Creative Business 101: Optimization Hacks to Get Your Platforms Working Together – Part One: Social Media

Competition in the Creative Business world can be tough, so don’t make things harder by competing with yourself!

To run a successful business, most people will operate on multiple platforms in order to maximize exposure and attract a larger audience. This sounds great on paper, but without proper planning, all of these various platforms can end up competing against one another and causing your workload to grow exponentially with every platform you add!

In Creative Business 101 we have learned:

In the next three posts, we’re going to take all of this a step further. We have killed some self-doubt, identified our audience, and learned how to provide value to our audience with great creative content. Now, what do with do with it?

These optimization hack articles will tackle the following questions you might have about how to optimize your platforms to build a better creative business:

  • Where is the best place to put each type of content?
  • How do you get your platforms working together instead of competing for attention?
  • How do you use your platforms to draw in your “true fans” and build intimacy?

Are you ready?

We’re going to break this up into three sections:

  • Part One: Social Media
  • Part Two: Blogs
  • Part Three: Newsletters

If you don’t have all of these platform types up and running, don’t panic! This article will demonstrate the potential role each of these platforms plays in your ultimate goal to convert strangers into fans.

If all you have at the moment are your socials, that’s okay. That’s all we’re talking about today. I do want you to start thinking about how to grow your business, so be open to setting up a blog and newsletter in the future. I’ll be sharing why this particular trifecta of platforms is so powerful for creative business entrepreneurs.

Part One: Social Media

Social Media is one of the easiest ways to start interacting with your audience. Before you have a website, blog, or newsletter, chances are you’ve been hanging out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or something similar. Social media is probably the best place to meet your audience, and begin to develop a personal relationship with them. Let’s take a look at what makes social media so powerful.

Social medias are:

  • informal and friendly
  • fast paced
  • community oriented
  • quick to update
  • easy to share

I won’t discuss individual platforms here, as the benefits of each essentially come down to the above stated list. Your preferred social media accounts (whether it’s one or all of them) can all be used in the same way. You want to use social media to provide great creative content AND to actively seek out and engage with your audience.

How to Use Engagement to Boost Your Social Media Following

While a website, blog, or newsletter can be a bit of a one-sided affair with you as the talking head, social media is all about the back and forth conversation. Social media naturally forms itself into tight-knit communities of likeminded people, whether that’s through Groups on Facebook, or tags on Instagram and Twitter, it is very easy to find people who are interested in the same things as you are interested in. And it’s easy to find people who are interested in the things you make.

Because you know your audience, you can use social media to engage directly with the people you know will love your work. Check out the feeds of accounts that catch your eye. Comment on their posts. Ask questions. Introduce yourself, not with a sales pitch, but with a few details about you that might connect with their interests. Have genuine conversations.

When you are interested in other people, they naturally become interested in you. Use this fact to your advantage by forging connections and friendships with potential audience members.

How to Use Creative Content to Build Followers

When you engage with social media users, they are likely going to come check out your feeds too. This is where your content is either going to draw them in or turn them away. You might have had a great conversation on someone else’s post, but if they come to your feed and see a disjointed collection of personal photos and memes, they’re probably not going to click that follow button.

The Best Creative Content for Social Media

Social media moves fast. You want bite sized information that people can read and react to quickly. An interesting image, a quippy caption, an engaging question, these are the things that people are drawn to on social feeds. If you can hook someone’s interest in the first line of text, many will stick around to read a longer caption, too. Experiment with what types of posts get the best conversations going and stick with this.

Beware of “like” traps. Some content inspires a quick scroll by and like, but nothing more. “Likes” are the least valuable kind of social media interaction. They are little more than a social proof that other people are interested in your post.

What you want is dialogue.

How Do I Use Social Media to Create Dialogue With My Audience?

If all you post are pretty pictures, or other people’s quotes, you are unlikely to get much actual interaction on your posts. Visual artists know this phenomenon well. Beautiful feeds full of artwork might get a lot of likes, but people tend not to comment. It’s pretty, but it’s not personal. You can’t build a relationship with scroll-by-“likers.” There has to be a story that bridges a connection between you and your audience.

How do you tell a story?

Have a Theme.

Theme’s are a kind of story. On a very visual platforms, like Instagram, it’s important that your feed have a cohesive visual look. You can achieve this by sticking to one filter, or using a particular colour scheme. This helps followers identify your posts quickly when they are scrolling through their own feeds. On less visual platforms, you can still have a theme in that your post cohesive content and use a consistent voice. Your theme is a story about you. People should be able to scroll through your posts and have a strong sense of who you are.

Show Your Face.

You are the narrator of your story. You don’t want an entire feed full of selfies, but you do need to show your face often enough that someone checking out your feed for the first time has an immediate idea of who you are. Chose pictures that show off your personality, whether that is serious and contemplative, or whimsical, or completely off the wall. Break up these snapshots with other content, but make sure that there are at least one or two photos of yourself displaying to browsers at any given time. When people see your content, you want them to picture you with it. You are the most important part of your story.

Micro-Blog.

Micro-blogging is like the flash fiction of the blogging world. Mini stories about you. You can treat your socials as a kind of micro-blog. Try new ideas here, test out what gets traction and what doesn’t, and then use that information as material for expansion on your blog or newsletter.

Posting a link to your latest blog post is a great way to optimize your platforms, but if you don’t engage your audience’s interest with a caption, they’re going to scroll right past your link without reading the headline. Engagement is key to converting followers into fans.

Whether you are sharing your own original content or you are sharing inspirational content from someone else, NEVER let it sit there without a caption. Connect it to a personal experience, ask a question of your audience, grab their attention. Share your story!

The Ultimate Goal of Social Media Accounts for the Creative Business Owner

If you only have social media and no other platforms your goals are these:

  1. Engage with potential audience members in their feeds.
  2. Create a feed that inspires engagement from casual browsers.
  3. Have an easily recognizable “look” to your content, which highlights who you are as a creator.

Discussion

I hope this breakdown of how best to use your social media platforms has helped you to understand how to get the most out of these indispensable creative business tools.

Do you have any other questions about social media use as a creative entrepreneur? Which ideas would you like to see me expand on in the future? What is your favourite social media platform for your business? Let me know in the comments!

Next Steps: The Blog

Ultimately, you want all of your social media posts to direct your audience back to your blog or website. Blogging is an extremely effective tool at the hands of any creative business owner. Next week, we’re going to talk about websites, and specifically the inarguable power of the blog.

Why? Your website/blog is the next level of engagement with your followers. This is where you move past the “trigger finger” reactions and lightening fast comments of social media, and narrow your audience down to those who are more deeply engaged with your story.

These followers will browse your online store and linger over long-form articles because they are genuinely interested in you. Followers who make it to your website or blog are more invested in your work than those on social media.

You just leveled up.

