Archive for The Business of Creativity

And that is what writing is about. Love. Love of the art, love of the story, and love for and from the people who really understand your work. Nobody else matters. Love yourself. Love your work. Be brave. Just write. – Melodie Ramone

Last weekend, Bob and I attended the NAMS14 conference in Atlanta. The conference is all about how to do business online. People came from across the country and beyond. The types of business represented here range from people in the music business to people selling products on Amazon.tmp_11310-FB_IMG_1459780566628-255733108

One thing most of the people here have in common whether they are selling handmade windmills or high end coaching services, is a love, a passion for what they are doing.

I love hanging with people who love what they do. It is one of the reasons I love helping writers and others write their books, tell their stories, and shape and produce their content.

But having a love and passion for something you do is not enough. We’d like it to be, because the creation and refinement of that creation takes a lot of work. A lot.

But that is not enough if you want your creative children to enter the world and if you want to be paid for them—unless your joy is piling up stories or canvases to stash in your attic.

Getting to that place where your audience discovers your work, gets familiar with it and then buys it is easier than it used to be. But it can also seem more challenging and overwhelming since the options for connecting with your audience and selling online are numerous.

Hence, my reason for being here in Atlanta, so that I can learn the best techniques and methods for connecting with you and others about my writing and my Muse magic. At the conference, I spent an hour talking with a musician who has a business helping other musicians succeed online. He insists I should be doing a podcast.

I haven’t been enthusiastic about doing podcasts up to now for a variety of reasons but I just did a tarot reading about it for myself and it looks like I will be venturing into that platform next.

Yes, I practice what I preach. So I am going to encourage you this week to take time to really think about what you are doing to make you and your work discoverable. Are you on one of the major social media platforms? You don’t have to be on all or many of them. Start at least with one you like and feel comfortable using (and yes, you have to put up your picture) and will use consistently.

Are you building relationships with potential new customers and nurturing current relationships both online and offline?
Are you keeping people up to date about new work?

I am still surprised when working with writers how often I get push back about being online. I understand issues of time and privacy but, if that is you, you aren’t being of service to your work or your audience if you stay in social media or technical phobia modes. (And if you want help with that, let me know.)

Think about how if your work was your child, your grandchild or a beloved pet,you would talk about him or her to everyone, you would share pictures about all the wonderful things they do, and if anyone asked you about your child or pet, you would happily bend that person’s ear. Why hesitate to do it for the work you love?

Do work you love. Then share it. And share it again.

At the recent Writer’s Digest Annual Conference,Hammer and plan2 Tim Grahl, author and book marketer for well-known authors like Dan Pink, spoke about building platform and connecting authentically with readers. He advised his listeners to not confuse the tools of social media with being the rules.

I straightened in my seat when I heard that because several years ago I had been doing just that, confusing the tools with the rules. As a member of a entrepreneurial group coaching program, I was attending a retreat and had just listened to success stories from some members who had been asked to share their results with the 60 or more attendees.

Unfortunately, instead of feeling inspired, I felt frustrated and depressed. Why wasn’t I making money in my business? Why didn’t I have any clients? Why was I a failure? At one point during some group work, I actually banged my head on the table because I was so frustrated with not being able to get it “right”.

As I flew home afterwards, I watched the clouds pass by below me pondering on what I was doing wrong. Suddenly I realized…

The tools are NOT the rules!

I repeated that several times in my head (not wanting to disturb the passenger next to me). The tools are not the rules; the tools are not the rules. How freeing!

Somehow I had tangled myself up by turning those very helpful business tools into rules, rules that felt restrictive and not useful.

My oh-so-talented husband, Bob, does carpentry and cabinetry. When he decides to build a cabinet or a stairway, he first determines the scope and style of his project,takes measurements and draws up a plan. Then he purchases materials and chooses tools appropriate for constructing that cabinet or stairway.

What he doesn’t do is pick up a hammer and then start hammering nails randomly expecting that if he handles the hammer properly, he’ll get results. Even though it is a good tool and he uses it properly.

In the same way, you and I shouldn’t pick up Pinterest or a blog or a podcast (the latest must-do), or a publicist and then go looking for a way to use it.

Nor should you feel forced into creating an outline, or laying out a three-act structure for your book if that approach blocks you instead of frees you for your writing.

