Creator Stories

Audience over ego

audience-over-ego

It was April 2009, and Srini Rao graduated with an MBA – and no job offers. The economy had just crashed. So when he heard about someone creating a website called “Twitter Should Hire Me” that got a ton of press and subsequent job offers, he thought, why not try something similar? He called his website “100 Reasons You Should Hire Me.” There was just…

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How to survive as an indie musician

how-to-survive-as-an-indie-musician

The band Throw the Fight began like most bands do – playing in small clubs for “zero people” (unless you count the other bands waiting to go on, the bartender, or maybe the sound guy in the back). “There were so many bad shows,” lead guitarist Ryan Baustert remembers, but those were also the shows where they honed their craft. Even when no one showed…

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The fashion outsider

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Five-year-old Brandice Daniel and her mom walked hand-in-hand, straight to the sewing and fabric section of the store; “Pick a pattern out of the simplicity book,” her mom said. My mom sewed our clothes. Not because my mom was a designer, but because we were struggling so much financially. But young Brandice was uninspired by the simple patterns in the simplicity book. She preferred the…

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It all starts with the words

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Chris Craft’s first stories were told within stacks of carefully stapled construction paper. When he got older, his stories turned into raps, which he performed at small community concerts in Houston (little kids would come up to him and his friends afterwards and ask them to autograph their paper plates). In high school, he reached out to magazines and wrote album reviews and interviewed artists…

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Money is tape

money-is-tape

Khe was shy. “Nerdy.” Very insecure. The constantly running tape in his head during his teenage and college years? I'm not cool. He felt exposed and yet invisible. Young Khe in 1995. “I don't like who I am right now,” he thought. But instead of learning to like himself, he turned his attention outward. He focused on something that seemed easier – being seen. Recognized.…

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The natural, inherent value of you

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It started 10 years ago. Just outside a Manhattan night club. Jenell and her cousin Nenjae walked in; Nenjae turned to Jenell and said: “I’m thinking about going natural with my hair.” “What? You want to do what?” Jenell responded. “It was just so foreign to hear that a decade ago,” she remembers. Jenell had been chemically relaxing and straightening her hair since she was…

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How to take control of your creative life

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There was nothing in Jessica’s early life pointing to her future as a professional cartoonist; she drew a lot (of horses). But most kids drew. One of the horses Jessica drew as a kid in 1979. “I don't think there was any big neon pointer saying, You're going to be an artist,” she tells me. In high school, she drew an illustration for the school…

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Creating her own colors

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XayLi’s grandma Florencia was a creator, but everyone in the neighborhood just called her “mom.” Sitting in her place below the cash register at Florencia’s market in her childhood home of Trinidad, XayLi remembers being enamored with this business woman in her family. And Florencia didn’t think five years old was too young to learn about business: “She taught me to count money and about…

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The Bulldog

the-bulldog

So far, John Fox has received 1,700 rejection letters. He’s a fiction writer. Rejection is part of the deal. But John doesn’t mind. He has tenacity – what he (and his friends) call bull-dogged stubbornness. (John’s friends even call him “The Bulldog” and gave him a ceramic bulldog that sits on his desk.) But John didn’t always know how far such a penchant for endurance…

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The 5 month runway

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Sometimes, Teela cried during the hour-long commute to her agency job as a graphic designer in Atlanta. Her job was to help to create visuals for brands. But she wondered if she was enough. Her superiors kept rejecting her designs, and it made her question her worth as an artist. Am I just not a good artist? Should I be pursuing something else? Nobody wants…

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Empty Nesters

empty-nesters

Steve felt trapped. On the outside, his life looked great; he was an industrial engineer at the top of his career, managing a huge team and a multi-million dollar budget for building a new hospital – something he’d always dreamed about. But somewhere along the way, he’d lost that sense of imagination. Why did he feel so trapped in a life he’d created, a life…

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Giving yourself permission

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Angela’s watercolor paints kept disappearing and she couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t until she saw, well, “pastel-colored cockroach turds on the floor” that she realized cockroaches were eating her paint – just another symptom of life in the jungle. Angela grew up in Papua New Guinea with missionary parents who were from a small town in British Columbia, Canada. The jungle, even with the…

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Getting comfortable with instability

getting-comfortable-with-instability

When Nina Garcia found out she was expecting her first child she bought all the books and signed up for all the classes. But, as she remembers it, “there's a difference between knowing it in your head and actually experiencing it.” She went into labor in the middle of the night, and from that moment on nothing was quite like what she’d expected. No matter…

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Fireproof Optimism

fireproof-optimism

Eric doesn't usually create in the early morning; his best work typically happens at night. But on this particular morning, he got up earlier than usual to paint a sign for his friend’s tattoo shop. He opened all the windows of his second-floor apartment that day. He smelled something weird, but brushed it off. This was New York, after all. Things smelled weird sometimes. “If…

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“Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

“feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway.”

A story about risk, bravery, and finding the beautiful side of failure. Photography by Rachel at Greenhouse Photo. It happened at 3:00AM. Chaitra Radhakrishna called her boyfriend, waking him up, euphoric: “I think I know what I want to do in my life.” It all started with beauty bloggers, her first “friends” after leaving her home of Bangalore, India to move to the US for…

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“It was good to feel embarrassed.”

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How embarrassment gave motion designer Austin Saylor the motivation and courage to overcome procrastination and perfectionism. Photography by Keith Pitts It was the middle of the night, and Austin shot up out of bed – someone was banging on the door in the nearby apartment breezeway. His wife Rachel bolted upright and asked, “Did you hear that?” They listened closely. Someone was shouting. “Get out!…

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Do it yourself; own your story, own your power, and speak your truth.

do-it-yourself;-own-your-story,-own-your-power,-and-speak-your-truth.

A story about blazing trails, paying it forward, and going for your dreams even when you’re down to your last $10. Photography By Henry Thong. To Gloria Atanmo, “Travel was a rich kid’s hobby” – it wasn’t something she ever envisioned herself doing. In college, she traveled only locally for basketball and tennis as a double collegiate athlete at Baker University in Kansas. The athletics…

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“I think if you have an artist inside you, you know it.”

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A story of becoming an artist, embracing the digital, and seeing every technological shift as an opportunity to communicate the things that never change. Photography by Isadora Kosofsky. Kimberly Brooks says she likes my outfit – dark high-waisted jeans, a Taylor Swift-Stella McCartney T-shirt with a kitten on the front, black wedge sneakers, and a red-striped blazer. On any day, from anyone, a compliment like…

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“Because they believed in me I believed in myself.”

“because-they-believed-in-me-i-believed-in-myself.”

How Courtland Allen didn’t let five years of failure or burnout stop him from pursuing his dream. Photography by Kati at Xilo Photography. Disclosure: The story below mentions Stripe; ConvertKit is a paying customer of Stripe. When Courtland Allen was a kid, computers were his playground – literally. His mom owned a company that sold computer hardware during the 90’s dot-com boom and Courtland and…

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