Getting out of Your Box and the Art of Having Coffee: Lessons in Cultivating A Creative Career


by Meghan Hollister

There’s something to be said about getting out of your comfort zone. For some of us, this may be going to a party solo, initiating a friendship, or travelling to a new destination. Professionally, it gets a bit more serious: making that cold call, attending a committee meeting, initiating a connection, or reaching out to a professional you admire to meet for coffee.

Meet for coffee? Who does that? 

At least, that’s what my introvert-side had thought previously. Until, as I looked at my calendar, I realized that I had essentially “met for coffee” on three separate occasions this past week.

Field Notes desk

Wait…how did I get here?

I struggle to identify where I stand on the Extrovert/Introvert scale: I crave social interaction and connection with people, yet most Friday nights you’d find me preferably reading, making, or researching my next project. Weather it’s being shy, awkward, or socially anxious, I think a lot of creatives identify with a similar struggle.

That being said, if there’s one thing I learned from working in the service industry for the better part of a decade, it’s this:

Fake it til you make it, Baby.

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It’s ok if you’re uncomfortable, it’ll get better.

Jessica Pezalla, an artist whose work I admire was recently featured in Design Sponge regarding the development of her own unique creative career. She offers some really great advice on the topic:

DS: What advice would you give someone who would love to work in a similar field? How should they get started? What should they study in school or learn about on their own?

When first embarking on a creative career it’s important to say “yes” to promising opportunities as often as possible, because you never know where they will lead. I’m a proponent of reaching out to people whose work you admire, with no motive other than to let them know how much you love what they do. I make time to meet other creatives for coffee and these connections often lead to interesting projects and collaborations.

In relocating to a new city, and trying to establish a successful  career in the arts, I’ve applied this “fake it til you make it” mantra to a few new adventures, and as a result have netted a few new clients, as well as several solid professional contacts. What follows is my adventure in professional forced-extroversion:

My first “meeting” of sorts was at the Connecting Things Colorado Springs Speaking Series at Welcome Fellow, a shared workspace located in downtown Colorado Springs. I was a little nervous. It was 7:45am, and I was beginning to wonder, “Am I at the right place? Will anyone show up? Will I have to talk to anyone?  DO I have my business cards? What if-” and I promptly told my brain to be quiet. I grabbed a fresh coffee and pastry, and promptly took my seat.

welcomefellow

30 minutes later I had made several friends- most new to the area, involved in the arts, and out of their own comfort zone. One was a teacher, and one as an accountant for creative entrepreneurs. In hearing the guest speaker talk on his own creative career, I made another creative contact- whose wife I met for coffee today in the closing of a small but meaningful sale.

 

My next meeting was at the beginning of the week. A client I had met at The Wednesday night markets had wanted to, you guessed it- meet for coffee.

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“Meeting for coffee is like an open-faced business card. You meet, you get to know each other, and you see if a beneficial relationship can be made,”

one of my colleagues informed me as I was explaining how amazing this simple relationship-builder was beginning to appear to me.

In our meeting, I learned many things. Her daughter is an art teacher, and she gave me the scoop on the Alternative Teaching Licensing process. She herself is a community arts advocate, and her family had been living in the area for the past 40 years (very uncommon with our current population boom). She shared some arts opportunities that I scribbled feverishly in my notebook. For a living, she was a financial adviser, something that can be a useful resource for a right-brained couple that wants to buy a house someday. At the end of our meeting she said in an almost motherly tone:

“You know, the next time someone is interested in the work that you do, like I am- you should ask them to meet for coffee! You never know what you can learn from each other, and what opportunities can be made. Call me anytime.”

My most recent and striking meeting for coffee was yesterday morning. I had recently discovered a community entity that was right in line with all of the things I’m passionate about: community arts, urban gardening, sharing skills, sustainable living, and a general “Fuck the man, I’ll do this myself!” attitude.

Having gained some confidence in my most recent new interactions, I decided to reach out. I essentially said something like, “I love what you’re doing! Can we meet for coffee?” and they responded with something like, “Absolutely! Come on over!”

plant hand

As a result I ended up beginning my day, with coffee no less, involved in a Skillshare where we learned/participating in the building of a giant recycled light bulb sculpture, to be installed in the Colorado Springs Utilities building. Simultaneously if you desired, you could participate in a drawing workshop, garden maintenance, or learning how to rebuild old windows that needed replacing.

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Detail shot of the sculpture made from refurbished electronic materials

I met so many passionate people working within their chosen creative field, eager to connect.

It was in that moment that I realized that by simply asking- as well as saying an enthusiastic “yes!” you can open up a plethora of positive opportunities, and experiences.

Can we fake it til we make it? Science says yes. Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist behind one of my favorite TED Talks of all time, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” beautifully presents her research on how our body language not only affects who we are and how others perceive us, but our body language affects our physical body chemistry as well. Not only can you fake it til’ you make it, but you can fake it until you’re transformed into it. Introverts rejoice!

While I encourage you to watch her talk, I’ll leave you with her powerful closing words:

“So when I tell people about this, that our bodies change our minds and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes, they say to me, “It feels fake, right?”

So I said, “Fake it till you make it.”

(you might be thinking) It’s not me. I don’t want to get there and then still feel like a fraud. I don’t want to feel like an impostor. I don’t want to get there only to feel like I’m not supposed to be here. ”

And that really resonated with me…and so I want to say to you, don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.”

 

Interested in the creative endeavors of Studio 2 owner Meghan Hollister?
Follow her on Instagram: (@studiono2)
Studio 2 on Facebook: (@studiono2)
Or if you’re local, why don’t we meet for coffee? 😉

 

 

2 thoughts on “Getting out of Your Box and the Art of Having Coffee: Lessons in Cultivating A Creative Career

  1. I like how you said the meeting for coffee is like an open faced business card – and also the stretch yourself encouragement – anyhow, great post and hope you have a great weekend

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