I’ll be honest, I saved the answers to today’s Woman Crush Wednesday interview for my own enjoyment like the last pages of a good book–such delicious relatable soul food and from a dear friend who has been inspiring me for seven years now with her art, her words, her love for her family and her tenacious commitment to live purposefully. I traveled to the other side of the country with Lainey and Nella five years ago to meet her in person and she was everything I knew she’d be–real and funny, not to mention her backyard is a painting you don’t want to leave.
Nici Holt Cline is a writer, artist, mother and, to me, a friend I thank my lucky stars for aligning our paths to cross. We talk art, work and purpose over the phone just about every week, and I’ve filed those conversations into very important folders of my brain and heart–folders I refer to often. She writes at Dig This Chick, sells her handmades at Geo but can mostly be found at home, a word that embodies so much of who she is. When I feel lost, I call home…and she’s always there.
Let’s kick this off. I’m bold, Nici’s fine print.
You know I’d much rather be doing this in your kitchen over martinis with Andy and Brett watching all the kids, right? So since I’m the interview host and I can move the show where we want it, let’s say we’re in your Montana kitchen. Early spring, ski hills are a little bare, garden’s promising, mountains are everything they always are…beautiful (seriously though, your back yard photos!). What are you serving for food and drink for this interview? Nice hostess I am, right? Making you do all the work.
I am serving something I last-minute curated from my pantry because I don’t plan (and I’m finally 100% groovy with my spontaneity). It’s like 50/50 or, honestly, 80/20 that’ll be a good meal. And if the food is bad, I can distract you with my wit and charm! I sincerely believe in the whole Like Water for Chocolate thing where a cook meditates on the people they are serving, the nourishing feeling they want their diners to enjoy. I swear good vibes can make beans and rice extraordinary. Anyway, you in my kitchen would knead some awesomeness into any loaf I could bake. (go on readers, INFER. *wink*)
It’s an offsite interview, but you still get a song to walk out on the stage to. What’s your entrance song and what are you wearing?
I AM NOT GOING TO OVERTHINK THIS.
The Pixies “Where Is My Mind” because that song just gets in me in the guts every time I hear it, like I want to cry and run up a mountain with every person on the planet. Or maybe “This Must Be the Place” by the Talking Heads because it played on a juke box every Saturday night at the Union Club in downtown Missoula when I was 19 and dating my husband and we were out with art school friends; it was a giant foreshadowing into the friendships, marriage and place that is my life today. Oh and I am wearing this new onesie (as my kids call it) / bodysuit that I never thought I’d consider for myself. I see them about and think “oh man, that’s cute on people who have small boobs and straight hips” (um, not me). But for whatever reason, I tried this on (with my kids) and they loved it. Me too. But I remained concerned I was delusional so I texted a photo to three friends. You were one and gave me the green light. I am so thankful because it feels like pjs. Yesssssssssssss.
Look at you. I love it. Okay, business, business, heart, heart. Let’s dive in.
I don’t even know where to start because there are so many meaty conversations we’ve had, about so many topics, that have inspired me. Let’s start with art. We’ll probably end with art too.
Five years ago, you took a huge risk leaving an art job that you loved to pursue a creative dream. I still remember talking to you just weeks before you finalized it. You were confident that your passion and belief in it all working out would sustain your family. And IT DID. Tell us about that journey. Advice for anyone thinking of doing the same?
This is probably my most asked question on the interweb. At the time I didn’t feel brave or worthy of knowing anything worth sharing over my choice but now? Now I look back on my six-years-ago self and think fuck yeah that was so gutsy (My job had a steady paycheck (about half our income) and insured our family. The path I pursued offered a steady heart and insured my family holistically. I have always trusted my gut and I believe we all have that in us. I think we unlearn it. I did. I relearned it sometime after all my grandparents died and before I had kids. The rhythm in my soul is my compass and the more I trust it the more I know it to be true.
Photo by Linda Thompson for The Missoulian
A few things:
1. Trusting your gut doesn’t usually manifest the way you imagine. It is literally about TRUST. Like, trusting that whatever happens is an opportunity to live bigger, create more beautifully, walk more gently and glean insight into the next thing. But that trust has to come from a trustworthy place. We must get *there* before we can go *there*.
2. Be honest with yourself. I took this leap having some nuggets in the fire. I wasn’t all idea/no reality. My blog seemed to have something that might be something and I made stuff that people seemed to want to buy. Bottom line: AUTHENTICITY + BE SMART + GO FOR IT. Nothing is worth anything in business if it isn’t YOUR thing.
