Thursday, May 28, 2009

Creativity, Courage, and Forgetting to Drop Your PomPoms

Tomorrow morning, at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m., I am off to the train station in Quincy, Il. From there I go to Chicago (" kind of town, Chicago is..."). On Saturday morning, at 9:25 a.m. I will be standing in front of three (or so) editors of Country Living Magazine, trying desperately to explain the fabulousness of the Milkweed Mercantile. After my two minutes, they have three minutes to ask questions. They will choose five or six women entrepreneurs to be featured in the magazine.

I am so torn. A part of me feels supremely confident, fearless, brave and excited - this is the part of me who loves microphones, public speaking, sharing ideas and being the center of attention. But the other part of me, the part who forgot to drop her pompoms during cheerleader tryouts (at age 15) and then promptly burst into tears, is a bit worried. How to tap into the first, but not the second? How to honor the foiled cheerleader while embracing the woman I've become?

To me, the Mercantile is a wonder. Each day something new is finished, and we get closer to being open, and I am so excited that I practically jump up and down and clap my hands. I did a mock-up of a display for photos to bring along this weekend (since the building isn't exactly finished, I chose to feature bits and pieces...) and had so much fun doing it I thought my heart would burst.

But how to convey this in two short minutes? If my "product" were, oh, I don't know, a new kind of stapler, two minutes would feel plentiful and abundant. Two minutes for the Mercantile feels inadequate, miserly and impossible.
I've written and rewritten my 2-minute pitch, but was feeling totally stymied the other night. Kurt and Sparky happend to be there as I was melting down, and both suggested I listen to Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk.

I did, and promptly burst into tears. This is the part I especially love:

I had this encounter recently where I met the extraordinary American poet Ruth Stone, who’s now in her 90’s, but she’s been a poet her entire lie and she told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. And she said it was like a thunderous train of air. And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet. She knew hat she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, “run like hell.” And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And the other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she’d be running and running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it “for another poet.”

I want to be there to catch the poem. I want to not miss my creativity as it goes barreling across the prairie. I want to be wise enough and prescient enough and present enough to grab it and share it with these editors, so that they can see what we are doing out here.

So Saturday, at 9:25, please stop for a second and send positive thoughts towards Chicago. I'll be waiting there, to grab them, and share.


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  2. I'm cheering for you, Alline! You are the best spokesperson for the Mercantile because it's coming from inside you -- and you're its heart! I don't know who your "competition" is, but whether they pick you or not, the Mercantile is a dream come true and it will make the difference in so many lives.

    Have fun and don't hog the microphone too much! ;)

  3. Hi Alline,

    I love your blog! I appreciate your love for the enviornment and for going green. I am from Portland, Oregon and share same interests. I was wondering if I could write a guest post for you about the best ways a business can go green - more specifically why businesses should consider going paperless. What do you think? You can e-mail me at I would love an opportunity to write for you!

    Lindsay Cusworth

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