The social media posts are telling about this time of year: content producers are planning and pausing. There’s nothing wrong with approaching creativity from a time-based perspective. We shove everything we touch into an economic calendar for better or worse. Seeing how hard big businesses are promoting their sales, all one can say is, “’tis the season.” But what I’m discovering is that creativity transcends the clock and calendar. Instead, it’s the deep and cyclical work of emptying yourself of everything you are and refilling your mind and spirit with who you will become. The endless cycle of creativity might reset every week, month, or year, but that is less important than the work you will do and what will fill you up.
It’s that time of year when content creators are taking a moment to pause, reflect, and plan for next year. It could be looking at the themes you want to cover for the coming year, new project ideas, or people you want to interview. You may want to address that one sticking point in your process to increase flow from start to finish. No matter what it is, I hope you enjoy the planning process and consider the addition of a few areas to reflect upon, such as enjoyment, depth, increased authenticity, and worrying less about what other people think of you. I feel that 2024 will be a noisy year from start to finish, with a lot of drama—real and manufactured—so the more you can be in touch with your voice at the beginning, the better off you’ll be as the year unfolds.
There is an infinite number of messages surrounding us. If we are willing to tune in and listen, we can learn a lot about our values, what companies are forcing us to accept, and where we’ve lost our way. Recently, through a combination of blog posts, books, and interviews on this podcast, I’ve been challenged to think about how the evolution of digital tools can impact our work and the mindset we bring to life. For over 20 years, I’ve seen tremendous growth in the affordability and power of technology. Still, I’ve also made concessions about what I’m willing to pay for versus building myself; for that, there is a price. When we forget the journey of where we’ve been and what we can do and choose to accept the status quo—”this is how things have always been done”—we move away from growth and cozy up to mediocrity.
How in the world do you make money to fund your future? I think about this question a lot because I have no idea how anyone is making enough money in the digital economy on their work alone when platforms pay pennies per thousand for people watching, liking, sharing, commenting, you know the drill. I get even more confused when I think about newer free platforms; how are they making money? When people get used to free, why would they pay? With subscription services increasing monthly fees, how much of that will reach creators? Is crowdsourcing a viable path to funding your future? Do I build my own platform from the ground up? My head is swimming with all these questions and the absence of answers. So, let’s dive into the deep end of funding your future beyond pennies on the dollar.
Building upon last week’s episode, where I talked about figures of speech that guide our work, whether we know it or not, I want to talk about a popular one in creativity: “You can’t create great work in a vacuum.” While I understand what the phrase is saying, and there are some excellent blog posts advocating for non-vacuum ideation, I think it lacks a key component of creativity: doing the actual work. I’m just getting back from attending an annual conference, and I’m struggling to get my groove going. There are a lot of distractions and items on the to-do list. What’s missing is my ability to tune everything out, get into a vacuum-esque state of focus, and crank out the work. It seems like when I get close to it, something pulls me out, and that sucks. Hah, vacuum puns are the best. In today’s episode of Getting Work To Work, I’m diving into the what, how, and why you need to create a vacuum-like environment for deep creative work.
I’ve been thinking about the stories, figures of speech, and memes that guide our days and keep us firmly entrenched in identities and labels. Whether I knew it or not, a guiding tale for much of my life was that I was a serial quitter. Whenever I did something new, I unknowingly set a timer for four months, and when it went off, I was usually onto the next thing already. Maybe you see yourself through a lens of accomplishments or failures. Or you define your life by figures of speech that people repeat ad nauseam, like “stay in your lane” or “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” None of these things are bad, but they can keep us stuck, so I want to ask: When was the last time you reexamined your potential and made changes accordingly?
‘Tis the season for another monologue about doubt. When I searched the podcast archives for doubt, last November came up, and it was examining the positive nature of doubt. I’m not sure what it is about the end of the year. Maybe it’s a change of seasons (a great song by Dream Theater) or the compound effects of exhaustion. But honestly, it’s probably part of the creative process, especially when pushing into new mediums. I just don’t feel it until the end of the year when life slows down. What if doubt has nothing to do with what you are doing but an indication of what you need? More grace and less tough love. Compassion, rest, and freedom to explore your curiosities.
Over the weekend, I did something I usually don’t or even set out to do: I helped a friend film a wedding. Since it was a behind-the-scenes, documentary-style project, I said yes because I love to be a casual observer and documenter of life. We captured all the usual events surrounding a wedding, but it was during the reception that today’s monologue found its roots. The reception was on the Portland Spirit, a popular ship for sightseeing and events along the Willamette River. As I captured footage of people enjoying the party with appropriate levels of emotion, I heard a commotion on the other side of the ship. I walked toward the noise, missing whatever happened, but the people at the table attempted to recreate their excitement for my benefit. I would return to this group throughout the evening because they were fun. When I mentioned it, the response was simple: “It’s because this is the singles table.” They were the outcasts of the wedding; they knew it and were having a blast anyway.
When I interview people who have written a book, the typical response to my closing question—”What book, podcast, or resource is currently blowing your mind?”—is a form of: “I’m not reading or listening to anything right now. I don’t want to be influenced by someone else’s work.” I’ve always been intrigued by the notion that you could produce original work without external influence. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere without access to modern technology, the opportunity for influence is all around us in two ways: style and substance. Style is surface-level, the way things look; substance is much deeper. It’s the creator’s message, philosophy, beliefs, and intention. Instead of fearing influence, how can we provide attribution to style and substance and continue creating the work that matters to us?
There’s something special about people who make decisions that go against the grain of societal expectations. Whether we make those decisions out of necessity, frustration, depression, or some other motivation is less important than the willingness to embark on a new journey. Today’s episode is inspired by a quote from an excellent book by Patrick Bringley, All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me. In the book, Bringley documents the loss of his brother to cancer, how he quit a dream job, and became a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for ten years. It’s worth your time to help you examine your life, look beyond what is obvious, and find what is hidden.