Writer and entrepreneur Gemma Seltzer explains how she discovered her purpose in writing creatively in the early morning and founded Write & Shine to help others, and why she decided to quit her job and make her side hustle her full time job.
Gemma Seltzer of Write & Shine
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Are you a creative person? In this episode, we talk about (among lots of other things) how you can introduce creativity into your day.
Gemma Seltzer is the founder of Write & Shine, a workshop program that offers a peaceful and stimulating environment for creative writers in the early morning. Gemma describes herself as a listener and wanted to create a quiet space where people can explore their writing without being critiqued or having to share their work.
Gemma shares why she decided (in the middle of a global pandemic) to leave her job and make Write & Shine her full-time business. Listen in to learn the challenges she faced in establishing and running a creative business and what it’s like to be a leader of an organisation as opposed to a supporter.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [1:28] The benefits of early morning creativity – Gemma describes her Write & Shine program
- [2:31] How to find more time for creativity
- [5:20] When Gemma found a purpose for her creativity and wanted to make it a big part of her life
- [8:16] Creating a space for people to explore their creativity without criticism
- [10:28] How to use your skillset to help people as a coach
- [14:10] The challenges of breaking through as an entrepreneur
- [18:54] How to guide people to tap into their creativity whatever stage they are at in their creative journey
- [20:27] Helping people listen to themselves and trust their voice
- [23:27] The struggle of being a supporter and not a leader when running a creative business
- [25:32] Why Gemma made the decision to concentrate on Write & Shine full-time in the middle of a global pandemic
- [28:25] The importance of a routine and creativity during challenging times
- [30:46] The power of affirmations in guiding you to stay strong in your purpose
- [32:31] How to create a life you want by doing a job you like
- [35:20] Write & Shine going international – the growth and sustainability plan
- [37:11] Learning the value and power of being a quiet leader
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 52: The right time to turn your side hustle into a full-time career - with Gemma Seltzer of Write & Shine
Jeremy Cline 0:00
How do you know that it's time to take the leap? If you've been working on a side hustle, maybe you've been thinking about doing it full time. How do you know that you're at the right time, that it's the right decision to make that leap? That's what we're going to talk about in today's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:32
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. So lots of people start side hustles. Maybe it's to earn extra income, maybe it's just to try out something new. But what does it take to make the decision that you're going to go all in on your side hustle, that it's going to be your job, that it's going to be your main source of income? Well, that's what we're going to talk about this week with my guest, the wonderful Gemma Seltzer. Gemma is the founder of Write and Shine, which provides workshops and online courses all about adding a bit more creativity to your day. Gemma very recently took the decision to leave her previous job and pursue this full time. And that's what we're going to talk about. So Gemma, welcome to the show.
Gemma Seltzer 1:16
Good morning. Thank you for having me today.
Jeremy Cline 1:18
It's a pleasure. So Gemma, just to start off, I've given a very brief description of Write and Shine, which probably doesn't in any way do justice to it. So perhaps you could talk a little bit more about what it is and what it does?
Gemma Seltzer 1:29
Yeah, of course. The Write and Shine is a programme of peaceful morning writing workshops and retreats and online courses celebrating the inspirational power of the morning. We offer time and space for creative ideas to surface in a fast-paced world really. I deeply believe that morning is the best time for thinking and dreaming and imagining, and writing early captures all kinds of ideas before your inner critic rears its head. We run a year round programme of writing courses and writing workshops that take place early in the morning, 7:15 start, closing at nine o'clock and they gather people together before work, before the working day begins - just to help start the day with a burst of creativity, nice and early. Early starts, grab a coffee, grab a bagel and come and join us to write.
Jeremy Cline 2:21
In terms of how you got into this, I presume this started out with you being a creative yourself. So writing or other projects. Is that right?
