Hey Jessica, welcome to the podcast.
I'm really excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Thank you for joining me. When the podcast began, the people who are listening would have heard a little bit about what you do right now, but I would love to kind of understand how you got to here. So do you think you have always been a creative?
I've definitely always been a creative, but in terms of getting to where I am right now, it's definitely been a long and windy road. I'm in my fifties now, so I started out in the early nineties in the pre-internet era, as an indie, underground cartoonist, self-publishing and photocopying books. I was in a band, like all that kind of stuff.
And then I did the mini comics. There was a lot of mail art, mailing stuff back and forth between different mini comics artists at the time. So that was a big thing. And then I had my first website in 98, because I was leaving the country. I was moving to Mexico City and I was like, I need something here. And so I created a website at that point. And it's actually pretty stylish, like, you know, going the way back machine, it's like pretty cool. But it has a very punk energy, very in your face, snotty. I was in my late twenties at that point.
I mentioned to you right before we went on when started recording that, I actually wrote a long blog post about this a while ago when I fairly recently had a rebrand on my website. And I went back and got screen grabs of all my different websites over the years. Which I'm sure we can share in the show notes, but there was something that happened around I wanna say 2003 or something. I stopped wanting to be that brash punk rock person and as an artist.
I was working on a book that became La Perdida, which is a graphic novel. It deals with much bigger, heavy issues. And I just felt really out of alignment with the whole, I'm this cool girl and doing the cool thing and all that stuff. So, I really wiped a lot of personality off my site. And it went from a black background with really colourful icons and things and all this stuff going on to white.
I never had a blog until, I don't know, 2015 or something. I would post news. I didn't know how to be out there as an artist at that point. I really went through a long period then of not really knowing where I fit exactly.
Really from sort of the mid two thousands to around 2014 or something. And yeah, it got weird for a while. And then I came back with another book Out On The Wire and designed a site that was really around storytelling. Out On the Wire is a non-fiction comic that's about storytelling techniques drawing on podcasting. So narrative podcasting like This American Life and Radiolab and Planet Money, whatever. The drawings that I used in that book, which are often of me, cause I'm a character in the book doing interviews and stuff, I used those and I felt like I had a way to be the face of my site and my brand again, in a way that I sort of lost in the middle there.
I felt like I had a way to be the face of my site and my brand again, in a way that I sort of lost in the middle there.
And then I started coaching soon after that book came out. Initially it was a very strange transition point between, ‘I'm an artist, here's my book’ to ‘I'm a coach, I can help you.�� It was a very different texture. And it took a long time. There were definitely a lot of iterations in there where I'm trying to do both. At this point you can definitely find my comics on my site, which is mostly about you and what I can do for you. But there's still a page with all the books on it.
But I basically had to pick how I was gonna present myself, and that was a complicated process. Definitely.
Initially it was a very strange transition point between, ‘I'm an artist, here's my book’ to ‘I'm a coach, I can help you.’
I basically had to pick how I was gonna present myself, and that was a complicated process.
I already have some questions in mind to talk to you about that transition because that's so interesting to me and I would love to talk to you about that. But I also would love to ask you, just based on what you were just saying, it sounds like your brand has obviously evolved a lot over time, but do you think that it's evolved with the projects you were working on? How do you think you knew that needed to change at those different times?
Yeah, it definitely evolved with the projects I was working on for sure. Now I have a company called Autonomous Creative and I feel like it’s a very small company – It's mostly me and I have two part-time contractors who work with me – But it feels much more like it has its own momentum separate from me. And that's a first. I didn't have a company until four or five years ago. I just was myself, right? So the idea of a personal brand was essential as an author.
The idea of a personal brand was essential as an author.
And so yes, my branding lined up with the books I was working on. But even more so, it was about my identity and about how I felt as a professional in the world. When I was really secure in what kind of professional I am in the world, I was able to make clear decisions about what I wanted to do with my brand. But when I didn't feel super well grounded and I didn't quite know what I wanted to do or how I wanted to be in the world, It was much harder to do that.
