Dealing with a Creative Block

Outlaw Design Blog has an article on 10 Ways to Beat the Hell Out of Creative Block

Here's an excerpt:

We have all experienced it, those times we feel completely void of all creativity. Those times when you don’t think you could even muster up the creativity to draw a stick man. While these times may feel a bit overwhelming and impossible to escape, there are a few things you can do to help git rid of that creative block. So grab your phone because as soon as you do a few of these suggestions your muse is gonna be calling.

1. Change of Scenery

This is probably one of the most staple ways for me to personally break a creative block. I find that doing something as simple as walking the dog or going to gym for 30 minutes can really help clear my mind. It is often during these times that I have my creative epiphany almost minutes after taking part in this method.

....Article continues on Outlaw Design Blog

Card Submissions Wanted for Publication

Sarah Schwartz, the editor at Stationery Trends Magazine is asking for submissions for their January issue that will feature new products. Deadline October 19th.

Themes wanted: Embossing, birdcages, carnival, circus, wood-block, postcards, Fuchsias, Coming of Age, Kid Products, white on white, and organizational items. 15 word description, 300 dpi, minimum 4" wide jpg. Maximum 2 images per message.

Submission Form and Guidelines: Download this PDF.

Valuing Your Design Community

Ran across this article. Especially worth reading if you work in isolation. Here's an excerpt:

Imjustcreative logo design

No matter what we say about being independent, or shy when it comes to interaction with other people, the truth is we need friends, and acquaintances to interact with that we have something in common with. In the design world our work and frustrations are often misunderstood by those outside of the community, simply due to the nature of creative work. That being said it will lend to better personal fulfillment to build relationships with other designers. As we interact within the community and build relationships we will also build a great resource for support, feedback, and collaboration, these are the results that we should be looking for more that just more face time, and traffic to our blog/site.

Article Continued...

Breaking into the Greeting Card Writing Market

Here is part of an interview I did for Women on Writing (w.o.w.) publication a few months back. It's about my experience of buying greeting card copy.

Interview with Kate Harper by LuAnn Schindler

WOW: I first saw your greeting cards about 10 years ago. But for our readers who are unfamiliar with your card line, would you give an overview of the types of cards you offer? KATE: For over a decade, I designed and sold my cards through about 40 sales reps, but about two years ago, I licensed my line to another company so I could have more free time to do artwork. Now I am in the process of tweaking the line and adding inside text, which I never did before.

Now I know what it is like to be "both sides": the “buyer” of text and the “writer” of text.

WOW: How did you break into the business?
KATE: I made them for friends as a hobby and eventually I began selling locally and then nationally to chains like Barnes and Noble. Then I started buying text from professional writers.

WOW: For writers considering submitting, how difficult is it to make the cut? KATE: I think there is a real lack of everyday sentiments people can relate to. In fact research shows that writing is the critical element on whether someone will buy a card. The image and price are secondary. Also, if you can make someone laugh out loud, as far as I'm concerned, you've already sold the card.
I've reviewed thousands and thousands of submissions in my life, I'd say you are really competing with a lot of people who haven't done any homework. Here's an estimate of the kinds of submissions I received:

-25% have not read my guidelines.
25% are sending inappropriate subject matter for a greeting card or are rude ("I know you are fat and that's because you eat too much birthday cake").-5% are sending trademarked words I can't use (Chevy, iPod, Xerox).
5% come from prisons
-5-10% are great but their email doesn't work anymore
5% send me a long letter of how they need to make money and please will you publish my quote.
10% are religious, and again, have not read my guidelines.
10% have read up on what makes good card text, have read my guidelines, and are making a good effort at "trying" to get it right. I respect that...they just haven't hit a zinger yet.
10% are great submissions, and I buy them. The writer seems an authentic, down to earth, real person and sees the world in interesting ways. They also talk from experience.
SO, there are 80% of authors who have not studied greeting card writing styles, and 20% who have. So if you do your homework, you've already narrowed down your competition from 100 people to 20 people.