Stay tuned for next week’s Creative Business 101: Optimization Hacks to Get Your Platforms Working Together–Part Two: The Blog

The Power of the Ugly Draft: How I Wrote a Novel in 22 Days

I just wrote 60K words in three weeks and no one is more surprised than me! We are 22 days into NaNoWriMo and this morning I typed “THE END” on the first draft of my third novel, Weirfall: The Timekeepers’ War Book 3.

Figuring out my process as a writer has taken years of fumbling and frustration. My first novel, The Timekeepers’ War took nearly ten years to get from concept to published manuscript. Not only is is the first book I have every published, it was the first book I ever wrote. There are not many authors who get to see their first novels published, and I am forever grateful to be one of them.

It wasn’t easy. My drafting process was painfully slow and I ended up having to cut 50K words from my first bloated over-written draft. I made a lot of mistakes. I am still making mistakes. And every time I make a mistake I learn something new.

So how did I go from writing one book in ten years to writing a book in less than a month? Here is what has worked for me:

  • Plan ahead
  • Study craft
  • Let go of perfectionism
  • Make time

Plan for Success

Whether or not you consider yourself a plotter, a pantser, or a something in between, having some kind of a plan is going to make your life easier.

I have always been a bit of a pantser. Drafting is like “flying by the seat of my pants.” One of the reasons my first book took so long from start to finish is that I didn’t really know what my story was about. I floated through plot ideas, exploring hundreds of possibilities, and struggling to connect the dots in a cohesive way.

Exploratory writing is great. Many people find a lot of joy in this process. But if you really want to finish a book, you will benefit from having a plan. It doesn’t have to be a detailed scene-by-scene breakdown with character backstories and 100K of world-building files cluttering up your desktop. At the very least, you should learn how to outline a novel.

I resisted planning and outlining for years before I finally read a book that made everything click. If you like to plan, you probably already have a favourite craft book. But for those of you who really don’t want to let go of the explosive creative joy of pantsering your way through a draft, I highly recommend K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel.

Weiland showed me how to put all my exploratory creative energy into the outlining process, so that the drafting process became faster and more organized. You won’t lose any of your creative mojo, I promise. You will save time and effort with a good plan.

Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland is a life saver!

Study Your Craft

Learning how to outline is a great segue into learning the basics of story structure. I have always been a great lover of story. I read a lot, and I read widely. I have a good instinctual sense for when stories feel “right.” Many writers are like this.

Somehow, for me, this did not translate into a strong working knowledge of story structure. How to properly structure a novel is something that I have had to learn. I spent hours re-structuring my first book after realizing that I’d gotten the pacing all wrong.

I re-wrote my second book three different times before I realized I had messed up the overall structure of the trilogy and was trying to jump too far ahead of myself with book two.

Studying writing craft can be intimidating. There are thousands of books and courses available that purport to teach you how to write “the right way.” I recommend avoiding all of the nitty gritty details of line editing at first. Don’t worry too much about show vs. tell or grammar or fillers and filters. First, you have to get the structure and the character arc in the right place.

I recommend Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, both of which use screenwriting techniques to help writers understand universal principles of story telling, using examples from popular culture that are accessible and easy to understand.

K.M. Weiland’s Structuring your Novel and Creating Character Arcs were indispensable next steps in my own craft study. I find Weiland’s work extremely well organized and easy to cross reference. Creating Character Arcs saved my bacon when I got off track drafting book three. I read each relevant chapter as I was drafting and used the character arc to drive me through my plot points when I felt I was wandering. I am confident that my third book will be my best yet, simply because I put character development front and centre.

With a better understanding of structure, a solid outline in place, and a stronger sense of Ghost’s character arc, writing Weirfall has been a dream in comparison to my struggles with the first two books.

Let Go of Perfectionism

If you want to be a great writer, you have to stop trying to be a good writer. Let go of perfectionism. Let yourself be messy and make mistakes. Write badly. Dump all of your ideas on the page, even if they sound stupid.

A badly written but complete first draft will make your revisions faster and easier. It seems counter intuitive, I know. But all those poorly written sentences–rife with cliches and repetition and placeholders for words you couldn’t think of–act as a memory trigger when you come back to your second draft work. If you have stuck to your outline and have a decent macro-structure in place, revisions will be a piece of cake.

You didn’t waste time getting the imagery perfect in the first draft, but you didn’t lost any of your wonderful ideas, either. Now that you have time to play with the language, you can decide which images to keep and perfect, and which are no longer necessary. You can replace your telling with showing where you want the reader to linger and you can cut the over-written filler where you need to speed things up.

The best part is, you can do this without shedding any tears as you “kill your darlings,” because you haven’t spent hours and hours perfecting and getting emotionally attached to beautiful sentences that simply don’t fit.

Once your structure is in place and your draft is complete, you can add to your craft knowledge with books like Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. There are hundreds of great craft books out there. Swain’s Techniques is my favourite, even if it’s a little old-fashioned, particularly for the genre fiction writer. He taught me about the evils of simultaneity and how it killed my pacing in book one. The way he breaks down sentence and scene structure completely changed they way I write.

But you can’t edit a blank page, as they say. And you have to let go of you perfectionism if you want to finish that draft.

Make Time to Write

One of the most common complaints I hear from other writers is that it is impossible to find time to write. There is this idea that you have to sit down at your computer and slave for 8-12 hours a day in order to finish a book in any kind of reasonable time.

This is a lie!

I wrote a 60K novel in 22 days writing for 2 hours a day.

Finding an “extra” two hours a day isn’t necessarily easy. I wake up at 4am every day in order to get my hours in before the rest of the house wakes up. Then, for the rest of the day I am home-schooling three kids, bookkeeping for our trucking company, writing blog posts, updating social media, and doing my business writing (aka the “real job”). I am in bed by 9:30pm every day.

Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, finding time at the beginning or end of your day is usually the easiest. Be sure to either go to bed earlier, or let yourself sleep later, so that you aren’t sacrificing sleep. If that’s not possible, perhaps you have to write on your lunch break. Whatever works for you, what is important is sticking to it.

Have a schedule. Sit down and write whether you “feel like it” or not. You are not waiting for inspiration, you are writing because you have a plan. You will learn to make your muse come to you. The more frequently you write, the easier it gets.

Last year, when I did NaNoWriMo it was my first “win.” I spent 3-4 hrs every day fighting against my internal editor to get the necessary 1667 words a day to hit 50K in November. That draft, after two months of revisions and edits, become Ghostlights: The Timekeepers’ War Book Two.

This year, I wrote 2-3K a day in a 2hr window without breaking a sweat. The early morning quite probably helped. More than anything, though, keeping a regular schedule helped my brain jump into productivity mode that much faster each day. In the end, I was flying through my words faster than I’ve ever written before.

So, That’s How I Wrote a 60K Novel in Three Weeks

Is it pretty? No. But it has potential to be. In another 20 days I will have Weirfall revised and ready for beta readers. I will have finished Book Three before Ghostlights is even released. This is the publishing schedule I could only dream of when I started this journey more than a decade ago.

