Ass+u+me: How Assumptions Hurt Your Business


Definition of assumption (n)

  • as·sump·tion
  • [ ə súmpshən ]
  1. something taken for granted: something that is believed to be true without proof
  2. belief without proof: the belief that something is true without having any proof

We all make assumptions. It’s human nature. We take whatever bits of information we have available to us, filter them through the limited view of our window on the world, and start piecing together a story about what it all means.

There’s actually no harm in doing this. It can even be a useful exercise. But things get dangerous when you forget that what you’re doing is forming a hypothesis, and start making decisions under the delusion that you’ve already discovered the truth without bothering to test the hypothesis.

Attempting to build and run a small business on a series of assumptions is a recipe for disaster. An assumption that is built on a reasonable knowledge base can be a great jumping off place, but it’s just the beginning.

When it comes to business, the only thing you should ever assume is responsibility.

You assume that if you follow up with past clients you’ll be bugging them, when maybe the truth is that they’ve been meaning to contact you, but keep forgetting, because life is busy.

You assume that it’s a crazy pipe dream to quit your day job to pursue your dreams, because when you were thirteen your dad told you that painting is a hobby, not a career, and you needed to be realistic. Sadly, your dad didn’t know anyone who made a living painting, but if you do a little research, you’ll discover that people do that.

You assume that you don’t have what it takes to advertise successfully. In fact, you’ve convinced yourself that this is why your business is failing. How do you know? Have you read books on the subject? Attended courses? Hired someone to teach you? And if you did do those things, did you actually attempt to implement what you learned? How many hours a week do you spend on advertising?

A lot of the assumptions we make are based on fear and low self-esteem, and the only way to move out of these inhibiting thought patterns is by pattern interruption. This doesn’t mean that you won’t think the thoughts. It just means that you won’t let the thoughts dictate your actions. These paralyzing assumptions don’t just hurt your business, they can actually stop it before you start. A lot of fantastic ideas have never seen the light of day because of this type of thinking.

The other side of this ever-spinning coin would be assumptions made out of arrogance or full-on delusional thinking. These are the things that lead to impulsive, and oftentimes disastrous, decision making. If you’ve come up with a fantastic business idea and have decided to tell your boss to shove off tomorrow, even though you only have twenty bucks to your name and haven’t even taken the first step towards turning that great idea into a reality, please reconsider.

There are different types of programs, tools, and professionals that help business owners make decisions that test assumptions and provide data and feedback for informed decision making. A lot of them are fantastic, so I’d never suggest that business owners should bypass these services. However, if you’re on a tight budget, they can be cost prohibitive. Luckily, when you’re just starting out, you can take a much simpler approach that won’t cost you a cent.

Instead of assuming that you know what people are thinking, ask them. Instead of assuming that an idea will work or fail, test it on a small scale. And most importantly, do not ever, ever, ever assume that you’re not good at something unless you’ve invested a significant amount of time and effort trying to get good at that thing.

Letting assumptions rule your life keeps you in a perpetual state of ignorance. You’re too smart to hang out there.

What assumptions have you been making about your business that may not be true? What steps can you take to test the validity of your beliefs?




Monkeys, Squirrels, Artists, and Shiny Things

SquirrelDo you misplace your keys, lose track of time and show up late for appointments, or only remember to pay your bills once the disconnect notice arrives? What about projects and deadlines? Do you start everything you do with a bang, only to fizzle out before you finish? Or maybe you just have trouble sticking to a routine that keeps your life running smoothly. In any case, I feel you.

I’ve been there. Until a few years ago, my life was a hot mess of distraction. It’s a trait that seems to go hand in hand with creative brilliance, and since so many of my clients and readers fall into the brilliant artist or entrepreneur category, organization and project planning is a frequent focus of my work. I’ve been outlining my systems during one-on-one consults for months, and I’ve seen them work for all sorts of people.

The benefit to focusing on this type of work via private consultations is that we can ask each other questions, dialogue, and then use the shared information to  customize a plan that works for your unique situation. The drawback, of course, is that not everyone has the money to pay for one-on-one creativity consultations to help them organize their lives and creative endeavors. I’ve compiled and condensed the basics into an ebook, “Monkeys, Squirrels, Artists, and Shiny Things,” so you can access the information anytime you want. You can buy it here for just $5.99. If you don’t have a Kindle, or you’d be just as happy with a simple PDF, click here to buy it for $3.99. Just send me a note with your payment, and I’ll email you the file.

