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I’ve got Moxie

…a small share of it, anyway. Picked it up by osmosis at the fantabulous MoxieCon, the second of its kind, put on by the wondrous women of Quite Strong.

Good lord, this is how I keep working. I get so dragged down with endless images pasted into Word files, last-minute printing “emergencies,” requests to “spruce up” PowerPoint presentations with “some graphics” and yes, the infamous “I’ll know it when I see it” or “Make it pop!” that I need… NEED events like this to help remind me why I love what I do. And hoo boy did these ladies deliver.

So, 200-ish creative types got up early, on a Saturday, and forged our way through some of the most disruptive CTA construction in decades to get to the venue and spend one of the first gorgeous days of spring… indoors. There, they fed us full of coffee, that lifeblood vital to so many of us. They know us well. We also got some snazzy bags full o’ goodies… and a granola bar (not pictured, because I ate it).

bag of conference giveaways spread on a table
If anyone can tell me what that round orange dingus is, you win.

First up was Jen Myers, holy-crap-wow designer/developer/teacher extraordinaire and new Chicago transplant! (yes?) *waves* Jen had lots to say about how to change the world with a girl and a computer (and some little blue people), the boys’ club of code, and why there is (are? might be?) such a miniscule percentage of ladies doing awesome stuff they’re interested in. My favorite point/analogy she made was about designing interfaces. The code behind what you see on the intarwebs or in your phone doesn’t have to change in order for the way you, as humans, interact with it to be radically revamped. (You’re reading this post in a recently-changed blog format/look, but I’m still creating it using the same code as before the layout changed.) Jen suggests that the same might go for outdated systems of human interaction, much of which seems to be hard-wired or ponderously slow to change. Even if we have a back end/social system that’s a mess, that doesn’t work for humans, maybe we can change the interface. Yes? Yes!

Elle Luna then left us all buzzing with her presentation, despite announcing that it might not work. And she’s unemployed. And left not one, but TWO dream jobs for a white room full of paint. I cannot even explain why this made so much damn SENSE, but she urged us all to find our calling, decide the difference between what we can do and what we must do, figure out what we burn for, and take the leap to GO DO IT. Best part? She told us about the scared-out-of-your-mind parts. The massive anxiety. The need to hide. But gorram it, awesome stuff happens.

How do you follow that? If you’re Rob Loukotka, with line drawings and a fantastic workshop of which I am insanely jealous and I’ve never even seen the thing. His approach is basically, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Well, that would be death, and everyone dies, so you can just take that off the excuse table right now. Everything else is manageable. Bring friends. He also recommends not having a plan B, because it distracts from plan A, and is a strong advocate of pajama time.

Then it was strategery time! Max Shapiro told us all about figuring it all out. Look at the status quo, determine what equals success… your job isn’t to know, but to find out. You collect all this data, now sort it into information (like taking home your Halloween loot). Also a musician, Max likened this process to writing a song, where your data points are the notes, and the information is a melody.

Susan Betteridge then told us a story. Of how stories are important. People connect over stories, tell them! And, most importantly, she reminded me of this truth: clients stop listening once you reveal the work. Tell the story of your methods and reasons first, then let them get nit-picky over copy someone else wrote.

sheet of four square letterpress coasters
They even gave us coasters. Quite possibly for beer. Thoughtful!

After lunch was illustrator Lisa Congdon, who didn’t even get started painting until 31. Yes, years old. <3. She loves collections, and shared a collection of ten things we might like to be. My favorites were Be Prolific (MAKE ALL THE THINGS!), Be Communal (keep your good people around you) and Be Brave (show your work to people, dammit). No, wait, they were all my favorites!

It all got real when Travis Life arrived to tell us all how to lawyer up. This man used every transition in PowerPoint, in order. All the drop-shadows. All the reflections. He OWNED it. And explained how all that legal mumbo-jumbo that we prefer to avoid can help us own it, too. (Except “it” is our own work, and thankfully not PowerPoint transitions.) Registering your copyright? So worth it. Termination clauses/terms in your contracts? That, too.

Mare Swallow then brought us all a little seriousness-segue by telling us all why she would not like to work with us. Cheapo business cards… or none at all? (How is one meant to remember to look you up later, O Person Who Would Like A Job?) Ugh-ly website with glaring errors? No “thank you”s? Not doing your homework? Why would she want to hire you? I wouldn’t. Get your poop in a group and get ready to network; you want to impress this woman.

He’s one of the originators of Humans vs. Zombies. His favorite Card Against Humanity is “Rush Limbaugh’s soft, shitty body.” Max Temkin presented to us, in all its fantasticity,
“30 Power Tips to Synergize Your Cloud-Based Revenue Stream Community.” Also, video snippets rather thought-provoking for a guy whose job title is “Wizard.”

Ann Friedman likes animated gifs. Starting with this one, because she’s talkin’ ’bout dem haters. Utilizing her fantastic Disapproval Matrix, we learned how the “frenemies” category includes toddlers and exes, and that how you respond to people noticing you is, in fact, up to you.

Oh, did I forget about lunch? The fab afterparty at The Point? Sorry, enjoying myself too much to take notes. Seriously, guys, if you have the opportunity to go hang with folks who do the same stuff you do, GO DO IT. Every once in a while, get out there and see other peoples’ stuff. Learn about what they’re doing. See if you can play, too. I’m lucky in that I’m in a field that has conferences and events and whatnot at least every once in a while, ranging from free to ludicrously expensive, but not all of us do.

Get a group studio together. Sign up for some co-working space. Find a random Meetup. Go have drinks with yer arty friends. Dare I say it… take a class. It’s so worth it to help you remember why you love what you do.

Closeup of Moxie program text
How to Get Paid.

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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