Today I want to talk about the importance of having a clarity of vision in your creative work, and how that can lead to you effectively sharing it with your ideal audience. I want to view this through the lens of three creators I had the pleasure of interviewing recently: an author, filmmaker and a financial expert.
Let’s meet Evan, Angela, and Jacquette:
HAVE CLARITY IN YOUR CREATIVE VISION
When I spoke with Evan J. Roberts, he told me he has a goal of writing 100 books: “I have journals dedicated to writing children’s books, where I identify idea after idea after idea of books I want to write.”
He is the author of more than 15 books, but many of them are not available on Amazon. Instead he found his own high quality printer and did his own print run. He sells them online, through direct relationships with booksellers, and regional events.
I asked him why he does so many local events, such as setting up a table with his books at street fairs, and he said:
“Being face to face goes a long way to making a real connection. You can say anything behind a camera, but when you are right there in front of someone, you can feel their energy. You can pick up on authenticity. I’m not afraid of people, and I think those types of interactions help to see you as a person. That has helped us with our series, they see the human side of who I am as a person.”
What he said next shifts the way that many authors approach the marketplace:
“My whole strategy in the beginning was to do as many live events as I possibly could. I think as an author, you can hide behind Amazon all you want, but people want to know who you are as a person. It also challenges you to start talking about the book and the relationship of what it means to the reader. It forces you to stop saying “buy my book because I wrote it,” and it forces you to start thinking, “Here is why you should consider my book, here is what it will do for you. Here is how it can impact you, or your family, or your children. That is a totally different conversation to have. You change the whole dynamic now, because you are leading with value.”
That is the reason why he started with an initial print run of 4,000 books. He explained it as, “I’m always going to bet on myself. I’m so glad I did it. I’m constantly investing in myself. ”
He shared the story of how he became comfortable with the idea of sales. When he was a teenager, he sold kitchen knives door to door.
“I had to create a list of family and friends, and call them with a script. I set up an appointment based on that script, then went to their homes to share the product with them. At the end, I had to ask for the order, which in the case of these knives, was thousands of dollars.”
Why am I telling you about selling knives door to door? Because of what Evan learned on the other side of it:
“That experience broke down the barrier of being afraid of rejection. Broke down the barrier of not wanting to promote myself. Most creatives have a big challenge when it comes to understanding how to promote themselves and not second guessing themselves in terms of how it will appear to people. I can’t tell you how many no’s I’ve gotten, or how many times I went to a home and no one was there. Those experiences made me tougher as a person.”
“Now when I promote, I’m not promoting because this is a book and I want you to buy it. I know that the value is there, I know how it is going to impact a child. I know the value of the energy that I put into my writing, it is not about making a buck.
I love his conclusion on the intersection of creativity and the marketplace:
“Once you get comfortable with your message, and why you started writing in the first place, money is just an exchange of value. It is just that I have created something and someone else sees that it is worth something. It is transmuting that value from one to another.”
“[Selling kitchen knives] taught me, you have to ask. Very few people will just volunteer their money or services to you, you have to AFTO, “Ask For the Order.” That’s in life, you have to ask for what you want. If you don’t ask, chances are very slim that someone will just come up to you and say, “Hey, here is everything you were looking for.”
LOOK AT OBSTACLES AS OPPORTUNITIES
The one certainty you will have in your efforts to create and share is that there will be obstacles. Some you are already aware of, some will pop up unexpectedly.
Oftentimes in life, we want a clear path to the road ahead. For things to feel safe. But what if we embrace the idea that this is antithetical to the process of creating. Creativity requires the unexpected. As does the process of sharing your work and connecting it with your ideal audience.
Five years ago, I first interviewed filmmaker Angela Tucker. This summer we sat down again to catch up on her newest film and her career.
The entire process of filmmaking is obstacles. For her documentary work, she is creating a film when she has no idea where it will go. She doesn’t know who may appear as a main character, or what their narrative arc may be. She only discovers that as the film production moves forward.
I mean, the entire process feels like an enormous risk. Films are expensive to make, so filmmakers need to seek out funding, need to partner with collaborators to get it done, and then need to find a window into the marketplace to have their work seen.
Angela summed it up perfectly when we discussed 2020:
“I could not have predicted that people would not watch things in movie theaters.”
She is a producer on her latest film, and of course, their plans for release have radically shifted. Instead of going to festivals and having screenings, many of their plans are virtual and digital.
She framed it all this way:
“I look at obstacles as opportunities. This is a time where people have to ask themselves why they make movies.”
This forced her to have to ask herself of what a screening in a theater actually provides to her and the film. And she connected it all back to the creative vision that started it all — why we create and share:
“If you want the film to be out there, then you have to have a real vision as to what change you want to make. I’m just trying to make as many things that I feel good about as possible, that hopefully can make some kind of change in the world.”
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
My days are filled with conversations with writers and creators. Of course, most are seeking a path to create the work they dream of, and ensure it connects with someone who will love it.
Many writers feel frustrated or confused by the publishing process. They sometimes feel there is a huge gap between their hopes and their reality.
But something that Jacquette Timmons said to me helps us reframe this. She is a financial behaviorist who helps people rethink their relationship to money. But her advice applies more broadly as well:
“We are talking about money all the time, but we aren’t having the right conversations.”
It’s this idea that we may think we are immersed in a topic, but that our orientation can be completely off. She talked about how often people avoid knowing the truth — understanding their own habits and reality around money.
Again, I felt this directly applied to how writers approach the idea of publishing and sharing their work. We can see this when we struggle to find the time, energy or focus to write. We don’t understand our motivations or habits well enough to get it done. We can see it in our struggle to find a path to publication — frustrated at not finding an agent or publisher — yet unable to describe our writing in a simple conversation. And we can see this in our ability to share our work with readers, hoping that a social media algorithm will magically bring us readers because of a Tweet.
Jacquette is a financial behaviorist, meaning her entire approach to how she helps people with finance is framed around our emotions and how they drive decisions. This is the human side of money. If you have read my work for any length of time, you may know that a huge focus for me is what I refer to as human-centered marketing. I love how Jacquette approaches finance with the human lens.
She described how often she talks to people who have guilt or shame around their financial mistakes, or what they have or don’t have. Her advice on how to approach the path forward is life-changing:
“You always have a choice, so operate from within that power.”