A 90-Day Plan to Reach Your Creative Goals

Heads up: I’m hiring! If you know of anyone who likes graphic design and social media, please have them check out this part-time position. They can work from wherever they live. Details here.


This week, two different writers told me that they wish they had found me 10 years ago. They have been digging into my advice recently on marketing and how to grow their platform, and felt it could have saved them years of work.

The idea of a writer spending years spinning their wheels, frustrated… that makes me sad.

I don’t want to be sad.

So today I want to give you a straightforward 90-day plan to kickstart you reaching your creative goals.

This is the process I have honed in working with hundreds of writers and creators every single day in my private mastermind group. Okay, here is the plan:

  • Get radically clear on your mission. On what you create and why.
  • Pick a clear goal that you can reasonably achieve within three months. It should be important enough to matter, but reasonable enough to be doable in a three-month time period.
  • Have accountability partners. Don’t do this alone. Have people who will hold you to your goal, and can help you along the way. These should not just be faceless people yelling “you can do it!” on social media, but people who are following your progress week-by-week, who feel invested in it.
  • Have a guide, a coach, or a mentor. Someone who will show you a path, but also help personalize it for you, providing you with feedback along the way.
  • Set weekly intentions. Small steps you can take each week that moves you closer to your goal.
  • Assess progress at the end of each week. Measure what worked, what didn’t, and what you learned.
  • Celebrate little successes, and even little failures. All of that is a part of the creative process.
  • Plan for setbacks. For days where you second-guess everything, or are sidetracked by things you can’t plan for like a fender bender, money worries, friends in need, etc.

Want that in a worksheet format? Here is a downloadable PDF:

In truth, it is difficult to do all of this by yourself. To get clarity, to find others to help along the way, to stay on track.

I think that is why I have doubled-down on collaboration over the years. Why I have a standing weekly call with two different colleagues where we help each other through our creative challenges. Why everything I offer requires collaboration — I don’t run any programs where you just get information and are left to struggle on your own. It’s why my days are filled with deep conversations with writers who are busy doing the work.

Because that is what separates dreaming of one’s creative goals, to actually ensuring you reach them.

I genuinely hope the process I outlined above can help you.

But if you find it difficult to find the accountability partners and someone who will give you feedback each day and each week, that is why I developed the Creative Shift Mastermind. For three years, I have spent nearly every single day showing up in this group.

Every day, I:

  1. Read every message from each person in the group, and reply. I see you.
  2. Am constantly amazed at the ways the members of this group support each other.
  3. Guide you through a clear step-by-step program, that is 100% customized to you.

If you want a turnkey solution to making real progress with your creative goals in 90 days, then consider joining the Creative Shift Mastermind. You instantly have me as a guide starting July 1, and I’m with you each day until October. You will be welcomed into a small group of 10-20 writers and creators who are as motivated as you are.

Full details are here. The group is about half-full right now, so if you want to join us, please register as soon as possible.

Thanks!
-Dan

I Opened the Doors to the Next Session of The Creative Shift Mastermind

For the past three years, I have woken up every day and engaged directly with a small group of writers and creators in my private mastermind group. We dig deep into establishing rock-solid creative habits, defining our creative identity, and getting radically clear on creative priorities. These are some of the amazing people I have had the privilege of working with in the group:

Behind each face is someone with a creative vision, who is navigating a complex life to turn a dream into reality.
In joining the group, they moved a huge step closer to their goal. I’m opening the doors to the next session of my Creative Shift Mastermind, I’d love it if you considered joining me.

It’s a three-month program that begins July 1st.

You work directly with me and a group of 10-20 other writers and creators just like you. We become your support system, brainstorming partners, and the team of collaborators you have always dreamed of.

