How Do Creatives Become Famous? Like This

How Do Creatives Become Famous Like This

Be honest. You don’t create for the sake of art. You create because you enjoy it, you have some skill with it, and you want to use those abilities to support yourself, perhaps even become a household name.

I’m sure money, fame, and what luxuries come with it have an effect as well. Every creative wants to make it to the top. If you’re too high-minded to believe that, please explain why so many people rake in money teaching other creatives to grow explosively.

There’s a common belief that if you create quality work, people will find you. You just need to focus on writing the best book, making the best music, and generally creating the best [whatever] you’re capable of. It’s a rather noble stance.

Be the best you can be, and people will notice. It works on a small scale, for those close to you. But if you want to become wealthy and famous, and be able to live whatever life you want to live, this theory doesn’t do much for you.

How does anyone become famous? They get recognized. The quality of what you create, while important, has little to do with becoming a household name. People have discover you. They have to realize you and your great work actually exist!

The Kardashians/Jenners and the Damn Daniel duo got famous for what? A leaked video and a mildly humorous wardrobe analysis. For every famous musician, there’s 10 absolutely astounding musicians still playing in neighborhood dives.

You don’t become famous be being great at something. You become famous by putting yourself out there. By taking what you’ve created and sticking it in front of as many eyes and ears as you can possibly find. You become a household name by physically placing your name into every household (or smartphone). Thankfully, the internet makes this relatively easy, if you play your cards right.

If you want to become a famous creative, it’s good for you to continually hone your craft. But to make it big, you’ve got to be recognized and discovered, particularly by people in important roles. You’ve got to pitch everyone you can, build your social media profile(s), get into as many shows and galleries as you can find, and throw your name as far out there as you can. Before you can make it big, you have to make yourself a public figure.

Sadly, history and culture tell us that you can be great at something without being recognized for it. You can also be mediocre and have everyone love you. Sure, some of it’s marketing. But if you want to become a famous creative, keep getting better at what you do, and place what you do in front of everyone.

The Pros and Cons of Creating Everyday

Pros and Cons of Creating Everyday

Like many, I create everyday. It’s not something I just have to do, lest my creative spirit explode. Creating everyday is a very intentional effort, something I know I’ve got to do to get where I want to go. Anytime you do the same thing everyday, you’re going to analyze that act constantly. You’ll see there’s both positives and negatives.

PRO: When you create everyday, you’re going to get better at what you do. Even if you have poor techniques or make the same mistakes over and over (which you obviously want to avoid), you’re going to improve much faster than if you weren’t creating everyday.

It takes about 10,000 hours of doing anything to become great at it (an expert that stands out above the rest). The sooner you reach 10,000 hours worth of practicing your craft, the better your career will be. Creating everyday helps you get there faster.

CON: Creating all the time can be enjoyable. But if you’re creating, you’re not doing something else. That means other things you value and enjoy will fall by the wayside. For me that means I read less (barely at all now), and spend less time on outdoor activities. I don’t spend much time with friends, or binge watching the latest Netflix hits, either.

All of these would be really enjoyable, but they have to be sacrificed to make time for creating. It can feel a bit limiting if (as in my case) you work, write, sleep, repeat everyday.

PRO: Doing something everyday gives you the opportunity to make a difference everyday. At least, it does if you make your creations public. Should I write something positive or motivational, there’s always a chance to brighten someone’s spirit. Should I write on a lifehack, there’s the opportunity to improve someone’s routine. This goes a long way towards fulfillment!

CON: It’s never a stretch to feel like you keep working, keeping creating, and just aren’t getting anywhere. Were I to only sit down and create every, say, third day, there’s a chance I would feel better and better about my work each time. Not so when you’re doing it everyday. There’s not enough room for contrast or comparison.

It’s similar to exercising and losing weight. You can’t really tell a difference day to day, but if you look at it month over month, you see you’ve improved by leaps and bounds (hopefully). When you’re creating everyday, you’re often pressed for time and focus. You end up questioning whether this thing you’re creating is good enough for others to see. The rigmarole can be rather dispiriting.

