Nov 172013

Sally Kuhlman is a blogger, writer, and social media sage. The more I read stuff on her websites, the bigger a fan I become.

I recently met Sally at a deep writing workshop in San Francisco as we’re both working on book projects. She’s a smart and friendly person who has a lot of wisdom to share with writers, musicians, and other artistic people looking for a boost on the business and online side of things.

Q: What kinds of services do you offer for businesses and entrepreneurs?

I provide consulting services to businesses and nonprofits in marketing and social media. When necessary, I start with getting organizations set up on social media, I then teach them how and why to use it. I work with them to build awareness, create and manage online communities around their businesses, organizations and causes. I also offer project management services for newsletters, blog updates, and social media management. In addition, I offer business brainstorming services where I meet with business owners and brainstorm ideas to build more awareness around their business and to help them determine and stay focused on their goals. I also wrote an ebooklet for stressed out, busy people called The ABCs and 123s of Getting Stuff Done.

Q: How did you get started in this work?

Years ago I was working as a virtual assistant providing project management and marketing support to small businesses and nonprofits. As social media emerged I jumped on the bandwagon and brought my clients with me. Over time my business evolved in to a full time social media consulting business.

Q: Do you work much with creative and artistic people?

Yes, I have worked with many creative and artistic types. I’ve worked with jewelry designers, artists, coaches and authors.

Q: What are some common struggles you see with the business side of the artistic life?

The main struggle I see for artists is their lack of desire to focus on the business side of things. Artists love to make art and be creative, they often don’t love bookkeeping and marketing so much. I recommend creative types in business to either schedule in a few hours a week to focus on their business or if they can afford it to outsource the administrative and marketing side of their business so they can focus on what they do best. There are some wonderful virtual assistants out there that can be incredibly helpful and affordable.

Here are some VA sites:

Q: What tips do you have for artistic people to make the most of their online presence?

I say go for it! Create a public Facebook page and a Twitter page, put your stuff out there and get to know people. An artist who does an excellent job at this is Tamara Holland, author of How To Start Making Your Art Your Business.

Tamara is the owner of Bean Up The Nose Art and is very active online:
Facebook and Twitter

q: What do you write about in your blog, “Sally Around The Bay?”

I originally started the Sally Around The Bay job to get myself out of the house and on adventures. Sally is a play on words. The definition of sally is to go out on an excursion or adventure, it also happens to be my name. My blog was my own personal Yelp! in the early days, now it has become more of Sally’s rambles. I often blog about tips and tricks for social media but I also use the blog to ponder my thoughts on life about things such as marriage equality, homelessness, commuting by bus, etc.

q: You’re writing a book on the topic of “other mothers.” What is the book about? What has been the most exciting part for you writing this book?

The book is about a common thread of feelings found among women who feel they don’t fit in the “traditional mom” box and often feel like outsiders in the world of motherhood. Whether stepmothers, adoptive moms, lesbian moms or other, these moms have unique feelings when it comes to raising children, which very few people talk about. The most exciting part of writing the book has been connecting with other women and hearing their stories. I have been blown away by some of the amazing women I have interviewed.

Where to find Sally:

May 162013

Here’s a great guest post from Eric Maisel offering practical tips on confidence. Thanks to Eric and to New World Library.

Read a few of my thoughts on Eric’s new book in a previous post.


By Eric Maisel

If you want to live a creative life and make your mark in some competitive art field like writing, film-making, the visual arts, or music, and if at the same time you want to live an emotionally healthy life full of love and satisfaction, you need an intimate understanding of certain key ideas and how they relate to the creative process.

One key idea is that you must act confidently whether or not you feel confident. You need to manifest confidence in every stage of the creative process if you want to get your creative work accomplished. Here’s what confidence looks like throughout the creative process.

Stage 1. Wishing

‘Wishing’ is a pre-contemplation stage where you haven’t really decided that you intend to create. You dabble at making art, you don’t find your efforts very satisfying, and you don’t feel that you go deep all that often. The confidence that you need to manifest during this stage of the process is the confidence that you are equal to the rigors of creating. If you don’t confidently accept the reality of process and the reality of difficulty you may never really get started.

Stage 2. Incubation/Contemplation

During this second stage of the process you need to be able to remain open to what wants to come rather than defensively settling on a first idea or an easy idea. The task is remaining open and not settling for something that relieves your anxiety and your discomfort. The confidence needed here is the confidence to stay open.

Stage 3. Choosing Your Next Subject

Choosing is a crucial part of the creative process. At some point you need the confidence to say, “I am ready to work on this.” You need the confidence to name a project clearly (even if that naming is “Now I go to the blank canvas without a pre-conceived idea and just start”), to commit to it, and to make sure that you aren’t leaking confidence even as you choose this project.