When you join the Mastermind, I will mentor you through a step-by-step process to establish rock-solid creative habits, define your creative identity, and get radically clear on your priorities of what to work on and why. Whether you are just starting out as a writer or are a seasoned pro, the Creative Shift Mastermind will take you to the next level by providing:

  • Daily mentorship from me.
  • A clear step-by-step program to help you establish clarity and habits for your creative process.
  • Accountability with regular check-ins.
  • Collaboration with like-minded writers and creators.

I’m excited tp spend the summer digging deep into this work. Yes, I know you likely have a vacation planned in this timeframe, so I structured the Mastermind in a way so that you won’t “fall behind” if you are away for a week or two.

This is how the Creative Shift Mastermind works:

  1. When you register you will be given the syllabus so that you have a clear picture of how the entire three month program works. You will also receive a questionnaire from me so that I can immediately begin personalizing things for you.
  2. We use a private shared online workspace that you will be given access to 24/7. You don’t have to show up anywhere at any specific time. The Mastermind is there for you when you need it, and it disappears when you don’t!
  3. Every single weekday I record a brand new video for your group. These videos walk you through the exercises in the Creative Shift program.
  4. You will have your very own channel in the Mastermind where you can share updates, ask me and others questions, and where we show up to support you.
  5. I will provide direct feedback to your questions via text and video. You ask, I reply! I show up to the Mastermind every single day.
  6. Every Monday I post a new topic for that week. I lead you step-by-step through the program. You can spend as little as 1-2 hours per week on the Mastermind, or as much as you like. There is no wrong way to engage with us, and I will share many tips on how you can get the most out of the Mastermind.

The Creative Shift Mastermind is for the writer and creator who is ready to commit to themselves and their work — who wants their work to create an impact in the lives of others. When the Mastermind concludes, you will have a clear sense of what you create, how you create it, and how to connect it to those who will love it.

The Creative Shift Mastermind is like having a personal CREATIVE trainer show up at your door every single day. I’m here in my studio doing this work each day, it would be wonderful to have you join me.

You can find full details about the program here. I keep the group really small, so if you are considering registering, please do so as soon as possible.

Thanks!
-Dan

I’m hiring! Come work with me.

All day every day for the past 9 years, I have been working with writers and artists to grow their platforms and ensure that their creative work has an impact.

If you are inspired by writers and artists, if you have a graphic design background, if you love social media and content strategy, then I want to hear from you!

WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING?

I’m looking for someone experienced with various social media platforms and graphic design to join my team and develop content that will not only share WeGrowMedia’s message, but will truly help and inspire writers and artists to deepen their creative life. The ideal candidate would have these primary skills:

  • Graphic design experience, and some knowledge of design programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Canva, or similar programs.
  • Experience with social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  • Ability to plan social media content.

This position is 100% virtual! Work from wherever you live. We will conduct all communications via phone, Skype, and programs such as Slack. If you work best by the beach or laying on the couch, that’s fine by me!

There are a few other qualities I would love to see:

  • Ability to manage projects without micromanagement or constant prodding from me. I want you to feel ownership over your work.
  • Ability to think outside the box. We will be having weekly strategy and project meetings, and I’m always looking for new ideas. I want us to focus on inventive and meaningful ways for me to better serve my audience, not copying “best practices” that thousands of others are already copying.
  • If you are a writer, artist, photographer, musician, or do any other kind of creative work, that is a bonus.

This isn’t just a plug and play position, where you load up a few hundred tweets into HootSuite. I’m looking for someone who is interested in developing and maintaining an overall social media strategy that aligns with WeGrowMedia’s goals — but most importantly, inspires writers and artists and truly help them grow their own creative lives.

(Note: you will actually not be managing my social media accounts or scheduling any content directly. I will be the one to do that. Your role is to assist me in strategic ideas, developing images, messaging and managing the process.)

COMPENSATION & DETAILS

This is a paid part-time position, 10-15 hours per week to start. I pay $15 per hour. You would be working as an independent contractor.

As I mentioned, this position can be 100% virtual. You can largely work your own hours, though being available AM east coast time would be preferred (I’m an early riser!)  We will meet at least once per week via Skype or phone, and then use other systems (email, Dropbox and Slack) to communicate and track projects.

