3 Essential Ingredients of Successful Creative Work

In the past couple of weeks, two podcasts interviewed me about how I balance family and my creative work. You can listen to those conversations here:

  • My interview with Mom Writes (Episode 4):
    “Dan Blank, author of Be the Gateway, walks us through his work day- including his particular strategies of time blocking and energy blocking- and shares with us how he successfully balances writing life, work life, and family life.”

  • My interview with “We Turned Out Okay” (episode 179):
    “Dan shares so much in today’s episode about how to parent and retain our creativity – and foster our kids’ – all at the same time.”

In reflecting on these, I am reminded of the challenges that many writers, artist and creative professionals I know face:

They are overwhelmed with “balancing” the distinct areas of their life: family, home, health, work, craft, and more.

Their identity is defined by others: they are a sister, a mom, a “Tier 2 Account Support Executive”, a PTO co-chair before they are defined by their own creative work.

Nothing they try seems to establish and audience for their work, yet they are inundated with courses, webinars, podcasts, blogs telling them what to do.

Their “support system” is a joke, stretched to the max.

They feel as though they are running 100 miles per hour on a treadmill, yet at the same time, feel completely stuck.

I considered this as I helped run an event last weekend, The Madison Storytellers Festival. We had 15 performances scheduled with writers, dancers, storytellers, actors, illustrators, musicians, poets, and so much more!

Here are some photos of the experience…

We had a gorgeous day for the event:

Attendees took a vintage hammer and nailed their stories to this custom made board:

We had dancers sharing stories from classic fairy tales:

Authors reading to kids:

A theater company showing the behind-the-scenes of how sound effects are done in stage performances:



Storytelling through games:

We even had Curious George!

There was so much more as well. The Festival was a huge team effort to put this together. Here I am with Barb Short, owner of the Short Stories Bookshop & Community Hub which hosted part of the event:

As I reflect on each of the performances, I am reminded that each one of these people has had to deal with the same challenges above. They likely struggled to push their craft forward, and to connect it with others in a meaningful way, all while managing otherwise complex lives.

For many, you can look at how they made these things sustainable by:

  • Doubling down on their vision, and establishing practices around it. These creators are always honing their craft. I know that many writers and artists feel crushed by too many ideas, that they are loath to choose one direction. The performers at the Festival showed us the value of choosing a direction and going all-in with it.
  • Collaborating with others. Not one performer showed up alone. They were either part of an organization, or they had brought collaborators into their work. Even the guy who had written and illustrated his own book was shadowed by his wife and kids the entire day. His creative work is supported by them.
  • Experimenting with new ways to share. How did these performers find their audience? You are looking at that process in the photos. They are experimenting with new ways to reach them. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey ran a workshop on sound effects; last year they did a workshop on stage combat. These performers took a Saturday to reach out to new audiences in new ways, and connect with like minded people. They didn’t just sit online clicking “refresh” on their web browser to see how ticket sales are going for their latest show. They went out and found their audience and made a meaningful connection on a personal level.

I would encourage you to reach out to other writers, artists and performers in your local community. These people are on a similar journey as you, why not support each other?

Heads up: this is the last chance to sign up for my Creative Shift Mastermind group which begins October 1st. There are just a few spots left! This group is about being a doer, not just a dreamer. It is about getting it done with a group of collaborators, getting a plan in place, and finally establishing the practices you need for success. Learn more here.