Last summer, my mom’s birthday was approaching and I wanted to design her a birthday card that was great for a 50-something woman. I wanted my card to make her feel loved, and vibrant, and excited for her many years to come. I brainstormed for days, and when I’d finally come up with something, I Snapchatted it to my sister… who promptly told me it seemed like I was calling her old.
At this point, I was running out of time, and I just needed to get something in the mail. I turned to the power of the internet, and soon had found the perfect quote from an Irish poet (who shall remain unnamed). My mom loved her card and I was pretty proud of it, too, so I listed it on my Etsy shop and shared a couple photos to Instagram.
Within two hours, I had multiple emails, an Etsy message, and an Instagram message from the Director of the Literary Estate of The Unnamed Irish Poet, telling me I was in copyright violation and demanding that I remove all photos and my Etsy listing. Obviously I immediately did so, and emailed back my sincere apologies, and frantically texted my one lawyer friend asking if I was going to get locked up forever and ever.
It’s been 8 months and I never heard back from them, so I feel relatively confident now that I’m not going to waste away behind bars. The incident did have a couple lasting effects on me and my business, though — for one, I actually bothered to educate myself on the basics of copyright law. But I also finally realized that if I was going to do this right, I needed to write my own messages, from the heart, in my own voice.
This was, of course, not a new idea. It had always been my intention to author the sentiments on my cards; after all, I left a job as a professional writer and editor to pursue this dream. Handwriting is fun, but writing is my natural creative outlet, and it always has been. But being real is hard, and scary, and there’s so much wisdom in the world already, and it’s all too easy to believe that the words spoken by others are more valuable than your own.
Fortunately, I had recently discovered the Real Talk Radio podcast by Nicole Antoinette, and had become obsessed with the open, honest, authentic conversations she was having with every guest. Each episode is around an hour and a half or two hours long — long enough for people to really let down their guards. Nicole’s roster of guests varies widely, including Olympic athletes, writers, sex experts, and nutritionists, but what I so admire about Nicole is that she knows how to ask the right questions, tell her own stories, and make each guest comfortable enough to build a real connection.
So when I found myself suddenly facing the painfully obvious conclusion that I should, you know, write Written Paper Goods, it was a lot easier to move forward after having had a crash course in the magic that can result from real talk. Listening to Nicole’s podcast had reaffirmed for me that vulnerability begets connection — and my greatest hope is that my cards will help people feel more connected to the people they care about.
Nicole, if you’re reading this: thank you for your real talk. It inspired me in a moment when I felt laid bare, and empowered me to be real.