When I was really secure in what kind of professional I am in the world, I was able to make clear decisions about what I wanted to do with my brand. But when I didn't feel super well grounded and I didn't quite know what I wanted to do or how I wanted to be in the world, It was much harder to do that.
So that middle period again, from probably 2008 through about 2014 or something like that, I just was coasting on what I'd done. I don't mean coasting professionally, but in the brand. I was coasting on what I'd done before and it felt like this is not representing who I am and what I am.
Interestingly, that is the same period in which I had two small children. And that really threw me for a loop in terms of my professional identity. Like who am I now, you know? And just in terms of the time I was putting into it and so on.
And also with my husband, we co-authored two textbooks about comics in that period. They came out in 2008 and 2012, I think. So that site, which is a separate website, was very clear. But then it sort of took away in some ways from who I am as an author. At the time I was not a coach. So it's like author versus textbook creator sort of educator. Where does that land it? That was a complex thing to negotiate.
When you came out the other side, how do you think you did that? How did you know that you felt like ‘yeah, I feel secure or confident enough to put out something that feels like me again?’
Well, the process of working on Out on The Wire and the other book I was working on at the time, Trish Trash Roller Girl of Mars, which is, you know, a nonfiction investigation of Roller Roller derby on Mars. Just kidding.
Anyway, it's two very different books, but in both cases, I felt more grounded as an author at that point. Like, this is work that I really believe in, I know what I'm doing here. And especially with Out On the Wire. Partly cuz it's non-fiction, and I did all these different interviews to develop it, I was getting an understanding of my connection, my role with the world. You know, like how did I connect to the world of podcasting and narrative.
A brand in some ways is world building, right? It's like ‘this is the world that I want to have exist in the world. If you wanna be part of my world, this is what it looks like, these are the rules, these are the parameters.’ When you know what that is, you can set that up and then the people who come to you, come with their expectations of what's gonna happen formed by what you've set up.
A brand in some ways is world building, right? It's like ‘this is the world that I want to have exist. If you wanna be part of my world, this is what it looks like, these are the rules, these are the parameters.’
And that's what I love about it. I think it's just really powerful for that. So when I knew that, it was easier for me to make those decisions when I knew how I wanted to be dealing with the outside world.
And I think that the visible iteration of that lagged by a couple of years, cause I just didn't have time to do any work on it. So I was more confident about what I wanted by say, 2013, but I didn't actually launch a new site until 2015, because that's just how long it takes to clear the schedule enough to do it. I think there's always a lag, but it's helpful too because it gives you a chance to really sink into, ‘what is it that I want out of this, and how do I wanna be in the world?’
You mentioned just then that you were doing a lot of interviews and you've had quite a few features in ConvertKit or other places. You've also had some amazing opportunities like getting published in Fantagraphics and working with Ira Glass, and publishing your books obviously is incredible. How do you think that those opportunities have come about. And do you think your brand has anything to do with it at all, or not at all?
Yes, I have had a lot of really great opportunities to speak, to be interviewed, to be featured in various places. And that started early, very much at the beginning of my comics career. It was a much smaller world then, so access was easier. But I sent my mini comics to various influential mini comics reviewers and got really positive reviews right from the beginning.
Going back to then, I definitely think that my brand as this cool girl punk rock cartoonist, I mean, I stood out. Most people in comics at that point were just basically not female. There were hardly any women in the field and definitely not, in a band and dressed pretty cool, like all the stuff that later made me uncomfortable.
I felt like being out in the world in that way felt like I was putting on a facade and that's why I stopped being able to do it. But when it really was me, that really was who I was at that time. I was embodying that physically, but also through my brand. Through initially just the comics themselves and I had a mailing list on paper, you know, an actual mail mailing list back then. I would make handmade photocopied postcards whenever I had a new thing out and I would mail them out to my mailing list. People would send me $2 in an envelope in the mail. I had a few fans in New Zealand, and it was all consistent, right? All of that stuff was really consistent.
