Today I want to talk about investing in yourself and your creative vision.
Investing in yourself is about how you spend your resources. For your writing or art, you can’t plan for luck or great timing or having the best connections or even being the most talented. What you can plan for is to make more of your resources than others do. To do that, you have to be laser-focused on who you are and your creative vision.
Too often, people consider these two resources first:
In doing so, they ignore two other resources that are more important:
If you have only the latter two — clarity and energy — you have a leg up on people who only have money and time. Why? Because money and time are very easily wasted. If you have very hazy clarity and energy, then you can throw copious amounts of money and energy at a goal, and still get nowhere.
Whereas if you have no money or time, but loads of clarity and energy, you can get much further, more quickly, with much less than others can.
I want to share two examples of this today.
Gaining Clarity and Energy
For more than two years, I have run a private Mastermind group where I work with 10 writers and artists at a time, and to gain greater creative clarity, establish routines to create more, and understand how to better reach their audience.
Again and again, what I find is that people are often treading water not because they lack money and time, but because they aren’t clear on what they want to create and how it will create something meaningful for others. When you get that clarity, the shift is profound. I have literally seen people leave their jobs or make major career shifts because of what they experience in the mastermind. That is why I call it the Creative Shift Mastermind, because often, it moves something inside of those who participate in it.
Making a creative shift in your life requires these key elements:
- Total clarity on what you create and why.
- Strong habits around your creative work — your writing, art, or other craft.
- A plan to ensure that your work truly connects authentically with those who will love it.
- A support system to ensure you stay accountable and on track.
But if you want to try to create each of these things on your own, here are some ideas that I would recommend:
- CLARITY: Take 30 minutes and write down what you would do with your time if there wasn’t anyone who would stop you. If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you create? Don’t just consider the “thing” that you would create, or the “success” you hope for it. Instead, consider how you would spend your days because of it. What experience would it create for you on a day to day basis? Likewise, consider the experience it would create for others? How would your work effect the lives of others?
- HABITS: Consider one creative habit you would like to spend more time with. It can be related to something you already do, or perhaps something brand new. Next week, spend 1 minute a day doing it. Just 1 minute. If you want to start a novel, create a document, and write a sentence each day. If you want to paint, make one brush stroke a day. Prove to yourself that you can fit a new creative habit into your life by living with that habit for a week.
- CONNECTION: Have one conversation next week with someone who loves the kind of work that you create, or want to create. Write down one thing you learn in that conversation. Repeat that action once per week. Here’s the trick: don’t use social media. Make it an email, a phone call, or an in-person conversation. If you are not sure where to begin, pick up the phone and call a bookstore, library or arts organization and ask a simple question. For example, “Hi, I’m an author working on my first book, which is about ______. I was wondering, can you recommend similar books that you recommend I check out?”
- SUPPORT SYSTEM: You need colleagues. Other people who create work like yours who you can develop a professional relationship with. Next week, email one person who does work similar to what you create (or hope to create) and give them a compliment. Make it honest and meaningful. Do the same thing the next week, and the week after that. When appropriate, ask them a question that is meaningful to you. Something that would truly help you on your journey as a writer or artist. Most people work in isolation. If you do just this simple act, it means that you will have reached out to others with generosity 52 times per year. Over time, you will forge a connection with some of these people, and they will become colleagues, friends, and even a support system for your work as a creative professional. Invest in that now. Invest in that every week.
Each of these actions will help you gain clarity and energy for your creative vision. Doing each of them takes zero money, and very little time. Yet each focuses on connecting in meaningful ways to yourself or to others. None of it is about trendy social media marketing tactics or hacks, which rarely work anyway. It is about creating a life filled with creativity and collaborators.
Your Creative Career is Your Choice
I just published my podcast interview with illustrator Will Terry. In our chat, he share specifics about how he got his first jobs in illustration, and how he developed his network with other professionals, even though he worked alone from home. His story reminded me of what I hear from so many successful artists and writers: even though he is an introvert, he has spent years developing collaborations and sharing his work in public.
Will opens up about the downs of his career too. He recalled a time when his financial situation looked so bad that he thought, “All of this financial mess will go away when I die.”
What was most astounding from this story was how he turned down financial help from a relative when he desperately needed the money. He concluded that all of his later success came from that single decision to dig his way out on his own. He says, “If I had taken that money, I don’t think I would be doing the things I’m doing today. Today my life feels so much better and happier, almost zero stress.”
Will share such practical advice, including how he grew his business. What his advice reminds me is that your creative journey is based on the decisions that you make. There is no single system, and no one can promise you that a specific path will work out.
His incredible honesty uncovers what many experience, but rarely share. There were years where Will was getting loads of work for good money, but was still struggling because of other decisions he made in life. He talks about how he got more illustration jobs: “You actually have to ask for it.” Previously, he assumed that if he turned in freelance work to a client, that they would reach out to him if they wanted more work. It turns out, they were ready to hire him again, but were waiting for him to tell them. You have to ask.
I think that advice applies to how each of us approaches our creative vision: you have to ask for it. That requires clarity and energy more than it requires money and time.