A phrase I use often is the idea of “doubling down” on one’s creative work and how to approach marketing. I resonate with this phrase for two reasons:
- Clarity and Focus: To clearly identify what matters most for someone’s creative vision. This differentiates between the “nice to haves,” from the “need to haves.” It will look different for every single writer and creator. From a marketing standpoint, the idea of doubling down could be to identify the one social media channel that resonates most with one’s ideal audience, and putting 100% of their marketing efforts there. To eschew the idea of spreading themselves too thin on 3 different social networks, blogging, podcasting, a newsletter, etc. and instead focus on one place.
- Craft: Then, with that focus, put more creative energy into truly showing up. Not just doing “best practices” in a barely passable manner. Not just marketing as an obligation that you never truly embrace. Not just doing the minimum. But instead, to consider what it means to share and connect with readers in a truly meaningful manner. To get inventive. To treat how you share and market you work as a craft.
So doubling down could result in putting twice the energy on one thing that really matters. But it could even be a greater multiplier than that. Most people I speak with feel that they are crushed under the weight of all they are juggling. When it comes to developing an author platform or a book launch, they are inundated with lists of “things you must do!” that they find online. This can create a sense that you are never doing enough, never measuring up, and always missing out.
The idea of doubling down is not to shove more onto someone’s already overflowing plate. It is to instead challenge every assumption, clean the plate, and then ensure everything put back onto it fills that person with a sense of purpose, and dare I say, joy.
I have never read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” but I am vaguely familiar with her phrase “spark joy.” I should really check out her work more. Years before her book was published, I was inspired by a different professional organizer named Peter Walsh. From 2003-2005, he was on a TLC show called “Clean Sweep.” Each week, the show went to the home of someone whose life was disrupted by an overwhelming amount of stuff. This was basically his process for helping them:
- Select a room or two. They put a limit on it, and didn’t attack the whole house at once.
- <liDefine the purpose of this one room as it applies to that person’s daily life. If multiple people live here, they included everyone’s input. </li
- Remove everything from this room. In the show, they moved everything out onto the lawn. A decorating crew would then go in to clean and paint the room.
- Sort all items into three piles: trash, sell, keep. The idea is that most of the stuff will get donated or sold, with just select items in the “keep” pile. This is by far the toughest part of the process, the one filled with the most difficult decisions, arguments, and emotional confrontation.
- Only put the “keep” stuff back in, and design the room in a way that feels refreshing and useful. This was a key step, to define the purpose of the room, and adhere to that strictly.
- Create systems to ensure the clutter does not pile up again. For instance, some people have a “one in, one out” rule. If someone gives their child a new toy, then one toy must be given away. Same with clothes and lots of other stuff.
The most amazing part of the “Clean Sweep” show was the emotional attachment people have to their stuff. That a collection of old toasters can represent someone trying to recapture the love of their mother; that a rusting lawn mower is someone’s way of honoring their grandfather; that keeping a closet full of clothes that don’t fit is someone’s way of coping with their health. It was common for someone on the show to be crying on their front lawn over an old box of something, and Peter there trying to understand the deeper narrative going on.
Some of these moments were incredible.
I remember one episode where someone had boxes of old dishes inherited from their grandmother. The boxes were dingy, and the owner admitted to Peter that these boxes have been moved again and again, put in storage with each move, and that they had never used the dishes. Peter wanted the person to let go of this baggage, to donate the dishes. But of course, the person resisted. They would justify how special the dishes were to their family history, and how their grandmother collected them one piece at a time.
But then Peter connected back to clarity and purpose. He would ask, “If you truly want to honor your grandmother, is storing these dishes in dirty boxes in the back of a closet the best way to do so?” Tears began to flow, and the person admitted it wasn’t.
Peter and the rest of the team on the show came up with a great solution: take one set of the dinnerware and frame it into a shadowbox, and include a large photo of the person’s grandmother. Then, hang it on the wall in a place so that every time the person enters the room, they see their grandmother, the dinnerware, and honor her memory in a beautiful manner. Then, donate the rest of the dishes so someone else can make use of them.
It was an elegant solution on many levels.
Here they were identifying what matters most, then making difficult decisions on what to keep and how to use the space. Our lives as writers and creators are no different. When it comes to sharing and marketing, we can’t do it all. And honestly, it’s no fun to constantly feel the pressure that what we are doing, isn’t been done well.
I have been thinking about this during my own creative reset this year. One thing I decided to double down on was my podcast, The Creative Shift. This week, I’m celebrating the launch of the new season. The first episode can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and elsewhere. Or, you can even watch the episode here:
For the podcast, doubling down means:
- Doubling the number of episodes. Each week you get one interview, and one episode where I talk through how to share your work, connect with your audience, and understand how marketing works.
- Videos with each episode. Every time I do an interview, I get to “meet” the creator through video, but in the past I have mostly just published the audio. I want you to meet these creators as I do. I invested in a new camera setup in my studio for this purpose.
You can subscribe to the podcast in the following places:
But of course, I’m not just doing more. I’m doing less of other things in order to stay sane, and to manage my creative energy. This podcast has its roots in a project I worked on in the early 1990s, where I interviewed bands for a zine I published. Here’s a much younger me:
At the time, I was able to interview Oasis, Blur, They Might Be Giants, and so many others. As I consider what it means to double down on the podcast, I am working to honor the intention I started out with decades ago. To envision how each episode builds to a larger body of work. In re-committing to the podcast, I’m focused on meeting inspiring creators, better serving my listeners, and digging deep into the creative process.
If you have suggestions for who I should interview or topics I should cover, let me know! And if you have enjoyed any episodes of the podcast, please consider rating it on Apple podcasts, sharing it with a friend, and letting others know about it.
Next week I will release the first interview of the new season with the amazing Nikki Grimes. Thank you for being here with me for it.