I invited author/illustrator Lori Richmond to talk about what we wish we knew when we first started in our creative careers. Both Lori and I made big creative shifts midway through life: we left safe corporate jobs to start our own companies that focus on creative work. In her case, she became a children’s author/illustrator. For me, I became a writer who also works with writers and artists.
What we share today is advice we give to people who are looking to jump to the next level in their creative work or in their businesses.
Today I want to share with you the four essential ingredients to making a creative shift in your life. What is a creative shift? It is about taking a leap forward to get unstuck and ensure that your creative work — your writing and art — has an impact on the world.
This is what you have to do in order to make a creative shift:
Get radical clarity on what you create and why.
Develop strong creative practices.
Understand how your work can change someone’s world — that it truly connects authentically with those who will love it.
Create a support system to ensure you stay accountable and on track.
Click “play” above or listen to the podcast on iTunes.
How can one man write 10 books per year, while working a full-time job, going to law school in the evenings, and raising a young family? Today we find out. I am so excited to share my interview with author Michael La Ronn. He has published more than 40 books in the past six years: science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction books on writing.
In our discussion we dig into:
How he eliminated everything life that isn’t writing or reading. Gave up TV, videogames, movies, and even friends who are not productive. Instead, he stays focused, saying, “I’m always thinking about writing and reading.”
How a 2012 bout with food poisoning put him in the hospital for a month, where he decided, “I swore on my hospital bed that I would be a writer.”
How 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.
How he increased his writing output by 40% 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.
How he deals the demands of his day job, and how he manages the job, instead of letting it manage him.
Why he is able to say, “When i wake up every morning, I’m doing my life’s work,” and (I love this one), “I’m going to be successful being myself.”
She shares lots of time management, productivity, and mindset tips.
You can listen to the interview by clicking ‘play’ below, or via iTunes:
The other day I was looking at Instagram, and I saw a series of videos from an artist I follow, Megan Carty. She was in her studio, working on a series of paintings for a gallery show she is preparing for. She looked directly in the camera and said this:
“I feel like I’m having a nervous breakdown. My heart is racing, I’m panicking, it’s hard to breathe. Resistance is hitting me so hard right now. I have a lot of work to do, I have a lot of money invested in materials for the show I’m working on, and I’m freaking out. Something inside me says, “What if this isn’t right.” I’m being hit with all the what ifs, the scaries, the freak outs. I feel like I’m going to cry. It’s not always easy to paint and come out how you want. It can be really stressful. The fear is real. It’s just nastiness.”
I immediately messaged her and asked if I could interview her to talk about this place that nearly all artists and writers encounter. To dig into the moment, as it is happening. She was kind enough to agree, and I am so excited to share our conversation with you! In our chat we discuss:
How the time, energy and money you put into your creative work is an investment, even when it can feel terrifying to put so much into it. How you never know how or when this investment will pay off. This is not a sure thing, but it is a necessary steps.
How building her art studio was symbolic of her art becoming a career instead of a hobby.
The jump from dabbling to doing: “[When I began], I dabbled, but I wasn’t all in. I didn’t full believe in myself.”
How it only takes a little problem, or a little bit of doubt to cause a nervous breakdown: “Sometimes it can feel like a house of cards that can come down. It’s my job now to not let that happen. I have to manage it.”
How social media can become “a rabbit-hole of self-pity,” and how she actively manages how she uses social media to resist this.
How one’s creative career is not about a specific outcome, but about appreciating the journey itself.
How self-doubt can sabotage someone’s career: “There is an energy flow to it (your career) Where you block that energy flow with your doubts, you aren’t going to go anywhere. It’s about shutting off the valve to the doubt.”
Why she shared her anxiety in such a public manner: “When you share the struggle, you create a connection to others who need to hear that.”
Why shame accompanies the work that artists do: “You are sharing something so personal, that when you aren’t sharing it the way you want to, its as if you are letting yourself down, and you beat yourself up about it. Instead you need to forgive yourself and be your own best friend.”
How one’s mindset is critical to making progress: “If you are feeling frustrated in the moment, that is okay, but coach yourself through it. Encourage yourself speak more nicely to yourself.”
On managing depression and her art: “I’ve had depression for a long time. i’ve had a lot of time to learn how to manage it. How to flip the script so your thoughts are working for you and not against you. I coach myself and change the dialogue in my brain.”
Why people get stuck because they give up their own sense of control to improve their situation, and her advice on how to fix it.
Why failure is an essential part of success: “You can’t make good work without waddling through the bad work. You have to go through the muck. Remember this was investment in getting to the good stuff.”
How she relies on a mastermind with a friend to help keep each other motivated and focused.
The danger of focusing too much on posting on social media: looking for praise instead of doing the hard work.
Illustrator and writer Meera Lee Patel describes why she began painting soon after she began working a day job:
“I started painting as a way to find myself, as a way to remind myself of who I was when I was a little bit happier. Who I was when I was making things. When I started painting, I felt so connected to myself and felt connect to other living things, just by being somebody who was making something from nothing and putting it out in the world. I decided that is what I wanted to do.”
In my latest podcast interview, Meera and I dig into her journey as an artist, and how she made a profound creative shift to become a full-time artist and writer.
You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:
Her latest book, My Friend Fear, is an amazing work that turns fear into something beautiful.
In our discussion we cover some deeply important topics for any artist or writer:
The specific ways that her parents and her high school gave her permission to create, even as they also instilled a clear sense of responsibility.
How she devoted 40 hours per week to her craft, on top of her 40 hour per week day job. When I asked how she approached painting on the side, her answer was immediate: “”Aggressively. Super aggressively. I did not care about anything else. I worked all the time.”
She describes how she found clarity and focus, and the specific steps she took to invest in her craft, earn money for it, and try new things.
When success seemed distant and she considered giving up, this is how she stayed on track: “I always thought, ‘have I exhausted every possibility?’ There was always something I hadn’t tried. That meant there was always the possibility for me to try, so I always took that possibility, even when I didn’t want to.”
We discuss the importance of money to artists and writers. How she frames it: “Its really important to have a sustainable business so you can have the luxury and the freedom to not have to compromise your art.”
How she found success not through a big break, but many small moments of success: “I will say that nothing has ‘taken off.’ I have had small moments, but my whole trajectory has been very slow, very steady and very incremental. A lot of slow growth. That is frustrating as the person who is in it. It’s probably frustrating for listeners because nobody wants to hear that. But it is dependable to know that you can always take a tiny step forward each day each week and eventually you will be somewhere new because you took all of those small steps.”
How social media is both a wonderful gift, but also an incredible challenge. She describes how, the more successful she becomes, the more complex her relationship to social media is because there are so many expectations placed upon her. How she navigates it: “Social media is responsible for making me that accessible to the world. I’m realizing that I’m going to have to have the limits and boundaries if I’m going to keep making the work.”
When I asked her if she deals with comparisonitis, she replied, “It is an absolute daily struggle… You have to push it aside and make the work you want to make.”
She talks about the turning point for no longer ruling her life by fear. She says: “Being scared is not a good enough reason to do things.”