If you’re looking for a miracle fix, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a simple strategy to get yourself organized that doesn’t require anything fancy or expensive, give it a shot. I did the legwork of several years of trial and error (lots and lots of error) to figure out how to simplify in a way that isn’t complicated. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found that approach to work for more than a few days. All you’ll need to get started is a notebook with three sections, a pen, and the commitment to try something new.

Note: The reviews are positive so far, but there aren’t many! You can read them here. After you read the book, if you’d do me the favor of writing a review, I’d really appreciate it!

In the Spotlight: Marybeth Bonfiglio, Creatrix of Our Word


For nearly a decade, I have had the pleasure of watching Marybeth Bonfiglio expand, create, and transform, all while remain perfectly, inimitably herself.
With the creation of Our Word, she has offered up the opportunity to be your own, true, perfect self, changeable and unchanging, within the support of an online community. 
Show up. Be seen. Be true to Your Word. – Mani
How did Our Word come to be? And what does it mean to you?
I created it because I wanted it for myself.  Isn’t that how so much of life works? And doesn’t it feel so real that way?  Writing can be so isolating and alone and quite honestly, can drive you a bit batty if you are doing it not only for your creative process and joy, but also for work- which is what I do.  I was doing so much writing work for clients and also doing all the story branding for Amulet, the field guide I publish-  that I felt I was losing my own voice {which isn’t always bad because finding a new one is always exciting}. I wanted community around this- the highs and lows of writing.  I wanted to gather writers, as guides who hold impeccable and raw space, because I needed to be held.  And I wanted to invite those who were ready to claim their Voice because I was so ready to re-claim mine.  So I asked, and I got a hell of a lot of yeses. And so I knew it was meant to be.  And it means the world to me. Like, I am almost wordless around it.  But I am smiling. And clutching my heart. And nodding my head yes. And maybe even holding my fist in the air. 
There are so many different types of writing courses available online, and each of them have their own unique offerings and worth. Tell us what it is about Our Word that makes it unique? What will people experience in this course that they can’t get elsewhere?
What makes this special to me is that there is no “teaching”.  There is no right or wrong.  There is no workshopping. There are no deadlines.  There is no end result.  This course is truly about the process, and that the process is the reward, the fruit, the jewel, the healing, the best kind of writing for our soul’s awakenings.  It’s about intuitive writing which to me means the writing that sits bubbling under the surface of the skin, that courses through the blood, that lays dormant in the hips.  And when we unleash it we are kind of in awe about what we have to say, like,  “Holy fuck! I had no idea that I felt that way or needed to say that or that I believed in that…” etc. Another thing I love about it is that there are 5 guides, myself and 4 other incredible humans/writers who are not there to teach but to subtly hold space and offer spectacular stories, content, and prompts each day of the weeks.  So you get a lovely variety of people, real diversity.  This session’s “themes” spanned from Place, Truth, Naming, Embodied, and Vision.  And really, it all boils down to the One Truth anyway, ya know?  It’s just so much fun to take different paths to it.  
Also, you can take Our Word on your own time or you can do it with a group of us who gather together on a private forum.  You can share your writing or you don’t have to share your writing.  You can show up or you don’t have to.  The point is WE all trust the process, that is what we are all about: trusting this process. You wanna be a writer? Well you are. This doesn’t mean ‘writing something amazing every day’ or even to write every single day.  I think that’s all bullshit.  Writing is an art, it’s creation’s breath, it’s the stories of our lives and the lives of the multiverse. It’s a spiritual practice. It is prayer. Mantra.  Intention, in my opinion, is bigger and bolder than writing brilliant words every single day.  The intention that your intuition guides you in writing truth. For me,  that’s the golden key to writing bliss, that right there. 
I’ve heard so many people express that they’d love to take a writing course, but they’re afraid. Afraid of being out of their league, afraid of being the least talented person in the group, afraid of being revealed as not a “real” writer. If someone is feeling that way, and they’re wondering if Our Word is right for them, what should they know?
We have people in the class from age 17 to age 70.  We have people who haven’t written their entire lives.  We have people who have haven been published and are read internationally.  We have some seriously badass wordsmiths.  And we have people who are bursting out fire and brimstone and messy, raw beauty.  This is a collective, a space for us all.  This is not about good or bad.  Right or wrong.  This isn’t about publishing. This is about showing up because it’s something you want.  The tenderness and kindness and compassion that Our Word participants and guides offer is like heart-splitting.  I am humbled and honored and blown away by how we all have each other’s back.  And we all do our best to share the love.  And really, when you write unapolegeticaly, it’s always amazing, right? I encourage everyone to share their raw, unedited stuff {as well as their revised stuff}.  This is about voice.  How can voice be ‘real’ or ‘unreal’? It’s Voice. It’s the vibration and form we put to our experiences.  Sometimes it ain’t pretty.  But it’s always magnificent and alive.  If you sign up for Our Word- you are a real writer and every one in the space honors that.  We don’t throw around pedigree in there.  We are all peers, and are all in the dark, mucky bog, as well as walking the illuminated path together.  And it’s beautiful.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What type of people will get the most out of Our Word?
People who enjoy throwing words around.  People who are looking to cultivate or expand their Voice.  People who are looking for community, to share their process, and give support to others.  People who want to create space and time in their lives to write and tell stories. People who love.  People who pay attention.  People who believe that stories can heal, blow-up blocks, and turn the world inside out.  I think it’s for anyone who wants to practice writing. And anybody how knows how to be truthful, kind, respectful, and creative.
