Say YES to Your Craft

Saying “yes” to your craft means saying “no” to so much else. What I mean is this: if you struggle to:

  1. Find time to create
  2. To know exactly what you should create
  3. To finish what you start
  4. To understand who will love your work
  5. To reach those people

There are no easy answers. No webinars that will teach you the magic secret button in Amazon or Etsy that makes it simple to find success.

Instead, there are only choices:

The choice to say yes to your craft by saying no to other obligations.

The choice to create something — anything — even if you don’t know if it is the right thing.

The choice to finish something, even if it feels like it could use more time; that it isn’t yet “good enough.”

The choice to understand who will resonate with your work — and why — better than anyone else who creates as you do. This isn’t hard, it simply takes the subtle skills of caring and listening. Oh wait, maybe that is hard. Because nowadays, I just see too many people who feel that the real goal is followers and likes. Bleh. The goal is connection. To connect one’s art to another person’s life in a way that transforms them.

The choice to learn to reach those people not through waiting for them to find you, but by reaching out. To forge actual human connections.

Oftentimes, we think we are doing all of these things, but we are mistaken. Instead, we half-bake it.

We let the slightest problem disrupt it all. We hope that the world will make it easy for us. We copy others, assuming that “best practices” will save us. They won’t.

Lori RichmondInstead, you need to lean into the items above. Here is an example:

My friend Lori Richmond (right) spent months and months sharing her newest children’s book, Bunny’s Staycation, with the world. The book delves into the challenges that families face when parents travel for work.

After sending out copy after copy to help promote the book to “influencers,” she grew tired of the process. She asked herself, “How can I get this book to kids who really need it?”

So who did she ask? Her online running group. Funny, right? But it totally worked, and aligns to the advice: start where you are. Lori offered to donate copies of her book to families in the running group who may be in need. She explains what happened next:

“I received several lovely responses from women nominating friends or others. One of them, Amy, told me she was Assistant Director of USO of North Carolina, the oldest continuously-operating chapter of the USO in the world, located in North Carolina. (If you don’t know what the USO does, they help our US Military service members stay connected to their family, home, and country while they are serving our nation). Amy told me these parents are on the ultimate business trip—deployed overseas—and her location hosts a weekly storytime for the children. She thought Bunny’s Staycation would really resonate with them.”

“I was so incredibly touched by this thought and quickly put together a package containing a signed book, a drawing of Bunny, an oversized handwritten letter, and a whooooole bunch of passport activity kits. Off to North Carolina it went!”

“Amy said the story time was a big hit with all of the parents and kids. One mom, who is relocating to Okinawa and applying for passports for her children, even used the kits to help explain what a passport is to her little bunnies! I’m so thankful to Amy and the rest of the staff at USO of North Carolina for these ah-mazing photos from the event and that they have allowed me to share them with you. These kids are making the ultimate sacrifice by sharing their brave parents with all of us.”

Just look at these kids enjoying the book!

Too often, when someone thinks of how their creative work can truly effect someone, they default to spamming social media, to desperately trying to reach “influencers,” to feeble attempts at gaming Amazon.

I love how Lori was able to connect her book to kids in such a human way. To kids who need to hear the message of this book.

This is why I feel that how you connect your writing and art to the world is a craft as well. It takes caring, attention to detail, and understanding how art transforms us on a human level.

Michael La RonnI want to share one more example of saying “YES” to your craft. I was able to interview author Michael La Ronn (right) recently, and he shared some astounding things with me, starting with this:

Michael writes and publishes ten books per year.

I mean, let that sink in. In the past six years, he has published 40 books, largely science fiction, fantasy and nonfiction. He writes 3,000-5,000 words per day. Okay, I just did math, and that potentially adds up to a million words per year.

In addition to that, he has a full-time job. He goes to law school in the evenings. He is raising a young family.

So how does he do it?  He eliminated everything in his life that isn’t writing or reading. He gave up TV, videogames, movies, and even some friendships. Instead, he stays focused, saying, “I’m always thinking about writing and reading.”

He is saying “YES” to what what matters, and “NO” to everything else.

Doing so has allowed him to find some amazing ways to write more. He increased his writing output by 40% per year simply by writing 100 words in small moments on his phone. If he is on line at the foodstore, he writes. If he is waiting for his wife at the store, he writes. In the small moments where most of us check social media or the news, he writes.

When I asked about his drive, he shared the story of his 2012 bout with food poisoning, which put him in the hospital for a month. He says, “I swore on my hospital bed that I would be a writer.”

You can listen to my full chat with Michael on my blog or on iTunes.

Okay, one final thing. Last week I shared the story of the Studio Time workshop I ran with a group of writers. Our goal was for each person to establish a writing routine. In the past week, I’ve been blown away by some of the progress they are sharing with me:

  • “I’m having a hard time finding time NOT to write. This workshop has been a jam breaker for me.”
  • “I have not been in the zone for such a long time, and it was downright marvelous to be there today.”
  • “I have had four writing sessions in the last week!”
  • “Success! I opened a chapter I hadn’t looked at in weeks. My goal was 150 words and I wrote 246.”

This is what happens when you say “YES” to your craft.

How will you do that today?

-Dan

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