There are novelists who blow my productivity out of the water. I aspire to release 6 books a year some day. After my success with outlining and ugly drafting last year, and recreating that success this year, I’m ready to commit to a more rigorous writing schedule.

Doubtless I have more mistakes to make and hurdles to drag myself over, but I’m ready to handle it.

Conclusion

What is your biggest hurdle in drafting and revising your work? Do you think any of these tips could help you take your process to the next level? Let me know in the comments!

Creative Business 101: The Best Way to Create Valuable Content and Build Your Audience

Creative Business 101: The Best Way to Create Valuable Content and Build Your Audience

Every creative entrepreneur wants a bigger, more engaged audience. We want more eyes on our content, more people sharing our stuff with their friends, and ultimately, more buyers for our work. But how to you go from knowing who your ideal audience is to actually building that audience for your platform?

It’s all about valuable content.

If you are new to this series, you can check out the other articles here:

The Best Way to Create Valuable Content and Build Your Audience

If you are reading this piece, you should already have answered the question “Who am I creating for?” and have a pretty good idea of who your target audience or ideal audience is. If not, make sure you read the last post for Tips on How to Identify Your Audience.

In this article we will discuss:

  • How to provide value to your target audience
  • How to take what you know about your ideal audience and apply that to ideas for creative content
  • How to target multi-genre or multi-interest audiences in a cohesive way

How To Provide Value to Your Audience

When you’re starting a creative business and brainstorming ideas for what to put in your newsletters, blogs, or social media posts, it can be very overwhelming. Many entrepreneurs put off building their platforms because of this. We know what we’re “supposed to” do. But when it comes to actually doing it, we draw a blank.

If you have been dragging your feet over taking those first steps to building your audience, I have a pretty good idea why.

You don’t have anything to say.

First of all, that’s a lie. But what if I told you that your content is not really about you, anyway. Your content is about the value you provide to your audience. In order to provide valuable content for your audience, you have to stop thinking about yourself and think about them.

Why are they interested in your work? What other interests might they have that connect to your work?

Valuable content can be entertaining, educational, inspirational, or motivational. You do not have to pull ideas out of thin air. You can do things that have been done before. Find inspiration in the articles and posts that you read and love, then figure out how to make that idea work for your audience.

Valuable content is all about your audience. It is something you curate with them in mind. You are the merely the glue that holds it interesting bits together.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
–Helen Keller

The Easiest Way to Create Content Catered to Your Audience

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel here. The internet has been around for a long time, and we have a pretty good idea of what kinds of articles we are drawn to when we have time to kill. And you don’t have to be some kind of super genius algorithm hacker to figure it out. Here are some easy ways to apply basic blogging techniques to your own creative content:

1. Lists

Have you ever read a Top Ten list? Lists are a great way to start producing creative content. You can make a list about anything that your audience might find interesting or entertaining. Anything, that is, that connects your audience to your work.

If you are a romance writer, you won’t probably want to post a list about the funniest ways to die. As entertaining as you might personally find this topic, it’s not about you. It’s about your audience. You want to drive the right kind of traffic to your platform.

Depending on the kind of romance you write, you could to a list of everything from romantic getaways and best valentine’s day gifts, to hilarious safe words and underrated sex toys. What would your audience like?

2. How-Tos

No matter who you are, there are some things that you are good at. Have you ever followed an online How-To type article? Did it work? Was it a terrible fail? Either way, you have material.

The How-To is a great way to bring your audience into your creative process, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many people in your audience will be amateurs themselves, and targeting burgeoning creatives is a great way to build one leg of your platform.

If you are an artist, for example you can do an How-To for basic skills in your craft. Or you can share something that you’ve tried that didn’t work out with a “How-Not-To” twist. Or go all in on a fail and share “How to Ruin a Painting in 5 Easy Steps.”

3. Inspiration/Motivation

This is one of the most popular type of blog post, and you can spin it a number of different ways.

If you have recently overcome a challenge, share a personal anecdote and a favourite quote to let your audience know that you are in fact human. Motivational stories, even about seemingly insignificant moments, can really strike a chord with people. I shared an experience with teaching my children how to skate, and what that taught me about writing, and my followers loved it! Sharing our failures is a great way to connect with your audience.

You can also share quotes, passages, and images that have inspired your creative work. A science fiction writer might showcase futuristic landscapes by artists which have inspired them. This draws the right kind of people to your feed. If they like the artwork that inspired your novel, this will make them curious about your novel. See how it works?

The Possibilities are Endless!

If you are interested in exploring this topic more, I’d be happy to brainstorm more ideas with you. Let me know in the comments!

“All knowledge is connected to all knowledge. The fun is in making the connections.”
–Arthur C. Aufderheide

How to Target Multi-Genre or Multi-Interest Audiences in a Cohesive Way

I said earlier that you are the glue that holds your content together. You might write in different genres or paint in different styles or record many different types of music, but in the centre of it all is you.

I know I said it’s not about you. Just listen.

The content is still not about you. It’s about your audience. But the way it all comes together and becomes cohesive? That’s all you, baby. You are the part of the equation that will keep your audience with you instead of one of those other platforms (or as well as, we can share!)

When you’re trying to find ways to tie multiple genres of work together, potentially with separate audiences, connection is the key. You need to think of ways that you can connect your interests/ideas to each other.

An author/blogger friend of mine expressed frustration with how to express three seemingly unconnected aspects of her identity in one platform. She’s a writer, a make-up artist, and a cat lover.

Any of these could be its own platform, but if she focuses on them each individually it all falls apart. She either has three separate platforms to grow, which would need separate accounts, and be completely overwhelming. Or she ends up with a random collection of make-up videos, writing updates, and cute kitty pics that looks more like a personal account than a business.

You may have many interests that inform your work, and as different as they are, you are the glue that holds them together. There is something about each of them that you connect with, and your connection is what will connect your audience.

Here were some of my suggestions to her:

  • Do a mood board for your current book (writing or reading) and do a post it with a make-up tutorial using the same colour scheme
  • Do a cosplay of your favourite literary character
  • Dress your cat as literary character (or attempt to dress your cat and take video of the calamity)
  • Share a picture of your cat along with a cat-themed passage from a favourite novel (there are so many books with cats in them!) or a quote from a writer about cats
  • Share a quote from a writer about beauty, identity, or strength, and share it with a look that makes you feel the same way

This technique works for multi-genre writers as well. How can you connect readers from one genre to readers from another and target them in the same post?

  • Share two of your favourite characters, from different genres, and compare and contrast their personalities
  • Compare one of your characters to a character from a different genre
  • Ask your followers a “Would you rather…” with a question from two different genres
  • Compare and contrast mood boards
  • Chose a theme and relate it to books from different genres

The ways to connect our work to our audience and our audience to us. Look for inspiration in the posts and articles that you like to read and brainstorm ways that you can do something similar in your own words.

Discussion

How are you feeling? Do you have a better idea of how knowing your audience helps you create valuable content and build your platform? What topics would you like to see next?

