Real thoughts on #RealTalkTambay

#RealTalkTambay is a pet project that is slowly taking over my life. It started out as an item on my to-do list, something new to try. I'd like to think that it was an idea triggered by a random post on Instagram, but in reality the seeds for it were planted as early as last year.

The post that started it all (sort of). I was feeling really insecure about my art and then I re-read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and came across this line.

The post that started it all (sort of). I was feeling really insecure about my art and then I re-read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and came across this line.

Around two months ago I was immersed in my "100 Days, 100 Desks" project and was slowly losing interest in it. I tend to work that way; my enthusiasm ebbs and flows whenever I need to engage in repetitive things over a period of time. I decided that I needed a break so I hand-lettered the quote above. It spoke to me then, because I was feeling the pressure to work on the project even though it wasn't fun anymore, and that was making me frustrated and insecure about my work. I felt like I was half-assing my project. I posted the quote to Instagram and was kind of surprised that a lot of people felt the same way. (Thinking about it now, yes, frustration and insecurity are fairly common feelings. I live under a rock most of the time, in utter isolation, so I forget these things.) On a whim I asked my friends if they were interested in holding an event where we can talk about the creative life, the fun and not-so-pleasant parts of it. People responded to our online call-out, and #RealTalkTambay was born. We talked about topics like pricing, dealing with clients, managing self-doubt, making products, paying taxes--things that aren't typically discussed openly.

Around this time last year, I had a similar but more convoluted idea: a business course for creatives. I was really tired of conducting basic lettering workshops at the time, so I wanted to create a course that would teach advanced lettering and other skills needed to run a creative business around it, like making contracts and building a portfolio. That idea needed so much commitment to bring to life, commitment I did not have, so I abandoned it shortly after its conception.

But let's go back to #RealTalkTambay. After the first event in September, I felt like we were on to something. People were...hungry (?) for something like it. For a venue where they could share their experiences and opinions without judgment. Where they could ask questions without hesitation. A safe space for information and inspiration exchange. I felt like we were building a community of creatives willing to help one another.

The first #RealTalkTambay on September 17, 2016 - one of the best days of my year, and probably my life.

The first #RealTalkTambay on September 17, 2016 - one of the best days of my year, and probably my life.

We staged another session one month after, and by taking in all the comments from the participants, I want to keep improving #RealTalkTambay so we can reach out to more people and grow the community. But those objectives present challenges, too.

First, I am running the operations by myself. From making the posters to online promotions to booking the venues and handling registrations, it gets tiring and sometimes takes my focus off my real work. Of course, the events wouldn't be possible without my friends saying yes to share their stories, but I don't want to hassle them further by delegating admin tasks. Sure, I could probably get interns or volunteers in the future, but we'll see what happens.

Second, I want to offer the same kind of content and atmosphere every session, but I also don't want to alienate past participants by discussing the same things over and over. This is a hard one, and sometimes thinking of a new twist or a new format is even more taxing than the actual organizing of the event.

Third, I have commitment issues. Because of its (originally non-intended) community building aspect, #RealTalkTambay is looking to be a long-term thing. I don't know if I have the energy to sustain it. I know I want to, and usually that's enough to keep it going, but I really don't know where to go from here. I have vague plans of what I want to do next year, but nothing's set in stone yet.

And lastly, I want to have an open and supportive creative community, but I also want some sort of assurance that we are not becoming spoonfeeders. One thing I'd really, really hate is for #RealTalkTambay to attract the wrong kind of audience, people who are too lazy to do their own research and instead join a one-time event. And one thing I'd hate more than that is for #RealTalkTambay to turn the community we've started to build into that kind of people. This is my biggest concern, because I believe that by making information available, we are empowering other creatives to build a better career for themselves. But I also believe that self-education is important, and for #RealTalkTambay to be truly effective, people must act on what they have learned and do further research after the event.

Of course, I realize that it's not about what I want anymore. #RealTalkTambay has a life of its own now, and maybe my friends and I are only here to steer it in a direction that would make it beneficial to a larger group of people. I really have no idea what the concept will evolve into in the future, but I am more hopeful than scared.