READY AS YOU'LL (N)EVER BE
German fashion site Zalando asked me write a piece about being 'READY', to tie in with their new issue on the same theme. Here's what I came up with.
In matters of life and work, there are a few maxims I live by: Keep it simple. Eat your greens. Work hard and be nice to people. There are no shortcuts. Ask for help. Invest in yourself. Be your own best friend. Start before you feel ready.
That last statement feels particularly relevant right now. Over the past three months, I’ve written and self-published a book - The Handbook For Women Who Do Creative Work - and founded The WW Club: a shared work and event space for women in Los Angeles (where I live), and beyond. Up until December 2014, I’d worked exclusively as a freelance journalist and copywriter, so both projects were undertaken with no previous experience of publishing or event planning whatsoever. Also: no team, no investment, and just barely enough time.
When launch day rolled around at end of January 2015, was I calm, composed, and ready to share my work with the world? Ha! Definitely not. ‘Stressed’, ‘overwhelmed’, and ‘absolutely exhausted’ come closer to describing the truth. But, in the magical way that the universe often transpires to make ardent dreams a reality, I’m pleased to report that everything worked out just fine. Better than fine, actually: The book sold out, the event was a smash, and I’m now in the process of growing The WW Club into an community for women worldwide.
I’m not sharing this story to sound smug, but rather to provide firsthand evidence that feeling ready is an overrated - if not entirely mythical - prerequisite for successful creative work. That’s not to say readiness isn’t a state that I constantly aspire to myself; I’m forever making lists, setting goals, and trying to stay as on top of things as I possibly can. But I’m slowly reaching the conclusion that perhaps I’ll never feel totally prepared for whatever opportunity life throws my way, and perhaps that’s just fine. Maybe the key is to feel the fear and do it anyway (another tired cliche, but a good one.)
There’s no doubt that, now more than ever, we need to feel equipped to do the work. In the five short years since I left university and became a self-employed working woman, I’ve seen and felt a tangible shift in women's standing in the workplace. We’re increasingly visible as creative professionals, industry leaders, and successful entrepreneurs. We’re launching startups, speaking out against the gender gap, and writing advice manuals for other women who want to achieve the same goals. My female friends and colleagues all agree that something mystical and exciting is happening - a new wave of feminine power and energy that is gaining traction from London to Lagos.
It’s a thrilling time to be a woman, but it can be overwhelming, too. There’s so much pressure to make use of the endless possibilities that technology and social media have afforded us, but also a missing curriculum on how to make it all work. The world is changing faster than it takes to tap ‘like’ or swipe right, and our breathless professional ambitions occasionally outpace our resources and networks. There’s also the depressing but all-too-real possibility that we might still run into the discrimination wall along our paths to success, or bump our heads on the glass ceiling on the way up (until equal pay for women is standard around the world, don’t let anyone tell you that ceiling has been smashed).
But this is no time for despondency. Instead of feeling freaked out, I say: let’s begin with where we are, and make use of what we have. The WW Club was founded with the values of community and collaboration that I believe are key to our professional success. It’s a time for channelling positive energy, embracing fear, and returning - when in doubt - to a few tried-and-tested cliches: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Teamwork makes the dream work. And, whatever you do: start before you feel ready. There’s really no right time but now.