Upcoming articles will address:

  • How to Synchronize Your Platforms
  • How to Turn Your Platform into a Brand
  • How to Convert Followers into Customers
  • and more!

If there is anything else you want to know, please ask! Thank you for joining me in Creative Business 101. Happy creating!

Indie Feature Friday: BROKEN THINGS by A.L. Garcia

Welcome to another installation of my Indie Feature Friday series! Today I’ve got something a little different for you. I usually review SF&F books on this blog, but I’m going to shake things up with a memoir. Today, I bring you <a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08G8X3M4Y/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B08G8X3M4Y&linkCode=as2&tag=scjensen03-20&linkId=c41f01caf092f8cb485db3363830bf24">Broken Things</a>""Broken Things by A.L. Garcia.

Indie Book Review with Sarah Does Sci-Fi

A.L. Garcia is a poet I discovered on Instagram, and she is US Veteran and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Garcia is using her platform to spread awareness of a pervasive issue which society prefers to ignore, and also to bring hope and inspiration for other survivors and to encourage them to tell their own stories.

This is a novella length memoir, but you may want to take your time with it. <a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08G8X3M4Y/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B08G8X3M4Y&linkCode=as2&tag=scjensen03-20&linkId=c41f01caf092f8cb485db3363830bf24">Broken Things</a>""Broken Things is an emotionally difficult read about a subject that makes most people shut down and tune out because it’s so awful to think about. It’s not something you want to read, but something which is important to read anyway–if you can–in order to better understand the problem and hopefully to help future children.

Broken Things by A.L. Garcia

<a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08G8X3M4Y/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B08G8X3M4Y&linkCode=as2&tag=scjensen03-20&linkId=c41f01caf092f8cb485db3363830bf24">Broken Things</a>""Broken Things by A.L. Garcia is a gut-wrenching story about surviving childhood sexual abuse. I read a wide variety of both fiction and non-fiction, and it has been a very long time since I’ve read anything that has upset and shaken me as much as this book.

As a parent of young children, it is particularly hard to read because Garcia’s story really highlights the way children are let down by the people they should be able to trust more than anyone. Garcia suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of her father while her mother turned a blind eye. It’s heartbreaking to imagine, and the ripples such trauma has across the life of a child doesn’t end when they escape their abuser or become an adult.

While parts of Broken Things are very raw and unfiltered and painful to read, her story is not one of hopelessness. Garcia’s simple, straight-forward prose is filled with little flashes of beautiful imagery and joyful memories, too. An early love of literature informs much of Garcia’s understanding of the world in her younger years, and moments of quiet reflection on her circumstances add depth to her experience beyond the pain of abuse.

Most powerfully, Garcia’s story is a direct naming and calling out of her father, who is still alive and possibly still abusing children. He has never faced charges or served jailtime, and Garcia has reason to believe she is not the only one who has suffered at his hands.

If you are hesitant to read this book, I completely understand. I only braved it after speaking with Garcia and understanding her mission to spread awareness about this issues. Having read it now, I can say I am glad that I did. It ends on a note of hope, leaving off where Garcia and her siblings manage to escape their broken home. Finishing this book feels like a weight being lifted of one’s shoulders as we see Alma grabbing her future and setting herself free.

Alma is an absolutely wonderful writer, friend, and supporter. She encourages other survivors to contact her, to share the burden of their experiences, and to find their own paths to healing. Even if you can’t bring yourself to read Broken Things, I ask that you please share this review in the hopes that other survivors might find it and reach out for support.

Discussion

I won’t be posting a formal review for this book as I can’t really get the emotional distance from the work to critique it. As an “own story” memoir, I don’t think critique is the point of the reading experience, though it is exceptionally well written and powerful.

What is the most powerful memoir you’ve ever read?

Indie Publishers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror (Part One) —

Good morning, my fellow word nerds! Today I’m sharing a fantastic list of Indie Publishers from the Conquer Books blog. This list is perfect for anyone starting to plan their holiday shopping who wants to support indie writers and publishers (I hope that’s all of you!) or for writers who are looking for places to submit their weird and wonderful speculative fiction. Enjoy!

With this list of indie press publishers, we offer resources for finding debut authors, ground breaking genre benders, and treasure troves of stories.

Indie Publishers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror (Part One) —

10 Quotes About Humanity to Inspire the Science Fiction Writer

One of the things I love best about Science Fiction is the scale of thematic elements that we get to explore. This is true for creators and consumers of SF art. Of course, the best SF still tackles tangible “real life” conflicts. Some of the most common themes in literature are equally represented in Science Fiction:

  • Coming of Age
  • Courage and Perseverance
  • Love
  • Revenge
  • Good vs Evil
  • Redemption

However, the scale of these conflicts is often scaled up in Sci-Fi to encompass the world beyond human experience. What does it mean to fall in love with a machine? Is humanity ultimately good or evil? Will the planet seek revenge for the things we’ve done to it? Is there any way that humanity can redeem itself?

So I’ve collected some quotes about humanity that might inspire your next creative work. Enjoy!

#1 Educated Monsters

The more humans learn, it seems, the more monstrous we become. Tribal societies of the past were often brutal and difficult, but humans have survived by their capacity to form strong bonds and work together within our communities. It seems that the more we learn, the more we become distanced from one another. What is it about knowledge that twists our humanity? What does the future look like for our knowledge seeking species?

#2 Control Freaks

Humans love to feel in control: of themselves, of their environments, of their destinies. But the more we try to control, the more things seem to get away from us. This quote encompasses two great thematic questions from SF works. What happens when we lose control? and How do we continue in the face of our own destruction, when our enemy is our own hubris?

#3 The Human Race

People love to have an Other. The people who represent, to us, everything that we are not: human/animal, black/white, rich/poor, scientific/religious, liberal/conservative. We like to draw lines between ourselves and feel superior in our perceived “normalcy.” But what happens when the Other is bigger than we are? An alien species, perhaps. Or sentient beings of our own creation. What happens if we have to band together against a threat against our very humanity? Can people abolish the lines drawn in the sand between us in order to save our species? Or will we fragment and be defeated by imaginary divisions?

#4 We’re Fucked

Perhaps the ultimate hubris of humanity is thinking we have any say in what goes on here at all? The planet has been around for billions of years, seen the rise and fall of species far more long-lived than ours. We like to think we’re pretty important, “saving” the whales, “saving” the planet. Arguably, the best way for humans to save anything is to disappear. Blink! Like the tiny inconsequential specks of space dust we really are.

#5 The Comparison Trap

We still have a lot to learn about being human. As far as we know, there are no other species out there that are quite like us. The more we learn about other creatures, the more special we seem to become (in our own eyes, at least). The human brain is the most complex computing organ/machine there is, and even we don’t understand exactly how we work. But this won’t always be the case (hubris again!) will it? What happens when we create an intelligence beyond ourselves, and bigger than ourselves? What will we be taught about our perilous superiority then?

