Many writers and artists who consider how others will find their work look to the common channels: social media, email newsletters, and the like. But right away, they are confronted with challenges: “Um what do I share? And how often do I have to do that? And why will anyone care? And… shouldn’t I be just writing my next book instead of worrying about all this?”
So today I want to talk about the value of developing a system for how you share. Does “system” sound icky? Like a thing that will trap you? It isn’t. It will set you and your creativity free. Let’s dig in…
What is a Sharing System?
A sharing system is establishing a simple process to be able to share, without being overwhelmed. Sometimes this is called a content strategy, but I think it’s more than that.
This is where we break down a much larger process into a series of component parts. Doing so allows you to carefully develop each, and then string them together to something more powerful. For instance, perhaps you have had someone tell you, “If you want people to find out about your writing, share three times a day on Twitter.” That sounds like a lot of pressure, and now three additional things to do each day. The prospect you face is to know how to talk about what you write, which a lot of writers struggle with to begin with, three times a day.
But what if you knew exactly what to share? If you could look at an entire week, those 21 Tweets, and knew that they broke down into 5 categories of Tweets? You knew exactly how to balance them. You could do some of that work ahead of time, and found that by the end of the week, it truly felt like you created something?
This is where everything feels aligned to a cohesive strategy around sharing your writing, not just 21 updates about your lunch.
Remove the Overwhelm and Confusion of Sharing
When you consider sharing what you create and why, a writer is often confronted with these questions bouncing around in their heads:
- “I don’t know what to share”
- “I don’t know where to share”
- “I don’t know how to share”
- “Is this even worthwhile? What is the return on investment of doing this?”
- “Okay I shared. I’ll bet no one even wants to hear from me again.”
- “Wait, you want me to do this again? Every. single. day?!”
I mean, do you want to wake up each day and go through this list again and again? I don’t. A system helps you answer each of these questions once and for all. Then it gives you a process to move through how to share with clarity and confidence. The system you develop for sharing should improve over time. So that it feels better after six months than it did the first day. Where you are constantly making tiny improvements so that you no longer have those overwhelming thoughts filling your head every time you consider sharing your work.
Don’t Waste Your Creative Energy
If you are a writer, your first job is to… make coffee. After that, your second job is to write. I imagine your days are busy, filled with responsibilities of work, family, home life, health, and so much more. So fitting in writing is already a struggle. I saw someone share this on social media recently, and it resonated, an excerpt from Kafka’s diaries:
There are similar entries from John Steinbeck’s diary (I found the excerpts through Austin Kleon’s blog):
- June 5: “My whole nervous system is battered…I hope I’m not headed for a nervous breakdown.”
- June 11: “My life isn’t very long and I must get one book written before it ends.”
- June 18: “I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability… Sometimes, I seem to do a good little piece of work, but when it is done it slides into mediocrity.”
- July 8: “I wonder how this book will be. I wonder.”
- August 24: “My nerves are going fast… I wish I could just disappear for a while… Where has my discipline gone? Have I lost control?”
And here you are, trying to write amidst your otherwise busy life. Plus you are also asked to share about your writing on social media too. I imagine that oftentimes you feel that you just don’t have the extra creative energy to give to it. Why? Because it’s hard to wake up every day feeling the pressure to be smart/funny/educational/interesting on social media. The solution?
Yep, a sharing system.
If you joined my workshop last week about Defining Your Creative Voice, you would have heard me talk about a process I go through with clients of defining their Key Messages. If you look at my Creative Success Pyramid methodology, you will see it is one of the most foundational elements near the bottom left:
When you know how to describe what you create and why, knowing what to share is soooooooo much easier.
Structure Enhances Creativity
I grew up as the art kid, where every day could bring some weird new project or collaboration with friends. So I appreciate the value of one’s artistic process having zero structure. No rules, no boundaries. But when we talk about having a career in the arts, and developing an audience around what you create, I find that sometimes that a lack of structure leads to inaction.
Why? Because every day you have to reinvent the wheel. You have to be super charismatic on the fly, and re-motivate yourself to want to be public with what you create and why. The less you have to invent each day, the easier it is to simply move through tasks that are critical to ensuring others find out about your work.
Art thrives with boundaries. Whenever I read about how great work is created, I always learn about the extreme boundaries that the writer or artist had. This comes up constantly when I interview people on my podcast too. Sharing benefits from boundaries as well. Give yourself some kind of structure to work from — ANY kind of structure at first.
Your Sharing System Should Be Flexible
If you read this far, I have to imagine that you are thinking, “I like the concept in theory Dan, but I hate systems. My days are already defined by so many expectations and obligations, I do not want to be trapped by one more system to adhere to.”
Which is why I want your sharing system to be flexible. A sharing system is meant to truly fit within your life. So that you are no longer juggling a million to-do lists for all of the author platform and book marketing tasks you are told you have to be doing. In the work I do with writers, we are often working within systems and (I’m about to say a scary word)… spreadsheets. Do I love spreadsheets? Nope. Do I find them a useful tool that allows creative people to systematize aspects of their career so they can focus more on creating? Yes!
The systems we create for ourselves have to be authentic to who we are. They have to be malleable and changeable. They serve as a foundation to work from, instead of a rigid construct that confines you.