Gemma Seltzer 2:32
Yeah, absolutely. I've always written. I'm a writer, and I make all kinds of creative projects. As a writer, I've written fiction, virtual reality, scripts, I've written poetry, working with organisations like the Photographer's Gallery, commissioned for Radio Three, and creativity is really part of what I do. I believe in creativity - my own work and other people's. I believe in creativity and it has the power to support and transform and inspire and show us how to live well and meaningfully. So creativity is a thread that goes through all of my life. And one project I did - about six years ago, I did a project called 5am London, which was a collaboration with a photographer, and we went to different parts of the city at 4/5am. And he took photos and I wrote, and we created a fictional blog, that told the story of somebody wandering the streets at 5am. And it was magical. It was amazing. It was difficult - I'll be honest, it was difficult to get up at four o'clock in order to get there for 5am on the night buses, and I'll be honest about that. But in these different locations, we're in Hyde Park or in Oxford Street, or all kinds of places all around the city. And we were there all through the year, once a month, to see what the city was like and see those different layers. And I found it inspiring, invigorating, unusual - helped me see the city in a new light. And after that project, after 5am London, I decided to see if other people were interested in this kind of liminal time - 5am - early morning, before the day's really begun, I wondered what it would be like to gather people and write together just as the sun rose. So I pitched an idea to a few venues and started to run workshops that took place in the evening and were about the early morning, and they sold out. And the homework I set for people - to get up early and wander the streets in the early morning - people were doing it. People were really invigorated and interested in that idea. And then after that, I thought, okay, so they love the morning. Well, let's see if we can run early morning workshops. There wasn't anything else around like it. I love the idea of supporting people - we're all so busy, how do you find space for creativity? And I thought, Oh, yeah, well, the morning - just get up a bit earlier, like you'd go to the gym before work to support your body, you'd come to a creative writing workshop before you'd go to the office and you'd have a burst of creativity. So I started to run the workshops and five years later, we have a full programme, our workshops sell out, we've got an online library, we invite guest tutors to run sessions, and it's really tapped into the aspiration of having more creativity in your life. And we've got a really great community around us now.
Jeremy Cline 5:05
So when did creativity and creative writing become such a big part of what you do? Is something that you can trace back to school days? Or is this something which you discovered when you started work? Talk a bit about how you got into it?
Gemma Seltzer 5:21
I think I've always been creative. I think I always read a lot as a child. I always loved reading, and I was always making up stories. I've kept a diary every day since I was about 10. I have boxes and boxes of my diaries. I just found a lot of meaning. I make make sense of the world through writing and creating stories out of the moments and the experiences I have. I took it seriously in about 2008, and I changed my job to be working part time and I did an MA in creative writing at Goldsmiths. That was a good few years ago. And then I kind of had the realisation that I really wanted creativity to be part of my real life, not something sort of separate where I would have a job and live my life and then I'd secretly be writing, I actually wanted to find a way to weave it through everything that I did, because I found a lot of meaning from it and I really believed in it. I was fundraising for charities whilst writing. And then I shifted a gear a bit and moved to working in the arts, so the cultural sector working with artists and supporting. So I think creativity was with me the whole time, and I feel my best self when I'm being creative - when I'm writing, I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to my real self and being able to really articulate how I feel, how I see the world. But over the years, I've drawn it more to the fore, if that makes sense. I've increased the amount of creativity I think that I have day to day.
Jeremy Cline 6:45
So when you were working for organisations and that sort of thing, was that providing you with more creativity, or was it still doing an office job, albeit in a sort of creative atmosphere?
Gemma Seltzer 6:57
That is the eternal conundrum. Some days, it filled me with so much joy. And I just love working with artists anyway. And I would feed off their ideas and I'd be able to support and it'd be really meaningful. I've always loved the jobs I've done, but I thinkyou also measure yourself against it a lot. Every day you're working with creatives, and it's very clear inside yourself when you're not fulfilling your own creative urges. So say I was working on a huge project with creatives, but I wasn't the creative person, I could feel that. But I think for me, it just meant I had to learn the right rhythm. It meant you know, some months I would be doing lots of artist support and finding that really meaningful and other months, I would focus more on my writing or Write and Shine. And actually, one of the reasons I've made this move now is the balance just started to not feel right anymore. It wasn't 50:50 it was a lot of supporting and enabling other people and less time to do the work that I wanted to do myself. And I felt like I had a lot I wanted to say in my writing, but I just didn't have the space to do it. So when the balance really shifted too much, that was when I felt like I really needed to make the move.
Jeremy Cline 8:05
So let's talk about the genesis of Write and Shine. When did you first decide that you were going to run these workshops? So when and also, why?
