about once a month. Even with that anemic level of frequency, I’ve started to take writing pretty seriously. This blog has become an important space to reflect about my business, design and the things I’m learning everyday.

So when my client Michelle DeSpain of the Late Bloomer Revolution invited me to participate in this online blog tour, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to think through why I write. I’ve never considered myself a traditional blogger, but yeah, I guess I am a writer. Here’s a bit about why I write and what I hope to achieve with this blog. 

Why do I write? 

I write this blog because it helps me to solidify thoughts and observations that brew in my day-to-day work life. By writing these thoughts down, I’m able to step back and see situations more clearly. This helps me to identify problem areas in my business so I can do better next time. It also keeps me in touch with why I became a designer in the first place. 

I like writing because it is a different way to exercise my brain. Being a good communicator is a huge part of successful design. I feel more in shape and poised to articulate why I made a particular design choice after I’ve spent time noodling a blog post. Maintaining my writing skills is just as important as maintaining my fundamental visual skills.

I’ve always thought that if something happened to my eyes and hands, and I could no longer work as a designer, then I’d switch to being a writer full time. Yes, I’ve contemplated the possibility of all sorts of terrible accidents and diseases, but it’s actually reassuring to remember that being creative can take many forms. For me, design isn’t the end all be all. It’s simply a means for sustainable self-expression.

How does my writing differ from other of its genre?

Some people offer bite-sized pieces of their paid offerings on their blogs. A coach might write a series of tips that are condensed versions of what she might share in a full coaching session. A web developer might offer practical advice on useful WordPress plugins. Other designers compile design inspiration that result in a richly visual blog. These are all valid approaches, but I always knew I wanted to do something different. I’m not really interested in teaching the specifics of design to non-designers, and there are a ton of people gathering and pinning beautiful things with more dedication and fervor than I ever could.

My goal with this blog is to write honestly and openly about challenges that I face, what motivates and inspires me and how I can improve.

I see my primary audience as being potential new clients and other creative business owners. For new clients, I want to show that I am a thoughtful but no-nonsense collaborator. I want to show the design process from my perspective, so that people have a better understanding of what goes into each logo or website. If a project goes poorly, I want to write about it, both as a form of catharsis, and as a way to analyze what caused the problem and how I can avoid it in the future.

For other creative business owners, I want to connect on universal issues—how to identify indecisive clients, how to bounce back from mistakes and how to be invigorated by, rather than oppressed by deadlines.

A general theme in this blog is getting more comfortable with failure so I can recover from it more quickly. I want clients to see that a certain amount of failure is part of the process. Writing about missteps and blunders helps diffuse the sting of my mistakes. It also shows people that I’m not perfect, but I’m not afraid to address uncomfortable realities head on.

My hope is that other designers, creative business owners and potential clients can relate to some aspect of these reflections.

How does my writing process work? 

I jot down rough ideas for blog posts while I’m working on other stuff. Then, I sit down on a Saturday or Sunday morning to actually write. I’ve found that I can’t write anything of worth during the work week—there are way too many distractions. I’m usually relaxed and better rested on weekend mornings, and I don’t feel compelled to check email, so it’s the perfect time to take a step back and focus.

Once I have a solid draft written, I hand it off to Dylan Sparrow, my editor. He makes sure that I hyphenate where necessary, and more importantly, that I don’t write anything that doesn’t sound like me. For instance, if I say, “I had a blast doing that project!” he’ll be like, “I’ve never heard you say you’ve ‘had a blast’ in your life.” He also stops me from veering into too much detail about business nitty gritty or design technicalities. He gives me a gut check on whether the post feels relatable to non-designers.

As a last step, I come up with an image to accompany the post. The same constraints that apply to a time-starved editorial illustrator apply here too. I want to get on with my weekend, and I have to get this thing out the door, so what can I do that’s simple but evocative? I try to make a fun image that I don’t over think.

What am I currently writing? 

I’m always thinking about new ideas for this blog. I’m also excited to be a guest contributor for the redesign of The Girl Who Knows blog that will be launching in late July. This is a special project for me, because I have worked with Stephanie Watanabe—the founder and editor—on the original design as well as the new site design. It’ll be fun to switch roles and write content for her site instead of just laying it out. I’ll be contributing design articles a few times a month.

Other guest contributors include Catherine Vo, my former development partner at Vo+Pollock, who will be writing about wellness, and Annika Martins, a lovely client whose new website we launched back in March. She’ll be writing about maintaining a spiritual practice. I love that we’ve all worked together in different ways, and now we’ll be putting our brains together from different parts of the country to help form something new.

 


 

The rules of the blog tour suggest that I should tag other bloggers who I want to introduce to my readers. Michelle gave me permission to bend the rules a bit, so I thought it’d be more relevant to list a handful of books that have inspired my approach to writing this blog. Here are two of my favorites.

Design is a Job

Mike Monteiro

This is one of my favorite books about running a design business. I read it while I was gearing up to leave my day job and plunge full time into self-employment. It’s filled with valuable insight on how to run a design business with integrity. The writing is refreshingly honest and smart. A goal with my blog is to share useful lessons like the ones in this book, in a similarly candid tone, but in my own voice.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Haruki Murakami

There are so many brilliant things about this book and so many ways that it inspires me. The title is a reference to a Raymond Carver short story. Murakami is inspired by Carver and I love both writers, so reading this is like peering into a kaleidoscope of literary heroes. Murakami talks about why he writes, why he runs and how both pursuits require herculean discipline. I’m way less hardcore than Murakami in all respects, but I relate to the solitary but focused space that running creates for him, and how this feeds his creative work. I feel this way about cycling.