The best marketing begins with creating

I was watching a guitar tutorial on YouTube the other day and saw this comment:

Too often, people dream of creating, but don’t. When I hear of someone picking up a new craft at age 74, I feel inspired. It is a reminder that every day, we each have the choice to create.

Last week I shared my interview with author Jessica Lahey, and she outlined specific things she did to market her book. I heard from a lot of people who loved her ideas, and one of them noted how Jess brought creative energy to the process of marketing her book. She truly enjoys it, not because she loves “marketing,” but because she likes connecting with real people about the themes of her book.

What I find is that creating is the best marketing. I talk to too many writers who dream of being known as a writer, but who struggle to find the time to write. Who put off publishing for years not because they are unable, but unwilling to take the risk. These are writers who believe in their creative vision, but eschew actually connecting it to real people.

Today I want to talk about how to find more creative energy to:

1. Create more often.
2. Do marketing that works.
3. Feel a sense of fulfillment in the process.

The process to get there involves three steps: creative clarity, creative habits, and human-centered communication. Let’s dig into each:

Step 1: Creative Clarity

What would you start if you knew you couldn’t fail? When I read that post above from the 74 year old who just started learning to play guitar, I imagine a lifetime of him daydreaming about learning that craft, and putting it off.

Which begs the question: for your writing, are you putting it off? If so, for how long? What do you lose in that process?

When we don’t create, we lose a lot. The chance to grow as a person, not by thinking about creating, but what you learn in doing it. We lose our capacity to master a skill. We likely struggle with decision-making for years of whether we should write, or what we should write, or how to write… without ever actually writing. We end up with all the stress, and none of the magic of writing.

I talk to writers every day in my Mastermind group, where we are deep in the trenches of meeting creative goals. What I have found is that creative clarity is challenged by deep narratives in our heads about who we are, and what we are capable of.

What would you double down on if you could?

If you were gifted a monthlong stay at a writing retreat in Iceland, what would you create? (Artist & author Samantha Dion Baker recently visited Iceland — the photos are amazing. Also, here is my interview with Samantha about creating every day!)

Step 2: Creative Habits

As I mentioned above, most writers struggle to fit writing into their busy daily lives.

Last year I published an interview with Elise Blaha Cripe who has astounding creative habits. When asked how she decides to create without second-guessing herself, she answered it this way:

“Not doing anything is a waste of time. At least when I do something, I am learning from what works and doesn’t. The only way to know is through doing stuff. Knowing who you are is a must. If you don’t know who you are and the way you like to do things, you may constantly be comparing and feeling inadequate.”

That came through in my chat with Jessica Lahey as well. It wasn’t simply that she had decided to take some powerful steps to market her book, it is that she did them consistently over the course of years. Often what trips up good habits (or good marketing) is not a lack of ideas, but a lack of follow-through. Each time the writer sits down to create, they second guess what they are writing, their own ability, their own aspirations.

What Samantha, Elise, and Jess talk about is how to create anyway.

Step 3: Human-Centered Communication

Why do most writers struggle to market their books? Because they call it “marketing.” They treat it like this dreaded activity that they will rush to do at the last possible moment. What else in life do we treat this way? Dreaded obligations like changing the litter box. We do it quickly, with our nose turned away, rushing it at the last possible second just before we head out the door for work.

But what if you took a different path? What if marketing wasn’t about algorithms, going viral, gaming social media for likes, hashtags, or publicity?

What if it was just connecting with people you like, on topics you love writing about, in a manner that feels meaningful?

A couple months back I shared a case study of how one writer, Alison Taylor-Brown grew an engaged audience, and I shared this quote from author Gary Vaynerchuk: “Document, don’t create.”

What he means is that when you consider talking about your writing, don’t create some marketing promotions that keeps people at an arm’s distance.

Instead, simply document what you write and why. What lights you up about these books, these stories, these characters? Who inspires you, what else do you read, who is a part of your creative community? Document why you write, how you write, who you meet, your creative aspirations, your process, milestones, and setbacks.

These three things — creative clarity, creative habits, and human-centered communication — are all foundational to creating more, and to feel a sense of purpose in marketing your writing.

Thank you.