Angela Ferrari has always lived a creative life. When she was young she lived in a rural area where she figured out creative ways to play. She would build tree forts, spray paint plants, and turn her mundane environment into stories.

Angela continued that creative streak in college where she studied studio art and painting. After college, she moved to Portland, Maine and started working at a restaurant. While working as a waitress, Angela forged relationships with the restaurant owners and patrons. After a while, Angela was able to quit her job as a waitress to work on her art full-time.

For some, having a successful business as an artist would be enough, but that wasn’t the case for Angela. One day while doing yoga,  she had a vision about a dog doing yoga. This would eventually turn into her first children’s book Digger’s Daily Routine. Even with three completed books and a newly released podcast, it still feels like Angela has more creativity to share with the world.

In this episode Angela talks about believing in yourself, having fun, and how struggles can lead to success.

Here are three things you can learn from Angela:

Believe in Yourself

When we are first starting out in our creative careers, a lot of self-doubt creeps in. “I’m not a professional artist, why would anyone buy from me?” we ask ourselves. We believe in our work, but don’t believe in ourselves.

That’s why it’s so important to believe in who you are and what you are doing. That’s what Angela did when she went from being a painter to also being a writer.

“A big part of it too was I was afraid of the impostor syndrome, especially transitioning from painter to writer. I was afraid to call myself a writer, and therefore I was afraid to promote myself as a writer. Once I got established painting, I liked being called a painter. I liked that being part of my identity, but it was a little harder when I was unpublished or before I launched a podcast, calling myself a podcaster. It’s hard to almost validate yourself when you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything. But then I realized the action of doing it is what makes me a writer. The action of recording and creating episodes is what made me a podcaster.”

The only way you can overcome the impostor syndrome is by believing in what you do. You have to own it.

“Once I started being kinda comfortable with myself and saying yes, I do belong in this space, and I can put myself out there, not just my work, but myself into my work, and that’s now part of my identity.”

Many of us believe we just have to reach our goals and we’ll have “made it.” The truth is, there’s no such thing as making it. The bar is constantly moving. You have to evolve with that sliding scale.

“You never really arrive. You’re always going to be growing in this creative space. You’re always going to be evolving in staying current in your field. So once you start that initial page in the book, you now are a writer. The more you say to yourself, “I am this. I am doing this.” Then it kind of positively reinforces and motivates you to say “I need to follow through because this is now part of who I am.”

Have Fun

Most creative people discover their love for art early in life because they had a blast while creating. We enjoyed every moment of the creative process from dipping the brush into the paints to wrapping up a finished painting.

But along the way, we lose sight of that fun and joy. We let the business side of creativity distract us. We become discouraged when we don’t see immediate results. Angela found a way around this by making sure everything she does is fun.

“For me, I don’t like doing something if it’s not fun. I like to have fun and it’s everything from cooking to working out, once I find a method of ‘Oh, this is a creative way I can do this. This works for me.”

This was especially true for the way she approached marketing. She found a way to make marketing fun.

“My approach to marketing, I knew it’s necessary and it feeds into that big picture goal I have of ‘Okay, I want to tell stories. That’s my big goal.’ So I start telling stories when I market. I find really fun images to use when I create campaigns for social media. And starting a podcast was a way I could promote myself in an authentic way or I could use my voice and speak directly to people. I knew that was something I could have fun with for marketing.”

Sure there are some tedious elements to starting and maintaining a business, but the best way to get around the tedium is to have fun with it.

“The business side, yeah there are definitely some tedious things that are hard to do, but once you learn something, you can find a way to have fun with it because the learning part of it is definitely I think the hard part of any part of a business.”

Struggles Can Help in the Long Run

We’ve all faced struggles in our creative careers. It’s why the term “starving artist” exists. No one said living a fulfilling creative life would be easy. You will face ups and downs. You will soar to the highest highs and hit rock bottom. That’s just how the uncertain life of a creative goes.

Those same struggles are also what makes success so sweet. We might dread them in the moment, but when we look back, we are usually glad we found our way through them. That’s exactly what happened to Angela when she went from being a painter to being a writer too.

“A lot of times I look back and things that felt like struggles or hardships, I look back and think, ‘Oh thank goodness that happened.’ I mean, I’ve had a lot of rejection and failure… starting out as a painter and going and working my way up as a writer. Any time I’m submitting a piece I’d get feedback that, a lot of times I just didn’t feel like I could do it. I didn’t realize I had it in me.”