All in all, the pros of growth and making a difference, in my opinion, outweigh the cons of toilsome sacrifice. In fact, the sacrifice and long hours might make the end results that much sweeter. If you’re a creative, or simply trying to improve at one thing or another, you need to be doing it everyday. It’s not always easy, but it does get easier. You will get better, and you’ll look back months down the road thankful that you stuck to it.

A Lesson in Perspective: Experiencing the Work of Creative Geniuses

Lesson Perspective Experiencing Work Creative Geniuses

Last night my wife and I walked out of Barnes & Noble with several great finds, including a new copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s my first time reading it. I’m twenty some-odd pages into this wonderful tale, and I feel absolutely horrible about myself!

Truman Capote displays such a captivating manipulation of the English language that I, a budding, up-and-coming, some-other-word-for-amateur-wannabe-writer can’t help but cower in his ability. How in the world could I ever be able to tell a story – about anything – with that kind of mastery?

The whole thing is entirely discouraging. But it’s such a beautiful thing to experience! How boring would the world be if I, as a creative, could never consume anything greater than what I myself could create? It would be a world of misery!

What would there be to strive for, to appreciate? What would each of us learn from and aspire to be like? I’m so grateful for these master wordsmiths like Capote and Fitzgerald, Tolkien and Lewis, and so many others, old and new, who grace the shelves of booksellers and enrich our lives daily.

There’s such a wealth of knowledge to be found in books, such a breadth of talent! What I find encouraging is that each and every great writer, creative, storyteller, and artist was at one point in a similar place to where I am now. At this point, they probably each looked up to the greats of their last hundred years with the same self-deprecating adoration!

Because greatness exists, I know that I can find it myself. I know that my situation is not special. That others have done the exact same thing I’m trying to do. That like every other sultan of syntax before me, I can become a literary marvel who leaves others feeling the same as I do now. And that gets me really excited!

Why Every Creative Needs to Intentionally Consume

Why Every Creative Needs to Intentionally Consume

Over the last month, I’ve been writing and posting everyday. It’s one of the steps I believe I have to take in order to reach my goals. During this, I’ve learned something that I honestly didn’t believe to be true.

Every creative needs to consume as much as (if not more than) they create. And here’s why I say that.

Before I started writing heavily (which would have been early December), I knew that every creative needed to consume in order to create. You have to put good in to get get good out.

If inspiration is taking what you know and have experienced, and queuing all of that into something tangible, then obviously you have to consume something in order to create anything. What I didn’t realize was how much consumption it actually takes to have enough ideas and thoughts and epiphanies to draw from so that you have enough with which to create.

I’ve been writing and posting everyday throughout the last month. I thought my largest hurtle was going to be disciplining myself enough to find time everyday around my day job. That part’s been relatively easy. The hard part has been coming up with something to write about everyday. And I’m 100% confident it’s because I’m not consuming enough.

Last year, my goal was to read a book a week for the whole year. It was great! I was consuming so much enjoyable, educational material that the only problem I had was finding time to write about all of my (subjectively) great ideas. Now the situation’s reversed, and I’m always struggling to come up with ideas!

I know I’m not the only one going through something like this. This has to be a common obstacle for creatives. But I think the solution is surprisingly simple. Do less in order to do more.

Spend less time trying to create, and more time building your pool of ideas. In my experience, I need to spend at least as much time consuming as I do creating just so I have fresh ideas when I sit down to write. I’m confident this will help you, too. Set aside intentional time to consume, so that you’ll be a better creator.

How the 80/20 Rule Applies to Your Creative Slump

80/20 Rule Applies Creative Slump

You know what’s frustrating? Being in the mood to create. Being in the right environment to create. Yet having no idea what to create or even where to begin. That’s frustrating.

Like most creative types, I make an intentional effort to create everyday. For me that means writing before and editing after work everyday. For others it could mean making a video everyday, or working on an art piece, or creating ten pages towards your next book, for example.

