for the Creatives

Sorry, but there’s no market for your idea…

Many artists, entrepreneurs, and dreamers hear that there’s no market for their dream. It’s dire, folks, but here’s some hope for ya.

Psst! I heard that some odd sort of people prefer watching videos over reading articles. Super weird. But weird people are my type of people, so I made a video preview of this blogpost. Now you can go watch the great quirky awkwardness of me instead of reading my awkwardness in blogpost form. 

 

So I was walking through Barnes and Noble and stumbled across these books:

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They were on the shelves in the front, the money-maker shelves. You know what I’m talking about, the shelves that mean publishers have bought into this book, that have said “Yes, these will make money, put them prominently on display for all to see!” Those kind of books.

But these aren’t your typical money-maker books.

Exhibit A: poetry.

Let’s be real, I totally judge books by covers, and I bought “The princess saves herself in this one” without even opening it. But when I did open it, I found poetry. A story in poetry form.

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Poets are notorious examples of being told “there’s no market for your work.” When’s the last time you read poetry from a book? Probably high school. Poets are told they’ll only get interest on cutesy Instagram or Facebook images, and they’ll never get a publishing deal, and if they self-publish, they’ll never have any readers. Yet Amanda Lovelace, I don’t think she listened to that. At least not entirely. Because she wrote poetry and convinced probably an agent and a publisher that her work was worth front shelf placement at Barnes and Noble.

Exhibit B: Cartoon drawings with bad spelling, for adults not kids.

Like seriously, how do you pitch THAT to an agent or publisher? Got me! I’m still trying to figure out how to describe it on a blogpost.

It’s a book of cartoon drawings. An alien comes to earth to study humans, but the alien is bad at spelling and grammar so the book is full of cutesy misspellings, and the alien is actually befriending non-humans like rocks and animals and trees, but it’s insightful and philosophical into what actually makes us human. Oh yeah, it’s not a children’s book, it’s for grown-ups.

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Okay, I have no idea how he pitched it, probably better than me, but I’m just saying if your dream sounds crazy, you’re in good Barnes-and-Noble-front-shelf company.

 

The business guy top secret insight:

After posting that Facebook video about these books, my business school brother messaged something insightful.

I had mentioned that poets often hear stuff like, “Nobody buys poetry anymore, they only read it on cutesy Facebook or Instagram posts.” I had said these authors didn’t listen to that negativity.

My brother noted my claim isn’t quite correct. They did listen to that. They noticed where the audience was and went to it. I have not confirmed this, but I heard that Amanda Lovelace started on Instagram before ever being published, and I also heard that Jomny Sun was on Twitter before being published. They both went to their market to get their big break. You can find your market and build interest now, too.

There’s a step in the right direction for ya. Past the dreaming and onto a practical tip. This is why my bro will make the big bucks 😉

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for the Creatives

The super simple way to build your creative community

Sure, some of it is luck and location, but most of it is YOU.

There are creatives out there, I guarantee it. They just need someone to call them out and make it happen. That someone can be you.

That someone has been me. Unintentionally, I just kind of stumbled upon it.

This is simple, but it is not instantaneous. Each step is important, and it’s kind of a snowball effect.

The more you do this, the more it grows until you have your avalanche of an arts community.

But it’s so simple,  you can get started today, I promise.

(I’ll be taking this from the angle of writing, since that’s my experience, but this applies to any type of creativity.)

  1. Talk about your creating ALOT.
  2. But not like spammy, sales-pitchy, or over-excessive. It’s not all about you.
  3. Examples:
    • “How are you?” “Great, I had a breakthrough in my writing last night and am excited for my story!”
    • “Sorry, I can’t make it that day. That’s my writing day. Can we do Thursday?”
    • “What ya got going on this weekend?” “Trying to figure out the next part of my story… Here’s where I’m stuck. Any ideas?”
    • “Nice to meet you! What do you do in your free time?” “I enjoy writing. I blog and I’m working on a novel I hope to one day publish.”
  4. See, non-spammy, normal conversation. Don’t get too chatty about it unless they keep prodding.
  5. (Psst! You can do this in person or on social media.)