Gemma Seltzer 8:16
Well, it was a few years ago after the 5am London project, and I trained as a coach as well. So I'm trained as a life coach and I'm really interested in practical ways of supporting other people. What are the ways that I can create space for people to think more clearly, to realise their ideas, fundraise or raise money for their work, which is an important part of the arts. So I was jtraining in a lot of that work. And then I started to focus, and think about how it aligned more closely with my values and my creative work as well. I started running them in 2015, we've just had our fifth birthday and growing slowly. I mean, that's one of the things I've learned on this journey. I've always done it. I love that phrase side hustle. I've been doing it on the side for years, but I've been very careful just about my own health, I suppose. I've been running one workshop a week for a number of years, and then I increased it to two. And then I added an online library. So it's been slowly building it up. I think the word balance feels really pertinent to me - how to keep the balance. You push it a bit, and then you kind of see how things settle and push it a bit more and then kind of realign again. So that journey from 2015, where I wanted to use my skills as a coach and a facilitator and a good listener. Somebody wanted to make space for other people, I wanted to add that to my ideas around creativity. And I wanted to create a community as well. For me, I mean, I've been working as a writer for a number of years and I hadn't found a community that really embraced all the things that I cared about. Write and Shine is very inclusive. We're very informal, we have a lot of fun. It's a space for people who perhaps have not explored creativity to move towards that. So we don't share any work, we're not critiquing any work, we're just generating writing. So I really wanted to make a space and that allowed people just to explore their creativity in a safe and friendly environment.
Jeremy Cline 10:14
Where did the coaching come from and come into it? Did you do the coaching qualifications with a view to doing Write and Shine or did it come afterwards? Or was it just something you started because you thought it'd be interesting, and then it kind of led into this?
Gemma Seltzer 10:30
All of the above. I think in my life or all of our lives, we're ever-trying to do work that aligns to our values. And even though you don't always know exactly what your values are, I think when they're pushed against, you start to see them. For me, listening is a really key part of me as a writer and me as a person. It's the heart of everything that I do. I listen, and I look and I'm curious, and I prefer listening to talking. I'm really interested in quiet, what quiet feels like. Quiet in the workplace is something that's hugely undervalued. I've been in lots of environments where - it's the modern workplace where talking is the currency. And for me, listening and quiet, have been tools and something really essential within me. So I suppose the question about where, how and why I've moved into coaching and moved into Write and Shine, it's because those values just became stronger and stronger. I wanted to use what I had within me and kind of develop them into formal skills. I trained as a coach in order to then see how I could apply it professionally. But I think it was also to do with acknowledging the values or the ideas that I just felt were really essential to me as a person in a professional environment.
Jeremy Cline 11:41
So was doing the coaching qualification something that was encouraged by wherever you were working at the time, or was this something that you did entirely independently of that?
Gemma Seltzer 11:49
It was encouraged in the workplace. I was working in arts funding, and my colleagues and line managers were supportive of me doing it, and when I'd finished the course, I was able to offer coaching to colleagues and I worked a lot one to one with artists. And it was kind of a skill set that I was honing independently. But the qualification would mean that I could deepen that skill. So it was encouraged. But I'd say I'm quite proactive and have quite a lot of energy to make things happen. I'm quite entrepreneurial. I quite like to see a blank space and work out what I can do, how to shape something new. Nobody had said to me, you should try coaching, but I started to feel like it was something that would be of interest and that I could. And I also think, you know, for me, I like to do new things, but I also love to know what I can do with them afterwards. I don't think I would do a coaching course, in the hope that it might take me somewhere, it was more that I could see I could use it in one to one coaching that I was doing with artists and I was a facilitator, having done a little bit of training and facilitating but I could also see that coaching practically could help me in that environment. So because I could see I could apply it to different places, I could make a case for the people to support me to do it.
Jeremy Cline 13:04
So did you say you were already coaching artists at the time you did the qualification?
Gemma Seltzer 13:09
Yeah, not sort of formally coaching but a large part of my work and my jobs have been supporting artists to apply for funding or to realise their ideas or to have been a mentor a number of times as well. So I've been in lots of one to one environments and I mean, I think I function best as a human one to one so I enjoy that and I like doing it but I didn't have any formal skills and and that's something I think we all navigate - what are the things that you do that you like doing, and when is the point where you feel there's value in formalising it. The skills I learned in coaching were not all entirely new to me, but I wanted to have a proper qualification that could take me to the next level with it.
Jeremy Cline 13:50
Coming on to when you started Write and Shine, I mean I am presuming that you didn't go to various venues and book these places without any knowledge that anyone was going to turn up. But you must have kind of known that some people might actually show up to these things. So how did you get to that stage? How did you determine that people were going to come along in the evenings to your workshops?
Gemma Seltzer 14:11
I think part of it is taking a risk. The main thing is to always be trying to work in partnership. And I think like me as Gemma Seltzer people might not have come along to my workshops, but if it was hosted by a venue who added the workshop to their seasonal programme, then it would be their responsibility along with mine to get people through the doors. I think finding organisations that I knew either had worked with before as a writer or knew about and felt like Write and Shine would fit with their programme and also luck in finding it at the right time. For example, one of the venues was Waterstones in Piccadilly, and I pitched the idea to somebody who was running events, and at that moment, there was a gap in their programme and then I was able to step into it, but that was a great success story, and alongside that, many emails unanswered, many phone calls unanswered. And just the vulnerability of putting myself out there with an idea that was untested. It was me saying I had the energy and I was excited about this idea and I really hoped and felt that people would also care about it, but it took finding the right partners who would take a risk and go on the journey with me. But yeah, emails, phone calls and building on the relationships I'd made independently as a writer.