You wear a lot of hats. You’re an entrepreneur, a writer, a yogini, one hell of a dancer, a woman, a partner, a mama… and I know I’m missing dozens of things; that’s just a small sampling. How do you balance it all? Do you balance it all? Do you even believe in work/life balance? What the hell does balance mean, anyway?
Balance as something to “achieve” is an illusion.  This is interesting that you ask.  I was at the beach last week with 2 beautiful sisters, doing a releasing ceremony around a totally illegal beach fire.  And during the ceremony I pulled a card that was Balance.  Balance is a practice. There is no end result that is actually balanced.  I think it’s about leaning into this and then leaning into that.  Then rocking this way and then rocking that way.  I think it is putting things down and picking things up.  I think it’s about walking away and walking closer.  
In general,  I am scattered. Chaos. Wildfire. Do too much.  Need to slow down.  But also, my arrow is steady.  I have vision. And so I do what it is front of me.  I breathe.  I sway.  I try to grow roots down into the earth so I don’t fall.  When I do fall, which is very often,  I get back up. Also, your advice on making a big master list, working in 90 minute intervals, and doing my work early in the morning has helped me feel so much saner. 
So yeah. Balance.  It’s like dancing. I think balance is just going out to dance more and also sitting alone some more and also knowing how much to carry at any given moment. 
Putting together any sort of class, especially one held online, comes with its own set of challenges. What are some of the challenges you faced while creating this amazing course?
Seriously? I don’t think I had any challenges. I know it sounds crazy, but the women I asked to guide last Fall and this Spring showed up fully, and delivered content that cracked my brain into a thousand pieces.  I had amazing technical support from Danielle at Elevated Synergy, making sure the website was doing what it was supposed to do, and also, I have a Virtual Angel/Assistant, Pamela Rudisill, who just knows exactly what to do when I feel like too many emails are coming in or Mailchimp isn’t working.  
Okay, so, being honest, I need to say this- I was challenged.   I worried I was not worthy of creating this.  I was worried I wasn’t “good” enough or that people wouldn’t want to do it.  I had to really work through that.  Because much of this course is about my life work of holding space for Voice to be be Born. And so of course, it was big for me, and it was deep, and it was scary. And I had to work through a lot of my own bullshit to remember that I wasn’t the best writer, or best guide, or best anything at all, and that was okay.  But that this was important. And needed. And that who was meant to come into this circle would.  It wasn’t easy for me to release that doubt.  But when I did, it was like all unicorns and rainbows and whiskey + gingers, for real. It was all love.  
I know that the current Our Word course is already in session. When is the next one happening?
My intention is to do every fall and every spring.  So I am thinking right around the beginning of October will be the next session.  
There are a lot of people out there putting their creative needs and desires last. I see this across the board, but in particular with mothers. All too often, it’s thought of as a luxury. It’s something that gets squeezed in while running from here to there, putting the needs and wants of children, partners, the household, friends, extended family, and the dog first. Do you have any advice on making the creative process a priority?
Oh girl.  It’s so hard.  For a really long time, pregnancy, birth, nursing, mothering, and cooking was my creative process {and blogging}.  I think that there was this natural and organic process that happened when the kids started to need me a little less.  And I created the space in those times when they didn’t need me.  I created space to create.  And that could look a million different ways: yoga, a hike in nature, lying on the beach, alone with my journal, diving deep into my tarot cards.  It isn’t a luxury.  It’s a necessity.  That I can say for sure.  Because when I am creative on a level beyond mothering {although mothering is a source of all my creation, that is my truth} I am a better human and I am living my path.  And i want my children to see that me.  By not giving myself that time, and not allowing them to see me grow is a disservice to them.  So when I think about my creative work, I think of it not just for myself or the people I am offering myself up to, but I think about how it is a gift to them- that they can receive a mother who is on the path of Wholeness, a whole person.  And that will give them permission to be whole and creative,  and really, to be who they are.  And that is all I want for them, is for them to be who they came here to be.  So it’s full circle, really.  We are all One.
Music for the Muse. What do you like to listen to while you write?
Fleet Foxes, Big Star, Superchunk, Warpaint, Bon Iver, Laura Marling, JJ Cale, The National… I like mellow music that doesn’t jolt me.  This isn’t the kind of stuff I like to dance to, or drive to, or cook to.  But I love jazzy, bluesy, acoustic stuff that just flows, to write to.  My friend Courtney has an AMAZING playlist I am listening to right now as I type called Music To Work To.  She has curated the flow so that it all feel like one lovely ride, without any tempo shifts or loud changes.  Let me know if you want her spotify info because she’s my favorite spotify dj! Big Up, Courtney! 
Tell me something good. Anything. Whatever pops into your head in this moment.
Oh my god, I want buttermilk fried chicken in this moment so badly I can taste it. And I want to dip it in wasabi ranch dressing.  I want another tattoo right now, on my right hip.  I want to go swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean.  Also, I cannot wait to go to New Orleans at the end of this month with Beyond.  I can smell that place as I type these words.  I am literally tingly down there thinking about it! 
And also. I love you. You are such a muse. 
Well, damn. I am so glad I asked. I love you, too. Mutual love and muse-dom all up in here right now. 
I am a mother, writer, teacher, alchemist, and lyrical gangster.  I throw down tarot stories and rattle broken bones back together. Chicory root in the morning opens my eyes, and caramel in the fall turns me right on.  I happily weave back and forth from the mossy, lady ferned forest to the heavy bass and downbeat of the city against my bare legs.  There is something about both blood and fire that pulls me back and forward and makes me want to know more about the things that have been hidden, the secrets. There is something about it all, everything under the sun, that makes me open my palms and place them over my heart in pure devotion.
You can read me at all these places:
www.marybethbonfiglio.com {where you can find more out about Our Word}