WOW: Should greeting card writers specialize in one type of verse? KATE: Humor is a big seller. So are pets. I often asked my writers to use the "pet voice"—what would your pet say if he could? I think shorter verse is better since people don't like reading long text on a card rack. But traditional text that expresses "how much I care" or "am thankful to you" is always important. Birthdays are one of the biggest sellers, so if you can combine humor, birthday and pets—I'd say that's a home run! But try anything. Don't fret over things, just throw them out there, submit them, and look for funny things you hear or see in your daily life.

WOW: Many card lines seem to fall into defined categories so an individual purchasing a card knows, for instance, that line x has a hint of sarcasm, line y is sentimental, and line z is humorous. What is your greeting card philosophy? KATE: I think I generally feel like the more you laugh or say "ahhh" (like you would when you see a kitten) the happier your life will be. So I've heard from store buyers that people will spend 30 minutes looking at my line in the store and laughing out loud. That's a complete success to me. That means I've made a personal connection with the reader and I've made them laugh.

WOW: How important is it for writers to submit a total package? Do other card companies have similar guidelines? KATE: Every company is different and has specific guidelines. I can only tell you what I liked: • Always by email • Only 10 per email • Blank spaces between quotes so it's easier to read. The biggest problem I had was that people often gave me outdated emails, so 3-6 months later, when I needed to select quotes, about 10% of the writers could not be contacted. Writers should ALWAYS send multiple contact sources (mailing address, secondary email, or even your mother's address!) I really doubt that most companies would ever give out this information to anyone—so don't be nervous about that. It's usually pretty safe to give out private contact information since it's probably only going to be used to locate you.

WOW: If I have an idea for a greeting card verse, what’s one important idea I should keep in mind? KATE: I always say--visualize the person the card is going to: Your nephew? Your friend? Your son, on graduation day? Close your eyes and really tell me what you would want to say to them (even if you are too shy to do it real life). What do you authentically feel in your heart? It's probably the same thing we all feel, but we just don't know how to say it or are too embarrassed to. Cards are a medium that expresses words we want to say, but don't know we let the card say it for us.

WOW: When you consider a submission, do you purchase all rights? What’s typical in the industry? KATE: Typically, all rights are purchased. I was an oddball, and didn't purchase all rights because I wanted the writer to be able to resell their work. That is very unusual.

WOW: For writers who haven’t had much experience writing verse, what resources are available? KATE: Tons and tons. I have several books recommended on my blog under "books on my shelf." I also twitter out writing resources whenever I see them (twitter address is @kateharpercards) since I'm on a lot of alert lists for greeting card news.

WOW: What advice would you offer someone who wants to form her own greeting card business? KATE: I'd say research is 80% of the business, and 20% is trying different things and showing your designs to professionals (stores, sales reps) for feedback. Friends don't count because they love everything you do. Take your cards to a store and stick them on the shelf, step back, and see if they fit in or if they look too unprofessional or too dark. If they look like they "belong" there—that's great! Then start talking to store reps and learn about manufacturing and costs. The sooner you get a professional opinion early on in your card development, the more you will get a clear direction and not waste time on bad designs. This will save you a lot of time. Make sure you tell people you "won't get your feelings hurt", you just want ruthless true advice on how to improve the card and make it sellable.

LuAnn Schindler is a full-time freelance journalist living on the eastern slope of the Nebraska Sandhills on a dairy farm with 200+ Holsteins. She currently blogs for The Muffin, the WOW! Women On Writing daily blog. Her work has appeared in the Pregnancy, 2: The Couples Magazine, Denver Post, Rural Electric Nebraskan, Absolute Write, in addition to other publications. LuAnn is a member of the National Federation of Press Women and Nebraska Press Women.


 Books on Writing Card Sentiments 

You Can Write Greeting Cards This hands-on guide features practical instruction and exercises that teach beginners how to survey the market, find their niche, and write greetings cards that say just the right thing.

A Guide to Greeting Card Writing All forms are discussed in detail: conventional verse and prose, personal relationship cards, humor, juvenile, inspirational, etc. Detailed info on how to submit and sell your work to greeting card markets. All the nuts and bolts of both the creative art and the publishing market.

