Where I was when I wasn’t here: an honest conversation about creativity and running a creative business

By Brittany Taylor

Where I was when I wasn't here

An honest conversation about creativity and running a creative business

by Brittany Taylor

Last updated July 31, 2019

You know how you can love a place—or a thing or a person or a project—and also need a break from it?

It’s how I always when the spring college semester ended in May. My friends and I would scarcely even exchange pleasantries until we were weeks away from returning from our mutual break.

That’s how I’ve felt about this space, this blog, over the last 6 months—and, frankly about the creative business I’m running. I didn’t want to be here. So, as you might or might not have noticed, I haven’t been.

One lesson I’ve learned from my 5-plus years of business blogging is that if I write from a place of negativity, that negativity shows through. And while I talk about difficult realities here (and certainly won’t be stepping away from that), I don’t want to bring spite or sourness or boredom to these pages. That’s not what you’re here for, and that’s not what I want to bring to the table. After all, another thing I learned is this: I don’t wear snark well.

Because of that, I knew I needed to put this blog on a shelf for some unknown time frame, which, #fulldisclosure, is not what you should do when you run a blog for your business. I needed to focus my energy elsewhere.

So, where was I? It turns out that I was walking in Memphis.

Well, not literally. Let me explain.

Fact: I’ve never been to Tennessee

It’s a metaphor, really, and it wasn’t even that until last week. What happened last week? I couldn’t get the Marc Cohn song out of my head. You know the one:

Then I'm walking in Memphis

Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale

Walking in Memphis

But do I really feel the way I feel?

I’d catch myself singing snippets of it, making 27 Dresses-style lyric mistakes all over town. Brushing my teeth, walking my dog, spreading straw in the yard? I was a Marc Cohn hit single on repeat.

Finally, I Googled it. (I do like to obsess properly, after all.) The lyrics were...well, once I knew the real words, they made a bit more sense than the garbled version I was belting at red lights. But it was what Marc had to say about this song and the Tennessee trip that inspired it that made all the thoughts and feelings I’d had about my work make sense:

I was reading an interview with James Taylor. The interviewer asked James what his antidote for writer’s block was. James responded, “I do a geographic,” meaning that he’d attempt to reawaken his sensibilities just by being someplace unfamiliar. He said, “I’ll take my guitar and put it in the trunk of my car, or I’ll get on a plane and go somewhere I’ve never been, hoping to find some idea I wouldn’t get just by sitting at home.”...

...I was 28 years old and not in love with my songs. James Taylor had written “Fire and Rain” when he was 18, and Jackson Browne wrote “These Days” when he was only 17. I thought, “I’m already ten years older than these geniuses. It’s never going to happen for me.” So it was a pretty desperate time, and I went to Memphis with that struggle at the forefront of my mind.

- Marc Cohn

True story: I teared up while reading Wikipedia

Often when I’m struggling while running a creative business, I think it might be easier to get through work days as a business owner if I wasn’t also a creative. I’m sure it’s not easy, but maybe...maybe just small bit easier, in some ways.

Because my work is intensely creative—especially my personal projects—there are boxes I feel the need to check that maybe I wouldn’t, otherwise:

I need to be inspired. I need to be provoked into a conversation I can contribute to with my creative work. In this context, I mean “inspired” on a big-picture level, not on a getting-through-my-to-do-list level. I believe that the best art and the best craft is made in response to something or as a contribution to something. It doesn’t exist in a bubble, and so, for me, neither does running a creative business.

I need to let my ideas grow up. My first ideas tend to be good, and I nearly always go back to them. But when they first erupt make it onto paper, they’re immature in the sense that they need time to develop into thoughtfully realized projects. This requires time. Space. Distance. And, almost always, significant personal growth.

I need to feel like I’ve earned it. I need to know that the work I’ve put in is great according to my standards. Rarely, this happens quickly—and it’s always a shock. More often, it’s the result of trial-and-error and a lot of hours logged solo. No feedback, no recognition, no nothing except for my own sense that this feels right, that this can move forward in a public way.

I work fiercely independently on my own projects, and while I sometimes show them to others, it’s usually to let someone know that this burgeoning work is a thing-in-progress. I don’t seek criticism. Truthfully, I don’t want criticism. I don’t want assistance. I like to find my own way, which is both flawed and intensely satisfying.

Knowing this about myself and my creative work—of which this blog is very much a part—I read this quote uttered by Marc Cohn and I felt my soul sigh in recognition:

One night while listening to all of my demos, I came to the realization that I shouldn't be signed, because I didn't have any great songs yet. My voice was good and the demos were interesting, but the songs were only just okay.

- Marc Cohn

It felt like exhaling—whoosh!—and realizing that these expectations I have for myself are not solely mine. It’s a delicious relief, the kind that wrings out your brain, wiping away the worry you’ve been feeling that maybe you aren’t going about this creative thing the right way.

That’s what I felt when I read the Wikipedia page for “Walking in Memphis,” truly. Relief, yes, and encouragement. Here was someone who’d been there decades ago, telling me—telling a vast swath of isolated, emotional, stuck creatives—that theses feelings of not being ready, of not knowing exactly what you needed to say, of need a pushing to reach a new level—that these were feelings you could move through.

And, maybe I had. I hadn’t gone to Memphis, but I’d been on a journey of a my own, and maybe that had done the trick.

Where I was when I wasn’t here

Briefly: I was reevaluating my place in the world.

I’ll share more on those smaller journeys and revelations later in other blog posts. For now, I’ll leave you with this: Even when you think you’re taking a break, your life and how you move through it is always changing. When one area seems in stasis, it’s less unchanging than you think. And even then, there are scores of other odds and ends for you to wrestle with.

As for where I was—literally—and what I was up to when I wasn’t here, sharing blog post prompts and teaching you how to brainstorm better content ideas, well, prepare yourself. If you’re wondering what a professional writer is doing when she isn’t here writing, rest easy knowing that your curiosity is going to be satisfied.

I was...

  • Writing. I just wasn’t blogging. Ghostwriting is my job, and I was busy working away at it.
  • Sewing. You can check out my handmade-focused Instagram account @seebrittcreate to see my latest completed project and a few that are currently in progress.
  • Celebrating. There’s a new baby in the world and she is beautiful (and not mine, in case you thought otherwise).
  • Traveling. Not to Memphis, no, but to other wonderful places that have featured in my life.
  • Moving. I’m not sure how many times. I am sure, however, that you ought not move in July. Bad idea.
  • Petsitting. It’s my new favorite part-time job because it comes with dogs, obviously.
  • Watching TV. My new obsession is women’s soccer. The NWSL needs fans, so here I am.
  • Baking. My gluten-free challah needs work, FYI.
  • Experimenting. One seedling of mine is called Try-mester. It’s an idea I had this spring for a new way to conceptualize scheduling and ensure that you make time for all the things you want to include in your days and weeks. You can follow along at the #trymester hashtag on Instagram.
  • Planning less. And you know what? I think it’s working. I think it’s enabling me to run a creative business that I struggle with less now than I did in the past.

More soon (I think). I feel back. I feel ready. But I’m not promising anything—it goes along with the “planning less” bit I’ve been focusing on lately.


Hello! My name is Brittany Taylor, and I am a ghostwriter based in Charleston, S.C.

Brittany Taylor


Hello! My name is Brittany Taylor, and I am a ghostwriter based in Charleston, S.C.


Brittany Taylor

Hello! My name is Brittany Taylor, and I am a ghostwriter based in Charleston, S.C.

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