Use your very own unique skills and proclivities to create your very own thing and people will come. I promise.
Don’t try to grow your readership. Stop asking for people to like your page. Quit reading about online growth models for your store. Just do your thing and believe it will lead you to you next best self. Trust that the people who see/buy/like/endorse you mean it. Deliver on your promises. Keep trying. Forgive yourself, stay true in your intention.
Kind of here-nor-there, but on the same vein really: Nothing drives me more batty then this whole thing about ex-professionals starting an online lawn furniture business and blog because some 1-2-3-get-rich program told them to do it. Actually, many things drive me more batty but I don’t think you are going to ask me about politics, abortion, human rights for gay people, god or contemporary culture for girls. (I’ll call you tonight and let’s talk about them on the phone). Ahem, next point:
3. Only ever do what you believe in. At first I was thinking only ever do what you love but that isn’t quite right. Sometimes things we believe in require a bit of uninspiring activity. I mean, we have to do certain things to afford our lives. So, if your thing feels like a worthy push toward what you want: GO. If your thing feels like a slog toward more of the same: CHANGE. You don’t have time to do things you don’t believe it.
4. Define success. How does “rich” feel like to you? What do you want with this life? Write it down. Refer to it. Make choices that support it.
We recently had a conversation about what art means to us after we saw something some “stop copying me, this is my art” shit go down from an artist we both admired–it rubbed us the wrong way. I loved that conversation we had. With that said, what does art mean to you? You studied art in school, you embody what a “maker” is in so many ways and–to me, at least–you model so beautifully what an artist truly is. It’s less about being able to say “I’m an artist” and more about…pardon me, this is your interview. What is being a maker and an artist mean to you?
Oh, I too loved that text exchange about art and copying and righteousness.
An artist is her. A maker is her. I don’t do the “capital A-artist” or “capital W-writer.” Being in a creative space is vulnerable enough without feeling like there is a club surrounding who is worthy and who isn’t. I’ve certainly felt like I am part of the worthy and unworthy camps. I find them equally unsettling. I am inspired by people who create and share as it feels right to them. I don’t believe in “creative types” as I think we are all type a, type b, type q hybrids and have learned to squish certain areas to make room for the areas that make us boom with joy. It’s up to us to nurture our creative selves. Let’s all of us choose the thing that makes us boom with joy and love our neighbors’ choices.
Also, I have been copied. Like, literally a few different times people have made things like I make and tried to sell them to my retailers on the hush hush – for less money. Twice, I’ve discovered etsy shops that completely plagiarized my work – from the fabrics used to the item descriptions and policies. I’ve found pieces of my essays on other blogs. I was hot and hurt a few different times but I have learned and grown from it:
There is enough creative room for every single person on this planet.
The only thing we are in charge of is our own choices. We know our own intention. Let’s honor this gift, let’s be pure about it.
Nobody can copy our brains.
Nobody can copy our hearts.
When we, as makers and artists, inevitably find ourselves in a situation of feeling copied or wronged, we have two choices: put up our fists and point our fingers OR take a deep breath, smile (did you know that smiling allows more oxygen into our lungs?!) and know that there is enough creative room for every single person on this planet, the only thing we are in charge of is our own choices, nobody can copy our brains, nobody can copy our hearts.
How has motherhood changed you as an artist?
Shit. How hasn’t it? How has it? I’m obviously still me but I have a different lens. I am more altruistic, more able to feel creative in the most mundane of circumstances, more patient, more ready. Also, numbers 1-4 up there. Trusting my gut, being honest with myself, making choices I believe in and defining success; my kids changed the way I do business – both in career and in relationships. I see more clearly that everything is ABUNDANT: content, creative energy, ideas, love and space.
How has social media hurt you as an artist?
I often read something I wrote through another’s viewpoint, which is pretty much never helpful in the wanting-to-be-REAL place. I think will *they* think I am too attached to my kids? Will *they* think I am too carefree? Will *they* think my house looks filthy? Will *they* think that sounds self-absorbed or judgmental or crass or……..????? Sometimes I think why share my work at all? What for?
How has social media helped you as an artist?
It is really cool to have regularly scheduled access to like-minded and unlike-minded people. Also, the mediums I choose to engage with – instagram and blogging – are a fun, creative expression.