Jeremy Cline 15:27
So those first few workshops that you ran, did you have any idea whether anyone would turn up? Did you have people on a list somewhere that you were inviting? Or was it the venues were just putting something up, putting posters up, maybe getting into contact with people and saying, Hey, we're running this, why don't you come along?
Gemma Seltzer 15:45
A mixture. I knew people in my network who would come along. I had a mailing list for my writing, so I was inviting people that way. I themed the workshops so they were on particular subjects for example, like friendship, and I would target people, organisations or groups that might be interested in the subject. But the truth is the early days were challenging. I think the first workshops that gave me super confidence, they all sold out. I think we had 16 or 18 places, I ran two workshops - they all sold out with a waiting list. So I was like, great, this is amazing - everyone loves Write and Shine, mornings are the way forward, this is my life now. And then off the back of that I ran a series of six and the numbers - different groups of people in different venues - but the numbers dwindled. I did one with one person. That was very intimate with one person, and I believed in it, I still believe in it. And I believe in just showing up. I mean, I was running workshops, when you know, one person, two people and a handful of people were coming, and I was running them every week, and I was showing up every time and after a while they grew a momentum. There has never been a point where I felt like giving up doing it because I think it's really meaningful, I really enjoy it. And I know that when people come along, they have a positive experience. So I think going with it when there seems to be less interest and going with it when it's got a huge surge of interest. And I also believe that the right people come. That one person who came, we had a really good workshop together the two of us. And when there's three people, it's a different atmosphere to when there's 20 people. We're in a different phase now, where our workshops are really popular, and they do sell out and we welcome people from all over the world. So really different phase now. But I still have the same mindset - I'll keep showing up every week, and I hope that people will join me and find it meaningful.
Jeremy Cline 17:34
How long did it take before you got your first repeat customers? And I presume you do get people who sort of come back week after week. How long did that take before you got the first few of those?
Gemma Seltzer 17:43
In the early days, we did a series, so you would sign up for six sessions over six weeks and people would sign up to that. Quite early on people were committing to come in regularly. And then maybe a couple of years in we set up a membership scheme, which was to acknowledge that there were people starting to come regularly, but to really offer them something distinct. The membership scheme now is like a class pass with added bonuses and people can join and be part of everything that we do. I think the way I hosted Write and Shine is to always be hopeful, always be creative, always offer something more. I set up the membership scheme before I thought there would necessarily be members. We did have some people coming regularly, but not loads. But the membership scheme was the thing that I hoped would help people commit to a writing practice and stick to a routine. So I wanted to offer it - the same with the workshops, I believed in offering it and then people would kind of meet me there.
Jeremy Cline 18:39
In terms of formats, I guess you're going to have people at all sorts of different stages. Do you tailor your workshops to people who are more at the sort of the beginner stage, the intermediate stage, the advanced stage, or is it sort of 'all comers' and you try to tailor your workshops to meet the needs of everyone who's there?
Gemma Seltzer 18:57
Yeah, very inclusive. It's for everyone. I mean, I love to run the events really democratically. We don't always know who's in the room exactly. We don't come and say, I'm a lawyer, I've published six novels, I'm this. I'm that. There isn't a sense that we're measuring anything against each other. I'm very conscious that I want everybody to talk and to participate. So we always do introductory exercises where people get to connect with each other, and everyone gets to kind of speak into the space. I think creativity is accessible for people, and I think whether you've got a short way to go, you're writing regularly or whether you've got a long way to go. I structure the sessions that kind of guide people into a more creative space, so the first exercise might be quick and easy, like I don't know - describe what you had for breakfast this morning. And then we go deeper and we get deeper and then we get a bit longer in the writing exercises. And by the end of 90 minutes, I will have guided - my aim anyway, in a magic session! -my aim is to kind of guide people into a deeper space where they start to listen, be able to hear their voices a bit more, start to kind of still the noises in their head and just tap into their creativity. So I think that is a great experience for anyone, whether you're regularly creative or it's the first time, because you'll always find something new.
Jeremy Cline 20:12
What are your clients trying to get out of this? I mean, is this sort of, you know, a way of just getting creativity once a week? Or is this so that they can build up a skill which they can use later on? It's probably lots of different things. But perhaps you can give some examples of what the people who come to your workshops are there to get out of them.