The key, though, is being intentional. Most creative types are very intentional about creating as much as they can around other responsibilities. Each of them also struggles with their own version of writer’s block at some point (or often). If this lasts for more than a few minutes, as you might expect it to, it can become incredibly frustrating!

One of the worst feelings is being capable of doing something, knowing you need to do it, and being unable to follow through in the moment. It feels like you’re letting yourself down. But you’re not letting yourself down. You’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. What’s happening to you is exactly what’s supposed to be happening.

No person can be at the top of their game all the time. Your output, especially as a creative or entrepreneur type, is going to look very similar to the 80/20 rule. If you’re not familiar with the 80/20 rule, it basically goes like this.

80% of your results (revenue, customers, best work, web traffic, etc.) will come from 20% of your effort (target customers, finished products, articles, etc.). Take blogging as an example. The 80/20 rule would say that 80% of your site’s traffic would come from 20% of the content on your site. The inverse of the 80/20 rule is that only 20% of your web traffic come from the other 80% of content on your site.

Really, there’s two things to take away from this. One is that you can maximize your results by focusing on the 20% of effort that brings in 80% of your results. What would happen if you put all of your effort into that channel, instead of just 20%?

Second, which is more important to this particular piece, is that everyone is going to put the majority of their effort into things, areas, moments, etc. that only bring in the minority of results. It’s okay to be stuck in a momentary slump. It’s okay to be frustrated by it. We’ve all been there. We’ll all be there again sooner than we’d like. But know this.

You have to go through the bad and the frustration and the slumps in order to get to the creative highs and masterpieces and viral sensations. The majority of time spent by anyone trying to do anything is spent in frustration looking for that golden 20%. It’s like a creative Easter egg hunt. You’re going to have to comb a lot of yard before you find any candy.

“Figuring It Out” is Such a Misleading Process

Figuring it Out Misleading Process

This concept has popped up several times over the last few weeks. I think it’s because I’m finally getting it. I knew it before, like some fact in a textbook. But now I’ve actually gone through it, and can understand it.

Learning is a process, not a phase. You hear it all the time. But no one who’s gone through the learning process and found some form of success presents the learning process as an actual process. It’s always glossed over like any other hurtle. Success stories create the illusion that it’s a simple step on the way to being recognized for your work. Like you could learn it in a weekend, and be done with it.

Right now I’m reading through a book a good friend of mine handed me (Will Malone – you should check out his stuff after subscribing Kennetic Expression). The book is Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon. Austin’s a good source of information, and has done pretty well for himself. His book is a New York Times Bestseller.

I recommend the book. I enjoy it. There’s several parts in it that I’ve written about myself. I can relate to it, and I think it’s a good summary piece for every creative to pick up. At one point he talks about figuring out how to do things well online. And really, that was the cue for this post – the phrase “figure it out.”

I work in a tech startup. I live in the entrepreneurial world daily. I read all sorts of stuff that comes out of that world. A phrase on the tip of every entrepreneur’s tongue is “figure it out.” Example: “Yeah, we were building this thing in one direction, and then we just had to, you know, figure out how to make money from it.”

I hear it in the entrepreneurial world regularly. I’m sure I’ve said it myself! And now I’m hearing it in creative circles, too. In all of it, the actual process and stages of “figuring it out” are completely ignored!

Sure, most people who’ve done well for themselves are quick to say they’ve made as many mistakes, if not more, as good choices. Thus alluding to the fact that it did take them time to learn. But the blasé depiction of “figuring it out,” seems incredibly misleading – even harmful – for anyone trying to get a start doing what they love.

Here’s my situation, and why I think this all matters. In December of 2014, I decided I wanted to be a writer in some capacity. I started pitching and contributing to 3rd party sites (which took time to find and get into). I began writing for our little tech startup. And only now, 150,000 published words later, in February of 2016, do I think I have a plan to really “figure out” this whole becoming a recognized writer thing.

It’s been a 15 month process of “figuring it out,” and it will be years before this “phase” is completed. Then I’ll probably spend a similar amount of time “figuring out” something else.