I was living in Chicago, grew up there and was living there for about 10 years. After college I left in 98 and I was featured in every newspaper and a couple TV stations for my new Fantagraphics book. It was because I was a good story, you know? I was doing cool stuff. I mean, journalists need good content, so that definitely affected my ability to put that over.
And then even though what I did later was not the same–I'd shifted my brand, I'd shifted my way of being in the world–those connections from the past, my coverage in the past, it helped what I was doing then. It compounds over time. You can let it go too long and lose that advantage, but I got a lot of coverage for when La Perdida came out. It came out with Pantheon, which is a Random House imprint in 2006 and I got a ton of coverage for that, lots of reviews, did a book tour, all that stuff. And a lot of that had to do with having a fan base. You know, people who were paying attention, who over time had moved into positions of power where they can write reviews. They had been these scrappy comics fans and then they were working at some website or a magazine or whatever.
So it sounds like it’s all about standing out in the first place, being consistent with that, and then also being confident enough to send your work out there. You said that you were sending your work to people who were influential or you wanted to read it. Do you think that that's something that you still recommend or still implement?
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. It's funny cause I've recently been going through all my archives because I'm gonna be donating a bunch of them to a big comics library. It has a lot of crossover with this whole mini comics scene, which is a very historical moment in comics. So, I'm donating a bunch of my papers and what's been interesting is seeing how much hustle I had, like lists of people that I was sending stuff to and checklists and procedures and all. And I don't think of myself as being super savvy back then, but I was, I was way more so than I realised.
So for sure I recommend getting outside your comfort zone and sending stuff to people. I sent stuff just like, ‘Hey, thought you might like to see this.’ I didn't ask for anything.
Obviously it was a review or I would ask, ‘could you review this?’ But I sent a lot of comics to people I was fans of, that I loved their comics, and I later became a friends with a lot of those people. When I'd be at a convention or something, I'd be able to hang out with the cool kids and meet their publishers and all that kind of stuff. So doing outreach without any quid pro quo, no sense of ‘you owe me something,’ really paid off.
Now, at the time it may not have felt lucky cuz I sent out 50 copies and got two responses. But I kept sending the comics to the same people and got responses down the line and it really contributed to the sense that I am somebody who's on this scene. I'm somebody doing this work.
I kind of forgot a lot of those lessons and I've had to relearn them recently. It's about getting just a little bit of shoe leather, getting your stuff out there and believing that you have something of value that people would wanna see.
It's about getting just a little bit of shoe leather, getting your stuff out there and believing that you have something of value that people would wanna see.
The stuff that I'm doing now is so different, but it's the same kind of thing. Right now as we're speaking, and by the time this is goes live, it'll be very much out in public, but I've been working on this huge article that's like six blog posts long? It's a big honking article that's basically about how the way that we're taught to be professionals in the creative world sets us up to fail. There are other ways to do it and if you know what's going on, you don't have to do things that way. It's not just like gloom and doom. There's actually hope, right? But it's this huge, huge thing. And I'm thinking, how am I gonna get this in front of people?
I want the whole world to be talking about this topic because I feel like we've been hoodwinked for so long about how to be pros, and what expectations we should have. So I'm suddenly like, I have to go pitch this. I have to find journalists to write about it. Writing the thing is just the first step. Now I have to put it in front of people and get them talking about it.
How am I gonna get this in front of people?
Well it sounds the same strategy – send it to all those people that you want to read it– will continue to work. Which is great, and a good reminder that sometimes we need to go back to those grassroots, feet on the pavement strategies to just put the work in.
Yeah. I mean, a lot of people now, I think they assume that because it's hypothetically possible that when you publish something, people could find it, that they will find it, right? That if you post something on your Instagram feed, or you post something on Medium that now you've done your job, you've done the thing, you put it out there.
