A introductory note (or novella) about my new venture, Firestarter Interactive, which will be the umbrella agency for most of my projects and collaborations going forward.
Firestarter Interactive is born of everything I've learned to love, care about, create, and do through the course my life to this point. On the precipice of my thirtieth birthday, it’s the setting of an intention for the work, culture, and lifestyle I choose for myself going forward. Firestarter Interactive is an authentic digital storytelling agency, a community of doers and makers, a shared set of beliefs, a lifestyle, a support network, or more accurately, an inspiration network—I hope you will join us.
Following a thread, finding philosophy
I've had many jobs, gigs, and projects over the years, but I've never had a job job. Living that reality—quite afield of the the conventional pathway, not by conscious exerted choice, but by knowing not how to do otherwise—has made me an fierce advocate for creatively constructing one's life, a champion of those having the courage to believe that following in footsteps and playing it safe is not the only pathway. I'm a believer in finding your thread, whatever it may be, committing to it and following it through all the twists and turns that weave the tapestry of you and the life you're actively choosing, all the steps of the way. If you say yes, if you trust, if you reflect, if you believe, if you follow (yourself, your excitement), you will find your way because you must.
The pathway is not always clear and without bush and bramble. I will admit that more than once I have felt on the edge of desperate and reason, and the thought of a solid paycheck hitting my account every week or two weeks (or however that works)—not to mention healthcare and benefits, and the infrastructure of work already in place—has seemed like such a carefree and enviable state in which to go through life. But that feeling has never persisted long. Through the darkness and bramble, there has always been light returning, stronger than ever, a sign that this pathway, the self-defined pathway, is the one I'm meant to tread in this world—what about you?
When you work for yourself, you can't take your eye off the ball or take the backseat. Sunday through Sunday, that can be an exhausting reality. But if you’ve found that thread, you are your work and your work is you, and there’s nothing like it. You're building your own foundation, a reflection of your dreams, your labors, your vision, your way of absorbing the world and reflecting it back. To look upon that foundation, work within it, and build upon it is a powerful thing. I care so deeply about this career of mine—as an observer and storyteller, traveler, curator of objects and ideas, doer and maker, lover of wellness, happiness, beauty, and nature. All the things I've seen, people I've encountered along the way, and stories I've had the privilege to tell are embedded in its brickwork: colorful, rich, thick, and full of lessons and stories to continue to build upon. Whatever your version, this is the reality that I choose for myself and advocate for.
The intertwining of work and life, a desire to create
I've been largely single throughout my twenties as friends, classmates, and ex-boyfriends have dated, engaged, married, bought houses and started families of their own. For as long as I can remember, I envisioned this would be my fate: marrying and starting a family young, much like my parents, and creating a life and pathway with a soulmate by my side. But that has not been my story. I believe that through this, I have to come be and know myself more deeply, and crafted a life bent to my own ideas and intentions. The landscape of my future is open and I now firmly believe that when I do meet my match (if I do, which I'd like to) it will be with a strong soul and clear eyes—as me.
Why this digression into my personal life? This career of mine that I've constructed, it's not so much a career as a lifestyle. A way of seeing and being in this world, of connecting, interpreting, projecting, and capturing, and it's all so intertwined. This sometimes feels like a contrarian view in the entrepreneurial world, where much of the (male-dominated) discussion is about compartmentalizing, working efficiently within distinct windows so that true freedom from work can be achieved. I respect this view and approach but it is not me. I've started to believe this is simply a more feminine approach to entrepreneurialism—we are biologically designed to multitask and blend our worlds gracefully, and I see many of my female counterparts and collaborators engaging their work/lives in a similar way—but that's probably a contrarian view, too.
I do yearn to give birth to life of my own, to raise a family and build a shared culture and story of the most intimate kind, but on this eve of my thirtieth birthday, that's not been my story. And yet, this intense desire to build, birth, and create won't quit. Instead I find myself giving form to this vision, this feeling, this Firestarting dream. There's a selflessness that is often associated with motherhood. I'm not sure that's the most accurate word to describe my state in recent months, but I have felt compelled by something outside and larger than myself, pulled uptown, downtown, across state lines, and over oceans envisioning and sharing my vision, creating, and gathering my community, my tribe of collaborators and fellow champions for pathways uncharted, inspired ahead by the energy of collaborators and colleagues believing in all that Firestarter Interactive stands for and is to become.