PLEASE DON’T APPLY IF…

If this is “just work” for you, please don’t apply. Take a look around this website if you want to get a sense of what I do, and why I do it. Basically, I spend my days working with writers and artists, which means I work with people who do magic: they create worlds, they solve problems, they are the music-makers. They are infinitely inspiring to me. If these folks don’t inspire you, please don’t apply.

HOW TO APPLY

To apply, please email me at dan@wegrowmedia.com with the subject line: “Dan! Hire Me!”

Please include the following:

  • A couple lines on who you are, why this position interests you.
  • Describe any experience you have that aligns to the job description above.
  • I’ll be clear here: I care more about who you are than a long list of boring keywords that you often find on the cover letter for a job application. I don’t care about standard language like “I’m a detail-oriented team player!” Just tell me who you really are and why this job is a great fit.
  • Tell me where in the world you are — where you live.
  • Any links that you WANT to share to your social media profiles, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, website, etc.
  • Share something that communicates your background and experience. It can be a resume or link to your LinkedIn profile, but it can also just be your website, or a portfolio of design work.
  • Bonus points if you submit a video of yourself explaining any this! I record a lot of video for the writers & artists I work with, so I understand that sometimes video is a better way to express things. This is not required, but if you are up for it, you can upload the video as an unlisted video on YouTube and share the link with me.

About Dan Blank and WeGrowMedia

This is me:

I work in a (beautiful) private studio in New Jersey. I have been running WeGrowMedia for the past 9 years. My days are spent working with writers and artists, helping them to get clarity on their creative work, and to ensure their work truly reaches an audience.

You can read my official bio and background here.

Thanks!
-Dan

Less Information, More Action

Today I want to share with you the end-to-end process I take writers through to develop their author platforms and ensure their books connect with readers.

I’ve been honing it for years, it’s called the Creative Success Pyramid. This is it (click the image to download a full-sized PDF):

It’s comprised of five basic parts, you start at the bottom and work your way to the top:

  1. Get radical clarity on what you create and why.
  2. Build your platform.
  3. Hone your voice.
  4. Conduct audience research.
  5. Launch and market your book.

All of these are in service of the ultimate goals: to continually create, to improve at your craft, to ensure your writing reaches more people, and to connect with others in fulfilling and meaningful ways.

Within it are 30 smaller boxes. Here is a 15+ minute video of me taking you through it:

I have this quote hanging in my studio from Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers fame):

“I am much more concerned that our society is interested in information, instead of wonder.”

For the work I do, I often worry that writers have too much information, but don’t take enough action.

All I do is help writers take their writing from idea to actually reaching readers. To have their voice is heard. To have a meaningful impact on the lives of others.

I’m not talking about a hollow Facebook Like, I mean true connections that matter.

What I find is that many writers get stuck in this journey.

They get mired in too much information, taking course after course, reading blog post after blog post, endless podcasts, forums, and so much else. They are on the constant hunt for the latest tip and trick that will ensure greater success, with less time and potential for failure.

Amidst all of this information, they fail to take action.

A friend shared this image on social media the other day, the books she just purchased:

I asked her about them, and she thoughtfully shared her process of how she will read them all, integrate their knowledge into her creative practice, and so forth. I was impressed with how clear she was about it.

But I find many writers aren’t nearly this clear. They sample knowledge here and there, they accumulate this stockpile of information that they don’t take action on.

What if they just read one of these books, but really followed through on it. They took each action it recommended. What if they approached it carefully and consistently?

The idea of the Creative Success Pyramid is to move through it. To get the foundational elements in place at the bottom, and to work your way up it.

In the process, the writer learns how to better communicate with and earn the trust of their ideal readers. This process takes time. The sooner you begin, the more you focus on the people you connect with in the process, the more successful you will be.