But people aren't gonna find it. It doesn't work that way. You have to put a lot of effort behind it in order to get something seen. And it can feel really pointless and bad sometimes because you're doing all this work and you're not seeing results from it on in the short term.
You have to put a lot of effort behind it in order to get something seen.
But I was a mini comics artist for six years before I started publishing with Fantagraphics, and then I was publishing with Fantagraphics for four or five years before I got a mainstream, commercial book publisher. The results will happen if you keep going and you keep doing the thing but you have to keep doing, you can't stop. You can't just go, ‘oh, well, didn't work, I'm out.’ You’ve gotta do a lot more than posting it on whatever your feed is, you have to actively get it outside your own bubble and into other people's spheres so they can see it and they can have an opportunity to respond to it.
The results will happen if you keep going and you keep doing the thing but you have to keep doing, you can't stop.
You’ve gotta do a lot more than posting it on whatever your feed is, you have to actively get it outside your own bubble and into other people's spheres so they can see it and they can have an opportunity to respond to it.
Yeah, exactly. That was actually going to be one of my next questions. Before you've made this transition, which we'll talk about in a minute, you've been working as a comics cartoonist, artist, author for a long time now, right? And obviously you've put in a lot of work for that long period of time, which takes a lot of commitment and perseverance and believing in yourself.
There are a lot of creatives now who are maybe just getting started or have been going for a short amount of time that understandably can get a bit frustrated with things not happening immediately or not seeing those speedy results. So how do you feel about that having been working on your craft for such a long time?
I think what I would say is there are two major reasons why you're doing creative work in public. One would be because you wanna be part of an art form. You want people to see it. You wanna be part of that conversation culturally. You wanna have an effect on that realm of art and creativity.
And then the other is you wanna make a living at doing that thing–and this is getting back to what I'm writing about–those are two very different objectives. And they do not necessarily overlap. Getting into the cultural conversation doesn't necessarily mean you're making money, or much money, right?
I think it's super important for people who are getting started out and they're getting frustrated to get really clear on what it is they're trying to achieve right now. Because becoming part of that cultural conversation can proceed making money, but it does not necessarily lead to making money, much or at all, right? So if what you're working on is the cultural connection part and being part of a scene or a movement, affecting the world with your work and so on, focus on that. Like really focus on that.
Becoming part of that cultural conversation can proceed making money, but it does not necessarily lead to making money.
That is so doable and it is very frustrating to not have an effect, but often it's because you're just really not putting yourself out there, you're not getting out there where stuff is really happening. So find other people who are doing work that's similar or parallel to yours. Become friends with them, reach out to them, send them stuff for free, ask them if they'll hang out with you either in real life or virtually and share war stories or whatever. Go to live events and meet people there. If you're doing comics or something, then find local store owners who will carry your thing on consignment, see if they'll do a signing. Get out there and flyer put them up in cafes. Get people to come to your signing. Be creative about how you are putting yourself out there.
Be creative about how you are putting yourself out there.
And don't look at social media as the doorway, like getting going viral or something as being the way to do this. I think it stands in most people's way more than actually helps them. There are some people who are really good at that and that's fine, but most people just look at what happens on social media and think that if that's not working then it's not working. There are so many other ways to go about building that network that's really going to put you at the centre of this cultural moment in your area and so many more powerful ways than hanging out by yourself on your phone, like so much more. So that's what I would encourage people to do. And when you do that, that opens all kinds of doors and opportunities to cool projects.
The reason I worked with Ira Glass on Out On the Wire is because, in 1994, I had been doing a series of non-fiction comics for a local tabloid newspaper, which is a free newspaper that was about what’s happening in Chicago called The New City. It still exists, but it's not a newspaper anymore. They would hire me on a regular basis, like every few months, to do like a man on the street kind of thing. I'd go to an event and I'd write it up and make comics out of it, and it was a great gig. I did one on a bowling alley that had punk rock shows called Fireside Bowl and Ira found it in 1995, clipped it, and put it in his filing cabinet.