Your results from this will vary, but here’s a few responses you’ll encounter:

  • The more you do this, the more you’ll find people who say: “How cool, I like to write, I just never have the time” – or insert some other excuse…. Not quite your writing community you’re looking for, I know.
  • Occasionally you may get lucky and find a committed writer too.
  • You’ll also stumble upon people who bring up their non-writing creative pursuits. More creative community, woohoo!
  • And you’ll also stumble upon people who say, “Oh cool, I know my sister/son/friend/acquaintance writes too.” Let them know they’ll have to introduce you sometime so you can chat writing with each other.

So the next step for all of these responses you get:

  1. Talk about THEIR creative pursuits. 
  2. (Psst! This can also be in person or on social media.)
  3. You just got them to open up about their creativity, whether it’s consistent or not.
  4. Ask what they’re working on.
  5. Ask how it’s going.
  6. If they “don’t have time”, ask how they can make time.
  7. Ask them what their goal is for this week – can they write for 15 minutes tonight? Tomorrow? this weekend?
  8. Come up with a joint goal – “Tell you what – I’ll write 15 minutes tonight and you write 15 minutes tonight; then tomorrow we have to tell each other how it went.” Or “Tell you what, let’s both write a short story this month and share it with each other next time we get coffee.”
  9. Hold them to their goals. Encourage them. Keep them going.
  10. Be fascinated about their project and their success.
  11. Listen. Most of this is listen.
  12. When relevant, bring up your work, but that’s not the point. Their work is the point. Keep them going.

And the final step. How does this help you? You’re looking for people to hold you accountable to your goals, not vise versa. You don’t need more slackers to deal with you may say.

But here’s the secrets. You know all the above stuff. It’s super simple. But the most important part is here,  your mindset.

You see, you can’t do the above stuff well without writing yourself. Here’s why:

  1. You can’t talk about writing all the time if you’re not writing to begin with.
  2. The more you talk about writing, the more people know you’re a writer and expect you to be writing. Even non-creatives may latch onto your story and want updates.
  3. The more people ask about your writing, the more accountable you are to having to write consistently.
  4. As you start encouraging and motivating other creatives to keep writing, you’ll realize you can’t tell them they should be writing this week if you’re not writing this week too.
  5. #Protip: the more you have joint goals – sharing a story in a month or writing for 15 minutes together – the more you benefit from this.
  6. If you slack off, they’ll realize they can slack off, and your encouragement and motivation will be diluted. “Oh you didn’t write this week? Me either, that’s okay, we’ll hit it next time…” Only you don’t hit it next time, because you know you’ll both slack off every so often – which turns into semi-regularly – which turns into regularly until you just stop writing all together. Stop that cycle right now! Be consistent so your motivation to others has potency.

Some of those people you’re encouraging will seep through. They’ll keep going because you’re inspiring them. And they’ll care about you. Because you know stuff and you do stuff, and you think they’re worth the time (because – reminder – THEY ARE!)

And voila – you’ve built a community of creatives that keep you going and that you keep them going. It’s a beautiful thing.

Art is happening. And now you’re a part of that.

 

for the Creatives, Musings of a Creative

A little feedback can go a long way

Last week I shared the survey results for my quirky meta murder mystery book title. Maybe you want feedback but there’s no way you’ll hear from 50 people on a survey like I did (I asked thousands of people for that help.)

But I wanted to share that

I already thought I knew how the results would go before they ever happened.

Because before I created the survey, I asked a dozen people in a group and heard from about half of them. And the exact same results happened on a smaller scale – most liked “Memoir of a Murder” but for reasons that didn’t coincide with my story. Two people liked “I Know You Like a Murder” in a way that resonated with my story. And this response is like #lifegoals for a writer here:

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My friend Laura posted this – it wasn’t an analytical response as to all the reasons one title is superior to the other. It was an instinctive gut-level reaction, something that tugged at her that she couldn’t get out of her mind.

That’s what an author wants of a story, and I got that response just from the title. I had to pick that title! and as you saw from the survey results I posted last week, that reaction multiplied in the 50-ish people who responded there.

Mostly I just wanted to geek out and publicly squeal and gush over this comment, because let’s be real, it’s everything I hope my book will be ❤

But let’s throw in a little encouragement inspiration for you too while we’re at it 🙂 If you’re not sure on a decision, just ask a small group of friends. But don’t just ask the multiple choice – ask why the choice they made and why not the other choices.

Then watch for the emotionally gripping response, not some logical reasoning. You’ve got your reader hooked when they respond from the heart instead of their head. You don’t want them to think “That’s smart,” you want them to think “I can’t let this go.”

for the Creatives, My Creative Projects

Sometimes you don’t need skill

In your creative pursuits, strive for excellence of course. “Study to show yourself approved.” Don’t put out rubbish and expect people to pay for it because it’s authentic and from the heart. Ech.

