The Cost of Living

Posted On February 15, 2010

   After eighteen months of attempting to make a go of this business idea of mine, I’ve finally managed to corral my ducks into a ten-acre pond. Getting them in a row, however, will be more work. A couple of days after moving into my condo, I was sitting at my kitchen table, wondering, “What now?” As I’m sure you’ve been warned, be careful what you wish for, and don’t ask questions you really don’t want to know the answer to! Just as the words and ideas and issues that come forth when I write, the answer to my question arose in my mind. ‘Start a business.’ Write and sell your books, follow through on all the ideas you’ve had and created for helping students learn classroom material, and use horses to help humans, who have suffered trauma, rebuild their lives. Okay, a tall order, but I was up for the challenge. Like most tasks before us, we choose the ones we like, or the ones that are easiest, first. I chose writing.

   As most of you know, I’ve decided that outsourcing for the myriad jobs I know nothing about saves me time in figuring them out for myself, and money in the long run since I probably wouldn’t have gotten as many books in print as I do if I’d insisted on doing it all myself. It also gives me a few warm fuzzies to know that I’m helping my fellow humans in their endeavor to make ends meet. In that effort, and after months of attempting to locate marketing assistance, I gave in to the fact that I’d have to do it myself. I spent the money, received the materials (a binder and some audio CD’s of the same material) and was a bit disappointed. I’d spent a fair coin, and hoped that the material was . . . larger, more impressive. Making a point to sit with the binder of material for a little time each day, I realized how much I didn’t know about marketing and sales (like I needed a reminder!), and then how glad I was that I’d spent the cash and the required time to read it and make sense of it. Now the eagerness to put the ideas into effect have breathed a little bit of life into my flagging motivation for this whole entrepreneur idea. Of course, to have the ideas and suggestions for marketing be effective (i.e. sell my stuff) it will still take some time and money, but I’m hopeful that the payoff will be worth it, and I’ll be able to make a living doing something outside the classroom. In working through the material, I’m answering questions that are designed to hone my idea of what I want my lifestyle to be, what I offer my clients, and how I decide that what I have to offer is unique and solves problems for others. For those of you who have a business background, I’m sure this is very basic. For me, a revolutionary thought. If you’ve been to my web site, I’ll tell you that it will be changed very soon, instigating some of the ideas suggested to spark more interest, and more sales. I’ll also be removing one area of focus and replacing it with another.

   I think that there are many business owners who, when asked why they went into business for themselves, would answer, “to make money”. And really, that is the bottom line in so many of the things we do. The reason why we graduate from high school with a diploma and college with a degree is to help us get a better job so we can earn more money. Granted, many people may answer the question of why they do what they do with, “to help people” or “to make the world a better place”. Both are noble pursuits and certainly underline what I’ve chosen to do with my working career thus far, as well as what I hope to do with my business. With some businesses, such as car repair places or grocery stores or hardware stores, they certainly offer what the rest of us need in order for our lives to function and for us to contribute in our way to making money (to spend on their goods and services), help people (as they certainly do), and to make the world a better place (something I believe we’re all working towards). I passed Economics in high school and have contributed to our free enterprise system with its supply and demand economy, sometimes questioning the cost of the item or experience in comparison to what I have available to spend (most recently the cost of attending the Eagles concert in Phoenix at $180 a ticket).

   In designing my tagline, for lack of a better description, for each of the three prongs of what I’ve staunchly determined will be part of my business, I’ve been forced to look at what I can offer people in terms of how I can help them solve their problems. After brainstorming some ideas and answering more questions from this marketing material I’ve purchased, I’ve realized what is standing in the way of making sales (the purpose behind every business, even nonprofit, so that the money can be spent) is time and money. Being involved in public education for nineteen years, I can fully understand and sympathize with issues concerning both.

