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A little bit of joy

A friend of mine told me how she is expanding her art business by placing her illustrations on new products, such as notepads or mugs. But she had a concern: “I’m not inspired by making more stuff the clutter the world.”

I asked her about her experiments with notepads, and she explained how people loved them. With mugs, she described that people are always asking her to make them. I encouraged her to reframe the objects not as clutter, but of moments of joy. That when someone chooses her mug for coffee each morning, her art will bring a moment of joy to their life.

Today, I want to talk about how you can grow the audience for your creative work, even when you have the concern that the world is cluttered, and you don’t want your work to be seen as adding to the clutter. I don’t just mean “clutter” as a physical object. Many writers and creative professionals tell me things such as:

  • “Why am I writing this book when there are already thousands of books published each year in the same genre?”
  • “I don’t want to engage in social media; it’s just pictures of what people are eating for lunch.”
  • “I don’t want to use email to reach my audience, people are overwhelmed with spam.”

I have complete empathy that these are keen observations that are not untrue. There is already lots of stuff vying for people’s attention. But my question for you is this:

Will you let these reasons stop you?

I am not encouraging you to sell out, or embrace the idea of just joining in with adding more clutter — more useless distraction — to people’s lives. Instead, I want to frame it this way:

Bring a little bit of joy into someone’s day.

To use this as a daily prompt when you consider how you can grow and engage your audience, how you can expand your creative work, and how you can find more success.

The writers and creative professionals who bring joy to the days of others, are those who:

  • Get followed on social media.
  • Don’t have their emails deleted.
  • Are the one’s people talk about.
  • Sell more of their work because people see it as a way to say ‘thank you.’
  • Have their work spreads because it empowers others to share the joy they have received.

When you bring a little joy into someone’s day, you give them a respite. A moment where a simple pleasure gives them hope, or speaks to them in a meaningful way.

Be the person who we want to welcome into our days.

How does this translate to actions you can take to help you grow and engage your audience? Some ideas:

  • Say thank you. My goodness do we need more of this. Find an author you like, a reader you like, anyone who inspires you, and just email them a heartfelt thank you letter.
  • Do a video reply. Instead of being the 100th person to “like” something on social media why not instead do a short video reply instead. Connect as a person, instead of the same heart icon that everyone else uses. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram have all added easy to use video features.
  • Promote someone else’s work. Imagine if someone spent a whole day just telling the world how wonderful you were? Why not do that for someone else. Write a blog post or podcast or email about just them and their work.

I follow author Hugh Howey on Facebook and saw him casually share this photo the other day:

That’s author Neil Gaiman and musician & author Amanda Palmer just hanging out on Hugh’s boat. I don’t know how this meetup came about, but I can imagine a moment where Hugh reached out to them and said, “Why not come for a ride on my boat?” He offered them a moment of joy.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Sure Dan, when I’m as successful as Hugh, then I will gladly take the time to be generous to others. Especially if they are Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman.”

I am simply encouraging you to start now. Because bringing moments of joy to others is something you are able to do in this very moment. It is a habit you should build. And yes, this will help you develop a larger audience, and one that becomes raving fans.

Waiting to do this until you are “big enough” is no more apt, than if you said, “Sure Dan, when I am successful as Hugh, THEN I will work out enough to get the same killer abs that he does.”

You can get those abs right now. And you can be generous to your readers and other creative professionals right now.

Do I think sharing joy works? Yes. I also think it is the antidote to what so many writers tell me they see online: constant pressure to not “miss out” on some limited time promotion, deal, course, webinar, or guidebook. Instead of adding yet another click-bait headline, another high pressure marketing tactic, another pop up window, why not try something different: brighten someone’s day.

How can you add a little bit of joy to someone’s day?

  • John Fleming

    Thanks for the thoughtful article Dan. Something we all need to keep in mind every day. For some reason, this song stuck in my head as I read your post! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMj7UcjPZ0U

  • Thank you, Dan, for bringing that “little bit of joy” into my week every time! I really appreciate your thoughtful and thought-provoking messages. They always seem to resonate with something I am thinking about, struggling with, or writing about – and then give me that boost of encouragement to keep on going. 🙂

  • carmen kern

    Love this article Dan! I know exactly how your artist friend feels. With all the images and information and entertainment available to us, it seems that our work will be lost in the masses. But here’s the thing, our point of view will always be different from someone else. I’ve been on photowalks before where several photographers will stand on the same street corner and shoot a few frames. After, when we share our images, there is never the exact same shot. It amazes me every time. I am always interested and inspired by what my fellow photographers captured. Thanks for reminding me to share my joy in whatever way I can!

    • What a great example! Thank you Carmen!

  • I believe email (at least in its present form) will become outdated within the next 10 years or so and replaced by various social media forums, which in turn, will mature and develop; thus going from quirky, minimalist verbiage to practical, irreplaceable functions. Twitter, Instagram and the like could metamorphose into more serious applications where people can obtain trustworthy data and information in real time. I have friends and relatives who rarely check their email now because they’ve become accustomed to Facebook and cell phone text messages. The potentially practical ramifications of this are boundless.

    For writers and other artists – especially introverts like me – it could be a veritable godsend in that we’d be able to reach prospective audiences quicker.
    This will, of course, force us to describe our works in as few words as possible and – more critically – why someone would want to buy it. It’d be a 21st century spin on the old-fashioned elevator pitch.

    Writing is the only attribute in which I’m 100% confident. People tell me I’m a good writer, and I tend to agree – not because I’m full of myself or believe I’m better than everyone else. But rather, I enjoy the creative process; even the laborious tasks of editing and working through trouble spots in my stories invigorate me. Writing is how I best communicate with the world, and I want to use that skill to help others do the same.

    • I love the way you frame the value of having self-confidence in your creative work. Thank you again!

  • Jay Warner

    I enjoyed reading this post and it resonated with me in a personal way. I’ve been fighting off the onslaught in my inbox of emails pressuring me to buy things, enroll in things, and do things I don’t really care to do. Your words were a calm and bright spot in all the chaos. I’m going to spend some time today writing little bits of joy to people I appreciate. And then I am going to promote someone else’s work just because I think it’s good enough to share. Thanks for inspiring my day!

    • THANK YOU Jay!!! What a great way to spend an afternoon. Have a great day!