Gemma Seltzer 20:31
Much like I say, like you would go to the gym and you just have a burst of activity - this is just a burst of creativity. And what people get out of it is a burst of energy. A lot of people feedback to me that after the session, they've got kind of a focus and an energy that keeps them going throughout the day. I mean, if you've got up at six or something to get to a workshop at seven, you're kind of already in that motivated, focused state of mind. I think people would then be able to apply that to whatever they're doing in the day, so whether it's their office job they're not enjoying so much or, you know, caring responsibilities, or you know, out and about, they can kind of bring that energy and they can hold on to that private creative space that they've accessed early in the morning. So I think focus, productivity and wellbeing are really the key things people get out of it. There's plenty of people who have gone on to edit and refine and share their work. And people have published articles and books and all kinds of things. And we don't focus on that. There's so many places you can go to learn the craft of writing, and we do teach craft, but it's more about finding space for creativity and just creativity for creativity's sake. Just enjoying being able to access your imagination, maybe for the first time in a while, and learning to trust your voice. That's the big thing, why people come along. I mean, this relates to how much I care about listening and quiet. I think it's so hard to hear yourself sometimes with how busy the world is and the amount of stimulus around us. People come to the workshops just to be able to listen to themselves a bit. We don't share any work, like I mentioned, so it's really just trusting your voice, exploring what's there for you on the page, and having some time - time for yourself.
Jeremy Cline 22:11
Really interesting. I mean, it sounds like you are effectively, I mean you used the analogy of going to the gym, but effectively it's like some people go to the gym, some people meditate, some people do whatever, people come to you for their morning fix of writing and creativity.
Gemma Seltzer 22:27
Yeah, and I've got a lot of always try and make decisions from a positive place. Even if I'm struggling with my own anxieties, what I hope to do with Write and Shine is help people approach the page or approach their lives with hope and with optimism, because I think writing and creativity shows us new ways of imagining the world. And actually, if we don't allow space to do that, if we don't allow space to do it, it's so hard to make sense of what you're doing day to day. And I guess this connects to the podcast and the idea of how do you make a change. You need to do the work to make the change, you need to work out what it is that's essential to you, imagining what your future could be and moving towards that. I know people who come to Write and Shine and they're just maybe a crossroads in their lives, like, I don't know what to do. I don't know what job to do. I don't know what direction to take my life. But writing can be a space where they can start exploring that.
Jeremy Cline 23:20
Have you ever had sort of doubts about imposter syndrome, why are you the person who leads these workshops? Perhaps you can talk a little bit to that?
Gemma Seltzer 23:30
Absolutely. And also because I'm quiet. I'm that quiet person who's listening and supporting. I've considered myself a background person - supporting and enabling a lot of people but not necessarily leading. But yeah, I now run workshops for large groups of people and I do a lot more public speaking. Yeah, I do worry about that. And I worry about it, but I think I made a decision early on that Write and Shine isn't Gemma Seltzer. Plenty people come along and have no idea who runs it, where it came from. Plenty of people don't know it's just me that does it with support from my partner. The sense of it not being myself I'm putting forward has helped me a bit with that. But equally I think I have in my head what a businesswoman looks like - a sharp suit and being able to kind of navigate the world in this clear, purposeful way. And my skills are much gentler, softer. I think I struggle with that a bit, What does running a creative business feel like and look like, and who should be the person behind this? The fact that I do everything really, I struggle with a bit. I'm both the face of it, the spokesperson, the facilitator, the administrator - everything. And that's how it is when you run a business. But I think sometimes it can be hard to switch between the administrator behind the scenes person and then step into it. So yeah, I do struggle with that, but I think because it's Write and Shine rather than Gemma Seltzer, that helps a little bit.
Jeremy Cline 24:56
So let's talk about your decision to go full time. Why take that decision? And why now? I mean, you made the announcement, I think it was in May something like that, that you told the world that you were going to do it. We're now recording this just the beginning of July 2020, if anyone's coming back to this in the future, and obviously, we are going through the covid 19 pandemic situation. And you've talked about how this is, community, people getting up early to be in a place and you mentioned you're now running these things online. But why take the decision to do it full time and why take that decision now?
Gemma Seltzer 25:30
Why did you leave your job in a global pandemic Gemma?!
