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I signed up for a 10-part workshop hosted by Springboard for the Arts and the MN State Arts Board that teaches artists various business skills. Tonight was the first session. It was a full house, almost all women. There were two men, but one of them showed up late, so the first man said we could just call him “Man.” When the second man showed up, he became “Man 2.”

Tonight’s topic of discussion was career planning. We have to know where we’re going as artists/writers in order to know how to get there. There were a number of exercises we had to do in our “The Work(book) of Art: Business Skills for Artists” workbook. (Yes, we have a workbook, which I rather like. It reminds me of language classes.)

Through the exercises and class discussion, I had a couple of “AHA!” moments. For the “Perfect Day Scenario” exercise, in which we had to visualize how a perfect day would go for us in five years’ time, I couldn’t think of anything at first, and then I realized that my perfect day is pretty much like how my days now go, except that I would write for a couple of hours every morning when my brain is fresh.

The second AHA! came when someone asked our workshop leader, Kathleen, how to get used to selling ourselves, how to get over this crushing modesty that keeps us from putting our work out there. She said that if we have an excellent product, we ought to be able to sell it to the market that needs it. We have to have courage and get over the whole modesty thing. For some reason, thinking of my writing as a product clicked with me in terms of marketing. It takes away the notion that my writing is some sort of precious baby that would suffer if someone rejected it. And that’s another thing Kathleen said. “Quit using the word ‘rejected.’ Use ‘declined’ instead. Your work has been declined.” That also helps to put the work in terms of markets, some of which may need your work; some of which don’t.

Toward the end of the class, we had to list five goals to accomplish within the next six months. We had to put our lists in self-addressed envelopes, which Kathleen will mail back to us in six months. I’m happy to say that I’ve accomplished one of the items on my list already. I wanted to find five literary agents to follow on Twitter. I managed to find nine. (The power of a list!) That, however, was the easy goal. I also said that I’d write three draft chapters for a new book in six months. I’ve gotta hold myself to that, even if the chapters are crappy.

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