Figuring something out is not an easy step. It’s a lengthy, painful process. And I think too many people are blind to that, because it’s always presented as something you just do and get on with. In reality, it’s not.

I know I would have done better throughout this process had I not been under the impression it was supposed to be a lot easier than it is. This matters, because there’s thousands just like me, who’ve given up because they were made to think they were less than, simply because no one gave them a realistic expectation.

If you’re just getting started in this creative sphere, or even if you’ve been at it for a while now, I want you to understand this. The learning process is not a short phase of “figuring it out.” It takes time to learn. Even if you’ve gotten comfortable with certain aspects, you’re going to realize how much you still have to learn to do it masterfully.

I wish I could end this with a super encouraging one-liner about how it’s easy, you’ve just got to be patient and keep trying. That’s usually my thing, but that’s not true here. However, if you go into it – whatever “it” is for you – realizing that the learning process could be years of intentionally working at it, you’ll go farther and faster. You won’t crumble as easily, and your expectations will actually set you up to do much better.

3 Tips to Never Run Out of Creative Ideas

Tips to Never Run Out of Creative Ideas

There’s a few things I really love at this point in my life. There’s my wife, of course. Then there’s entrepreneurship and human behavior. I’m fascinated by these concepts. So that’s what I write about most. As others will relate to, it’s not always easy to come up with ideas, to figure out what to create or work on next. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most of what I write about – most of what I create in hopes of providing value for others – directly relates to whatever I’m going through at that particular moment. That’s tip #1 for always coming up with ideas. Write about or create whatever it is that you’re trying to understand.

Often, I’m trying to discern how to best use my time. Therefore, I write about productivity. I also work in a high stress environment (tech startup). For balance, I write about keeping a positive mindset and accomplishing dreams. I create to help myself process what’s going on in my world.

Because I have yet to stop living and having experiences (knock on wood), I always have ideas and situations to work with. For instance, I’m writing about not running out ideas, because I wasn’t sure what to write about next. See? Works well.

But maybe you’re struggling with a giant stone wall of a creative block. Tip #2 will help you, especially for brainstorming. It’s a little writing exercise I use regularly for ad copy, headlines, or even starting a new piece, but it transfers well to anything because it simply gets your cognitive gears turning.

Take a word, a topic, anything. Write that word or short phase out. Yes, physically write it by hand. Now think of variations of that word or phrase, then other similar sounding words or phrases. Write those out. Then start creating sentences, titles, or fully constructed ideas out of them. Here’s an example.

Ant. Ants. Aunt. Aunty. Anti-acid. Antisemitism. Antisemitism in early 20th century Europe. Antisemitism’s role in American immigration. Downcast Jewish family relocates from Black Forest to Brooklyn.

Right there you have an idea that could be used in most any creative medium. There’s a story for any journalist. There’s great photographs to be make, paintings to create, novels to write, sculptures to mold, songs to sing. There’s so many options!

It’s a simple exercise that works every time, or has for me, at least. And yes, I did actually use the exercise to come up with this example. It was not previously articulated. I do believe you can come up with better ideas.

Tip 3# is one that a lot of people won’t want to do, but it’s something that, in my personal opinion, is necessary. That is this. You’ve got to consume in order to create. Here’s why.

The most interesting person you know (besides yourself) is probably the most interesting person you know because they know the most. Interesting people – and successful creatives – always have a reference for anything, and can offer input on whatever subject comes up. That’s because they’ve done really well at consuming.

I’m not a big fan of John Locke, but his bit on the human mind as a blank slate comes in handy here. Without consumption, your mind has nothing. Without reading, learning, experiencing, doing, watching, listening, you have nothing to pull from. If you have nothing to pull from, you have nothing with which to create. What we want is the opposite of that. So do this.

Read the best books you can get your hands on. Listen to the best music on the market. Watch the best movies you can find. Hang out with the most capable people you can get introduced to. Continually surround yourself and indulge in what creative firepower is available all around you. Do this, and you’ll always have a new idea bursting forth.