Jeremy Cline 25:33
Gemma Seltzer 25:36
Yeah, good question. It was the right decision for me at the right time. I definitely took a risk. But also, it's been a long time coming for me. I've been working full time alongside writing, and Write and Shine or a version of teaching for, I don't know, 15 years or so. And I've always had those three different things - writing, projects and teaching and then a full time job. And I'm always considering what I can offer the world. What is the most meaningful work I can do. How is it I can reach my potential and therefore support others. I think over the last year or so, I have been running workshops for Write and Shine, and I had such a strong feeling that suddenly everything I believed in and every part of me aligned. I would look out onto a group of people in venues when we were still out in the world and now and via Zoom the virtual workshops and I would feel so proud and so amazed and so full of love and deeply deeply fulfilled, I thought I set this up from nothing and look at all these people who are finding Write and Shine supportive during lockdown, during this really challenging time. They're finding meaning in Write and Shine, and I thought I'm doing a really good thing here. So I started have those kind of thoughts, and then of course lockdown happened and we were able to move online quite swiftly and yeah, people found the workshop and then I was offered the opportunity through my job to take a redundancy package. It was a really hard decision because I also loved my job, which was supporting artists in a different way. But I think I just had a sense that the more energy I could put into Write and Shine, the more amazing it could be. And it would be something that I could use all of my skills and all of my energy to really do something purposeful. So yeah, kind of a few things happening at the same time. And in some ways, I did take a leap, but it's been a long time coming. I'm at a point where I finally got a little bit of savings. I'm quite risk averse if I'm honest. Similar with the coaching, I could see what I could do if I did leave. It wasn't like I was facing the void and thinking, Okay, well, I'll leave and I'll see what happens. It was more like, oh, if I left the job next month, I could be doing these virtual workshops more frequently, and they were selling out so maybe there's demand. We've got an online library of self-guided courses, we could do more of those, we could offer them out. I had so many ambitions and ideas and I could see what I could do with it. And additionally writing - I'm working on a short story collection - and I could just see that all coming together as well. And I thought, Oh, if I had a bit more time and a bit more space, and I think now is the time for me to focus on this and see where I can get to.
Jeremy Cline 28:16
What's going to be the core of the business going forward do you think for the next year or so? Is it going to be more of the workshops, so the ones that you were doing weekly or whatever, now doing them daily, maybe even more than one a day?
Gemma Seltzer 28:28
Yeah, I think growing the workshop programme, definitely. We have guest tutors who come in and host workshops for us, as I'd love to grow the number of people who are offering the sessions. The online library continues to grow. We do more creative commissioning now. So for example, we commissioned illustrators to make our seasonal illustration. We move in the kind of natural rhythms of the world, so we move through seasons, so we were in the summer season now and we take take inspiration from the natural world and the world around us. So yeah, for spring and summer, we commissioned illustrators to create images and branding. And I think doing some more thought leadership and sharing some of the things we're learning as we're growing the business and talking about, I'd love to be talking more about the joy of mornings, the joy of routines - especially during challenging times, like the pandemic, having a routine and being able to commit to a routine and having creativity in your life. These can be really powerful tools that often get pushed aside when life feels hard. But routines and creativity, for example, are things I'm really passionate about and would love to be talking about more. So we're going to set up some more events, and keep building from there.
Jeremy Cline 29:38
I think having routines for yourself as well. I mean, people have their morning routine, but that's usually just a sequence of events that starts with getting up in the morning and ends with getting out of the house to get to work and showering and breakfast and some people are able to build into those routines, things like exercise or meditation but a lot of people - especially if you say you got kids that you've got to get to school - it's just the scramble of getting everything out. And that's certainly something that I have changed during this time is doing more stuff for myself. So you know, building in an exercise routine first thing in the morning, which I never did before. I mean, you know, I'd do some walking into the office, but actually now building in 20, 30 minutes of routine - frankly, that's been a revelation for me. It's been absolutely brilliant to do this stuff, which I wasn't really doing before. But now I've got the time because I don't have a long commute in to do that for me. I think that as things get back to normal or the new normal, or whatever it may be, I think there's going to be a lot of people assessing and coming to realise the things that you're saying about developing a routine, including something in there for you is something that people have just kind of lost and forgotten and should be doing.