Can you imagine the results if Jackson Pollack had believed that he could only use a brush or palette knife to apply oils to canvas, if he had seen the tool as the rule?

Not unexpectedly, I recently tangled up tools with rules while working on my novel. Trying to force my story into the three-act structure that is taught at so many workshops, my story sputtered and stalled. I was blocked. Arrggh! I help clients get unblocked all the time. Why couldn’t I help myself?

Then, while reading a book by Steven James, Story Trumps Structure, I realized I had done it again. I had turned tools into rules.

When we confuse tools with rules, creative blocks are the likely result.

So the next time you are feeling bogged down in your work or are ready to bang your head on the nearest table…

Save yourself from a headache and ask, “Have I confused a tool with a rule? If so, can I morph it back into a tool? Or, can I find a way to break the ‘rule’?”

See if that gets your creative energy flowing again.

And make this your mantra, “The tools are NOT the rules.”

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk, / Talk about things you’d like to do…
“South Pacific”

According to the IRS, a business is something you engage in with the intent to make a profit. For creatives that means you intend to make a profit from your products or performances or services.

AND…if you intend to make a profit from your creative work, then you have to sell.

Did you just flinch? Did your stomach just do a flip?

Sales, salesman, selling are uncomfortable words for most of the creatives I coach with or know.

BUT… if you want others to award you grants, hire you to speak, commission a mural, buy a scarf, or pay you for a story or a film or a piece of music, you need to be willing to sell and market you and your work.

You probably sell something every day; you just don’t realize it. That book or restaurant or movie you recommended to your friend may have convinced him or her to pay money for it. You sold it to them first. Selling and its buddy, marketing, are simply the process of sharing something you love and have a passion for with others. That includes your work.

Of course, when you recommend someone else’s work, there’s no emotional attachment to whether or not that work sells. But when you share your work and someone doesn’t buy it? That’s a horse of a different color! You have an emotional attachment to your work. In your mind, a sale translates as, “You like me; you really like me!”

So what’s a creative to do?

1. Get out there! Find a venue for connecting and sharing your work with others that is comfortable for you. Don’t like social media? Start a newsletter or a blog. Don’t like speaking in front of others, then try social media. No market for your products or services where you live? Attend conferences, exhibitions, or special events.
2. Define what you love about your work and share that. Have a passion for color? Share that element of your quilts. Love seeing that moment of breakthrough for your client? Share what you feel with and for your clients with that breakthrough. Have a passion for a story that reaches deep into the emotions? Share the power of one of your scenes and how it affected you even as you wrote it.
3. Everyone is not your customer. Don’t expect everyone to love what you love. I recently developed a taste for well-prepared Brussel sprouts, but I know I won’t convince everyone to like them as much as I do. Don’t be disappointed whenever someone (or many someones) doesn’t buy.
4. Brag a little. I don’t care what you learned growing up, if you don’t believe in your creative gifts and speak well of them, why should any one else? And when you reach your limit for bragging, let happy clients do it for you. Gather testimonials (with photos) and include them on your site and in your marketing materials. Video testimonials are even better.
5. Just do it. No excuses. You have to sell if you want to have a business rather than a hobby. If you want to see your book published you have to sell it–to agent, editor and/or reader. If you want to sell a painting, you have to sell it to a gallery owner or institution or collector. You get the picture.

Truthfully, selling is not always easy for me to do either. Bob often lovingly reminds me to be more proactive about it when I am holding back or being too timid. So I dig deep for the love and passion for what I do and put it out there. You need to as well.

Sell your work. Share your work. Do Happy Talk.

Several weeks ago, as Bob, Jason and I walked around Carmel photographing the many sports cars temporarily at curbside rest before auctions, races, and the Concours D’Elegance, I realized how quickly I was able to determine, if not the year, at least the make and style of varying sports cars, especially Ferraris which were plentiful that weekend.

Which brings me to your creative work and mine. As we passed car after beautiful car, I learned four important lessons from them in regards to anyone doing creative work who also wants to sell it.

1. Do something to draw attention.I don’t lust for a Ferrari, but one thing is

Red, red, red Ferrari

undeniable, you can’t miss the deep-throated roar of its engine or its bright colors of red, burnt orange, bright orange, or sunny yellow. The Ferrari is not a shy car. It’s a car that says, “Look at me! (And my driver!)” Few people walk past a Ferrari without turning his or her head for a second look. Many people stopped to stare, walk around the car or take a picture. How can you draw the same level attention for your work? How can your work catch and hold your customer’s eyes? Read More→

Whether it’s the image of starving artist in the garret, or the wildly successful artist who lives in a world of constant creation and work, the one thing both of these images have in common is the artist alone.

