Whenever I speak to a writer or creative professional, the one thing I always try to help with is this:
There is so much distraction nowadays. Some is the nature of an increasingly interconnected world. Some is self-inflicted, such as our own desire to check email before bed, or to check Facebook (which can send our minds in a million directions)instead of taking a walk in solitude or spending 10 more minutes honing your craft.
Getting clarity is two-fold:
- To know what matters to you, and double down on it.
- To develop a process of “finding out,” by which I mean to identify where you feel blocked, and then doing primary research to find possible paths forward. This often needs to happen when you feel confused, apprehensive, or the narrative in your head screams “not me,” meaning you just feel that whatever it is you want, can’t happen for you.
Whatever your creative dreams, both of these steps are about re-focusing on creating clarity around a solid plan for finding out how to create good work, and meaningful connections to others.
Much of this is about managing “the now” — clear tasks that push you and your work forward — while also planning for the milestones that matter most to you. Maybe that means each day you battle how to write 500 words on your novel, and the milestone you hope to reach is to publish your book within two years.
Let’s face it, it can feel more difficult to do a tiny amount of work each day toward a 2-year milestone, than it can be to check email.
In the dozens of conversations I have each week with creative professionals, I find people struggle with this.
The draw of managing the easy stuff prevents them from feeling clarity about their biggest challenges, of feeling like they have a practical plan, and feeling like it will lead them to a meaningful place of fulfillment.
I want to share a few practical steps for how I tend to work on this with creative professionals:
Cut away what is secondary.
Secondary tasks may as well be last on the list, because what few people tell you is this: to reach your vision will be more difficult than you think. Clarity isn’t about “doing it all,” it is about being rigorous with where you put your time, your energy and your caring. Double down on the things that matter most to you.
Focus on meaningful experiences, not goals.
Too many people think a certain product or achievement will lead them to a life they want. “If I just hit the bestseller list, THEN I can do what I really want to do.” Instead, focus on what creates meaningful work today. What creates conversations you love. What makes someone’s day brighter. Invest in that. Too many “big visions” for creative work die before they see the light of day. Instead, focus on the process — the experience — you create for yourself and others with your work.
Have clear — reasonable — tasks each week.
I am positive that you are swamped each week. Perhaps it is a day job, kids, relationships, health, and so many other important things that eat up every ounce of your being. Identify one thing you can do to improve your craft, to connect with others, and to push the vision for your creative work forward. Not a long to-do list, but one task that you know you can accomplish if you find 10 minutes each day. The habit you are building here is to attend to work that isn’t reacting to others. Over time, you can grow how much of your time and energy is spent here.
Be realistic about what is on fire.
Most “fires” people are so focused on “putting out,” are just distractions. Think I’m kidding? How many people have been laid off from their job, and walking out the door said “This place is going to crumble without me.” And then, it doesn’t. The company keeps on chugging along for years, for decades. That doesn’t mean that this person wasn’t a valuable part of the team, it means there is a distinction between “something important” and something that is “on fire.” Too many people never get their creative work done because they are distracted by “fires” each week, that aren’t. Instead, they are just distractions that keep you from focusing on your creative vision.
Forgo best practices, especially when it comes to social media.
Too many people are doing too much of the same thing, focusing too much on filling channels with content, and not enough on actually engaging other people in a meaningful way. We live in a world where we can reach almost any other person with ease, and can be helpful and supportive to them in simple ways. Instead of focusing on asking “am I doing what everyone else is?” identify the clearest path between your vision, and bringing someone joy. This applies to whether you are entertaining someone as a novelist, telling a story as a memoir author, helping them with your nonfiction — or your art, your song, your craft — or so many other ways. Maximize for joy.
Find ways to celebrate success.
Small meaningful achievements that are often overlooked in the rush of daily life. Celebrate what you do accomplish each week, instead of bemoaning what you don’t.
Two years ago, I wrote about how clarity is a process. There is so many ways to hone how you create and how you connect it with others, and how each of these things takes time:
Clarity of your own focus.
Clarity of voice.
Clarity of timing.
Clarity of who you want to reach.
Clarity of what resonates with these people.
Clarity of matching their need to the value you offer.
Clarity of what you should focus on, and what you can let go.
Clarity around what matters to you day to day.
Clarity of long-term goals that you reach slowly.
As you consider your creative work and your challenges, please let me know, what question can I answer for you to help you with your work? Email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will reply to every email with the best advice that I can.