Dominate: The Mini-Con Welcomes Doug Anderson

doug cropped b

Doug Anderson’s first full length book of poems, The Moon Reflected Fire, received the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Blues for Unemployed Secret Police, won a grant from the Academy of American Poets.  He has received awards and fellowships from many organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, The Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Massachusetts Artists Foundation, Poets & Writers, The Virginia Quarterly Review.  His memoir, Keep Your Head Down, about Vietnam and the 1960s, was published by W.W. Norton in 2009.  He is also a visual artist, and teaches in the Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College in Boston.

Collaboration is an important part of the creative process, but it doesn’t always come easily. For many artists and entrepreneurs, myself included, the line between our endeavors and our Selves is thin.

We pour our hearts and souls into our work. We aren’t just offering an inanimate thing to our customers and clients, we offer up pieces of our being. This is good. This is what makes our offerings worthwhile.

But it can also be scary. Especially when we open up beyond just giving ourselves to the work, but including other people in our process. It’s a statement of faith and a handing over of trust.

When I came up with the idea to hold a mini-con this summer, I immediately knew that I didn’t want to be the only guide. I also knew that if I decided to invite other people to offer workshops, I needed them to be people I know well and trust implicitly.

I love my job. I care deeply for the people with whom I work. Before you’ve even told me your name, I am thinking about how our time together will affect you and your work. I care that you receive something valuable in exchange for your money. I care that you feel seen and heard. I care that you are treated with respect and kindness. Anything less than that is less than I want for you.

I had zero hesitation about inviting Doug to teach a three-hour writing workshop. The decision was as solid and crystal clear as a diamond. I know Doug’s writing. I also know him as a friend. I trust his skill and his character implicitly. I would trust him with my life, and I trust him with my clients.