Gemma Seltzer 30:50
Yeah, and finding the things that are right for you. I think the other side of that coin is just the pressure isn't it, the pressure to always being your best self or trying to do a million different things. Finding what's right for you - my other writer Bernadine Evaristo, who won the Booker Prize last year with her book Girl, Woman, Other and I've heard her talk a lot about the power of affirmations and just setting affirmations for yourself. I am creative, I'm on exactly the right path. I keep moving forward. Affirmations that describe the self that you'd like to be and the more that you say them, the more you move towards it, so the gap between who you are now and who you want to be starts to close. So I've been adding to my morning routine for the last six months or so, some affirmations just help guide me. I think when you're working independently, you are your own best champion, you have to find the great resources and the great supporters around you. But you have to believe what you're doing is purposeful and right for you. So affirmations have really helped and I've added those to my morning routine. I think everyone finding what's right, what you can fit in - even one minute of meditation or a burst of exercise like you're doing, or affirmations whilst you're in the shower. I think finding some way of connecting with yourself in the morning is a great way for finding ways of supporting yourself moving forward accessing creativity, all of that.
Jeremy Cline 32:10
In a year's time, I was gonna say what do you hope Write and Shine looks like, but I'm actually wondering what do you hope that Gemma Seltzer looks like with Write and Shine being part of that, because I'm thinking that presumably it's not just Write and Shine, but you've got your own creative projects. I mean, you got into this because you're a creative so what would you like sort of day or an ideal week, or what's life going to look like in say a year's time?
Gemma Seltzer 32:35
I love that question. One of the reasons I set up Write and Shine is because I really got into this idea of free ranging, I don't know if you've heard of that. But it's Marianne Cantwell who kind of set up this idea of how to be a free range human - escape the nine to five and create a life you love and still pay the bills. She has a podcast and she supports people to make the change. One of the exercises that she offered is start with developing the lifestyle that you want to have, or start to visualise that lifestyle and then build work around it. And for me, the lifestyle I wanted is bright and early. I'll get up at four o'clock or five o'clock and write and run Write and Shine, and then the afternoon is kind of leisure time - reading, looking out the window, going for a walk, doing yoga, seeing my friends. So you know, for me if I can make that rhythm work, which feels like the right rhythm for my body, and I've obviously set up a business now that is, I'm done by 9am in the morning - I'm finished. I've run a workshop, I've kind of done my working day by 10 o'clock. For me, I'd love to still be in that rhythm and writing, Write and Shine for the first part of the day. And I guess relaxing a bit or just having some more space to think. The challenge has been previously as you can imagine working full time, running a business and doing all my writing projects. There has not been much time for relaxing so much and holidays, seeing friends - so I'd like to have a bit more balance in that way. And yeah, writing wise, during this phase particularly lockdown and now not working full time, I'm really interested in how different time feels. I mean, that's a whole subject, how different does time feel during lockdown. But you know, for me for having a bit more time to write in extended stretches is something I've never really had before. I can have a whole day to write, and it allows me to access something deeper in my writing. I'm working on a series of short stories, and I'm getting more clarity about what's happening. They're all stories about frustrated women who do bold things and working on it as a collection together and the more time I can spend with it, and the better I hope it will be and the clearer I'm articulating what it is I want to say. So the next year I think is getting deeper into writing, enjoying this morning routine and growing Write and Shine in the world.
Jeremy Cline 34:53
And just finally, in terms of growing Write and Shine, because you mentioned quite interestingly how it's not Gemma Seltzer, is is Write and Shine. And it strikes me that that gives you the opportunity to expand it where it's not just you. So you can have other people leading the workshops. And you've mentioned how you've had guests in the past. I mean, I'm sure you could probably get other people in to help you on the back end side of things. But do you envisage that it might get to a stage where it's not just you leading these? Or is this your baby and you don't see that happening?
Gemma Seltzer 35:25
I think I'd like to get to the stage where I'm the conductor of the orchestra rather than kind of playing all the parts. Yeah, that would be good. I don't know what it looks like. And that's the phase I'm in now. I've taken the step of getting an accountant and getting some more business advice. You know, you mentioned imposter syndrome earlier - I can never quite step into being the owner of the business or the person who runs Write and Shine, but this is a phase where I'd like to do that. What does it look like? What does the whole thing look like and how might it grow? And I think I need to get some external support and advice for where the growth areas are. We are getting people from all over the world joining our workshops virtually, so for me, an international audience and growing it or at least around the UK could be one area of focus. But I'd love to be talking to people about it and spending some time working out what the next stage is.
Jeremy Cline 36:13
Presumably you still limit your numbers even in the virtual workshop. So there's hundreds of people, and as demand grows for that, then you'll just continue to do more and more workshops, and there's only you?
Gemma Seltzer 36:25
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. I'm running two a week and developing a course for our online library each week. I've still got a lot of energy to do it. I mean, it's amazing and I love it, and I've got so many ideas. So right now, it's perfect. But yeah, I'm looking, I'm thinking about what comes next. And equally, what does meaningful growth look like? Maybe it does stay at this stage - great, and people find it meaningful and I get a lot of energy from it. Maybe this is where it needs to be - growth doesn't necessarily mean bigger and better and longer and everything else and growth can mean all different things and even sustaining the programme as it is is something I'm looking to do as well. So lots of different options. I'm going to spend the next few months exploring that a bit more.