Write Greeting Cards Like a Pro Moore knows the ins and outs of the greeting card business. In this hands-on guide, she offers practical instruction, idea joggers, and exercises that will teach you how to survey the market, find your niche, and write greeting cards that say just the right thing. From humor to inspirational writing, Moore profiles the special needs of each greeting card category and also shows you how to spot new trends, so you can write the cards publishers are seeking today.

The Freelance Writing for Greeting Card Companies This book targets important areas a writer needs to know in regards to being self-employed, as well as, how to own a small greeting card business. It covers Internet to explore the technology which has opened the door for freelance writers and artists. You will find web sites that will offer a variety of freelance writers opportunities never before known or unreachable outside the Internet world such as: chat rooms, bulletin boards, or forums so writers can communicate with other writers. This type of networking is ideal for finding answers or obtaining valuable information about a company, organizations, writing groups, and available resources.

How to Write and Sell Greeting Cards, Bumper Stickers, T-Shirts and Other Fun Stuff A successful freelancer shares her years of experience and advice in writing for the "social expression market".

Thinking of You: A Card Greeting for Every Occasion This little books helps to jump start your thinking to make messages for cards.

Finding the Right Words: Perfect Phrases to Personalize Your Greeting Cards More than three dozen ways to say "Happy Birthday” for new family members...even pets. Includes thoughtful condolences for personalizing sympathy cards and congratulatory wishes for weddings and anniversaries. There are helpful hints to simplify card-sending and a monthly calendar for birthdays and anniversaries. This is a book of phrases for all occasions.

Ebook by Kate Harper

You can support this blog by ordering Kate's e-Booklets starting at only .99 cents! They can be read on your kindle, ipad, ipod, cellphone, or your computer. Free samples and lending options available. 

7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers is a booklet that explains what to avoid when submitting greeting card verse to publishers. Learn how to create a trendy card that reflects the contemporary world we live in, and how to use your own personal experience to create card verse. Topics include: how to avoid limiting your market, when to use adjectives, not creating card for enemies, write like people talk and a list of why card sentiment submissions are often rejected. You can increase your odds of success by 60% just by doing a few simple things. Includes a list of card publishers and their guidelines, links to writer interviews, and writing exercises for how to create good verse.


Artist BJ Lantz Talks About Licensing

I ran across BJ Lantz's art, and was impressed with her professional style and the way she represents her line on her website. I asked her to do an interview for this blog to share her experiences.

While this is a lengthy interview, I’m posting almost all of it, because BJ shares intimate and honest experiences, such as the day she found herself crying in the bathroom at a tradeshow. We’ve all had those moments, and it’s refreshing to hear the truth of what artists deal with at times.

I was inspired by her story because there are days when the art licensing journey is hard, but Bj didn't let that hold her back. At times, I laughed out loud at her stories because I've had some of the same bitter, humorous, crazy and sweet experiences as she did.


Artist: The Impressionists painters, the best and my favoritea hang in the D'Orsay in Paris, and are "La Pie" by Claude Monet and "Snow at Louveciennes 1878" by Alfred Sisley

Design tip: Smart Sets in Photoshop. I posted a tutorial on my blog.

Technology you use: Mac (Dual 2.3 GHz Power PC G5), Epson Perfection 2450 Photo Scanner, Epson Stylus Photo R1900 printer, HP 1220C printer. I also have several peripheral hard drives. I am using Photoshop CS4, Illustrator CS3, Bridge, and QuarkXpress. I have Painter, but get rather frustrated when trying to learn it. It is a deep program.

Message you have on your bulletin board: Dream Big. Live Fully. Live Well. Laugh Often. Love Much.

Podcasts you listen to:

Art Vacation location: In September I am heading to Squam Art Workshop in New Hampshire.

Contact Information: BJ Lantz Illustration & Design website is email: She also has a Blog


How did you decide to "go it alone" and not use an agent?

