You know how some people pick a word for the year? Well, see, I was planning on doing that this year, but then there were new episodes of Bob's Burgers that I had to watch and now it's late March, so I think I missed the boat. Oopsy doopsy. At this point, the best I can do is pick a word in hindsight to describe my first three months. I think I'll go with "clammy." Not sure why, but clammy seems like the way to go.
Anyway, in lieu of having a word for the year, though, I thought it would be fitting to do a word for this new phase of my business. Did you know I'm in a new phase of my business? Did you know I have a business? I'm not sure I make these things clear.
I mean, I guess I do, though. You know that I'm writing a book. You know that I consult folks on creative matters. You know that I recently taught a course (and shhh, I've got more stuff like this on the way). You know that I have this fancy pantsy website with buttons you can click like this one:
Well, anyway, believe it or not, all of that stuff added up together equals a business (especially once I apply for that whole LLC thing I've been putting off for a year). I know, this is news to me too.
And being a business owner comes with a unique set of challenges, the biggest being that you feel the need to be all...business-y. After all, who wants to do business with a woman sitting in her underwear at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday? (Actually, probably lots of people, but that's a very different kind of business we're talking about)
It's this desire to be business-y that leads business-type people to wear blazers, limit smiley faces in emails, and go out of their way to make sure that everything they do is a professional AF production.
But it's this last part that I've noticed can get me into some trouble. For the record, I don't really consider myself to be a perfectionist (would a perfectionist have this page listed on their website for any reason whatsoever?), but I have found that my desire to be professional can often lead me down a perfectionistic path. Let's instead call what I have "professionalism," okay?
In particular, my professionalism is directly linked to an overwhelming fear of strangers passing down judgments from on high on whether or not I'm doing this whole Internet business thing properly. In my mind, these strangers are also wearing monocles and mink stoles because that's what my brain conjures up whenever I think of judgmental people.
When this fear creeps up, I'll be honest: I find it hard to work. Maybe you know what that's like. When you're singularly focused on how you are being perceived, it can be a limiting thing. Sometimes it can be so limiting that it stops you from creating entirely.
So as I embark on some new stuff, I want to make sure professionalism doesn't stand in my way. That's why my word for my business is....get ready....
Oh, you already knew that because it was in the title. Okay cool whatever.
But let me tell you something: I did not select this word arbitrarily. It was with great intention with which I chose "scrappy" as the official word for my business.
Before I get into my reasoning, though, I first need for you to get this mental image out of your mind:
Please do not associate me or my creative pursuits with Scrappy Doo or anyone else from the Scooby Doo franchise (although, I will say, I admire this little guy's moxie).
Instead, think of scuffed boots colored in with Sharpie or garage bands who can't quite figure out that key change or girl scouts who strategically place their cookie operations outside of a medical marijuana dispensary. When I think of "scrappy," I think of people doing what they have to do in order to get shit done, even when it's not the classiest way to go about it. I think of highly driven individuals who work really hard, who care about what they do, but who don't go around thinking so highly of themselves that they feel their work has to be 100% perfect.
So what does this mean for me? Personally, being scrappy means handwriting my blog posts if I feel like it and not obsessing over whether my graphics are sharable or not. It means, yes, having a plan but also being willing to throw said plan out the window if something else happens to pique my interest more. It means recording a podcast with my husband about TV pilots even though that has nothing to do with my site's niche. It means ending sentences with prepositions OF.
Ultimately, being scrappy means having the confidence to know that what I'm doing for my business is right even if it looks crazy/unconventional/not-the-way-you're-supposed-to-do-it. And hopefully that means that all of the kooky rule-breakers are the ones that stick around.
By the way, this philosophy goes for anyone anywhere wanting to pursue something creative. So if you, like me, are prone to intense bouts of of professionalism, here are some reasons why I suggest you hop on the Scrappy train as soon as possible:
Being scrappy makes you prolific.
Plain and simply, when you are less obsessed with doing things "right," you are more likely to DO THINGS. And doing things is an essential strategy for getting better at things. It's what all the pros suggest -- Ray Bradbury ("You must write every single day of your life..."), Wayne Gretzky ("You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."), Chamillionaire ("On my grind, on my grind, I got to stay grindin' at all times...") -- everyone.
Scrappiness is relatable.
You know that kid in your class who always brought in the perfect styrofoam model of the solar system for their science fair project? Didn't you hate that kid? Wouldn't you rather have been friends with the one who put a rotting orange on a sharpened pencil and tried to pass it off as the sun? (Incidentally, I did this as a child, and it did not win me any friends)
Anyway, you get the idea. Perfection is boring. We've known this forever, but we forget it always. By allowing your creative work to be of the scrappy variety, you show the flaws that remind us all of how special the human experience is. We're all screwed up, and it's wonderful.
A scrappy job requires a lot more creativity.
When you've got to MacGyver your way out of a situation (i.e. use whatever tools you have at your disposal) it often leads to more interesting results than if you were to use conventional methods. You get to make discoveries along the way rather than sticking to a structured plan. That's the scrappy philosophy in a nutshell.
So sure, you could read every article and piece of advice under the sun about how to write a book. Orrr you could just write a book and figure it the hell out. And sure yeah fine, you could spend thousands of dollars on Photoshop classes. OOOORRRR you can just start fiddling with it one day and figure out your own creative solutions as you go (that's how I learned, by the way, and look at me now, ma! I can make a confetti paint brush! WEEEEE!)
Bottom line: being scrappy requires you to use creative problem-solving methods that you might otherwise neglect if you were just handed the answers. And you're better than that, man.
It's just more fun.
Putting too much pressure on a situation is a surefire way to suck the fun right out of it. Have you ever played laser tag with that one guy who takes the game so seriously that it's as though he's fighting in an actual intergalactic war? While it sounds cool at first, it's actually ZERO FUN. Usually ends in tears.
However, unlike laser tag guy, when you approach things with unabashed scrappiness, you are never in a position to take yourself too seriously. Instead, every aspect of what you do becomes fun. It becomes fun to invent new ways to approach a problem. It becomes fun when disasters happen. It becomes fun when you pick yourself back up and keep trying again and again. It's. ALL. FREAKING. FUN.
AND THINGS SHOULD BE FUN! THIS IS SOMETHING I BELIEVE! WHY ARE WE YELLING?!
It keeps you honest.
Most importantly, embracing scrappiness is an important quality for people (such as myself) who are prone to doing scrappy jobs anyway. There, I said it. My tendency is to scrap it up even if I have all of the right answers, so I may as well be cool with that.
Certainly, there are people who are capable of perfection (several such individuals toured with Riverdance in the mid-1990s, and they are all legless killjoys today, I imagine). And of course, it's important not to settle for so-so. Hard work, trying your very best, educating yourself -- these are all good things.
But if the pursuit of absolute perfection is stopping you from actually doing the damn thing, then I say forget it. At the end of the day, wouldn't you rather be a scrappy weirdo who actually does shit than a blazer-wearing rule-follower who does jack-nothing? Me too.