Jeremy Cline 37:08
In terms of resources that helped you, do any stick in your mind - books that you've recommended, or that you've found particularly useful you can suggest other people take a look at?
Gemma Seltzer 37:17
Yes, so many. I read a lot of self development books. The one I wanted to share in particular was Susan Cain's book, Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. And that came out a number of years ago, and yeah, it changed things for me entirely. I mean, I'm sure a lot of people will know Susan Cain's work. She did an amazing TED Talk, which is worth looking up but the book itself charts how the brain chemistry of extroverts and introverts are is different and society and offices and workspaces generally undervalues and misunderstands introverts and her book is about giving introverts the tools to understand themselves a bit better and take advantage of their strengths. One of things I took away, so many things, but she just talks about like if you value solitude and quiet and space and gentleness, and then be true to your temperament. I'm sure so many of us have felt like we haven't had a voice because we don't speak loud enough, or we're not talking as much as other people. For me, I know I've always valued quiet and gentleness, but I never thought it was a strength. The biggest thing I took away from her book is that quiet leadership is real. To be a leader, you don't need to have the loudest voice in the room. And you don't need to be standing in front of everybody talking. It's also about listening. And it's about being truthful to yourself - you can lead alongside people, you can lead through one to ones rather than being in a group all the time. The book is really important to me, and its just a reminder about the value of stopping to listen, to being true to yourself, and just that it's powerful. That quite is powerful and undervalued, and if you're a quiet person or there is quiet around you, you can embrace that. And what happens if the quiet leadership step forward? I'd like to see that in the world.
Jeremy Cline 39:10
And where can people go if they want to find out more about you and Write and Shine and your creative projects?
Gemma Seltzer 39:17
Well, I'm all over social media so you can find me on Twitter, Instagram and everything else. My website for my writing work is GemmaSeltzer.com and Write and Shine is write-and-shine.com. So do have a look at both of those.
Jeremy Cline 39:33
And on social media is it @Gemmaseltzer or is it @writeandshine, what's the best?
Gemma Seltzer 39:37
It's @GemSeltz on Twitter and @WriteandShine on Twitter as well.
Jeremy Cline 39:43
Brilliant. I will put links to all of those in the show notes. Gemma, thank you so much. I'm really quite excited about where Write and Shine might take you in the future. I think it's a brave decision but not in the sort of the Yes Minister, brave, foolish decision, but it definitely sounds like it's a great decision for you, so best of luck with it!
Gemma Seltzer 40:00
Thank you so much for having me along today. Yeah, I'm excited too.
Jeremy Cline 40:04
Jeremy Cline 40:05
All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Gemma Seltzer of Write and Shine. One of the things that struck me most about that interview was how it really was the right time for Gemma. It had kind of been calling to her for really quite some time. I mean, she mentioned how she'd set up Write and Shine five years ago, it just was clear to me that Write and Shine was keeping on calling to her and it was like Ali Temple was saying a couple of weeks back - if something keeps calling to you, then it's your duty to answer that call. Goes back to what Olly Johnston was saying in a previous episode about if you find yourself spending most of your time doing something, well, maybe that's the thing you should be concentrating on. I'm really glad that Gemma has now taken the plunge and decided that she's going to do it full time. And you know, she got the nudge she needed, she got offered redundancy and decided to take that and now she's going to pursue it, and I think she's going to do really well with it. It was also really important what she was saying about doing the work to make a change. So in other words, a change isn't just going to happen. If you're dissatisfied with something, then you've got to take positive action to work out what it is that is no longer satisfying you, and then also to go ahead and take action to change it. It's like that old saying, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and thinking that things are going to turn out differently. Well, I think sometimes people maybe do just hope that something is going to turn out differently without necessarily doing something about it. Show notes with links to the resources, including where you can get hold of Gemma are on the show notes page for this episode at changeworklife.com/52. And if you've been thinking that you'd like to make a change, but you really don't know where to start, well have a look at the Change Work Life website, go to the menu at the top and click on the section marked Find Career Happiness - I've got a couple of exercises there, which might just get you started. A couple of exercises to help you think about what sort of things you enjoy, what you like doing, what you don't like doing, and also what sort of lifestyle you would like your work or job or career to support. So there's a couple of exercises there, if that sounds like it might be useful do take a look. We'll have another great interview next week, so I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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