Three years later, he's brainstorming what he is gonna do for the pledge drive. (Many of your listeners may not be Americans and may not know what this is, but in America, public radio is not actually funded by the government, it's funded by the listeners. So there are two major pledge drives a year where they'll like get on that radio for a week, hammering, like donate, donate, donate.) Ira is famous for having very fun pledge drive rewards, premium stuff they send you as prizes for donating. And he thought, ‘what if we do a comic book about how we make our show?’
This is 1998 so he looks me up in the paper phone book, finds my phone number, calls me. I had just moved to Mexico City, so I had put a call forwarding system on my phone, a message for six months giving my Mexico City phone number. Well, Ira, being a good journalist, actually called me in Mexico City. I answered the phone in Mexico City and he is like, "Hi, this is Ira Glass. You don't know me, but", and I'm like, like freaking out, you know? Cause I totally did know him, even though it wasn't that famous, it hadn't really hit its moment yet, but in Chicago it definitely had – this American life I mean. It'd only been on the air for like three years or something at that point.
So he hires me to do this comic book and they came out in 1999. It was a floppy, 32-page comic book that was a pledge drive premium. There must be 25,000, 30,000 in print. It just kept selling and selling. Because the only thing out there about narrative radio, about how you make radio like this American life, for all the years between 1999 and the podcast explosion of the early 2010s. That was it.
So all the people in that world knew me. They all knew me because I had written and drawn the only book about how to do this. And there are people who are very famous podcasters now who are in radio production because they found my book. So then, I was like, ‘well, that's really successful and people love it, so I should do more of that, right?’
So then I could go back to Ira in 2011 and pitch him a new thing. Now, he wasn't involved in the second book like the first one. I just interviewed him, he's one of my subjects. But he helped me think through which shows to use and stuff like that when we started working on it.
So showing up, doing the thing, being in The New City over and over again, saying yes to these opportunities was what led to having the door open to do something really big. That kind of changed my life, you know?
When people are in their twenties and they're like, ‘oh, it's not happening,’ it's like, ‘dude, It takes time.’ When you're 40, talk to me about it. And then people are in their 40 are like, ‘it's not happening.’ And I feel it, you know. Things don't always work out the way you want them to, but the more stuff you do, the more you sell your work, you put yourself out there, the more opportunities there are for who knows what to open up. And if you say yes to these opportunities, you know you're gonna head on some trajectory that you can't really predict.
The more stuff you do, the more you sell your work, you put yourself out there, the more opportunities there are for who knows what to open up.
And believing that it will pay off in the long term. Just have to be a little patient. Maybe
And some of it won't. And that's fine too.
You have to be able to say, ‘well that didn't work, oh well.’ That’s one of the things I've heard a lot in my own podcast, which is called the Autonomous Creative. When I've done interviews with people who are established creatives in lots of different fields, one of the things they say all the time is do your own thing. Do your own project. Commit, do it. Don't ask for permission. Figure it out as you go along. Just go make stuff. Because if you don't do that, if you're waiting for permission from other people, it's not coming. You have to show who you are as an artist first before you're gonna get those weird opportunities that you can't predict.
Do your own project. Commit. Do it. Don't ask for permission. Figure it out as you go along. Just go make stuff.
If you're waiting for permission from other people, it's not coming.
Definitely. And so all of that has happened, obviously with all of your amazing cartoon comic works, your books and everything. What happened or caused you to pivot to start then teaching other people what you knew?
Well, interestingly, this kind of picks up the other thread I was mentioning in this last question, which is the money-making part. So yes, my career as a cartoonist was, I would say, quite successful. I was able to put book proposals in front of publishers, I have an agent, I got decent advances, not amazing, but good advances for my last few books. But the business model of being an author, let's just be honest, It sucks. It's terrible, right? Especially as a cartoonist.