   I know it is because of my experience in education, that my materials would be very useful for teachers. They are affordable, easy to use, involve no technology, can be reused year after year, shared with other teachers, require no assembly and very little copying, and are convenient to store in a regular file cabinet, thus saving the teacher time and money. Due to my in-depth yoga training, and the difference it has made in my life, I believe that there are many people who can benefit from what I know and can bring to others. Some of these people are reluctant to attend a studio for a variety of reasons, among the top being time and money. Both of these avenues of my business can be marketed as solving problems and providing a service or product that people would be willing to depart with their hard-earned cash for the opportunity to experience. Then there are my books. Certainly a joy to me, but costly, since I self-publish. Like the other efforts in my business, this, too, costs me time and money to produce, knowing that I’m asking people for their money to buy and their time to read, and hopefully enjoy, my stories.

   When a friend asks how it’s going, how many books I’ve sold, and if I’ve made any headway on my life goals, I just shake my head. Those that have read my books (and sticking to my writing here since this is what this blog is supposed to be about) have reported that they’ve enjoyed them and are usually anxious for the next one to be in print. Then there are those who haven’t read my books and when they hear how much I’m asking for them (no more than a brick-and-mortar bookstore), they balk. I can understand. Who’d want to spend $15 on something, not knowing if it will be liked, guessing it could only be enjoyed once, and really, who reads much these days, anyway? Take a look in your closet. Can you find something that cost $15 that you really love, have been able to use a bunch of times, loaned out to friends, has challenged your thinking and encouraged you to ask questions (maybe those jeans from 1985), or been a topic of conversation? Okay, so maybe some of you DO have that item in your closet! But did you second guess yourself on the need, the cost? Did you look at the tag and realize that it might have been made in a country that uses child labor or has to be dry cleaned, which generally means tons of toxic chemicals leaking into the air and ground water? (A few of my passions showing here.) What it all comes down to is the cost of living.

   I’m curious about how many artists (dancers, painters, sculptors, etc.) make a ‘living’ selling their art. And how do they determine how much their creativity is worth? What about the time and money they’ve invested in their materials, perfecting their craft, making their creations available to the rest of us to encourage us to feel as they do? How do we, as patrons of the arts, leverage how much cash we spend for the length of enjoyment we receive? I don’t watch the news, and haven’t for years, except the few things that trickle in before the weather report. However, even I know that things have been rough in the U.S. and globally. There is talk that the Euro will be eliminated, that unemployment and homelessness will continue to skyrocket. Remember, I teach in a public school, and what I see walking through my door every day is a direct reflection of society. So, I’m not that ignorant that I don’t know that people are saving their pennies.

   If you’ll allow me to step from the world of the tangible to that of the intangible, most of us know that everything is energy, including money. Paying bills, earning $10 for mowing the neighbor’s lawn, then depositing $5 in the basket at church so that they can keep the lights on for those who need a place to find hope, getting the car fixed, buying new shoes so that the gym membership can be used, physical energy is increased so one “feels” better, can work more efficient, earn a pay check to spend at the grocery store, to pay the truckers and the farmers, then purchase a CD or go to the movies or buy a print to hang on the wall. Or buy a book. It is cyclical. We all need each other, not only to earn a living, but to support others who offer enrichment to our lives, whether that is a new shirt, a frozen pizza, or a story told in music, dance, paint, or words.

   In an earlier post, I suggested that we change our perspective, such as what a gift under a Christmas tree might see or feel. What would a dollar or coin tell of its life? How would it feel about being used for snorting cocaine versus tossed into the open guitar case of a street musician or slid into the slot of a vending machine? Maybe take this a giant step further, and consider what our lives would be like if artists ceased to create. Would the rest of us step up and dabble in it, be brave enough to share what we’ve created, allow that wellspring that I believe exists within each of us to bubble forth to express the way we interpret the environment around us? Or would the world lose its technicolor? Would we no longer have anything to draw our attention outside of ourselves to the beauty and the challenge that artists offer us? Just curious. Are you? They write about it, draw what it would look like, paint it, if you can. What notes would issue forth from your instrument if you were to depict a society with no art? Really, what is the cost of living? And is there ‘living’ with no creativity?

   Because I believe in shared energy and that what I create is worth reading, here is your opportunity to get something for free. The first few chapters of my books, some short stories, and some poems are listed on my web site. They’ll still be there, probably, once I revamp it, hoping to encourage people to contribute to not only mine, but their own, cost of living.

Written by Michele Venne

Writer of immersive and intriguing stories.

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