I need your help

This past year, I doubled down on my creative work. I made some big changes, focused on increasing the clarity of what I do, while improving all the details:

I signed a lease on a private studio space:
Dan Blank

I spent the year continuing to dig deep into my research on successful writers and artists. I wanted to give myself daily reminders of their journeys, so I started hanging their photos on one of the studio walls:

I have written every single day since May 1 (plus plenty of days before that.) It is the first thing I do every morning, regardless of what else is going on in my life. This is all work for my next book, which has recently undergone it’s third major “let’s start this from scratch again” moment. Each time I approach it anew, the better it gets. That said, it will really need to be finished in 2018!

I put even more resources into my mastermind groups, each month finding new ways to optimize a small aspect of it. The results have been off the charts, I have never had such amazing feedback from writers and artists.

I brought on new members of my team this year, and every one of them has helped me grow. Most recently, I have had the absolute pleasure of welcoming Yvonne Kochanowski (aka author Yvonne Kohano) to the team. I find that the process of working with others creates deeper clarity in the work I do.

My consulting with writers and artists has become even more fulfilling. Here too, I tried to optimize many smaller aspects of the process. It genuinely feels like an honor to be in the trenches with these creators to push things forward. When one has a creative vision, it can be both thrilling and terrifying. I would say, that is how I spend my days with them. On the edge that creative work often takes us.

For 2018, I’m doubling down again on each of these things. But I’ll need help with that: new collaborators to help me become better at what I do. For your own work, I encourage you to consider: how will you move your craft and your career to the next level in 2018?

I speak to so many people who struggle alone with their creative work. Something I am considering this week is how working in solitude can hold you back. In so many other areas of our lives, when we want to grow, we collaborate with a coach or trainer. Why is writing or art any different? For instance, you may hire:

  • A personal trainer to get you to show up to the gym, create a personalized workout routine, and give you encouragement to get through it.
  • A financial planner to get you to make concrete decisions around money. Most people have a very emotional relationship with money, and even those who do take control, are often drowning amidst a see of conflicting advice.
  • For any kind of sports, coaches are expected and required. Not just at amateur levels, but intermediate and advanced. I live very close to the Jets training facility, and often see members of their coaching and support staff around town. It’s not just one coach, it is a large support staff.

Today, I want to encourage you to assess your creative work and take small actions toward growth:

  • How you improve your craft?
  • How you better manage how you share and publish your work?
  • How you better understand those you hope to reach in order to better engage them?

A few years back, I read this book: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. It’s a wonderful book that I highly recommend for improving your craft. Atul is a surgeon, yet he talks about the value of bring in in a coach to get even better:

When he had a coach join him throughout his workday, he uncovered a huge problem: “I wasn’t effective at listening. With patients, I was talking 90% of the time. I didn’t ask enough questions. I carried that over to my team, where I was doing 90% of the talking.”

Can you imagine that? Someone whose job it is to diagnose patients and manage complex teams, not really listening to anyone. He has a longer video where he digs into this more deeply. He mentions having a 2% complication rate, meaning that 2 out of 100 patients experience a serious complication as a result of the surgery he performed. To get it down to 1% meant optimizing a lot of little things, and he listed them out. But even besides that wonderful point, it was astonishing to me to hear him share data about what some may call his “failures.” The idea that 2 out of 100 people he treats are harmed by it. Do you have that data for your work? Not that your work could potentially harm someone, but whether or not it is effective towards your goals.

As a writer or artist, this data is not necessarily the point. But it may be worth considering: “What is the effect I want my work to have on others? How can I assess ways in which that moment of connection truly happened and where I missed the mark?”

When you work alone, juggling every aspect of creation, publishing, and sharing, like Atul, you may miss 1,000 small ways to improve. That is why I am a big believer in collaboration and doubling down on one’s creative work.

I want to be a better resource to helping you in 2018. I need your help in order to do that. Please let me know: If there is one thing I could help you with, what would it be?