When I started, I had heard some horror stories about agents not getting artists work and how you were tied to them for the length of whatever contract you signed, etc. I felt that I had the marketing skills to do it myself, or to at least try to do it myself before committing to an agent.

I've done OK so far; I always kind of wonder if I had the right agent if I might go to the next level because I am getting to where I am spread pretty thin. But at the end of the day, I'm not willing to give up the money yet. I am such an A-type personality I would probably drive an agent nuts. And I am happy to say that over the years I have met plenty of artists who love their agents and are very happy with them.

Is it harder to get in the door when you represent yourself?

No, I don't think so.

Are certain product categories are more conducive for long term income?

I consider paper products the "low hanging fruit,” easier to get into for the most part than say, ceramics. It is also easier when you're just starting to get in to smaller companies.

For long term income, don't count on anything being long term.

Companies turn product designs so fast these days it is amazing. You cannot predict what design will hit and stay in a line longer than another would.

I have had a paper plate design out there that got blown out on all kinds of ancillary products and has really hung in there for a couple years now, providing some nice checks.

However, I have an entire ceramic giftware collection that debuted this January that was 50% by the July show. I am sure I won't see a dime past the advance. The company told me that they had had to mark down a few new collections because giftware was just plain soft at the moment.

What was your journey into art licensing?

I went to a local community college and received a degree in Advertising Design and Graphic Art. At that time, no one used computers for design and there was no such thing as email, Fedex or even fax machines.

What I really wanted to do was editorial illustration, but living in a little beach town and not NYC, the wisest choice seemed to be to take a job in an advertising agency. I made a good career out of being a graphic designer for nearly 11 years before I opened my own graphic design studio that flourished for two years.

After that I spent a year as a creative director, a marketing director and as a developer and editor-in-chief. After that I returned to freelancing for six months before succumbing to taking a job with a professional music theater as their assistant marketing director.

On the morning of September 11, I drove to work in the rain wondering if I should give my notice that day or wait until the following Monday. Of course everything went to hell and back that day and I decided to give up my job and went back to freelancing full-time. I swore I would never again take a "real" job. So far, I have been fortunate that I have been able to keep that promise to myself.


I thought about illustration and how much I had loved it in college. I researched greeting card companies and found a publication called "Greetings Etc." which started me thinking. I also saw an ad for a studio Lakeside Design * an hour away from me that specialized in design for the greeting & gift industry. (*Lakeside no longer accepts outside art).

One day my mother called me to tell me about an ad for Lakeside Design and they were looking for a freelance artist to send work to. I fired off my resume and a cover letter waited for the call that was sure to come. It didn't come. I was puzzled, so I called and was told that the owner was busy and was quickly brushed off.

I called again the next day and amazingly, the owner herself (Joanne Fink) answered - and tried to brush me off just as quickly. She said. "I've got a stack of resumes two inches thick on my desk and I haven't had time to look at them and I am leave for a show in Chicago tomorrow " I told her she needed to shuffle my resume to the top and read it on the plane.

Guess that got her attention because we ended up talking for about 15 minutes and I hung up with an appointment to meet with her when she returned. She was barely through my portfolio before she gave me a project.

Through Joanne Fink I discovered the licensing industry. I was astounded by the fact that I could create an illustration or design and sell it over and over to different companies. While I continued working with my commercial clients, I freelanced graphic design to her for nearly two years while building my portfolio and attending trade shows and learning as much as I could about the greeting, gift and stationery industry. She was generous in assigning me a wide variety of projects so that I was exposed to different facets of the business.

While I met some of my initial contacts in the industry through her, I quickly developed my own marketing methods and became busy enough with my licensing career that I had to stop freelancing for her. While I cannot credit the progress I've made in the last five years to her, I am completely grateful to her for those first couple years of education and introductions. They were indeed invaluable.


From the beginning, it didn't take me long to realize how tough and competitive this industry is. I actually cried in the bathroom at the first Surtex I attended; I thought, "No way can I compete with these fantastic artists!" But I got over it. The first few years were especially difficult because I was juggling a full-time freelance graphic design business with building an illustration portfolio and marketing myself in the gift industry. Not much was coming in the way of royalties so I had to keep up the graphic design. Once I built up more licenses and therefore more royalties, little by little I let my graphic design clients go and I haven't had any commercial advertising clients in nearly three years.