#5 Compassionate Intelligence

Okay, okay. It’s not all doom and gloom. We are the ones attempting to create an artificial intelligence, so we must have some say in how it turns out. Right? What if, from the very beginning, we teach this AI compassion and kindness? How might compassionate computers, robots, and eventually sentients change the world? Hopefully they don’t decide the most compassionate outcome for earth is to eliminate humanity… Better double check that coding.

#7 Human Together

Being human is kind of a team sport. As communal animals, the entire makeup of our brains becomes a bit off-kilter when we’re left to our own devices. This is why the dangers of distancing ourselves from others, and from our humanity, are such poignant themes in literature. Without a “you” who am “I?” What does pure isolation do to a person? Can I be human if I’m the only one left? Or am I just another animal, waiting to die upon an ancient and indifferent space rock?

#8 Human Computers

If AI is an extension of human intelligence, are sentient robots Humanity v.2.0? Will we cause our own extinction by forcing human evolution and effectively rendering the Mother Species redundant and obsolete? For centuries now, scientists have been accused of playing God. What happens when we really do create new life? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein offers up one suggestion, which has been explored repeatedly in SF media. But what if, like Victor Frankenstein, humans are the true monsters and our creations choose to slay us rather than worship us? Humanity is dead, long live Humanity.

#9 Idealist Humans

Like the idea of compassionate AI, it is nice to wonder about less bleak eventualities on the human timeline. Perhaps scientists have a breakthrough on empathy research, causing people around the globe to truly feel one another’s pain? Octavia E. Butler explores this idea in The Parable of the Sower and… well, lets just say it’s not easy to be a chemically induced empath. She does pose in important question, though. If everyone were forced to literally feel the pain of those around them, how would society change? What are some other ways that humanity might rise above its petty concerns with religion, race, and nationality? Maybe there is hope for us beyond the alien invasion scenario in #3.

#10 No Hard Feelings

Back track to #4 again, and we’re fucked. Unless humanity addresses it’s destructive tendencies, there isn’t really any way for the development of self-teaching AI to end other than in our own demise. Even we know we’re pretty bad for production in the big picture. Is there any way around being offed by our own robot babies? What redeeming feature does humanity have that no other creature can recreate? There’s an argument for creativity, I think. There’s an argument for mythology as a way to communicate with people (and possibly other species) that we don’t know. Will it be enough to save us? You tell me…

Discussion

What is your favourite book that discusses the potential and limitations of humanity in the future? Have you ever addressed these themes in your own work? Have any of these quotes inspired your next project? Let me know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out 10 Gardening Quotes to Inspire the Sci-Fi Writer as well!

Creativity and the Fear of Being Seen: Guest Post by Katri Soikkeli

Creativity and the Fear of Being Seen: Guest Post by Katri Soikkeli

Today, I have a wonderful post on creativity and courage from one of my most favourite creative souls of all time, Katri Soikkeli. She brings a sense of whimsy and joie de vivre to everything she does and has inspired me with her kindness and her playful view of the world.

I hope, after you read this post, you will visit her website and Instagram to tell her how much you loved it! And head over to the Protagonist Crafts Etsy shop to do a little holiday shopping.

Without further ado, here is Katri!

Katri Soikkeli Bio

Creativity and the Fear of Being Seen 

If you’re sitting on a creative project that you’re afraid to share with the world, you might think the people putting themselves out there have something that you don’t. Something that makes them impervious to whatever it is that you’re afraid will ruin you as soon as you let the world see you.

I have a little secret for you. They – we – are not that different. We just made a decision.

If you don’t know me yet, I can tell you I am a published writer and I continue to write and try to get my work out there in front of people. During the corona crisis I started an Etsy shop while knowing pretty much nothing about selling handmade products, and later I started a blog that celebrates living a creative life your way. All the while I’ve been active on Instagram where I continue to share my struggles with creativity, my mental health and ADHD and life in general. Knowing this you might think I’ve been made particularly brave, or that I just have a knowing that my work is “good enough” to be shared, whatever that means.

You would be very silly to think that, but I don’t blame you.

I am a highly anxious, highly sensitive person, which doesn’t seem to be uncommon among us creatives. You should know I once got disqualified from an entrance exam because I didn’t speak up in group when it was my turn. Although it had nothing to do with creative work, that school was my dream at the time, and I still didn’t find it in me to speak up. That’s how afraid I was of people hearing my voice, of them realising they would dislike the very concept of me. That is the level of being afraid to be seen that I started from.

Katri Soikkeli, having fun at work.

If you’ve been alive on this planet for more than five years, you’ve probably heard of Dan Brown, the writer of Da Vinci Code. Most people probably have the impression that he was just hanging around, sitting on his laurels until he decided to churn out a best-selling novel that would be turned into a top-grossing film which would immediately launch him into success and into being regarded as a Real Author.

What you probably don’t know is that Da Vinci Code is Brown’s FOURTH published novel. His other best-seller, Angels and Demons, actually came out before Da Vinci Code, not after, which you might not have known either. We are not here to discuss the quality of Mr Brown’s prose, as that is a subject for another blog post which I have no intention to write, this is just a great example of how even well-known people have been plucking at their trade even before we became aware of them. Do you think Brown sat frozen at his desk, proclaiming that he wasn’t going to put his work out there until he knew he would become an instant success? I doubt it, because he would probably still be there.

Let me confirm something that you’re probably afraid of: your work isn’t perfect. Some of it might not even be great. If you’re feeling a bit rattled right now, GOOD, because that means there at least is some work for you to feel insecure about. If, on the other hand, you’ve been too paralysed to start because you can’t let even yourself see your imperfect work, please, for the love of all that’s good and beautiful in the world, remember how short and unpredictable life is. Write that stupid poem! It’s going to be terrible and then you’ll make another and another and another, and eventually one of them is going to be better!

Not saying I’m psychic, but I happen to know what’s really your problem.

Your “I don’t know how” and “I’m not as good as Jane” are just excuses, and you know what they say about fighting for your excuses? It means you get to keep them. Your real problem is that you’re scared of being seen. You don’t feel like you’re really good enough, so you’re hoping you’d come up with something that’s so great that you’d get to hide behind it, use it as a shield. You don’t want to expose parts of yourself that might be vulnerable to scrutiny, and thus you would rather suffocate them than ever give them a chance to grow. You don’t want to be seen starting out, because the world would get to see the supposedly imperfect parts of you, so you never start. But if you’re still reading this, I know there’s a small part of you that still wants to create something, maybe even change the world somehow, no matter how small portion of the world it might be.

Do you finally want to know what the decision was that I mentioned in the beginning of this post?

Let’s go back to the entrance exams, although slightly unrelated, because that was my first decision. Ever since my horribly failed exam, I found out you get extra points if you’re the first person to speak in the group, so I decided to do exactly that the next time. It felt like throwing up. Actually, it felt like taking off my shirt, climbing onto the table to sing Happy Birthday to someone who didn’t have a birthday and THEN throwing up, but I did it anyway. Twice, because I didn’t get in that first time, although it was close. (You could say the Universe had other plans for me, because at the second school I met the father of my children. You never know when a no is actually a yes to something else.)