The fastest I ever finished a book was Out On the Wire, and it took me three years of basically wall to wall work. It's just really, really hard. It's a lot of work and even people who are writing pros, they don't have to draw the whole thing, but it can also take forever, you know? And then if you are able to command an advance, you have that advance. But my advance got paid out in stages. I signed a contract and I get a third of it when I sign, and 15% of that goes to my agent. Then when I turn in the manuscript, and this is one of the ways that things typically work, when I turned in the manuscript, I got another third. Again, 15% goes to my agent. And then when it's published, I get another third.
So it's not even close to enough money to pay for my life.Even though it looks like a big number on paper, it's not even close. So I have to do other stuff, right? I'm jamming my life full of other crap to do in order to make ends meet. And at some point–and this is what I've been writing about lately–is this idea of cyclical burnout.
What creatives fall into is this kind of cyclical burnout where we have these great big ideas and we're really excited about them. You do the idea and you plunge yourself into it. Part of the idea is super exciting, but–and this is why saying about two different reasons why creatives make stuff–part of your mind is in the money side. You’re thinking is this is gonna make money for me too. This is gonna be the thing that actually finally breaks.
You pour your heart and soul into it. You get to some point and it's finished, but you kind of don't have a lot of energy for launching it. Maybe you don't put enough time, or you do, but it's gonna take a long time. Then you're outta time, you don't have time, you don't have money because you've been working on this thing and you're broke and you have bills, and you're like, what the hell am I gonna do?
What the hell am I gonna do?
And at that point, you start chalking the gaps with stuff. You take a teaching gig, you take a freelance gig, you start another small project, you try to sell something, whatever it is, you try to fill it all up and it's way too much and you burn out. So you just lie low for a while, but as you're lying low, your creative brain is percolating and you come up with another idea and you start working. You get an energy back, you start working on that idea, but you don't really give up any of the other stuff. You're still doing it. And it's like a snowball. It just stacks up and up and up until you just absolutely crack, right?
And that's pretty much what happened with me. It happened with me multiple times. I realise now, looking back, there were multiple times in my life when I had a major burnout and kept functioning enough to keep moving forward, eventually kind of got better enough to believe it was gonna work again, and then doing the same thing to myself again.
So what basically what happened is in 2015 Out On the Wire came out. It was a nonstop project for about 10 months, because I had to draw like 250 pages in 10 months. And I had my husband, who's also a cartoonist, helping with some backgrounds, I had interns helping me composite stuff and get it out. But no matter how you cut it, it's 10 hour days for five, six, seven days a week for 10 months, with small children. It was just really hard.
So I finish it and as I'm finishing it I'm thinking, what am I gonna do? I'm thinking, I have to come up with a new book proposal. I have to do it now so that I can bring something in now because I'm not gonna have enough. And I was just like, screw it, I just can't do this anymore. So I started looking for something else I could do next.
As part of my whole cyclical burnout, I decided to also do another podcast. So I did a podcast called Out On the Wire, that's based on the book, that's a fully scripted, fully produced podcast. I’m really proud of it, but again, that took all my time for six months.
The podcast has a sort of pedagogical angle to it, it's about how to do storytelling so, as part of that, me and my producing partner, Ben Frish, had an online group where people could post work. And I had been teaching since 2001, I've been a professor for a really long time, so teaching is kind of a natural mode for me in that sense. I was teaching these people via the podcast how to do storytelling and I was also starting to learn about business a little bit.
So I did the thing that you do, which is asking people, what do you want me to offer? What would you pay me for, essentially? I was really expecting people to talk to me about storytelling. Like do a little course on character development, do something on interviewing, do something on whatever, cause that's what the book's about. But everybody started talking about how they were so blocked and not getting work done and procrastinating and and can't finish projects. And I was like, ‘oh, I know how to do that. I could do that.’
So the very first version of my first core online course, the Creative Focus Workshop, was born as basically a little pilot email course about getting creative projects done. I didn't really know what I was doing, but that was the beginning of a pivot into doing business and being a coach.
Amazing. And obviously that worked, in some way, shape or form. So then how did you go about shifting your brand to become known as a coach and as autonomous creative?
