This is the third in a new series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who are guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one. See Interview 1 and 2.
What comes across when you meet Maisie is a zest for the life she’s living. She relishes her work, and continually commits to savoring the fact that she got herself to the place where she is: sole owner of a boutique writing studio with clients who are ready to push the envelope.
(Okay, enough with the foodie verbs)
Maisie is the brain and heart behind Audacious Muse Writing Studio (which has the awesome #amwriting hashtag in the url! bodacious). I sat down with her last month to talk about what makes her tick and how she pursues her own path.
First, what does she do?
In her own words, she “uses marketing juju to marry business and storytelling” so that the business client can get to “the big Why.” I didn’t know this when I met Maisie, but she chooses to work only with clients who are ready to go deep into work on themselves, which I thought was awesome and courageous! Imagine if we all challenged the people we worked with to get in touch with their feelings and motivations and passions?
Second, what has she learned? Several things, it turns out, that might help YOU.
Balance is a Myth
(We might differ on this one, but I like her argument)
Oh, my kingdom for some balance! How often have we heard people saying that they want more balance? Maisie says it’s a false idol. She works in spurts, either focusing on work or business growth, while maintaining daily goals of family time and reading time.
Her daily routine looks something like this:
- Wake at 8 or 9
- Work on personal writing material for first hour (no social media)
- Work on client projects for next 8 hours
- Break for dinner with family
- Family time
- Back to writing time
And she recently introduced a no-client-work-on-Wednesday rule, so she can work on fiction projects, the blog, or reading during that time.
I like the Wednesday idea for sure, but couldn’t keep up with her idea of a “spurt.” My idea of a spurt is 3 hours, max. After that, I need to switch gears and either change my location or change my task.
Which end of the spectrum do you fall on?
A Moment of Knowing
Maisie had a moment of clarity in which she knew what she was meant to do in this world (not to be grand about it, but YES). It happened during one of the workshops of WDS 2013, held by Pam Slim. While she was waiting for the speaker to start, she thought up the name of her company, Audacious Muse Writing Studio, and heard the words, “You are going to be a writer.”
She searched for the Godaddy domain registration right there on her phone, and bought it. Details like a safety net and the structure of her business would come later, but, by gosh, she had an address on the Net!
Just like she demands of her clients, Maisie had to ask herself some troubling questions in order to get to a safe place with the business. Battling demons of people-pleasing and perfectionism from childhood, she had to weigh the goal (writing badass content) against the cost (instability and insane hours).
She had to trust that she had what it takes to achieve her dream.
Well, you may ask, how did she maintain this tiger-like focus on her dream through the weeks, months, years of school trips, parking permits, and grocery shopping? (She has a teenage son) She has three tools.
Set deadlines and stick to them. Maisie has the curse/superpower of always being aware of time. This motivated her to get good and fast at writing copy and brainstorming, which is essential when you are a starting-out freelancer.
Use the Pomodoro technique. A common technique for many writers, the Pomodoro technique uses a timer (preferably silent, not ticking) to remind you to stop working after 25 minutes, and take a switch-gears 5-minute break. Then you’re back on!
Know yourself and your habits/ limitations. Here we are in complete agreement! If you know you need to eat every 3-4 hours, take a break to make a nutritious snack. If you know you do tend to lose track of time, set that timer. If you can’t work with distractions, don’t try to be all hipster and work out of coffee shops!
***Final caveat to this list: Always come back to being gentle with yourself, not just a taskmaster.
What does Maisie recommend avoiding? Three things:
Don’t work with people who you don’t respect. I.e. People who havent’ done the hard personal delving you have to know their values, but expect to connect with their own clients/customers on a deep level. Good luck with that.
Don’t be mainstream. As she says in her weekly email, you need to “be fearless in your weirdness.” She knew she’d managed to reach people on that deep level with her content when she got her first haters, because it had elicited emotion. That means she took a risk and was vulnerable online. (Sound familiar?)
Don’t be held to others’ expectations. (That gets a Sing It, Sister!) Like when she got her first haters, Maisie had to cross a line in her thinking. When she would write something and a voice in her head would say, “What would Mom think if she read this?” she decided to tell that voice to shut up. She wan’t writing for her mother!
Recently, Maisie has even taken her own discoveries about how parenting styles and community values color what we think we should do with our talents, and started using that as a way to explore where her clients are coming from… fascinating, right?!
It all comes back to this: examine your own expectations. Do that deep work. Where are they coming from? If they come from fear, banish them like the Ghostbusters.
And if you find weirdness, let it out!