Life was simple when we were seven, wasn’t it?
A puddle and some pebbles, crayons and paper, a piece of chalk and a sidewalk — that’s all we needed to keep us happy and amused for hours.
But somewhere along the way, most of us lose this sense of joy in simple creative pleasures.
Today, you’ll learn about Melissa Dinwiddie’s quest to bring creativity back into your daily life.
Melissa’s story is this month’s Hero’s Journey feature. We’re tapping the collective wisdom of our community members to bring you reports from the front lines of the content marketing world. Read all of the Hero’s Journey posts here.
Here’s Melissa to share her journey in her own words.
How Melissa champions creativity
Melissa Dinwiddie: My business is Living a Creative Life — that’s the name of my blog, and it’s also what I do and what my business helps other people do.
I call myself a Happiness Catalyst and Creativity Instigator.
I help people switch their creative taps to the “on” position and turn their lives from grey to full color.
Really, I help people play again, and return to the joy, freedom, and happiness of a four-year-old playing in a sandbox, back when creative play was a normal, daily part of life.
Reminding us to make time for play
Melissa Dinwiddie: For most of us, creative play gets tamped down pretty early.
The school system trains us how to please an authority figure (the teacher), rather than how to push creative boundaries.
We’re taught to believe that creative expression is reserved for an elite minority, so we get divided into two camps:
- The artists (painters, musicians, writers, filmmakers, etc.)
- The rest of us
My mission is to disrupt this status quo and empower people to reclaim their innate creativity and innate right to create and play.
Creative expression is one of the fastest routes to happiness and self-fulfillment.
Through my programs and products, I give people practical tools and inspiration to quiet the self-doubt gremlins, hurtle past fear, and get on with the business of creating, regardless of medium or genre.
I offer ebooks, online courses, in-person workshops and retreats, private coaching and consulting, and I run a membership community, the Creative Sandbox, which includes access to a wide spectrum of my online offerings plus direct access to me.
I also love public speaking, especially my signature keynote, which combines original music and storytelling so that it’s more of a one-woman show than a typical speech.
A creative drought that led to a business idea
Melissa Dinwiddie: I started Living a Creative Life because I’ve suffered through long stretches of creative “stuckness” myself.
In fact, all through my teen years and up through my late twenties I believed I was not creative!
On the surface my life was fine, but underneath it was grey, low-grade misery. It’s only with hindsight that I can see that my unhappiness was largely due to my false belief that creative expression is reserved for the select elite, not regular people like me.
When I finally came back to art as an adult, it was like that moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps from the black and white of the Kansas farmhouse into the Technicolor of Oz.
I fell in love with making art and actually grew a business around my art as a calligrapher and ketubah artist (a ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract).
But over the years of building up that business, I became so mired in perfectionist paralysis — and the need to make money from everything I created — that I completely stopped making art for the joy of it.
Art became just a job, and I got seriously burned out.
When I finally found my way back to my creative spirit, I realized that my experience was not unique.
My big vision is to change the conversation around creative expression and play — and get people to start (or return to) creating for the joy of it.
Chunking down education to reach new markets
Melissa Dinwiddie: I used to run a three-month signature program, in which I taught everything I’ve learned about how to bust past fear and self-doubt in order to get creating, share your work, and live the full-color life you really want.
It was life-changing for the people who went through it — and the testimonials were off the charts — but it was always hard for me to fill it.
Something was off — the positioning and messaging were attracting people who didn’t have the resources to pay for a long-term, high-touch program, and it was so deflating to have disappointing launches over and over.
Earlier this year, I worked with Breanne Dyck, who helped me assess my business from the ground up — who my ideal clients really are, the arc of the customer journey, what my customers need at each milestone along that journey, and how my strengths and preferences intersect with their needs.
Breanne’s coaching was instrumental in helping me see how I could still put the same content out there, but in smaller chunks and different formats that are easier to sell because they’re more specifically targeted.
As a result, I’m able to create as much — if not more — transformation in my customers, and it doesn’t feel like I’m swimming upstream all the time!
A test, the result, and the birth of a new product
Melissa Dinwiddie: Last August, I started a pilot program for the Creative Sandbox and invited a group of past clients and customers to join.
The idea was to create a membership community as an ongoing revenue source, but I wasn’t sure if it was possible for such a thing to be fun and inspiring for me — something that would energize me, rather than sucking me dry.
The five-month pilot went so well that I officially offered a year-long membership for 2016.
It’s a wonderful “lab” for me to develop and test out new products and programs (which members get to participate in for free), and it’s a great entry-level way for my customers to have direct access to me.
And the community is amazing. I feel very blessed that I’ve attracted such generous, wonderful women!
The Rainmaker Digital products Melissa uses
Then last April, I moved Living a Creative Life to the Rainmaker Platform.
I liked the idea of having a single platform to host my website and blog, protect my members-only content, and provide audio hosting for my podcast, Live Creative Now.
The kicker that finally got me to bite the bullet and make the move, though, was when I realized I was spending more for WordPress support to deal with plugin incompatibilities than the Rainmaker Platform monthly fee!
Plus, the customer support has been stellar.
Melissa’s creative growth plans
Melissa Dinwiddie: Right now, I’m working on increasing my opt-in rate and growing my email list. To that end, I’m creating a series of free, how-to demo tutorials — sort of “art for non-artists (and artists, too!)” — so we’ll see how that converts.
I’m also excited to see how the Creative Sandbox membership community will evolve as I learn what my members’ wants and needs are and create new things to support them.
Meanwhile, my Big Goal for 2016 is to grow my public speaking into a significant revenue stream. I’m a performer — singer/songwriter and storyteller — so it’s a natural evolution for me to use the stage as a platform to spread my message.
I’m especially excited to speak at schools and colleges; I want to catch kids while they’re still young and their ideas about creativity may still be somewhat malleable.
Every time I can help even one person keep — or get back to — that creative urge I was cut off from for so long, it feels like all the suffering I went through had a worthwhile purpose.
Find Melissa Dinwiddie online …
Thanks to Melissa for appearing in our Hero’s Journey series.
Do you have questions for her? Ask them in the comments below.
We’ll be back next month with another story to teach, inspire, and encourage you along your journey.