Having the information of the Creative Success Pyramid is not enough. To move through it, you need feedback and collaboration:

  1. Clear simple actions to take.
  2. Brainstorming and feedback.
  3. Connecting 1-on-1 with real people who love the kinds of books you write.

One of my clients just wrapped up the first season of her podcast that I helped her launch. She’s a psychologist who tends to specialize in helping people through trauma, and she is writing a book about how to overcome whatever holds you back. Her work is inspiring.

The first season of her podcast, called Fix Yourself, has more than 30 episodes.

This week she published an episode where she reflected on the lessons she learned learned in the podcasting process, including:

  1. “If you do something new, you will be forced to face your fears. You will need to surrender your fear that people will judge you. They will. Focus on your goals instead and you will be able to take the next step forward.”
  2. “New endeavors mean new skills and learning. I learned how to use a microphone, record interviews, use new software, ask people if I could interview them, and lots of other new things I didn’t know a thing about!”
  3. “I was able to tap into creativity that I never thought I had. Learning I can be creative was an amazing gift. These days when I’m out running, I’m thinking of topics for podcasts or things I can share.”

Over the past year, she has reached out to person after person to interview them and to connect with. The result is not just the podcast, but the relationships that she forged in the process, clarity and confidence in her voice, and her own ability to connect with her ideal audience.

This is the power of taking action. She also shared a powerful story from a podcast episode where she talked about the power of forgiveness. She heard from one listener who told her that for decades, he couldn’t let go of the anger he felt towards his ex-wife. Evidently, their daughter was killed in a car accident, and his ex-wife was driving at the time.

After listening to Shannon’s episode, he said he finally let go of that anger and filled himself with forgiveness. Everything changed in that moment.

Her conclusion: “If I did 30 podcasts this year to help one individual, it was totally worth my time.”

All of this work is aligned to the platform development and launch of her upcoming book. What I see each week is Shannon getting out there and connecting with the people who will not only buy her book, but also become the foundation for word-of-mouth marketing. The people who will leave early reviews, connect her with speaking events, recommend her for interviews, and tell friend after friend that this is a “must buy.”

The Creative Success Pyramid is something Shannon and I have been working through, and the results are not boxes checked off a to-do list, but the dozens and dozens of messages she has received like the one above. The foundation for her book launch is built in one meaningful experience at a time.

I want to end with advice I heard yesterday while watching an interview with former MTV VJ Martha Quinn. She said the best advice she ever received was this:

“Martha, you have got to get in the life. Go where the life is happening that you want to be in.”

Martha wanted to get into radio or journalism, and the result of that advice was that she moved to New York, where she got the gig to launch MTV.

The other piece of advice that Martha shared was, “Get off the bus.” She didn’t explain it, but I interpreted it as “don’t be a tourist, stuck on the bus. Get off. Explore. Get involved.”

When I think of the advice I would give writers, it is similar: be present in the lives of your ideal readers.

I’ll be sharing more specifics of how to move through the Creative Success Pyramid in coming weeks. In the meantime, one way to get my direct assistance to do it for yourself, is to join my Human-Centered Marketing program which begins Monday!

Thanks.
-Dan

This Marketing Strategy Works

Last weekend, I was part of a panel discussion at the Biographers International Conference in New York City. This was the presentation just before I went on stage:

I was there to discuss how to promote your book. In our panel, one marketing strategy kept coming up again and again:

Show up in the lives of those who will love your book.

As did a second one:

Find the stories that resonate with your ideal readers.

Both of these marketing strategies hit upon the value of knowing how to communicate effectively with readers about what you create and why. That is what truly works to connect your writing to those who will love it.

This, as opposed to what frustrates most writers: spinning your wheels trying to figure out elusive trendy social media secrets (that don’t really exist.)

The other two panelists with me were author Melinda Ponder and Declan Taintor, publicity manager at Henry Holt and Company. Our moderator was author Ruth Franklin, who I had met when she joined my Creative Shift Mastermind group last year. This is Ruth and me:

What does it mean to show up in the lives of your readers? It is a specific strategy of consistently reaching out to people who may appreciate what you write.

