The other day on Twitter, I asked this question: “If you could get rid of one challenge or struggle as a writer, what would it be?”
I received a range of answers: procrastination, advertising, lack of response from agents, fear, and more. But the challenge that came up again and again was time. Having more time to write and share their work.
Today I want to address that. Too often, people consider time and money as their two most precious resources. They are finite, and we are constantly reminded of their limits. But, I don’t think they are the most important resources you have.
Creative energy is.
If you develop your ability to harness and manage your creative energy, time becomes less of a problem.
Late in the summer, something like this shared on social media, “I always said I would clean the garage out when I had more time. Well, I’ve been home for 170 days in a row due to the pandemic, and my garage is still a mess. I guess time wasn’t the real issue.”
Below I will share five steps to find more creative energy to write and market your work. But first, I want to tell you about one way I am finding more creative energy.
This year, I have been incredibly busy working with writers and being there for my family, and one thing that slipped away in the process is my guitar playing practice. I did pick it up each day, but most days it was literally for a minute or less. If you are a longtime reader of this newsletter you may remember how a couple years ago, I decided to finally learn to play guitar after a quarter century of dabbling with it. These essays share some of that journey:
- What Practicing Guitar Every Day for a Year Taught Me About the Creative Success
- How I Found an Extra Hour a Day to Create
- I Was Stuck. This is How I Got Unstuck.
This year I felt I had zero extra time, and zero extra creative energy. So how am I solving that for myself? With this:
What is it? A Martin D-28 guitar. I’m sure it looks like every other acoustic guitar to you, but when I see it, I see this: the many famous players who have used a D-28:
But it is also a very expensive object that I don’t need. This is a (mostly) handmade wooden instrument. The design of this guitar is nearly 100 years old, yet it costs more than a new Apple computer.
Why did I say I don’t need it? Because I already have another wonderful acoustic guitar that I really love playing. But I’m not spending the money to buy just the guitar. I’m buying something else.
I’m buying the reason to show up to my guitar practice. I need to live up to this guitar.
To its price tag.
To its craftsmanship.
To its heritage.
To its capabilities.
I will practice more — dramatically more — in order to justify this purchase.
Which means, in reality, what I’m showing up for is my own creative intentions, and my own potential.
In many ways, I feel I don’t have any extra time or energy. Yet, here I am upping my guitar practice by 1,000%
This guitar is a glaring reminder to practice. Too often, it is easy for us to bury our creative goals into the back of our minds, making it the lowest priority in our lives. No one will know if you didn’t write today. Or this week. Or this month. They will easily forgive you, saying, “You are so busy with family and work! Who has time to write?!”
But we each need to make the time for our creative intentions. For me, it is this guitar sitting in my room. It is a big red flashing light to me that reminds me: “Dan, I’m here to ensure that are living up to your creative potential.”
Which leads me to my advice for how you can find more creative energy — and time — for writing and sharing your work:
Hold Yourself Accountable
What I did above is a form of holding myself accountable. Spending money on something I can’t ignore to put me on the hook to my goal. Writing about it here in this essay is another way I’m doing that. By linking to my older posts, I’m reminding myself of my goal. And by publishing this to thousands of people, I will undoubtedly have people asking me how my guitar playing is going for years to come.
Many of you may be doing NaNoWriMo ((National Novel Writing Month) this month, writing tens of thousands of words. This too is a form of accountability — announcing to a friend or family member that you are doing it, and setting a clear expectation.
Find a way to involve others in your creative intention. To set an expectation for what you will write, or what/how you will share that with others.
A more advanced way of doing this is to hire someone. A book coach, an editor, a marketing consultant, etc. In some ways, you are hiring their expertise, their advice, their program. But you are also investing in accountability.
This is why people hire a personal trainer when they want to get fit. Joining a gym or going to a class can be relatively affordable. $80 per month at the gym, or for a package of classes. But hiring a personal trainer can easily cost that for a single hour.
Why do this?
Because that person is waiting for you. When you commit to workout at 8am, and your trainer is there waiting for you, you show up. When you are paying $80 an hour, you suddenly make this a top priority.
You put in the work to honor that intention, and not let that person down.
Prioritize a Few Things That Matter
I won’t belabor this one because I have written a lot about it recently, but finding more creative energy and time for writing and sharing should focus you on a very limited number of high priority items.
For me, my biggest priorities right now are my family, and the writers I’m working with. The next priority? Oddly, it is my guitar practice. To show up for something that gives me joy. That is a craft I am learning.
I am choosing my guitar practice over finishing my next book. Why? Because in a year so focused on attending to others, I want to choose one thing in my life that has no measure of success other than the joy of experiencing it. For me, that is guitar. I’m not recording a song, and have zero dreams of performing for others or releasing an album. My only “goals” for guitar are to be able to lazily sit on the front porch and play.
Are those three things the only things I attend to in a given day? Of course not. But they are what I prioritize. What I think about while doing anything else.
If you need help finding what you want to prioritize, check out my Clarity Card process.
Be Active, Not Passive
This is critical for finding more creative energy and time to create: don’t be a passive participant in your own writing and sharing. Don’t just join an online writing group, and sit quietly in the Zoom calls. Don’t just listen to writing and marketing podcasts, taking notes. Don’t just sign up for an online course or webinar that focuses solely on information.
Instead, take bold action. Focus on tasks that get words on the page, pages published, and where you are connecting with real people who love the same type of writing that you do.
What is the work of marketing? It is sharing. Engaging. Reaching out. And taking a social risk.
It is what leads you to connect with others. Not just to “like” a social media post, but to send an email, a direct message, make a pitch, and collaborate.
Action often requires taking a social risk. I know that is scary for most people. But it is also where the moments of fulfillment come from — when you truly connect with people around what we create.
I mean, my entire podcast is focused on this idea of creative risk. Of being an active participant in our own creative dreams.
Make it Small
Too often, we think of writing and sharing in terms of grand plans. But I want to encourage you to focus on the small actions. To show up to put words on the page. And to take the smaller actions to connect with others that truly matter: show up for other people.
This week a colleague reminded me of this essay I wrote a decade ago: The One Thing You MUST do to Succeed in Social Media. A quote from that piece:
“The one thing that is CRITICAL to you succeeding in social media? Okay, here it is: Care. That’s it. Just be a human being, and actually care about the people you are connecting with online.”
Get involved, and be focused on small experiences that matter. Choose tiny actions that do the most important things.
What have you found helps you to find more creative energy and time to create and share?