So Much More Than Pretty

Well, this is the first post I’ve written directly on this new blog on this new website. First, new, new — I’m sensing a theme.

What’s funny is that nothing has really changed. I’m on my couch under a blanket; it’s snowing pretty hard. Pearl is playing outside and Aviva is in her room. Chalupa is… wait for it… snoring! Snowing, snoring, oh, the difference a single letter makes.

Earlier today, I had a coaching session with a client in North Dakota. We meet for just 30 minutes a month, with no agenda. And yet during these brief, intermittent calls, something always emerges and becomes clear.

It’s the sweetest thing to get to be part of someone else’s process.

I’m thinking a lot today about process, in no small part because of this very website, this brand new, very in-depth, very beautiful website. It is technologically and aesthetically not only what I’ve been wanting for a couple of years now, but so much more. There are things going on behind the scenes here I didn’t even know I needed.

Then along came Katie.

Now, Katie didn’t just materialize like a genie out of a bottle. She has participated in many of my groups for a few years now, and we’ve come to know each other through the writing.

A certain serendipity led to us working together on this new site. I want to give you a tiny bit of the background, since so often when we see something in its completed form, it’s easy to think something magical occurred, something materialized overnight. And while for sure magic played a role in the makings of this new online home, the truth is, it was a lot of work. We’re talking probably 50 hours of Katie’s time, well over a hundred emails exchanged, and in-depth conversations that pushed me to get really clear on some of the things I offer.

What I expected and hoped for: A beautiful new website, user-friendly, easy to navigate, visually pleasing, with a “flavor” that would fit with who I am and what my work is in this world.

What I feared: That the website would not feel like “me.” That people would feel like I was less accessible somehow. In other words, growth.

What I had no idea how to do: A million things.

I’ve become pretty adept over the years on WordPress. I was able to continue adding to my old site. I had some basic skills — and I am not talking about html or code here, just skills like how to create new pages, offer recurring payments, and move things around. I use MailChimp for my newsletter and figured out the most basic way of integrating that with my website, but beyond that, I was mystified about anything with the word “funnel” in it. Sales funnel, marketing funnel, ugh.

Katie never once used the word “funnel” during the creation of this website. (Thanks, Katie!)

However, she did ask me the most amazing questions about how I wanted things to work, what kinds of things were sucking up my time (for example, adding people to a list once they were signed up for a group), and what kind of experience I hoped folks would have when they come to peruse my offerings.

Things I had found totally intimidating — using an online scheduler for coaching calls, for example — Katie introduced in way I could not only understand but would be able take the reins on when we were done with the project.

Seemingly small things that had eluded me for so long, like following up with people after they sign up for my newsletter, became doable and even exciting.

I would send Katie a bunch of copy, say the description of the Community Writers Fund, and she’d essentially translate the content in a way that made it sing. I already knew she was an amazing writer, but in this process, I saw that she is also an amazing reader and editor herself; she could take what I had already written and zero in on the essence, the heartbeat of what I most wanted to convey.

I also learned, much to my utter delight, that she’s an incredible business coach. She asked me questions about my own coaching business that forced me to clarify things I’d long been going in circles about. Now, instead of three packages, I am offering just one. I feel like I’ve recovered something dear to me in this process — my confidence and clarity about what I have to offer.

Working with Katie made me feel like I had a true ally in sharing my work in this way, almost like a creative partner, someone who really gets what the groups and all the rest of it are about — practice, connection, creative freedom, permission to suck and encouragement to show up, no matter what, over and over again. She would share ideas and invite discussion, but never once made me feel inferior if I didn’t understand something or hurt if I rejected a suggestion. I had no idea how much I needed this.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve tiptoed up the doors of a couple of other web people. I spent around $250 on a consult with one of them, and got a lot of value from that single conversation but didn’t feel a “click” when it came to moving forward. It just felt like too big of a commitment.

I would not have needed this a few years ago. I wouldn’t have been ready for it. It is only because I’m fully immersed in this work now that I could take this step.

When I first started coaching, my sister designed a website for me (this was in 2003). When I first started offering groups, I just added bits and pieces to my blog and called it good enough. Now, as I move into my fifth year of offering fierce encouragement for writing and life, I feel ready for this new space. But the timing had to be right, and the process had to feel easy even though it consisted of such much newness.