But also branch out. I’ve got a reasonable amount of skill in music and writing and arguably fashion – though not runway fashion, just artsy fun fashion 😉 What do I not have skill in? Visual arts and rhythm. My coordination is seriously lacking there.

Yet it’s okay to fumble and explore.

  • Last year I choreographed my own personal dance in the privacy of my home that will never be seen by anyone. Anyone.
  • I took a 30 minute drum lesson a few years ago.
  • I remember as a teen taking:
    • a pottery class
    • a cake decorating class
    • a sewing class
    • brief mandolin and harp lessons
    • I even tried acting in church plays

Just to try it out. (I have my parents to thank for opening me up to exploring new pursuits even if I sucked at them.) I always wanted to be good at everything, but let’s face it:

We can’t excel at everything. But we can still try.

The sketching class most stood out to me. The students who had been there awhile were sketching a self-portrait and I eagerly tried and failed. The teacher walked over belatedly and said something along the lines of, “No, that assignment is for the advanced students. You’re supposed to be drawing this grandfather clock.” She was not very happy. And neither was I. I “learned” that I cannot draw.

But I’ve been working on allowing myself to explore and enjoy visual arts even if I suck at them.

Last year I took an art journaling class.

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You don’t have to be good at something to put it in your journal.

I sporadically draw pictures in my journal, to make it visual. And it sucks, but that’s okay, because it’s for my eyes only. (Until last month when I lost my journal at Starbucks and they probably thought it belonged to a preschooler as they flipped through it for contact info….Don’t leave journals at Starbucks! But that’s another story.)

A couple months ago I did one of those painting classes that’s like an “Everybody can paint!” sorta deal. The difficulty level was low – he said an 8 year old did the same painting and it looked great. But on my painting the dancer’s legs were excruciating and I finally had a friend help fix them (but all horrible awkward legness is my fault…)

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Most notably though, the colors I picked out makes it look like a taco dancer, let’s be real. Just flip it upside down and it’s a taco bowl…. see?

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Now I’m hungry.

But the point is, dabble. It might be bad, but it’s fun and it’s stretching those creative muscles.

About that time I was deluded and teeny-handed with an atrocious wardrobe…

There once was a time I was bad at writing – and worse, I thought I was good. There once was a time that the piano teacher wouldn’t let me learn to play piano because my hands were too small and my fingers lay flat on the keys. I used to wear drab or terrifyingly horrible clothes, embarrassingly so, and say I didn’t care about what I wore and maybe I didn’t. How naive. But I got back on those horses and I’m basicly a cowgirl now 😉

So, dabble. I guess that’s all I’m saying. Also, look at all the proof I’m not good at everything! *gestures wildly in every direction* 🙂

And finally, to all the hypothetical naysayers out there – “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

for the Bookworms, for the Creatives, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Why I wanna be like Ksenia Anske when I writerly grow up

Although, let’s be real: Ksenia and I don’t plan on actually growing up in our writerly lives. It’s more like staying daydreaming children forever, but then pretending to be grown-up long enough to do the business stuff.

I don’t remember how I discovered Ksenia. But I do remember what stuck in my mind about her:

  • She said, “Reader, you are my publisher. Share my books.”
  • She gave away her books for free, as in all of her older drafts of her story were publicly available to read (maybe still are) and you can even still download her stories for free.

Why did that grab my attention? She saw the value of her readers. That readers are what make or break a story. That’s what I want my philosophy to stay forever.

And she has a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. Those are artistic buzzwords right now, but they ring true. Artists can tend to want to hoard their ideas, their best work for themselves, as if there’s a finite capacity. But we need a mindset of abundance, that we can throw it all out there and celebrate others successes too, because creativity is infinite.

Why else do I want to be like Ksenia Anske “when I grow up”?