Stage 4. Starting Your Work

When you start a new creative work you start with certain ideas for the work, certain hopes and enthusiasms, certain doubts and fears – that is, you start with an array of thoughts and feelings, some positive and some negative. The confidence you need at that moment is the confidence that you can weather all those thoughts and feelings and the confidence to go into the unknown.

Stage 5. Working

Once you are actually working on your creative project, you enter into the long process of fits and starts, ups and downs, excellent moments and terrible moments – the gamut of human experiences that attach to real work. For this stage you need the confidence that you can deal with your own doubts and resistances and the confidence that you can handle whatever the work throws at you.

Stage 6. Completing

At some point you will be near completing the work. It is often hard to complete what we start because then we are obliged to appraise it, learn if it is good or bad, deal with the rigors of showing and selling, and so on. The confidence required during this stage is the confidence to weather the very ideas of appraisal, criticism, rejection, disappointment and everything else that we fear may be coming once we announce that the work is done.

Stage 7. Showing

A time comes when we are obliged to show our work. The confidence needed here is not only the confidence to weather the ideas of appraisal, criticism, and rejection but the confidence to weather the reality of appraisal, criticism, and rejection. Like so many other manifestations of confidence, the basic confidence here sounds like “Bring it on!” You are agreeing to let the world do its thing and announcing that you can survive any blows that the world delivers.

Stage 8. Selling

A confident seller can negotiate, think on her feet, make pitches and presentations, advocate for her work, explain why her work is wanted, and so on. You don’t have to be over-confident, exuberant, over the top – you simply need to get yourself to the place of being a calmly confident seller, someone who first makes a thing and then sells it in a business-like manner.

Stage 9: New Incubation and Contemplation

While you are showing and selling your completed works you are also incubating and contemplating new projects and starting the process all over again. The confidence required here is the confident belief that you have more good ideas in you. You want to confidently assert that you have plenty more to say and plenty more to do – even if you don’t know what that “something” is quite yet.

Stage 10: Simultaneous and Shifting States and Stages

I’ve made the creative process sound rather neat and linear and usually it is anything but. Often we are stalled on one thing, contemplating another thing, trying to sell a third thing, and so on. The confidence needed throughout the process is the quiet, confident belief that you can stay organized, successfully handle all of the thoughts and feelings going on inside of you, get your work done, and manage everything. This is a juggler’s confidence—it is you announcing, “You bet that I can keep all of these balls in the air!”

Manifest confidence throughout the creative process. Failing to manifest confidence at any stage will stall the process. It isn’t easy living the artist’s life: the work is taxing, the shadows of your personality interfere, and the art marketplace if fiercely competitive. If you learn some key ideas, for instance that you must act confidently whether or not you feel confident, you give yourself the best chance possible for a productive and rewarding life in the arts.


Eric Maisel is the author of Making Your Creative Mark and twenty other creativity titles including Mastering Creative Anxiety, Brainstorm, Creativity for Life, and Coaching the Artist Within. America’s foremost creativity coach, he is widely known as a creativity expert who coaches individuals and trains creativity coaches through workshops and keynotes nationally and internationally. He has blogs on the Huffington Post and Psychology Today and writes a column for Professional Artist Magazine. Visit him online at

Adapted from the new book Making Your Creative Mark ©2013 by Eric Maisel. Published with permission of New World Library

Aug 242011

Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart are hard-working songwriters and musicians from Tennessee. They tour extensively, bringing their polished songwriting and personal warmth to their audiences with just their voices and acoustic guitars.

I interviewed Stacey and Mark via email about their work as musicians and life on the road. You can read more about them and purchase their music at their website.

How do you see your distinct personalities complementing each other in your

MS: When we met in 1992 I was spending more time with musicians (although I was also a songwriter). Stacey led me down a path where I was putting more time in to songwriting circles, most of them not being strong players. This helped me to emphasize the writing more in my career. Stacey did a stint as a staff writer, so, we were in that camp for several years. I probably helped steer her in to being a stronger musician.

How do you approach practicing? Do you take a spontaneous approach, or do you use scales, exercises, warm-ups in a more systematic way?

SE: We are onstage most of the year and that is our practice! But, it is a natural thing to pick up a guitar when we are home.

MS: I play when not on tour, but, other music and other instruments. I never really played scales as a practice method, just songs.

What is the most fun part of touring? What is the most fun part about
finally getting back home?

SE: The fun part is everything we see, persons we meet, and moments we experience from point A to B (show to show). When I get home I am playing “house” and gardening.