The inner critic and impostor syndrome never go away. “Well, aren’t YOU fancy?” they say, afraid it will look like I’m not me anymore.

No, I want to say back to them, I just took a shower and put on something other than yoga pants.

It’s still me.

If you’re reading this and you’re someone who writes, maybe you know that feeling of buying a book and thinking, it’s so beautiful. I could never do this. But what you don’t see is the murk, they mess, the confusion, the drafts, the boredom, the doubt, the recycled pages, the entire sections cut, the rearranging, the painstaking time and care that went into the making of that book.

We don’t hear nearly enough about what goes on behind the scenes, especially given that that’s where we spend most of our time, whether with writing, activism, parenting, exercise, or just about any other part of life.

Any creative process is complicated, messy, long, exciting, bewildering, and a whole lot of work.

We are so lucky to find creative partners, people whose skills complement our own, people who can see something we can’t yet see.

It is a privilege to get to do this with writers, and I am in awe that this is exactly what Katie has done for me. She saw what I couldn’t, and she knew how to make it a real thing in the world. Having my website — which of course is on the one hand, “just a website,” and on the other hand, so so much more than that — in her hands, I truly felt shepherded, held, supported, and put at ease.

Katie used to be a doula, and it shows.

What is the point of this long, rambling post?

I might have a few.

  1. Never, ever underestimate the value of working with a professional web designer, or think that it’s just a matter of making things look prettier.

  2. Next time I’m afraid to admit I am stuck, I will remember this experience and how much it got things moving for me again, in terms of my own excitement about my work.

  3. It’s ok to need and ask for help.

  4. Good help costs money and is worth investing in, just the way good health costs money and is worth investing in. That’s not always an option. Having money is NOT a requirement of doing good work, but neither should we expect anyone to do good work for free. (Oh jeez, I feel like this one could become its own blog post!)

  5. I want this space to feel like a warm and welcoming space, so that when you walk in, you want to stay and make yourself at home. If it were a physical space, believe you me we’d have an expensive espresso machine imported from Italy. And maybe a meditation room where you could just go sit in the dark, in the quiet.

  6. I dream about that, you know. Sometimes I envision a little storefront, where you could just wander in from the street and say, you know, I really want to write but just don’t know where to start, or, I’m writing a book but I keep procrastinating like mad, or, I want to speak up and share my words, but I’m scared of not being ready or good enough. And I would make us lattes and we could talk it out and then hear the sound of pens moving across paper and voices in a room and something changing before our very eyes.

Oops, now I’m really digressing. But really point is, this website? It’s SO PRETTY.

And it’s so much more than pretty.*

It’s years and years of writing, creating, throwing darts, missing, putting stuff out there, some of which has stuck and some of which never landed. It’s working long hours with no guarantees of anything. It’s so much fear alchemized into presence. It’s one foot in front of the other and it’s both feet on the ground.

And it’s Katie. It’s her expertise, heart, vision, and insight.

* For those of you interested in the nitty-gritty of what Katie set up behind the scenes, here’s a partial list:

  • 5 outside integrations: MailChimp, Gmail, Acuity, Moonclerk, and Stripe (some of these would’ve made my head explode a month ago)

  • 46 photos sourced for the site, all containing individual image descriptions/alt tags for SEO optimization

  • All social media accounts integrated

  • A home page

  • A footer

  • 9 extra large index pages

  • 7 regular pages

  • 7 small pages

  • 5 contact forms

  • 2 application forms (one long and one short)

  • 17 payment forms that are automatically linked with a payment processor that is linked to my bank account. They are also integrated with 7 different Mailchimp forms

  • A blog set up with a subscription form that is integrated with Mailchimp and set up with an automation sequence

  • A newsletter form that is integrated with Mailchimp and set up with an automation sequence

  • A feature to schedule a free introductory call with me that’s integrated with an automated online scheduler

  • A 3-tiered coaching package that is linked to a payment processor and an online scheduler with a 10-step email automation sequence for automated scheduling of the whole 3-month process

  • 100% mobile friendly

  • Custom domain, hosting & security

  • Google analytics

  • Fully SEO optimized