Well, it was really tricky because at first I really had a lot of resistance and a lot of fears around being seen as a sellout and people saying ‘who does she think she is doing this coaching stuff, she's a cartoonist, what is that, that's ridiculous.’ And didn't get that, but it sort of expected it. A lot of that's just really internalised, you know?That's how I felt about it myself.
So initially, my public presentation of what I did was ‘I'm an author and here's this little thing I do on the side.’ Then gradually it sort of shifted polarities? And there were a couple big kind of revamps on my homepage, on my website, on my social media profiles where I would change the way I was talking about myself. So going from ‘I'm an author and I do this other thing’ to, ‘I do this other thing and I'm an author too’. It's been a long journey.
I had learned just a tiny bit about business, how to build a business that is functional, how to build a business that's sustainable, and man, it was really hard to get all the information I needed and to figure out how to do it and it was not sustainable for a really long time.
I mean in 2016 was when I finished the podcast for Out On the Wire. I was still working on Trish Trash. I was living in France at the time, and my family and I, we all moved to Philadelphia to take a job where I am now in Philadelphia at an art school. So I was teaching full-time, being a department chair, trying to finish Trish Trash and trying to run this business all at the same time. That was a burnout. I had to make better decisions about where I was putting my time, where I was putting my energy, but I did not understand how to make those decisions yet. It took me a really long time and I'm still not any good at it. I mean, I have 30 years of professional experience living in constant burnout. It's hard to break those patterns, but it's way better than it was.
I'm glad. And now you obviously are trying to help creatives to avoid those problems or to work through them or have better systems so that they don't land in those places. So thankfully it's useful in terms of helping other people too.
Yeah. Everything I've done in the last 15 years has been super meta. I'm always doing stuff on myself and then doing it for other people and it's all at the same time.
If you could tell us one lesson that you've learned about branding your passion or a piece of advice that you would give other creatives about that what would that be?
I think the biggest thing that creatives miss in their ability to present themselves publicly through their brand is an ability to clearly state the value of what they do. I think creatives are incredible and creative work is so valuable. It's so much more valuable than things we pay a lot of money for sometimes. If you think about the things that have been most influential in your life that have really changed your life, other than personal relationships, most of them are gonna be creative work.
The biggest thing that creatives miss in their ability to present themselves publicly through their brand is an ability to clearly state the value of what they do.
We as creatives are trained to look inward for meaning. For good reasons. We look inside for our inspiration. We wanna talk about all this other stuff, but we're never trained in art school, liberal arts school, whatever it is, to flip that and help other people understand why you care about what you care about. Why is it important to them? What are they gonna get out of this relationship? Why should they spend time with you?
Especially with creatives, it's often time, it's not money so much. If you're an author, if you're an artist, if you're doing anything, narrative, you're asking a lot of time from people, a big chunk of time. You need to make sure that they understand why they wanna spend that time. What are they gonna get out of it?
And it's not mercenary, it's not selling out, none of that stuff. Have a little empathy for other people and that they can't read your mind, they don't know what's going on inside your head. They have not been immersed in whatever you've been doing for the last 10 years. They don't know all that stuff and you need to build a bridge. So that flip from internal focus to external focus, which maybe shouldn't happen in the middle of a creative project, needs to happen before you finish, but after you get the core of it in place so that you're not informing your decisions based on what other people would like, but learning to connect.
And there's gonna be an audience for anything. There's an audience of some kind, big, small, I don't know, but there's gonna be people interested in your work if you can do that thing. If you can figure out how to flip that point of view to the external and figure out how to connect what's really lighting you up with other people and what they need and what they're interested in.
Figure out how to connect what's really lighting you up with other people and what they need and what they're interested in.
That's incredible advice. I think it's a really practical thing that people can try to practice with each project or each launch or whatever it is to get close to the end and go, ‘okay, I'm happy with this and I know why it's important for me, now how do I communicate it with other people so they are as excited about it as I am?’
March 15, 2023
Brand Your Passion