To make sure you never run out of creative ideas, do these three things. #1, write about or create what it is you’re trying to figure out for yourself. Use that work to help you understand whatever concept that is, and use the finished product to share with or add value to others.

#2, Work through a simple brainstorming exercise. Activate your brain and utilize the connections your mind is already making to create something awesome. And #3, consume the best you can find so that you always have a pool of ideas stockpiled for use at any moment.

Starting a Creative Side Project? Expect This

What to Expect Starting Creative Side Project

If you’re thinking about starting a side project of any kind (or already have), you clearly have a bit of entrepreneurial spirit in you. Awesome! That means you’re okay with taking risks and doing extra. I applaud you.

Thankfully, most side projects these days flex people’s creative side. That means whatever you’re doing is probably (relatively) cheap to get into. Like blogging or painting, for example. The only cost is a few bucks for a website or materials, and your time.

Over the last few months, I’ve been working on a side project of my own. It started out as a commitment to write everyday, and it’s turned into something a bit bigger (hopefully it will continue to grow). I’m still struggling at the whole monetization part, though. It’s a work in progress, but I’ll get there. I’ll figure it out. That’s all a part of the process!

As February was beginning, I realized I needed to pick up my game. It wasn’t enough to just be writing everyday. I also needed to be publishing everyday. That means, in addition to writing, I needed to be editing, distributing, and writing a little more.

I love this work I’m doing on the side, and I will always encourage others to do something similar. But if you’re starting a creative side project, I want you to understand something.

I’m tired. I’m exhausted, really. I’m lucky enough (and thankful for it) that both my day job at Text Request and personal work are fulfilling. But it’s still a lot to do. If you’re starting a creative side project, you’re going to have a lot to do. Today’s a good example of what to expect, and I know other creatives will relate to this.

As I’m drafting this post, it’s Monday. I spent five hours or so on both Saturday and Sunday writing, editing, etc. The weekend was restful, but it wasn’t a break. This morning I started work on Kennetic Expression a little before 7am. At 8am I started working on Text Request related tasks. I left the office a little after 6pm. It’s currently 9:29pm. I started writing this post at 9pm. It will be 10:30pm before I put the pen and computer down to get ready for bed.

That’s average. Not just for me, but for every person trying to grow their skills and build a life around specifically what they want to do. If you’re starting a creative side project – if it’s something you’re going to actively work on – it’s going to be a time-consuming commitment. You’ll love every painful minute, but it will take up a lot of minutes.

That’s what I want you to expect. That you’ll be a lot more tired at the end of everyday, but that you won’t know a better feeling. It’s the creative equivalent of a runner’s high.

I gave you a basic day-in-the-life example of myself. Add weekends, and I’m looking at a 70-hour work week, significantly unpaid. That’s average. And to be honest, it’s a really cool world to be a part of. There’s tens of thousands of us losing sleep and foregoing awesome events to work on our craft so that we’ll one day be something great ourselves!

If you’re starting a creative side project – which I highly recommend – expect it to take a lot out of you. Expect it to become more than just a casual hobby. Expect to join a community of vibrant creatives all sharing ideas and helping each other grow. Expect it to be one of the most simultaneously exhausting and rewarding things you’ve ever done.

Creating Your Best Work

Creating Your Best Work

There’s a piece of advice that I keep coming across again and again. it applies to anyone with a creative side, but it always leaves me befuddled. That piece of advice goes like this.

People will often encourage you to create what you know. Don’t do that. Create what you like. Paint the picture you want to see. Write the book you want to read. Make the film you want to watch…

This advice comes up often (seemingly) as a cry to actually create rather than just copy what you see others doing. If you create what you’d like to see created, it will be something new or different. If you create something you know, you’ll effectively be spitting out the same art you take in. Or so the theory goes.

I have a hard time figuring out what this piece of advice means for me – for anyone, really. Usually if I come across a piece of advice and I can’t make sense of it, I just leave it. I forget about it. But this tidbit has come up time and time again in my reading. Either it’s really good, or the people saying it aren’t applying it to themselves.