I would have to say the hardest part about getting off the ground was marketing myself to the manufacturers and getting the appointments at the shows. In the beginning, it was hard to get them to take me seriously. I was a newbie. I can understand from their point of view that they hear from a lot of artists and not all of them are professional. This, while still not my favorite part of the business, has gotten somewhat easier. I can only say that experience and a track record has helped there.It is very hard to wear all the hats, but in the end I love what I do and wouldn't have it any other way.


My advice to anyone struggling with this career path is that if you really want it, determination and persistence will pay off. While I had a mentor, and am very thankful for that, I didn't learn everything from her and I believe that what got me as far as I have to date has been my fierce commitment to succeeding and not wanting to get a "real" job!

What is your overall approach to keep licensees coming back for more? Or do you instead go look for new licensees?

Manufactures are a fickle bunch. They might love you for a project, then decide to move on to a different look, or you just aren't producing anything new that they want. I think it is a balance of trying to hang on to the licensees you have and finding new ones.

You have to try to do both. When I was a graphic designer, I would get a client and then they'd keep coming back with all their graphic design work. Licensing doesn't work that way. You're only as good as the last design they cared for.

What the best and worst experience you ever had when trying to market your art?

My worst experience was at the Atlanta show. I was meeting with a manufacturer and I arrived early, just as he was exiting the back of his booth with another person.He said, "Oh, hi our meeting is at 11:00 right? I'll see you then." and walked off with the other person.

I wandered around for 5 minutes and came back. He still wasn't there, so I stood around awkwardly trying not to get in the way until he returned 10 minutes later. I sat down and I handed him my portfolio.He didn't sit down, he didn't look through it, he actually did the 2-second fan the pages, handed it back to me, and said, "I'm looking for product concepts, come back when you have some of those." And he exited the booth, leaving me sitting behind the curtain, amid the boxes with my portfolio in my hand and a stunned look on my face.

I left that meeting, and headed for my next one and was told that she wasn't there, but they expected her any minute. So I wander around the showroom and suddenly spotted her. I walked up, extended my hand and said, "Hi, you're probably looking for me - BJ Lantz - we have an appointment." She said, "No, I'm looking for so & so." I said, "Oh, did I get our appt. time wrong?" She finally focused on me and said, "Who are you? Oh, yeah, I remember, uh, well, we could sit down for a minute until so & so arrives."

We sit on a bench outside the showroom and I hand her my portfolio and start into my intro spiel and she looks up, apparently sees so & so and slides my book off her lap and onto the bench and walks away - without or word to me. Then I walked up to her, got right between her and so & so and said, "Apparently you are far to busy to keep the appointment you made with me. When you're ready to have a professional meeting, please give me a call." And I held out my card.

She blinked a few times, then excused herself from so & so and apologized to me and said something about showing me around the showroom "since I was there". She did a quick little tour and excused herself. Never did see my work.

The best experiences is that I have had many, many good meetings that have turned into some nice projects with nice people. I would say the good experiences have far out-weighted the bad.

Art Marketing and Licensing Seminar

WHEN: Sunday, Sept 13, 2009, 8:30-5:30
HOW MUCH: $195.00
WHERE:M2L located at 104 Boylston St., Boston Ma
HOW TO REGISTER: Registration Form PDF

Art Licensing: What it takes with Carol Eldridge, Carol Eldridge Designs
Art Marketing Today: New guidelines
with Susan Fader, Ditto Editions
Art Etiquette: The Do(s) and Don't(s) with Suzanne Schultz, Canvas Fine Art Gallery
Copyright & More: Know the laws with Brian LeClair, IP Attorney
Art Reproduction Today: Get the facts with Susan Fader, Ditto Editions
Art Representation: Is it for you? with Suzanne Schultz, Canvas Fine Art Gallery
Social Networking: How & Why
with Corissa St. Laurant , Constant Contact

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