Those struggles push us to achieve more. They help us determine determine if we want to forge on. They help us ask ourselves the right questions. They help keep us honest.

“So those struggles, they definitely push me. They definitely make me check in and say ‘Do I want this enough? Is this what I want?’ And the answer has always been yes. So I’ve always had to push through by again asking the questions. Keep that goal in mind. I do have a lot of visual images in my work space… Those kinds of things are those kind of reminders that really help push me forward when I’m going through an area where I just don’t think I can do it.”

Shownotes

  • about Angela
    • grew up in rural area outdoors
    • had to find creative ways to play
    • inspired by books (Winnie the Pooh and The Secret Garden)
    • did painting and music
    • studied studio art and painting
    • didn’t feel prepared to make living off of her art
    • after college, she moved to Portland, Maine
    • paintings were inspired by nautical landscape
    • forged relationships with restaurants in the area
    • her art would be exclusive work of the restaurants
      • sold hundreds of paintings there
    • looked at ways to expand art business
    • wanted to expand into childrens’ books
    • joined Assets for Artists
      • learned financial/business training
      • got matched savings grants
      • two sides of art and business converged
    • self publish or traditional publishing?
      • learned a lot of people weren’t being published after years
      • decided to self-publish
      • led to creating her podcast
  • play as a kid
    • made tree forts and spray painted plants, rocks, etc.
    • making her own space outside
    • made her comfortable working by herself
    • being in her own world and turning the mundane into stories

10:22 “You can turn almost anything into a story when you have the time and the head space to do it.”

  • selling art through story
    • All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories by Seth Godin
      • not just having a brand, but also having an identity behind the business
      • puts herself into her paintings
      • people at the restaurant tell her stories too
      • people at restaurants ask her questions
      • childrens’ books help her teach creativity

11:47 “You can definitely see my wanting to teach creativity as a skill because it was so important to me. I think that mission really comes across in my work.”

  • difference between  before and after telling her story
    • no one can be anything before they start doing it
    • hitting milestones and “arriving”
    • “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.” – Muhammad Ali
    • fake it til you make it

12:12 “A big part of it too was I was afraid of the impostor syndrome, especially transitioning from painter to writer. I was afraid to call myself a writer, and therefore I was afraid to promote myself as a writer. Once I got established painting, I liked being called a painter. I liked that being part of my identity, but it was a little harder when I was unpublished or before I launched a podcast, calling myself a podcaster. It’s hard to almost validate yourself when you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything. But then I realized the action of doing it is what makes me a writer. The action of recording and creating episodes is what made me a podcaster.”

12:56 “Once I started being kinda comfortable with myself and saying yes, I do belong in this space, and I can put myself out there, not just my work, but myself into my work, and that’s now part of my identity.”

13:49 “You never really arrive. You’re always going to be growing in this creative space. You’re always going to be evolving in staying current in your field. So once you start that initial page in the book, you now are a writer. The more you say to yourself, “I am this. I am doing this.” Then it kind of positively reinforces  and motivates you to say “I need to follow through because this is now part of who I am.”

14:50 “Most kids kind of grow out of that pretend stage when they’re teenagers and adults, and part of me never really grew out of that. So I’ve always believed that something great is possible for me. I never stopped giving up on that dream. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be a published writer, and now I am. It’s just taken me a long time to get to this space but I always knew this was in the cards for me.”

  • missing the business knowledge
    • didn’t realize she needed that knowledge
    • didn’t know money was important
    • after college she waited tables and interacted with different people
    • realized she didn’t know about the financial side of art
    • didn’t understand importance of business
    • bootstrapping your way to anything

16:07 “Then when I graduated and started working, I waited tables on the side and I got to interact with so many different kinds of people and I realized I wanted to make art to make people happy. I wanted to make art for other people and they would be in my mind when I started creating and then from there is where the business came in on marketing and creating for people. There’s a transaction that goes on there that’s inherit to the art business.”

  • resisting learning about marketing
    • likes to do things that are fun
    • workout/fitness became more fun when she started doing hip hop dancing/booty yoga

18:49 “For me, I don’t like doing something if it’s not fun. I like to have fun and it’s everything from cooking to working out, once I find a method of ‘Oh, this is a creative way I can do this. This works for me.”