Not only is Doug an accomplished writer and respected teacher, he’s hella good fun. His wit, intellect, and kindness, combined with his professional and creative background, make him a perfect fit for our weekend together.

If you’re feeling any sort of hesitation or fear about writing in a group setting, relax your shoulders and take a deep breath. It doesn’t matter if you’re attending this conference because you want to write a novel or you knit sweaters for a living, I promise you that this writing intensive will be worthwhile.

I’m so excited to have the opportunity to invite you to learn with Doug Anderson. We’re going to have a blast! Join us in July.




In the Spotlight: An Interview with Miki Devivo, Photographer and Owner of The Lovely Now


photo courtesy of Miki Devivo, The Lovely Now

photo courtesy of Miki Devivo, The Lovely Now

Miki Devivo, photographer and owner of The Lovely Now, specializes in capturing the ordinary moments that make our lives extraordinary. Her devotion to seeing and reflecting the unadulterated beauty of daily life, allows people to view their lives in a new way. She doesn’t just capture images of people. She really sees them.

Every photographer brings a unique set of gifts to their shoots. What is the essence of your mission as a photographer?

My mission as a photographer is to see you and your life, the beauty and love that’s there all the time, but that you might have become blind to because you’re surrounded by all the busyness and “stuff” of living.

I want to help people focus on what matters most to them. I want to make their love tangible, to help them literally be able to show their families just how much they love them.

I believe that seeing is loving. And that when we give someone the gift of being truly seen, it strengthens and deepens our connection with each other.

Before I begin each shoot, or if I find my inner critic getting too loud during a session, I say a little prayer. I ask to see what the families I work with need to see in themselves. In this way, I get to be a reflector of the very best parts of who they are in all their realness.

Tell us about The Book of Love. What inspired you to offer this to the families you photograph?

I wanted to create a relaxed and thoughtful way to capture the perfectly imperfect, candid, in-between moments of everyday life that tell the story of a family. 

As parents, we have those moments when our hearts overflow with love, and we feel deeply connected and fully alive. We want that feeling to last forever, but we cannot capture it ourselves, and we know that eventually the moment will pass and that life will move forward.

Based on the belief that our love grows when we make the time to truly see one another, the Book of Love experience artfully chronicles a family’s history through a collection of stories that give voice to what’s in the heart, and images that capture the tenderness of the little details and in-between moments that make up life together.

The Book of Love experience captures not only what your family looks like, but also how you feel about each other, so that you can strengthen and deepen your connection to each other in the present and relive that heartfelt tenderness for years to come.

I’ve been privileged to witness the evolution of your photography over several years. How would you describe the changes and growth you’ve experienced from the time you started taking pictures until now?

When I was first learning, I looked at the work of a lot of great photographers and tried to make my work look like theirs. This is a really great way to learn about an art form, and to see what’s possible. But I noticed that when I tried to recreate someone else’s look, I felt really stressed out and it took me out of the present moment. The amount of pressure I put on myself and the negative self-talk that ran through my head was really damaging to my tender heart.

I actually stopped photographing for a while because I was so burnt out. And then one day a friend asked me about my photography, and I said, “What I’d really love to do is just take pictures of people hanging out at home in their living rooms,” and I realized that if that’s what I wanted to do, then that’s what I needed to start claiming as my work.

Once I freed myself up to create the conditions to do the thing that I loved doing, my work got so much better. I was able to make conscious and intentional the things that made me happy, and that set me and the families I work with up for success.

So now I’m really leaning into that process. And it’s also allowed me to trust myself. I take a LOT of pictures when I’m working. And I used to have a hang-up about that, because there’s a saying in the photography world that there are “picture takers and picture makers”. And of course, I wanted to be the better one, the maker. But that led me to feeling so much shame around not being able to nail it in one shot.

But when you’re working with real life, the moments come and the moments go, and I have to keep shooting through the moment in order to catch just the right gesture and shape. Ansel Adams photographed mountains. They didn’t move on him too much, so he had a lot of time to plan. With kids, with families, they move fast, and I need to be right there with them.

The biggest shift is that I’ve learned about how I work best, and honed my process so that I can be fully in the moment. And that’s what brought me to the place where I can reflect back to people the beauty that I see in them. Because I’m there, and present with them. I couldn’t do that before, when I was trying to be someone I’m not, or being super judgmental of myself.

