Creating is the best marketing

In the past year, I have written several times about a creative reset I am working through. What is that? It is to realign where I put my creative energy to ensure I am proactively working on the things that matter most to me. This is how I described the goals of a creative reset recently:

  • To feel a sense of creative clarity.
  • To make the difficult choices about where to put my time and creative energy.
  • To ensure everything I work on feels aligned.
  • To focus on creating the moments and experiences I want my life to be filled with.
  • To consider how I can help writers and creators even more.

As I considered this over the summer, I have been looking at those who are releasing big creative work: books, albums, movies, and so much else. And how their impact is more than a “like” on social media, but rather, something that creates a body of work that will last years… perhaps a generation.

Creating great work is the best kind of marketing. The way we share and engage is in service of the writing and art that we craft. As I think about all of this, I am looking at those who are coming out of the past year or two having clicked “publish” on significant work they have produced.

I recently heard of a comedy special* that, beyond the comedy itself, focused on the process of how we create. It was filmed in a single room during the pandemic, and the comedian himself not only wrote the material, but filmed the entire hour and a half special alone. Throughout the special, you see shots of him preparing cameras, lighting, playing with angles, and dealing with tech that will help guide the performance. The entire “set” is a mess that will look familiar to any creator:


Even though this room looks very common, we see it in many different ways throughout the hour and a half. It changes in tone largely through a variety of LED lights.

Even though the special focuses on comedy, it is filled with much deeper themes. One that follows through many of the performances is that of anxiety and depression. The comedian explains how he had suffered from panic attacks when doing live performances in theaters, and quit performing for five years. Then, as 2020 started, he felt he had done the internal work needed to perform again, and finally get back out in the world. Of course, this coincided with the beginning of lockdown. As the special progresses, you see his hair and beard go from short to very long, and much of the material talks about anxiety head on.

What resonated with me was seeing the process. You can feel the delicate balance of what it means to be trying to create when in total isolation and hope that the final product lives up to expectations. This is how most writers and artists work regardless of lockdown. So many writers I speak with spend years working on their books, and their computers are filled with notes, drafts, research, and various files from the creative process.

To me, the special highlights the advice that we hear often, which is to use what you have. This is what his previous special looked like from several years back, shot in a sold out theater with professional production value:


When I compare this to the special he recorded alone in one room, it reminds me that so much of how we create and share is not about the fancy tools we have, but our ability to express our creative vision, and connect that with others in deeply human way. I talk to a lot of people about what effective marketing looks like. It is easy to think that if you learn the “professional best practices,” if you get the right tools, if you copy the right people, that marketing becomes a science you can replicate without taking much social risk.

Yet, again and again what I see working effectively is people showing up with a sense of authenticity; experimenting with new ideas; connecting with others as a human being, not a brand — and that in the most surprising ways, this leads to the deepest connection, and the most viral moments.

As I have considered this for myself this year, I have been crafting a plan for the Fall:

  • Spend time every day writing my next book. Longtime readers may feel a sense of déjà vu in hearing this, I have been working on this book off and on for 5+ years. It has changed again and again, and there are tens of thousands of words that will not make it into the final book. But the current draft is feeling really good to me, and I’m excited to put my creative energy into completing and sharing it.
  • I will be releasing the new season of my podcast very soon. I spent months interviewing some incredible writers and creators. It kicks off with an interview with the amazing Nikki Grimes (author of 80+ books!) As I prepare these interviews for release, it has been incredible to see many of these writers celebrating new achievements. Janae Marks just announced that one of her books will be turned into a film from Disney, and Miranda Beverly-Whittemore just had her new novel featured in a rave review by The New York Times. I can’t wait to share these interviews with you.
  • I have been considering changing how I use social media, so you can look for changes happening on my Instagram and Twitter feeds as we move into the Fall. Ideally I will be able to share more of my own creative process.
  • Oh, and after a small break, I am picking up the guitar again every day to practice.

How we create and share often happens in small moments, at times when we aren’t sure if what we are doing will be effective. As I have considered my own creative reset in the past year, it is a process of getting more clarity on my creative vision, and how I can fill my days with the work and people who inspire me.

The more we create, the more we express, the more we connect. Creating is the best marketing, and the foundation for all the other ways your work will get shared.

To read more on this, here are some other posts I have shared:


* The comedy special I reference above is called “Bo Burnham: Inside.” I know very little about Bo, and find that comedy can be polarizing, and even offensive to some. So my focus in featuring the special is not to advocate specifically for any comedian, but to simply use this as an example of the creative process.