Where’s the best food in the U. S.? Europe?

SE: My favorite is San Antonio, TX (carne gasada!). In Europe it is Spain.

Have you experienced creative block or other obstacles? Where do you find
creative renewal during down times?

SE: I have for the first time in my life as a result of the loss of my dad. The renewal? I don’t know-I guess it will come with time.

MS: Booking dates, driving to them, and performing so much has taken up a lot of my creative space. I will have to fight my way out of it.

What went into the decision to sell your entire catalog with unreleased
tracks on the flash drive? How’s the reception been for the new medium?

MS: We had a lot of material that had never been heard by our audience. We thought it would be a great idea to couple that batch of songs with all of our CDs. And, this is seemingly the new age we are in.

SE: The reception has been great. It has brought an MP3 option to our merch table (vs. folks going home after a show and purchasing it on Itunes!). Where downloads are a great store, it has hurt merch sales at shows. This is money artists need for tour support.

What advice would you give to someone who admires your music and wants to build a musician’s career?

SE: Be prepared to give it 100%. That means you live on the road, away from your family and friends. And, you quit the security of your day job. It is all a great risk for the love of music.

MS: All of what Stacey said is true. You will not likely be a good plumber if you spend all of your time as a banker. This is a business, not a hobby, and has to be treated that way. The first time I went on tour at age 18 it was so liberating to be in a van all day and at a hotel and venue at night with several other people who were full-time musicians. We talked about it all of the time and did not have other influences pulling our energy away from our dream. There is no room for me to do this part-time because there are thousands of others doing it 24/7. I cannot compete with them unless I am serious about my career.

It’s been great having you come through northern VA the past few years.
Hope to see and hear you again very soon. Thanks!

Jul 302011

Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts’s music is very smart and very spirited. His trio’s recordings are free, beautiful, fun, and brilliant. I particularly recommend their “Time And Circumstance” CD where all three members of the trio stretch out, really showing some personality and imagination. All the Marcus Roberts CDs I’ve heard have been fabulous, so I’d recommend any of them.

I recently read the Q and A section of Roberts’s website. Very thoughtful stuff. When people say “just play scales, just practice the mechanics,” it’s great to know that people like Roberts are out there putting all their mind, imagination, and determination into the music.

A few highlights from the Q and A page:

  • Roberts sees practicing as “solving problems.” This is one of my favorite phrases when practicing or teaching. You got to listen to the sound you’re making. Then you got to figure out what the problems are. Then you know what to solve. Practicing is a lot more than just going through some motions.
  • Roberts talks about how the notion of innovation is overrated. If everyone creates a new genre, a new subgenera, a totally unique approach, then we don’t have much connection and community. Roberts seems to be saying, put your personality and unique voice into the music, but you’re still best off standing on the shoulders of those who have made this music in past generations.
  • Roberts speaks about how musicians should listen to great recordings and figure out what all the instruments are doing, not just yours. This has come up a good bit recently, as I mentioned in a post about how Del Ray gets a lot of her guitar bass lines from boogie piano. Listening is a huge part of being an evolving musician.

Jul 082011

Shannon Dyer is a vocalist who has performed across classical, sacred, folk, and musical theater genres. She has won vocal competitions, served as a church canter, and has performed professionally with chamber ensembles in New York City. I interviewed her about her experiences and vocal technique.

SM: Describe your background, training, and career

My background is highly classical. From the time I was eleven, I was trained classically. One of my majors in college was vocal performance with an emphasis in classical.

However I don’t really like a lot of the classical vocal pieces. They’re definitely challenging and useful for expanding range and making sure diction is good. I’ve taken the classical technique as much as it can be used to sing different genres of music. I sing a mixture of pop, folk,, and musical theater. I tend to shy away from fully classical performances. I did perform full-time for nine months with a full ensemble in New York City. That’s where we got into a lot of the German opera and Italian arias. There were things I really enjoyed about that, but it also taught me that I wouldn’t do well as a full-time classical musician. I prefer different genres of music.

SM: One of the things I noticed when I accompanied you once was the connection between your technical command of the voice and the emotional response of the audience.

I’ve been taught that there is a lot to be accomplished by knowing the technical art of singing. But I’ve also been taught that there is an equal important to channeling your emotions into your singing without losing the technical stuff. It’s an interesting mix–how do I sing this in a way that portrays a certain emotion? People that sing just by emotion tend to lose pitch a lot of times. Sometimes they’re voices will sound strange with cracking and sliding around. You can only sing that way for so long before you’re going to have vocal issues, and I think your overall performance will suffer.
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