19:26 “My approach to marketing, I knew it’s necessary and it feeds into that big picture goal I have of ‘Okay, I want to tell stories. That’s my big goal.’ So I start telling stories when I market. I find really fun images to use when I create campaigns for social media. And starting a podcast was a way I could promote myself in an authentic way or I could use my voice and speak directly to people. I knew that was something I could have fun with for marketing.”

19:58 “The business side, yeah there are definitely some tedious things that are hard to do, but once you learn something, you can find a way to have fun with it because the learning part of it is definitely I think the hard part of any part of a business.”

  • changing your perspective to make things more interesting
    • road trips and playing games as an example

21:39 “Sometimes the struggle are what make it so much more rewarding too. It makes it feel so much more real  when you’ve really had to work for it and keep checking in with yourself and saying, ‘Okay, do I really want this? Yeah I do. I do really want this,’ and when you get it, it’s amazing. It’s overwhelming.”

  • getting her paintings in a restaurant
    • started as a waitress there
    • owners valued people’s outside talent and encouraged life outside of it
    • got to paint mural in their lobby
    • created commissioned piece in exchange for allowing her to hang her art
    • people learned about her making the art in the restaurant
  • relationships as the basis for building connection and selling art

23:45 “I wish earlier on I started telling people what I was doing outside of work. Again it goes back to that, you don’t always feel comfortable promoting yourself as a painter or as a writer until you have something to show for it. I think I could have started marketing before I launched in those cases too and gotten a little further ahead .”

24:35 “You don’t want to do shameless self-promoting… It definitely has to be something that you earn from people when you’ve built a relationship with them.”

  • creating the mural and selling her art at the restaurant
    • took ownership of the space
    • started taking herself more seriously
    • went from waiting tables 5 days, to weekends, to painting full-time
  • pricing her art
    • was under pricing her art in the beginning
    • women tend to set prices lower than men
    • had a pricing wheel
    • mentors told her she could sell her work for more
  • get mentorships
    • people came into her life when she was ready to listen
    • family has always been supportive
    • has met a lot of people doing great things

28:48 “I think when you’re willing to ask for help you can definitely find some mentors out there that will come to you in your circle.”

  • the value of a support network
    • took a while to be comfortable with writing process
    • didn’t feel her writing was strong
    • used to think grammar was frivolous until she joined critique group
      • grammar is just tools to add to your toolkit
      • makes it easier to convey message in colorful way
      • ended up embracing tools
  • accepting help
    • has changed from close minded to open minded
    • learning from other people
    • looking outside of your own creative space

31:26 “It’s funny for me, being such a creative person, I could be so closed minded about that kind of stuff and now I’ve really tried to talk to a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds, what their work is like, what inspires them, and people that are very different from me, they have things to say that I can gleam from. Even if what they’re doing isn’t in lock step with my career path. They still have ways that they work that you can definitely learn from.”

  • first book idea
    • Digger’s Daily Routine
      • dog that does the same routine every day
      • one day he finds a cave and gem stones on the walls
    • was inspired while imagining dog doing yoga
    • once she saw the story in her mind, she had to pursue it
  • process for creating first book
    • joined Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators
    • got connected to critique group
    • met editors in the industry
    • looked into self-publishing as well
    • pushed herself out of her comfort zone
    • went to a critique where every idea was passed on
    • anger turned to inspiration and fuel

36:44 “I can’t put my creative work into the hands of someone else. I think I’m self-directed enough where I can be the one to put this out there because I want to have the control over my destiny.”

  • not relying on the gatekeepers
    • having the ability to do it on your own
    • learning through tutorials and googling
  • pushing yourself out of your comfort zone
    • has to check in with herself and hold herself accountable
    • dance classes are fun but make you vulnerable, which has helped
    • not being afraid to embarrass yourself
    • most people don’t care if you mess up
    • making things for people who love your work

40:30 “Everybody’s been there. Everybody had to start somewhere. So just keep going through the motions and keep doing the fake it til you make it thing and you can definitely get to where you want to be.”

  • finding your audience and catering to a specific niche

41:11 “You can’t compare yourself to other people too. I’m putting work out right now that’s definitely not going to be for everybody. A lot of people, it’s not going to be their thing and I’m okay with that.”