Other things that I have decided since then: Sending out novel manuscripts that were not perfect, connecting with other writers despite the insecurities that years of being bullied left me with, registering as a sole proprietor before having a clear idea of what I was going to be doing, changing that vague idea to another during the pandemic, starting an Etsy shop despite having kind of ugly product photos and no idea how to market a handmade business, and most recently writing this guest post despite having awful brain fog this week and no idea what to write about. [We’re so glad you did, Katri! — Sarah]

I am constantly putting myself out there and I’m terrified while doing it.

Then I go to bed and do it again the next day. Just last week I posted something that I later realised was kind of boring and uninspired, but I would have never learned that if I hadn’t written and posted it first. None of this has killed me yet and I’m slowly growing my resilience so that I spend a little less time agonising over everything I allow people see.

Putting myself out there to be seen also means that people are free to bypass me completely. It’s natural to want to be liked and approved of, our survival as a species used to completely depend on it, but once you get started. you’ll soon realise you can withstand not being applauded for everything you create. Then, one day, someone is really going to see you, and you will experience the joy of your creations resonating with another person. That is true connection, and in my opinion, the core of human experience.

You don’t want to deprive yourself of that joy. Get out there and be visible. You were made for this.

Links:

Instagram – www.instagram.com/protagonistcrafts

Website – katrisoikkeli.com

Etsy shop – www.etsy.com/shop/protagonistcrafts 

Other posts:

Creativity and mental health https://katrisoikkeli.com/creativity-mental-health/ 

Ode to uncool interests https://katrisoikkeli.com/ode-to-uncool-interests/ 

Discussion

Thank you so much, Katri, for this fabulous post! You’ll notice some similar themes here if you’ve been reading some of my posts on creativity. Allowing yourself to be seen, as Katri has put it, is an essential part of the creative process. If you have any questions for us, please drop a comment below. And, of course, don’t forget to give Katri a follow at the links above!

Creative Business 101: Tips on How to Identify your Audience

Creative Business 101: Tips on How to Identify your Audience

Have you ever stopped to wonder why you are a creator? Many of us create as a hobby, for personal pleasure or relaxation. But if you are starting a creative business, you need to reframe this question.

“Why do you create?” becomes “Who are you creating for?”

In this post, I will share some quick tips for identifying your audience and how to use that information to design content that will appeal to your ideal reader or customer.

Creative Business 101: How to Identify Your Audience

What is an Audience, and Why Does it Matter?

When we talk of “audience” in the world of creative entrepreneurs (or any kind of entrepreneur!) we are referring to a pool of potential buyers of our work. Your work might be a novel, a painting, or a hand-knit sweater. It could be a song you’ve put out on YouTube or a film you’ve made. Even if you are not ready to sell your work, you can still make connections with your future customers. These people are your audience.

Identifying your audience is the first step you need to take when you decide to transition from being a hobbyist to a career creator. Who are you trying to reach? The answer seems simple. We want everyone to love us and buy our stuff. We want fame and riches and global recognition of our awesomeness, right?

(Okay, if you just nodded your head, go back and read Defining Success as a Creative Entrepreneur.)

The trouble is, if you cast your net too wide it doesn’t get deep enough to catch any fish. If you try to market yourself to everyone, you end up attracting no one.

How to Identify Your Audience

You cannot market yourself or your work to everyone on the face of the planet. We all like different things, and respond to different personalities. Identifying your audience comes down to two things: who you are, and what you do. This becomes: who is going to like me? Who is going to want what I have created?

Many creators don’t really stop to think about these things until after they have completed a project. We feel inspired, we work in a wild frenzy of creative activity, and after some crises of faith and existential dread, voilà! We have a thing!

If you have never considered your audience until this moment, that’s okay. I’m going to help you out. Once you go through these tips and you do know your audience, your next project will be much easier to market!

First, let’s talk about you.

“To Find Yourself, Think For Yourself.” –Socrates

Who Am I?

I don’t necessarily mean this in a deep, existential way. But if you know exactly who you are, this part will be easy. When I ask “Who are you?” I mean “How do you present yourself to the world?” Here are some questions to consider:

  • How old are you?
  • What is your gender identity and sexual orientation?
  • What are your religious beliefs?
  • What are your political beliefs?
  • What is important to you?
  • What charities and causes do you support?
  • What kind of people do you like to be friends with?
  • What kind of people do you not get along well with?
  • Are you a cat person? A dog person? Do you like animals?
  • What kinds of food do you like?

This is basic stuff, but it’s surprising how many people never really sit down and think about these things. Go back to the days of those 20 questions surveys you used to be tagged in back in the early days of social media. Take a few, just for fun.

Now how many of these basic info-bytes make it into your work? Is the protagonist in your novel similar to you or different? Do you draw themes for your art from your personal belief system? Do you curse like a sailor or prefer a family-friendly dialogue with your friends?

These are all important clues in order to answer the next question.

Who is my Audience?

It can be difficult to make the leap from “Who am I?” to “Who do I create for?” because it isn’t always a conscious part of the process. Think of a particular piece or project you want to find an audience for. Think of one, ideal person coming along and seeing your work and thinking “Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!” Who are they? Who will get the most out of everything you’ve put into this piece?

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Level of Education
  • Political Views
  • Income Level
  • Religious Views
  • What is important to them?

Your audience might be exactly like you, or they might be quite different. For writers, your audience might be more similar to your protagonist than to you. For example, if you are a middle aged woman writing a YA romance, your work is more likely to appeal to a 15 year old girl than someone who is married with children, and a full time job.

On the other hand, if you are writing a science fiction novel about climate disaster and you are passionate about saving the environment in real life, your audience will likely share this passion with you.

Example: The Timekeepers’ War by S.C. Jensen

I am going to demonstrate the different between “Who am I?” and “Who is my audience?” by using myself and my first book as an example. You don’t need to have read The Timekeepers’ War in order for this to make sense. [If you have, great! You’re my favourite ;)]

QuestionsS.C. JensenAudience
Age?3618-45, geared toward 20s or people who remember their 20s
Gender?FemaleMainly women
Race?WhiteAny, characters are racially diverse
Sexual Orientation?BisexualAny, queer friendly
Level of Education?Bachelor’s DegreeAny, but must be curious, have a strong vocabulary, and be interested in exploring “big” ideas
Level of Income?Upper Middle ClassAny, especially people who have experience with poverty
Religious Beliefs?AtheistAtheist, agnostic, or spiritually curious
Political Beliefs?LiberalSocialist, or people who like to explore many political models and belief systems
Interests?reading, SF&F, outdoor activities, cooking, new medicine and scienceSF&F, readers, dark humour, sci-fi concept art, alien species, post-apocalyptic preppers
Place in life?married, homeowner, business owner, mother, well-balanced and contentyounger, still trying to figure out where they fit (or remember this feeling), ambiguous identity, searching for meaning in life, discontent, questioning everything
Discovering your audience example, The Timekeepers’ War by S.C. Jensen

You can see where there are a few places where my audience and I diverge from one another. Partly this is because people change, and we often draw on past experiences in our creative work. Sometimes it is easier to discuss difficult themes and ideas after the fact, and our work will resonate with both people who are currently experiencing similar issues or who have in the past.