What was your experience of shifting from a hobbyist to a professional photographer?

I think the shift for me was that process of coming to believe in myself. Also, in realizing that this is my business, and I can arrange it just exactly how I want it to be. For a long time, I thought I had to structure what I did to look just like what the professional association said photography businesses should look like. But that was just pissing me off. So I went back to the drawing board and created my offering to be exactly what worked best for me and my strengths. And I also got rid of all the things that made me cranky.

Another piece of the shift for me was in the self-trust. I had proven to myself that I could be reliable and consistent in my quality. I discovered the why behind what I do. So more than being just a person who could take pretty pictures, it’s become about creating this emotional experience for clients, and creating images that have an emotional impact for my families. More than any financial threshold, it’s that mindset that has helped me claim the title “professional” for myself.

Did you face any fears or practical challenges launching your photography business? If so, how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest things that has helped my photography business is actually my day job. There can be a lot of pressure in the art community to upend the starving artist trope, tell the day job to fuck off, and make your entire living off your art. And making a living off your art is amazing. I am all for that. I do think that art should be as valuable in our society as other things that pay way more. But for me, embracing my day job, taking the pressure off my art to be the thing that put money in the bank, allowed me the freedom to structure my art just how I want it. And it allows me to do it for the love of the work rather than the hustle for money. I definitely believe that my art should have a price attached to it. It has value. But because it’s not my sole source of income I don’t have to take jobs I don’t want. When I stopped thinking of my day job as something holding me back, I started to see it as something that gives me the luxury of creating my artistic work to be just how I want it.

Do you have anything new in the works that you’d like to share?

I think that it’s time to reclaim the art of the family snapshot. When we were growing up, someone usually had a camera around to document what was happening. But because it was film, there was a different quality about the image. It was less self-conscious. It just was what it was. It was real. And looking back on those images, we know how much we were loved, and we know we belonged. I’d like to get back to that feeling and way of documentation. I’m working on creating a class to help people bring the snapshot back into their lives, as a way of deepening their connection and fostering belonging.

Another thing I’m fleshing out is some type of support for people who are making something that matters to them, but have somehow gotten stuck and can’t see their way forward. I’ve recently come to realize that, just like I make things visible with my photography, I also have a way of doing that that helps people see a way forward when they’re stuck. So it will be a process of helping people feel the feelings they think they shouldn’t be feeling, imagining possibilities, and crafting a question that can help them move forward. I kinda suck at making goals. But I’m really good at crafting a question and then figuring out all the ways to answer that question. I think a lot of creative people are the same way.

And I’d also like to create something that allows moms to be real. There’s so much external pressure to be “perfect,” and I think that it’s really hurting us. I’d like to create a way where moms can give voice to what’s in their hearts and be supported in their realness. A way to support them in creating an internal compass of what they want their experience of parenting to be like, rather than forcing themselves to conform to an external set of “standard” expectations.

I think we all want to be seen for who we are, and heard without judgment. I’d like to do that for as many people as possible in whatever way I can.

Launching a new creative business entails a lot of hard work and attention to detail. There are the things we know we should be doing and procrastinate, but there are also the things we had no clue we’d need to do until they’re staring us in the face, at which point, it can be sticky! If you could give a three-item “You probably don’t realize it yet, but you’re going to need to do this,” cheat sheet to new photographers starting a business, what would it include?

1. Your business is about you. The more you can structure your business around your particular interests, skills, and desires, the happier you’ll be. You may decide to take jobs for the money, and there’s no shame in that. But on your website, only show the type of work you want to be doing. Being true to yourself is also the only way to stand out in the crowded marketplace. But also, know that discovering your “you-ness” is an ongoing process, so give yourself permission to let it take time to develop, and to change course when you need to.

2. A photography business doesn’t sell photography. If colored ink on paper was all that your clients wanted, they could go to Walmart. A photography business sells an experience, and a way of seeing the world. It sells feelings. Your clients don’t consciously know this, which is why they’ll focus on the cost of your 8x10s. But the more intentionally you craft your interactions at every touch point with them along the way, the more you can meet their unspoken need to be seen in the way they want to be seen.

3. Figure out why are you a photographer. Yes, you love taking pictures. Yes, you love capturing moments, and memories, to cherish for a lifetime. But why? To what end? Dig deeper. Why do your photographs matter? How do they really help people? What is your purpose? Knowing your why not only helps you stand out in the crowd, but helps you make every decision about your business, and helps you keep going when the going gets tough.