We’ve talked a lot about social media–the good, the bad, the ugly, but mostly the really beautiful things like friendship and inspiration and supporting women. I mean our entire friendship has social media to thank for it. We’ve had so many conversations about this incredible community but also about those awful moments when we’ve been hurt by mean comments or second guessed something we put out into the world.
Let’s talk about people being mean online first. What have you learned from it?
I get to pick what I listen to. I get to pick what I take home with me. You taught me this, Kelle. Your commitment to not clicking into certain arenas has inspired me to adopt the same policy. Every online conversation we have is a vote for the kind of internet we want. I choose where I get my energy and inspiration and there are so many brilliant sources out there. I can’t help but want to do more, give more. Humans are incredible, powerful sources. I choose the power that uplifts, raises awareness, challenges, progresses and loves.
Also, I am sensitive and I don’t fucking care to change it. I feel it. I am not going to get “thick skinned” and I don’t really want to.
SISTAH! Preach it! (I should also tell you, congrats. You’ve officially dropped the f-bomb for the first time into ETST, and I’m okay with it. Let’s move on.) The friends you’ve met online? The community you’ve been a part of? The inspiration? What have you learned from it?
That love is endless and abundant. That kindness and honesty win. There is so much gumption, intelligence and momentum in the pulsing, growing community of people who want to give back, give in and feel what we feel. It isn’t about branding or hits or traffic. It is about being a part of the thing we want our kids to be a part of – and I’m talking way bigger than onlineness here.
I want to make art. I want to write. I want to be involved in all these big conversations that are happening around me. I have professional goals. I have talents. I want to be out there making a difference. But I also want to be home and make breakfast and tie shoes and not feel like I’m left out of the “leaning in” club. Marry these halves, please. In a few sentences…
Oh sister. I believe I have time to be other things when my kids are older. Or I won’t have the time – I can’t control that, but I am in charge of this season of my life. Right now I very intentionally choose to lean in to my family.
I know I won’t regret it because this feels right, now, and will lead to the next thing that feels right. But, yo, that doesn’t mean I don’t have regularly scheduled bouts of insecurity about my choices. You wrote a best-selling book and are working on another! And you have three more children than me. Every time you tell me to just open my document and type BOOK PROPOSAL at the top I feel twitchy. Every time an art colleague asks me if I’ve been in the studio I feel defensive. Every time old co-workers ask me if I’ll get back into arts advocacy work I feel I like I’m letting them down with my answer.
I cannot marry the halves as they are already one. Our professional goals, talents and desire to make a difference can happen WHILE being moms, not in spite of being moms.
I love you. Can I just say that? Okay, there’s an overused word that’s been stretched to define so many different things, but I can’t help but use it in describing who you are as a friend, as an artist, as a writer, mother, community member, thinker, human being. You are authentic. What does that mean to you?
Overuse away! I love that word. Pretty sure I’ve already used it a few times in this conversation. It means honest, always. Actions speak louder than words. In the non-fiction online world it means the person you bump into on the street is the person you already know.
The way you love the where you live (both in terms of geologic place as well as figuratively, this “place” in your life) has so inspired me to appreciate where I live and this sliver of life. How do you do that so well?
I practice. I believe the deep appreciation and intention I have/strive for is a work in progress. It is available to all of us. We are complex and untidy. But our muse is available in all things, through a gentle attention to detail. I try really hard. You do too and I am so inspired by your drive.
And some fun questions for good measure–favorite nightly routine after a hard day?
Just my immediate family. Music, good food, wine, walk after dinner, early to bed where I cuddle and talk about boring stuff with my husband.
Five songs on your kitchen dance party play list?
Can I please share some of the dance videos you’ve made? Ok good. Please don’t edit them out.
Very funny. Um, no.
Why is this so hard for me? I have three that immediately come to mind. Fill in my other two.
1. Icona Pop, “I Love It”
2. Kid Cudi, “Pursuit of Happiness”
3. Katy Perry, “This Is How We Do”
4. I’m going to say Justin Timberlake and Madonna’s “4 Minutes.” It always makes me think of you. We’ve had a few high-on-life moments together with that song.
5. Some weird instrumental song that called for weird interpretive moves because I have a feeling you’d rock that out.
You’re a damn good cook and kitchen goddess. What’s the one kitchen item you can’t live without?
Last best book you’ve read?
Just finished The Long Winter with my kids. I am amazed with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ability to stay honest, relevant, interesting to me and appropriate for my five year-old.
Best suggestion for something to make with your kids?
Bread. Easy, hearty, healthy. Science + art. Process + intention. Conversation + down time.