Remember, the more specific you can be in identifying your audience the easier it will be to market your creative business or product.

“Your Attitude is an Expression of Your Values and Expectations.” –Zabid Abas

I Know My Audience, But How Does This Help Me?

Once you know who your ideal audience is, it’s time to produce some content that will interest them. If you are stumped about what to write about on your blog or socials, imagine your audience. What is your ideal reader/buyer interested in right now?

  • Does your work tie in to any current public events?
  • What interests do they have?
  • Have you read any books or seen any movies that would appeal to them?
  • Can you provide insight into a problem they might be facing?

You must use what you know about your ideal audience and apply that to everything you put out into the world. Your content is the bait you use to lure future customers to your feeds. People can’t buy your work if they can’t find you, and they won’t buy your work if they don’t find a personal connection with what you post.

How Do I Cater My Content to My Audience?

As a Writer:

  • book reviews in the genre you write in
  • top 10 books you look forward to reading this year
  • current events with parallels to your novel
  • personal stories that parallel the issues your characters deal with
  • entertaining tidbits in your shared interest categories
  • book nerdy posts about how to select your next read, organize your bookcase, or how to handle the emotional turmoil of a book buying ban

As an Artist:

  • behind the scenes in your studio
  • sketches to finished piece
  • other artists who inspire you
  • practical guidance on how to select a piece of art, how to hang a artwork, how to critique a work of art
  • news stories that connect with themes in your work
  • personal stories that your ideal buyer will relate to

As a Musician:

  • behind the scenes in your studio
  • live recordings
  • footage from performances
  • stories about your experiences as a performer
  • news stories that connect with themes in your work
  • venues reviews for areas you have performed in or would like to perform in

These are some idea to get you started, but as you can see knowing your audience is the key to producing creative content that works.

Be Valuable

In Creative Business 101: Defining Success as a Creative Entrepreneur we discussed the importance of providing value in your content. In order to do this, you must know who your audience is and what is valuable to them.

Use your platforms with intention, and focus on the platforms you feel most comfortable with. I spend most of my time on Instagram and WordPress, because this is where I like to hang out. Others enjoy the Twitter or Facebook experience. You don’t have to do everything at once, but whatever you do, you must product content designed to appeal to your ideal audience.

Discussion

Is there anything else you need to know about identifying your audience? Let me know in the comments and we can brainstorm!

If this article was helpful to you, please like and share so that it is easier for others to find.

As always, thank you for reading!

Creative Business 101: Defining Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

Do you ever think about all the things you have to do in order to “make a living” and feel overwhelmed? Does that overwhelm stop you from pursuing your dreams?

I know that fear well. My husband and I are small business owners–we own a trucking company and I am a freelance business writer–and I am in the process of turning my fiction writing into a full time job. I have learned a lot in the past ten years about what it takes to turn your passion into a career. I still have a lot to learn, but I’d like to share this journey with you and help ease some of the fears you may be feeling.

How to Define Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

What Does Success Mean to You?

There is something to be said for the safety and security of a regular job. Anyone who has considered starting their own business knows the hardest thing to do is to step away from a regular paycheck and into the vast financial unknown of self-employment.

If your passion is creative–if you are a writer, artist, musician, or actor–making that leap is even more difficult. Society tends to think of creative pursuits as hobbies, not careers. Most people can’t imagine anyone making a living in a creative field. Sure, there’s your Beyonces and your J.K. Rowlings, but statistically we know it is more likely that we’ll win the lottery than to become wildly rich and famous as an artist.

And becoming wildly rich and famous is the epitome of success, is it not?

Redefining Success

Many people hold full-time jobs and create as a hobby and are perfectly content. But for those of us who are driven to create more than anything else, whose work days are consumed by the desire to get back to our true passion, it is not enough to create as a hobby.

Yet becoming a creative professional doesn’t seem possible. When you consider a creative career or starting your own business, the biggest concern you are likely to have is this: How much money will I make? Can I make a living this way? Will I be able to survive?

The Starving Artist Myth

Society tells us that being creative is not “a real job.” The world, which consumes vast amounts of creative products every day, simultaneously tries to sell us the Starving Artist myth.

I’ve written about this myth and the other toxic mindsets that creative people and entrepreneurs face in my articles 5 Toxic Myths About Creativity and Imposter Syndrome: Why You Are Self-Sabotaging (and How to Stop!) I encourage you to check these articles out, and identify any self-defeating beliefs you might be holding on to.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The work of creative professionals is all around us, from the digital art on our favourite websites, to the songs we hear on the radio, to the books we read and the movies we watch and the clothes we buy. The list goes on. And the people who create all the products we buy and the media we consume are not working for free.

Creative Success

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein

Creative Work Has Value!

Success to most people is defined by recognition and financial security. I have good news for you: It is absolutely possible to achieve success by this standard as a creative person!

But it does not happen right away. And almost none of us will succeed by the impossible standard–of wealth and fame–upheld by society.

So, what is the point of chasing a dream so unlikely to “succeed?”

Achieving success as a creative person requires a shift in perception. When you are taking your first steps toward a creative career, it is important to let go of traditional definitions of success. You must redefine your goals in terms of value.

Why Value?

It can feel entirely pointless to maintain a blog when your posts get fewer than 10 hits a day. How are you supposed to write a newsletter for an empty mailing list? Why should you sweat over the perfect shot and caption when your Instagram feed has more crickets than comments?

Because success starts with value.

It may take years before you are able to quite your day job and become a full-time creator. You may have to make changes to your spending habits and your material expectations in order to “make a living.” Financial success and public recognition will not happen overnight.

But your skills and experience have value NOW. In order to be financially successful, people need to be able to find you. Your audience is out there. There are billions of people in the world, and there are thousands of people who want exactly what you have to offer. That is a big enough pool of future customers to make any creative person a financial success. But they have to find you first.

Great Expectations

Measuring your success in financial terms when you are first starting out is a recipe for failure. I fell victim to the trap of my own expectations after I released The Timekeepers’ War. I had no idea how to market myself as an independent author. I just wanted to write. I wanted my books to sell themselves. I had slaved away on that project for years and I wanted to see some kind of return!

But I didn’t have a foundation in place. I released my book into the wild and let it run free…

And it disappeared.

Feelings of frustration and overwhelm quickly became resentment. It built up in me for years until I hated even thinking about my blog or drafting my next book.

I became frozen by my frustration.