42:40 “When you go for that niche, stuff is a lot more interesting than when you’re trying to attract such a broad audience and you don’t really have much to say in that setting. A lot of the shows that are successful, who would have thought that something like Game of Thrones would be so successful. It seems like something with such a niche audience would like that, but you just never know until you put it out there how people will respond, what’s the thing that’s going to go viral and take off.”

  • We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
    • tribes and focusing on specific audiences
    • Tribes by Seth Godin and the age of the internet
  • promoting her first children’s book
    • YouTube channel where she puts full books on slideshows
    • concerned with building a regular audience and getting the word out
    • converting those people into purchasers
    • Masters of Doom
      • releasing Doom as shareware instead of through a normal publisher

47:16 “I mean again, the age of the internet, I think a lot of things are changing. There’s a lot of industries being disrupted because of that. I think people’s expectations have changed too. People are used to getting a lot more nowadays for free and you kinda have to earn people’s attention in another way too.”

  • splitting her time
    • has a queue of paintings
    • she paints to order
    • focus has been on the podcast
    • has recorded 40 episodes
    • took a year to build up a runway
    • being ready for the unknown
    • balancing creating and consuming
    • starts day with harder stuff like tech
    • after a few hours, she takes a break and does creative stuff
    • taking dance breaks, or moving along with music to refuel her energy

48:55 “I spend a lot of time working… It’s funny how entrepreneurs spend 80 hours a week to avoid the 40 hour a work week, and it’s true. I’m doing that right now, but I’m having so much fun doing what I’m doing that the days are just flying by and I’m getting so much done. It sounds like a lot, and it is a lot but it’s not cumbersome.”

  • biggest struggles

51:39 “A lot of times I look back and things that felt like struggles or hardships, I look back and think, ‘Oh thank goodness that happened.’ I mean, I’ve had a lot of rejection and failure… starting out as a painter and going and working my way up as a writer. Any time I’m submitting a piece I’d get feedback that, a lot of times I just didn’t feel like I could do it. I didn’t realize I had it in me.”

52:14 “So those struggles, they definitely push me. They definitely make me check in and say ‘Do I want this enough? Is this what I want?’ And the answer has always been yes. So I’ve always had to push through by again asking the questions. Keep that goal in mind. I do have a lot of visual images in my work space… Those kinds of things are those kind of reminders that really help push me forward when I’m going through an area where I just don’t think I can do it.”

  • learning lessons through failure
    • not looking at failure the same way
    • put your head down and keep moving
  • idea behind the podcast
    • wrote a lot of manuscripts for potential storybooks
    • family members were great storytellers
    • wanted to do a storytelling children’s show
    • incorporate different parts of her creativity
  • the ability to create what we want and get it out to people

56:39 “Now that I’ve been able to incorporate music into the show. I get to sing and play around with beats and instruments. Oh my gosh it’s opened me up in such a way that I feel like I’m fully living right now. It’s just been so cool to be able to do that and incorporate it in a way that’s creative.”

  • long term goals
    • has a few more books in the works
    • wants to do coloring/activity book and albums
    • two years of stories planned out
    • having flexibility with your goals
  • favorite quote
    • “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” –  Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)
  • daily habits or routines
    • eat breakfast, take supplements, make bed
    • change into an outfit/do makeup even if she stays at home
    • two hour sprint tackling biggest challenges
    • goes for walks to refuel
  • recommendations
  • creative people
    • grandmother who works with yarn and crochet
      • cellphone carrier, band for beach towels, shower mat out of garbage bags
    • Erykah Badu – But You Caint Use My Phone album
  • definition of creativity

1:49 “Every once in a while you kinda tap into those things as an adult where you just have no concept of time.  You’re just so content, and whatever outlet that gives you that feeling I would say is my definition of creativity.”

  • being more creative

2:14 “I think there are so many ways to be creative. Everybody has access to this in themselves. I think a lot of times people feel too busy to have an outlet and I think one thing you could do is maybe add an unexpected ingredient to a meal that you’re cooking or wear and accessory that really expresses yourself and you get to feel like you’re taking a risk. All those are really important small steps I think to living a creative life.”

  • challenge
    • ask questions, ask for help
    • you don’t get what you don’t ask for
    • What do I really want? What’s important to me? What big picture accomplishment do I want to see done in my lifetime?

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