Evolutions, collaboration, empowerment
My twenties had a few distinct 'career' stages: the learning stage, the apprenticing stage, the doing-everything-myself stage, and now I've arrived at the I-don't-want-to-do-it-all-myself stage. The wisdom of a few more years has taught me the true value of collaboration and shared purpose. I know that I can't do and create on the scale and with the quality that I want to alone, but I know that we can as a we and not a me. At my summer camp in the Adirondacks we used to say, 'if we all do a little, we can do a lot.' This was referring to leftover food during our family-style meals, but I know the same holds true for running a business. Yes it's completely possible to be multi-passionate and multi-talented—I know myself to have many diverse passions and perhaps a couple of skills picked up along the way—but there are just so many moving parts of building and running a media production and lifestyle brand. Why do it alone? No longer is that my greatest aspiration.
Fortunately we all have our own unique strengths and passions—I've seen it in my friends and collaborators, and know it to be true myself. Through the experience of trying to do it all—stretched thin and chaotically pulling it off to some degree—I know we are all at our best when we're doing the one thing or the handful of things that we love most, that we can focus on: our own distinct raison(s) d'´être. We are empowered in this role. In a helicopter above Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, camera in hand with the assignment to share my story and vision of the place, I was living my passion and purpose. I believe that everyone—as part of the Firestarter team and in life—should have the opportunity, regularly, to feel the sense of empowerment that comes of living that sense of excitement and purpose and creating with agility, within a context and framework that's supportive, connected, driven and directed.
The name Firestarter came to me on a trail in the woods, my favorite woods in Franconia, New Hampshire, where I’ve spent a great deal of time throughout my life. For months I'd been feeling a deep pull—as Willa Kammerer, Multimedia Storyteller—to step out of the closet as one who does more than produce videos, though I do that with great passion, and bring my brand into alignment with a more holistic version of me. In the last couple of years I've immersed myself with great interest in the conversations and culture of self-improvement, entrepreneurialism, wellness, yoga, quantified self, life design and beyond, where words like warrior and trailblazer are the norm. On the plane to Australia last May on the brink of a life and career adventure, I found myself musing on that theme. I wrote some of those words down next to my name in my Fieldnotes notebook, along with others that define me, like travel, wellness, and creativity. ‘Wellness warrior’ was catchy, but a little stale and didn’t stick. That was the start of the thinking.
About a month later, I found myself back in New England and alone amidst tall pines, musing again, though quite unconsciously. Somewhere along the trail, Firestarter surfaced in my mind and required no further consideration—that was it. Days later (upon returning to civilization) I hired a designer to help me re-envision my Multimedia Storyteller logo, replacing Multimedia (that's a given at this point) with Firestarter, and changing the color palate from graytones to earthy and fiery browns. Firestarter Storyteller feels sparky rolling off the tongue and like a more colorful, accurate description of me and my role(s) in the world. While I know little of traditional Chinese elements, along the trail this day I also was struck with the awareness that if we are composed of elements, I am surely earth and fire: relentlessly envisioning and inspired, this spark countered by deep, steadfast will to forge things into being in this world; a lover of the flurry and fury of creativity and passion, yet hopelessly literal and grounded, tied to nature and our physical world. I get lost in theory and abstraction, but can't help but live my own deeply, know it, share it.
On synergy: fire breeds fire
I believe in and practice a holistic lifestyle incorporating work and wellness, passion and play. I work my best when I feel a sense of connection and synergy with the people I'm working with. In this hands-on, heart-entrenched work/life, I've learned it's a non-negotiable. As wiser people than I have reflected, our lives are how we choose to spend our days, and we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I want to spend my days happily and productively, batting a high average. With this in mind, over the course of the last few months, I've been working to gather a multi-talented tapestry of exceptional individuals that I believe have skill, philosophy, and great presence to contribute to all that Firestarter Interactive is about and is to become.
What started in my mind as a one-dimensional digital agency has grown so much bigger and more important, to me, beyond me, and for all that it represents. Firestarter Interactive is an authenticity-driven interactive content and experience-creating agency, a curation hub, and a network of like-minded, life-minded collaborators that love to share inspiring stories of real people saying ‘yes’ to life in whatever language it may be. Firestarter is about living deep, creative lives and believing in beauty and possibility, exploration and adventure. It's is about finding your thread and feeling a strong personal stake in that which you choose to do in this world and this life. By envisioning Firestarter I struck the flame of a little match, and am humbled by the growing fire. I hope you will inspire and be inspired, and join the fire.