But being frustrated was not my problem. The frustration was a symptom of a bigger problem. This is what really threw a wrench into my gears:

I was focusing on my own success (or perceived lack thereof) rather than on providing value to my audience.

I was putting the cart before the horse.

It’s tough to motivate yourself with “success” as your only measurable. For one thing, it means different things to different people, and even different things at different stages in your career. For another thing, success takes time! You aren’t going to write one blog post and skyrocket to the top of Google’s search results.

So what do you do in the meantime? Where do you start?

You start with value. What is your ideal audience interested in? How can you help them? Because you can provide value at any stage in your journey as a creative or an entrepreneur. You don’t work for the audience you have, you work for the audience you want to have in the future.

A man should have duties outside of himself; without them he is a mere balloon, inflated with thin egotism and drifting nowhere.” –Thomas Baily Aldrich

Who Are You Creating For?

I want you to stop thinking about yourself for a minute. Stop thinking about you want from your creative business and start thinking about your future customers. Who are they?

Who is your audience?

  • How old are they?
  • What kind of education do they have?
  • Are they married? Do they have children?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • What are their beliefs and values?

How do you provide value to your audience?

You have skills and knowledge that are valuable. You have to share it with the world in order for your audience to find you. It’s as simple as that. And when you start out, being of value is not going to immediately translate into financial gain. Your success as a creative person will be defined by how well you connect with other people, and how much value you can provide for them.

What has value?

  • entertainment: tell funny stories or share fun facts on your blog, let people hear the outtakes from your last recording session, share a sketch that went wrong, take people behind the scenes and show them what it’s like to be you, make your audience laugh!
  • education: share your tips for how to be successful in your creative field of choice, share books and videos that have helped you or inspired you, review products you use
  • inspire: tell your story, talk about your challenges, talk about your successes, let yourself fail and share what you’ve learned

Strategies for Success as a Creative Entrepreneur

Success for the creative entrepreneur boils down to value. It sounds simple enough, but can be difficult in practice. I have some strategies for how to build success as a creative professional and I will be sharing them with you in the coming weeks. I plan to cover topics like:

  • How to identify you audience
  • How to provide value to your audience
  • How to optimize your website, blog, newsletter, and social media accounts so that they are working together instead of competing with one another
  • How to convert your followers into customers
  • and more!

I hope you’ll join me on this journey and we can walk together on the path toward success, however you choose to define it.

Discussion

What has been your biggest struggle with getting your business (creative or otherwise) off the ground? What is holding you back? Please let me know in the comments if there is anything you’d like me to cover in this series. Thanks for reading!

Creative Business 101: 5 Toxic Myths About Creativity

When you think of artists, or writers, or musicians, what is the first thing that pops into your head? One of the greats? Or some reclusive weirdo who seems perpetually at odds with “the real world?”

Creativity is often viewed as a mysterious thing. Something some people have it and others don’t. It can drive people to do incredible things. Or it can drive a person mad.

These dichotomous images of blazing success and blistering failure are burned into our cultural retinas. Often when we feel blocked in our creativity it is because we have internalized society’s ideas about what creativity is, where it comes from, and who is allowed to be creative.

What if it’s all a lie?

What if all our notions about creativity are wrong? Where does that leave us creative people?

Let’s take a look at 5 of the most toxic myths about creativity that could be standing between you and success.

#5 “She’s so talented!”

We all know people who are better than us at something. Maybe it’s math homework, maybe it’s painting, maybe it’s public speaking. It is tempting to believe that they are simply talented in a way that we can never be. In fact, having to work at something can feel discouraging.

But the fact is, talent has very little to do with skill. Sure, some people have a natural inclination towards some things more than others. While that might give them an initial boost, what really makes people “talented” is good old-fashioned hard work. No one gets good at something without trying, failing, and trying again. What separates average people from the talented ones is this: Talented people work harder.

#4 “You must suffer for your art.”

This myth is particularly toxic because it validates a lot of negative behaviours and mindsets that we really should work to fix. The very parts of our brains that help us to be creative–asking why and what if, deconstructing ideas and analyzing them, thinking differently from other people–can leave us feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and alienated from society.

Instead of seeking help when this happens, creative people often choose to numb themselves through substance abuse and self-harm. Depression and anxiety are common in creative people.

There is an idea out there that truly powerful works of art come from a place of great pain and suffering. While it is true that creativity can provide catharsis for past trauma, you do not have to suffer in order to be creative.

Treating your depression, anxiety, or substance abuse will not block your creativity. In fact, getting help for your mental health will more likely unleash a wave of ideas and inspiration that you can draw from for years to come!

#3 “He’s a starving artist.”

This is a big one. The starving artist myth allows people to take advantage of you and your creativity. It is the myth that makes it okay for people to suggest you work for free “for the exposure.” It is the myth that causes you to undervalue your own work.

See, we have this idea that you can’t make money as a creator. Writers, artists, musicians, crafts people… we just do it for the love of creating. We don’t actually expect to make a living at it, do we? That would be crazy.

Well, call me crazy, but I like to eat. I like to have a roof over my head. I like to be able to buy new shoes for my kids when they outgrow their old ones. And just because I’m a writer doesn’t mean I should have to work another job in order to do those things.

Creativity is a highly sought after commodity in the world. We need creative people to design our websites, to write ad copy, to entertain us with music and stories, to decorate our spaces. Your skills are valuable. The world wants and needs your skills. So whatever you do, don’t undercut your earnings by devaluing your own work.

#2 “Wow! What an original idea!”

Creative people often get blocked by this need to “be original.” We try so hard to be different from everyone else that we run out of ideas entirely. Why? Because original ideas do not exist. Like perfectionism, the quest for originality is a wild goose chase. Quit while you’re ahead.

I talked about this in my post “But I have Nothing to Say!” and Other Lies. You do not have to have a completely new idea in order for your work to be worthy of an audience. The way you approach a familiar idea is what makes your work interesting and unique. Your “you-ness” is the real product here. That is what you do that no one else can do.

#1 “She’s a bit of a loner.”

Are creative people introverts or extroverts? Most people would answer introverts. But they would be wrong. The truth is, creative people can be introverted or extroverted or anywhere in between. The idea that creativity is some kind of mad genius magic that only works in total isolation is about as crazy as it gets.

Even if creative people prefer to do their actual work in solitude (which not all of us do!) we cannot create in a void. We are all inspired by the works of other people. Successful creatives have a strong network of other creative people to bounce ideas off of, share with, and get feedback from. If you’re an extrovert, these connections might happen in galleries and coffee shops and other public places. Introverts might prefer online groups and the intimacy of small critique circles. The important thing is that we share our work with others.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Anyone can be creative. You don’t have to have an innate talent, you don’t have to be depressed and miserable, you don’t have to be perpetually broke, you don’t have to have a “new” idea, and you don’t have to work alone.

Can you think of any other myths about creative people that might be getting in the way of your creativity?

If you are still feeling creatively stifled and don’t know where to turn next, check out my post on Imposter Syndrome.

Let me know what you think in the comments!