Creatives do need frequent doses of silence and solitude in order to be able to listen to their Muses. But, creativity also functions and flourishes in the company of other creatives, not just in collaboration, but in support and sharing. Two ways I’ve found that make a difference in my creative health and success are Read More→

Jill Badonsky's new book

I am so delighted to have Jill Badonsky on my blog this week as part of her blog tour to promote her magical book,”The Muse is In: An Owner’s Manual for Your Creativity.” I loved having the opportunity to ask her some questions about creativity. If you’d like to hear more from Jill, then sign up for my From Muse to Market interview series and, starting next Wednesday, March 13, listen to my half hour interview with her. Don’t miss it!

Jill, you do the illustrations for your books. How did you arrive at this style and what fears did you have to overcome to create them with such a sense of whimsy and play?

I started doodling just to help me concentrate in classes in high school. Little did I know that Read More→

Keeping busy” is the remedy for all the ills in America. It’s also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed. ? Joyce Carol Oates

It’s a New Year and like many other creative and spiritual entrepreneurs, I am creating this year’s plan for my business.

Having a plan for your creative business, whether you are a writer, artist, coach or other creative entreprener, a is important if you want to get your work out into the world and income into your pocket.

However…

Busy work, planning, mapping, scheduling, filing, calling, etc. must NOT get in the way of the inner Read More→

Recently, I had a Tea and Scones party and sale. That is, I intended to have one. I sent out invitations to friends and neighbors in our village environs.

With hubby’s help, I cleaned, baked, decorated, and wove scarves. I served three kinds of scones and vanilla and cinnamon sugared almonds, along with a pot of organic assam tea and a pot of hot water for people who wanted to choose from a variety of specialty teas. The counter top, spread with tea and scones looked beautiful and festive.

Tea and Scones

The dining table held my handwoven scarves, books, CDs, prints and oils. Holiday music played softly… Read More→

The Theme for this week is the King of Coins. He was the theme several weeks ago and he’s shown up again, so obviously an important energy right now. The theme this week is managing expenditures and income, both monetarily and energetically. The king is the one who has the power and makes the decisions so don’t let yourself fall into victim mindset around your resources this week. Get the big picture on the flow of money and energy in your creative work. Then make decisions and choices based on that.

The Focus for this week is the Page of Cups. The Page is the messenger, the one with youthful vitality. So look at how you carry the message of your creative work out into the world. Are you sharing the deep love you have for your work? Can people hear and experience your love for it?

The Action for this week is the challenging 5 of Wands. And it is challenging. Five guys emerging from that trunk of the tree, each with his own wand or staff, hitting at others. This week, the card is talking about the issue of competition. Competition can be a good thing as it makes us work to strengthen our skills and gives us an opportunity to see where we stand with others who do similar work. It also gives us an opportunity to see where are weaknesses are and whether or not we want to change them. So get out there and compete. Enter contests, submit to be juried for an exhibit or event. Test yourself and your work. Then use the knowledge you receive to get even better at what you do.

The Gift for this week is the 3 of Coins. After the communication and the competition, comes the opportunity to withdraw into your creative space and give time and focus to one particular project. Enjoy!

No argument can persuade me to like oysters if I do not like them. In other words, the disturbing thing about matters of taste is that they are not communicable. ~ Hannah Arendt

This week, I watched Andrew, my 5-month-old grandson, explore his world with his eyes…and his mouth. Bob and I were kept busy discerning which toys Andrew would enjoy. Teething ring, yes. Cow puppet, no. And so on…

Each object offered was picked up, observed and then stuffed into his mouth to check for taste, texture and effectiveness for chewing on. Those not to his taste were tossed heedlessly to the floor.

I remember this stage with my sons and their introduction to solid foods, especially the older two. As they progressed from one food to another, Stephen, the oldest, quickly exhibited a dislike for many vegetables. Green beans and carrots were all he would eat for a long time. Christopher, on the other hand, loved vegetables, especially trees (broccoli). And I wondered then, what makes one child like a vegetable and the other one not? Same parents, same environment, same food preparation… Read More→