Nicole Fenton is the coauthor of Nicely Said. She designs with words.

Values and Intentions

I’ve talked about being intentional, defining clear goals, and writing with purpose, but I’ve never taken the time to write down my values. I’ve touched on those things here and there, but I’m typically working on behalf of clients and guiding them through the articulation process for themselves. When I decided to take my business in a new direction, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I’d have to ask someone for help.

After sitting with that aimless feeling for a while, I asked Jenn Armbrust if she’d be interested in working with me. And she said yes(!), so she’s guiding me on this ever-so-timely vision quest. Jenn is rad and you should hire her too! Check out her writing (OMG, that PDF!) and Card Carrying Feminist for more of her work. Since this is a working blog and not a portfolio, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the process with you as it unfolds. I’m not taking much time to edit this—and I’m not sure where this is going—so you might expect a bit of a mess. That’s where my thoughts are right now, so it feels honest to me.

Jenn and I started working together in late April. We’ve met a few times over Skype and once in person. She asks me to bring an agenda, and we talk about those things first. Then, Jenn makes some suggestions and gives me homework—which I love! I’ve found the hardest part of being a client is being rigorous with my answers. I tell the truth of course, but I want to choose the right words, words that feel like me. Part of that means slowing down and thinking before I answer. I try to avoid the business jargon and skip over things I don’t really mean, things I might feel pressured by some invisible force to say. I try to go inward and lean out.

After we talk, I continue that process in the assignments and work toward the heart of each question. I push words around. I make lists. I read and let my mind wander. We also worked through a creative brief together for the website, which we’ll get to later in the project. These assignments ask me to make decisions and give voice to my intent. To speak up and speak plainly. This is all so meta that of course I love it.

We also talk about smaller things, like issues I’m having right now with the business. For example, a lot of people assume I’m a marketing writer or copywriter. While I’ve done a lot of that work and people use the word “copywriter” to mean lots of things, writing to sell has never been my goal. I come from a people-focused, process-oriented background and those are the things I think about most: readers, customers, listeners, users, and teams. I’m here to make the writing and design process go as smoothly as possible. I’m here to ask difficult and important questions. I care about clarity, not cleverness. If someone hires me to spice up their marketing, they’re bound to be disappointed. These are the things I need to express clearly on my website.

Enter: the manifesto exercise. This has been the hardest part so far. I’ve written down some core values and belief statements that poke at why I do this work and why I love it. Here’s where I am with the values.



These are things I hold dear and look forward to each day. This gives me enough material to start with. From here, I need to frame these values into something tangible: a manifesto, or what Jenn calls “a bold public declaration of your personal principles, vision, and intent.” Kapow! I can’t wait to have that clarity.

I love thinking out loud and on paper with my clients. Being on the other side of the research process is fun for me too. This manifesto will take me some time, but I’ll share it with you once I get my head around it.