Who inspires you?

Certainly I’m inspired by my family. I see the way my kids look at me, with their open souls, full of love, and I want to be worthy of that. And I want to be able to capture that feeling for myself, and for other families, for all time. And I’m inspired by my husband. He sees what needs doing, and just does it. He’s very thoughtful. But he’s also a very logical engineer, so I’ve learned a lot from him about balancing my artistic, feeling nature, with the logical, doing nature.

I’m inspired by Brene Brown, for her work in helping us know we’re ok, just as we are, and for the way she makes meaning out of our collective stories. I’m inspired by Christina Baldwin, for her Circle process, that brings people together through story and conversation. Rachel Naomi Remen, for her work with helping people see the power in her stories. And Magda Pecsenye, for her work at Ask Moxie ,that encourages and empowers parents to have faith that they are the best parent for their child, and for supporting growth in our parenting journey in a way that is uniquely suited for our own needs.

And I’m inspired by anyone and anything that’s real. Parenting can be really hard. Creating something that matters to you can be really hard. Anyone out there who’s calling it like it is, instead of pretending that everything is all fluffy bunnies all the times, is doing their part to help us all feel normal in our struggles. When we know we’re not alone, it helps us let go of our shame, which in turn frees us to let our own light shine.

What are your favorite types of shoots?

My favorite kinds of shoots are when a family welcomes me into their lives, and lets me be a fly on the wall for who they really are. When they are willing to show up, and let themselves be seen, it makes me teary-eyed and the hair stand up on my arms. The fact that they are willing to let me witness them as they are, in their pajamas, without makeup, making breakfast, that’s such an honor for me. To be the one to capture that moment when the mask falls away, when the little boy leaps toward his father with love, when the dad is doing his daughter’s hair, when mom is changing a diaper and leans in to kiss a belly, that’s it for me. I could do that all day long.

What equipment do you find indispensable?

Because I’m working in people’s homes, rather than a traditional studio, I need a camera that has really good low-light performance. I also really like my 35mm lens. It gives me a wide angle, so that I can include not just the subject, but also their environment. That’s also an evolution in my style. When I first started out, I was really intent on just showing my subject. Now my style has developed to include the subject in relationship to their environment. The other benefit to that 35mm lens is that it’s small, so my gear isn’t intimidating. And that focal length also requires me to get physically closer to my subjects, which increases that feeling of intimacy that I really love.

Creativity and motherhood, and the effects they have on each other, are hot topics. In your experience, how are the two intertwined (if they are)? 

Ooooh, good one! They are totally related. Motherhood is an inherently creative process. At every step along the way, you’re making something out of nothing. And learning how to parent is very creative because you’re never faced with exactly the same set of circumstances from moment to moment.

Motherhood has also strengthened my creativity because it’s given it purpose in that I want to model what living a creative life looks like, and why it’s invaluable. Also, being a mom has informed the purpose of my art, in that I use my photography to strengthen family connections.

Motherhood has also given me constraints. On the surface that might seem like something that would limit creativity, but in fact, without some type of limitations, it becomes impossible to create. The edges of the canvas, the frame of the viewfinder, these are what give a piece meaning. They say, “Look at this.” We often think that we have to wait until the “perfect time” to be creative, but that time never comes. The constraints of motherhood force you to be creative with how you use your time. A friend of mine is a writer, but he’s also the father of newborn twins. He writes amazing haiku because he’s got nothing but time in the middle of the night, but no way to write anything down. His constraints inspire his creativity.

And finally, nourishing my creativity, giving myself a way to express my voice, makes me a better mom. I can be fully present with them and give of myself fully when my cup is full. 

Miki Headshot

Miki DeVivo is a lifestyle photographer, family story chronicler, and creator of The Book of Love. She believes that to see is to love. She is passionate about collecting and tending stories, and reflecting back to people the very best parts of themselves. Her favorite thing to do is to climb into chaos with people, and help them find their through line and make something that matters. When not behind the camera, she plays nerdy board games, reads everything she can get her hands on, and knits soft things. She lives in Phoenix with her two kiddos and her hubby. Connect with her at TheLovelyNow ,on Pinterest (pinterest.com/mikidevivo), and on Instagram (@MikiDeVivo).