What Declan, Melinda, and I shared from the stage were practical examples of:

  • Identifying how what you write can turn into dozens of different stories that may engage your readers directly (through blogs, essays, articles, podcasts, social media, speeches, etc), or through the media (interviews, articles, etc.)
  • The importance of forging relationships with those who connect with readers, such as booksellers, librarians, authors, literary festival organizers and others.
  • Not pretending your audience is a vague set of demographics. Authors who truly understand and connect with real readers online or in person are the authors who understand how to effectively market their book.

In many ways, direct outreach is the secret sauce of book marketing strategy. But it is also the most fulfilling, because inherently it is about forging meaningful connections to people who love the same writing that you do.

Melinda shared one story of outreach that blew me away. It illustrated that writers who succeed need to be inventive and passionate about how they connect with those who will appreciate their writing.

She found out that a friend of hers occasionally bartends for a well-known author who had a strong connection to the topic of Melinda’s book. Melinda dreamed of having this author write a blurb for her book. (A blurb is the short testimonial that appears on the cover of a book.) So, Melinda asked her friend to approach this author and give her a copy of Melinda’s manuscript.

Reading this may make you uncomfortable, because it requires social risk. I can see any reasonable person discouraging this because:

  • “Well, you don’t want to use your friend to get access to someone.”
  • “That’s not professional to hand that well-known author your manuscript in a social setting like that. Just send it to her agent.”
  • “That isn’t how publishing works.”

The result? The author loved Melinda’s manuscript. She ended up writing a heartfelt blurb encouraging people to read Melinda’s book. Getting this blurb from such a prominent author was a real catalyst to get Melinda’s book in front of a lot of readers.

All day, I talk to writers. What I find again and again is that huge opportunities for their writing came about because of simple direct outreach. I mean, if you listen to the interviews I do in my Creative Shift podcast, you hear this again and again. Just last week, I shared my interview with bestselling author Chuck Wendig, and he shared an amazing story. A single Tweet directly lead him to getting a three-book deal which landed him on the bestseller list.

Again and again what I experience in working with thousands of writers are the magical moments that happen when an author takes the initiative to reach out to someone.

I try to share a lot of resources in my blog, podcast, and social media to help you get better at marketing your writing in order to connect with your ideal readers in an authentic manner.

But I also want to offer a way to get direct feedback from me as to how you can do this yourself: creating a personalized outreach plan for your writing.

Earlier this year, I released my new program: Human-Centered Marketing for Introverted Writers. It sold out really quickly, and the feedback from the program was off the charts amazing.

I’m opening the doors again, and want to invite you to join me to:

  • Personalize your own Reader Connection Plan, working from a template I provide, plus videos to guide you through it.
  • Each week for 4 weeks, you get direct feedback from me. I answer your questions and provide feedback and ideas just to you.
  • I share outreach scripts to show you exactly how it’s done.
  • Each week, I encourage simple micro-actions so that you can immediately get started amidst your otherwise busy life.

You can find more details and register here.

Something special happened as my panel ended at the Bio conference, a woman rushed down to the stage and asked to chat.

She said, “Hi, I’m Etta Madden.”

I had to take a step back in total shock. Then we hugged. Etta is a writer who had been in my Creative Shift Mastermind group twice. She and I had collaborated on her goals as a writer, and on doing the real in-the-trenches work of what it means for her to connect to readers.

While we had engaged a lot virtually, we had never met in-person. She got on a plane in Missouri to come to New York City for this event.

It was just incredible to meet her in person. To connect on that human level of smiling, laughing, and talking. Here we are together:

Too often, when we approach “marketing” for our writing, we overcomplicate it with social media trends. I want to encourage you to show up in the lives of those who will connect with your writing. It may just make all the difference.

Thank you.
-Dan