  • Curly haired people goals!
  • Quirky personality
  • You are getting to know the person through every online engagement.
  • She is authentic – what she’s learning, what she’s done wrong, it’s all out there. You’re following the journey, the person, not just book sales promos.
  • She’s always learning and sharing what she learns. I’m sure paying attention.
  • She’s not afraid to work out of the box, experiment.
  • It all comes back to her READERS! They support her because she supports them. She listens to their feedback and engages with them.
  • Need proof? Anyone who read her last email newsletter, she requested their address and she sent them a card with a personalized short story.
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the story Ksenia sent me
  • Note the above bullet point also goes back to the concept of abundance rather than scarcity. She didn’t freak that she wouldn’t have enough stories in her for each person or that she wouldn’t be able to send cards to her readers because of the expense. She just said she’d do it, then she did it.
  • okay, I’m losing track of what these bullet points are for and when to use bullet points and when to not….
  • Switch gears!

I’ve read two books of hers:

  1. Rosehead. Magical realism at its finest. If you want a quirky read about a girl and her talking dog and a carnivorous garden, this is it! Everyone’s been looking for a book about a carnivorous garden, right? 🙂

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  2. Blue Sparrow. A collection of tweets on writing, reading, and the creative life. Motivational, inspirational, even instructional (mostly “KEEP WRITING!”). My favorite detail would be that it’s 140 pages long, with 140 tweets. Like an inside joke for us Twitter users 🙂 And to whet your appetite, check out a couple of the tweets:

 

So now you know what I’m working towards. Quirky writing. Lovable hair. Personable interaction. Perspective of abundance. And reader centered. Check out Ksenia’s work for yourself….you won’t regret it!

for the Creatives, Musings of a Creative

The blehhhhhhh of plan B

Plan A was to write this blogpost about Plan B. Then my boyfriend said, “Not like going to the pharmacy for Plan B?” and then Plan B was to preface this blogpost with this paragraph. No, it has nothing to do with pharmacy plan B! Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up…..

Plan A was to call this post “The Beauty of Plan B” and it’d be like that inspirational basic chick type post. Plus there’s the alliteration of “The Beauty of Plan B.” It flows off the tongue so nicely.

But Plan B doesn’t flow so nicely. It’s more like “The Blehhhh of Plan B.” It’s inconvenient. It forces ya into going its direction when Plan A was all meadows of daisies, and Plan B is a little prickly and a little messy.

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Two roads diverged and I….I was incessantly pushed away from the road less traveled and fell into this second path that just wasn’t it, grrrr, why can’t I just go this epic less-traveled dream life way?!?

Oops, end rant.

But seriously, I am the poster child of Plan B.

    • I was going to teach English until I realized I didn’t want to teach in a structured classroom setting, so I dropped the Education part of my degree and landed with an English Lit degree. What am I to do with that, right?! I didn’t know either, I just knew I liked what I was learning.
    • At the last minute, I decided that Amy’s Big Plan for Her Life was to become a copyeditor at a fiction publishing company to support  writing on the side. In case you missed the memo, full-time writer isn’t an instantaneous career and the publishing industry isn’t exactly prevalent in central IL. I fell into – would ya know it – teaching.
    • And I fell in love with that job – Youth Education Specialist at the Red Cross – until that job ceased to exist and I had to reevaluate my life. And I fell into the role of Executive Assistant, where I loved the people and certain aspects of the job, but I still heard the writerly life calling. I was tinkering with my novel with what spare energy I had and searching job sites for a copyeditor position at a fiction publishing company.
    • I vowed for years that I wouldn’t get swept up into this local Christian job vortex called Samaritan Ministries. I had a number of friends working there that every time the above plan A’s didn’t pan out, they’d tell me I should apply for a job at Samaritan. But noooo, that’s not a fiction publishing company copyeditor job. I wasn’t gonna “settle” for “less” than my dream. But I was also feeling stuck. I just wanted to be writing and editing and be paid for it. And so I fell into Plan B – copywriting and copyediting for Samaritan, a Christian approach to health care. Not quite fiction publishing, but at least I got the first half of my dream job description right 😉
    • and that’s where I am now. And it’s good. I like it. In fact, I got paid to write an article, so it’s a great start.

    UntitledPlan B is a little frustrating. The pharmacy kind and the life trajectory kind. It’s not The Plan, but it just keeps coming up anyway. Sometimes destiny knows what it’s doing though. It might be a little like Kuzco’s trip instead of like Izma’s, but don’t we all wanna be the pseudo-good guy anyway?

    I’m not saying let’s do Plan B forever. I’m just saying let’s try to enjoy the detour a bit. Maybe relax on the trek with Pacha while trying to avoid being murdered, maybe enjoy the weirdness of being a llama and try not to eat the disgusting bug but enjoy the fun disguises. That sorta thing 😉