I know what I write and create could be more interesting. It could be better. By intentionally sitting down to write everyday, am I not inevitably creating what I’d like to create? Or does the frequency actually cause the inverse? Do I end up writing just what I know in an attempt to get things done, rather than waiting for creative inspiration to strike?

It genuinely confuses me. I don’t have an answer, or even a concise response! I’ve read various elaborations on the point, but few seem to clearly define the difference. Maybe that says something about me? Maybe I should pay attention to my misunderstanding and contemplation – maybe create from that instead. That would would be following the advice, right? Creating something for me instead of creating per advice? Would the right thing to do, then, be to neglect all the advice and do what I want? Do you see how this gets confusing?

We all naturally create what we already know. We can’t exactly pull from any other sources. Isn’t creating what we like the same thing as selectively creating what we know?

I think I get the point of it. Create whatever you want to create and you’ll get the most out of yourself. But there’s also cases everyday where so-and-so artist or creative does some kind of copycat, uninspired work to pay the bills and build a foundation for growth. Bills are pretty important! A foundation is necessary for any skyscraper!

It’s confusing. What should I – what should we as a creative community actually create? What are the artistic needs that we should provide? Where are the creative voids it’s our duty to fill?

If you’ve made it this far, please comment, give your feedback, share on your social sites and blogs. I want to start a discussion. I want to hear from you!

As creatives, we have to create. It’s like oxygen for us! How can we do that in such a way that we make our best work and serve a need or fill a hole? I think that only by combining these two pieces will anything we create matter. How do we do that?

This is What “Inspiration” Means for the Professional Creative

What Inspiration Means Professional Creative Kennetic Expression

What is inspiration? Where does it come from? Where does it go? (Where does it come from, Cotton-Eye Joe?)

Inspiration is a fickle thing. It’s so fleeting! It’s also difficult to define. Is it an overwhelming emotion? Is it a state of flow? What is it that compels the artist or writer or musician or activist to create and move others? How does it instill such passion? Let’s burst a few bubbles. Shall we?

If you are someone looking for inspiration, stop. If you only create when you feel inspired, you’re not a Creative at all. Inspiration, or lack thereof, is a scapegoat used by the lazy and the amateurs. Inspiration is a crock. Let’s elaborate.

I have a goal. Many do. My goal is to become a successful writer. One step I’m taking to get there is to write 2+ pages (~600+ words) each day. It’s not a golden ticket, but it’s a start. Whether I feel like it or not, every evening and most mornings I write – on something. Most days I’m worn out from other things going on, but I make time for it because it’s my goal to become great at this. That’s what you could call my “inspiration,” the desire to be great. Many others go through this same experience everyday.

If you think we only create when we feel particularly inspired, you’re wrong. I’m writing this piece specifically because I don’t feel inspired at all! In fact, most (if not all) successful creatives will say they worked on their craft even when they didn’t particularly feel like it. And they would strongly encourage others to do the same.

William Faulkner is credited with this beauty. “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” To be perfectly clear, he’s saying that creative inspiration is the act of, and commitment to, constantly working at your craft. Or rather, that inspiration does not exist in the way commonly thought of by dreamers.

What you know – what you’ve seen, what you’ve experienced, what you’ve heard, what you’ve learned all come together to help form your “inspiration.” You see a gorgeous sunset. It evokes a whirlwind of emotion deep within, and you’ve got to create. What you’re able to create from that is based on your experiences. It’s material you’ve gathered throughout your life, restructured and repurposed. The sunset is just a cue.

A Creative is one who’s had enough relevant experiences and has practiced their craft enough so that everything becomes a cue. “Inspiration” is always a blink away. Inspiration is not a dreamy, ethereal state of creative genius, but rather a focussing of thoughts and reactions into something artful in which others can find value. Inspiration for the professional creative is not an emotion or fleeting state, but an intentional act.

Are you committed to creating, or do you use “inspiration” as a crutch?