Discover more from The Creative Shift by Dan Blank
Believe in your unique creative voice
3 ways to ensure your writing reaches readers
Today I want to share a behind-the-scenes look at how I have run a creative business for the past 13 years, and three actions I am taking to share in a manner that feels authentic to who I am, and connect with my ideal readers in a meaningful way.
Below is a photo of me when I first started my business back in 2010. It perfectly illustrates a moment of transition. In front of me are the papers I am signing that formalize the ending of my employment, the publisher I worked for had closed down. To the right are the stacks of thank you cards from my wife’s baby shower for our first child. Here I am at the precipice of endings and beginnings, and a big vision for the work I hoped to create. I was excited and terrified:
Since that time, I have worked with thousands of writers, helping them to share their work in ways that truly connects with readers. I have written a book and hundreds of essays, and have had countless moments with writers and creators that inspired me.
When I talk to writers about their concerns, they often tell me different versions of this: that it exists in a space that is delicate. Those around them don’t fully understand or embrace what they create. They struggle to find the time to create, let alone share. They worry that if they put their work out there for others, it will be met with silence.
Maybe this resonates with some of your experience. Yet, you create. That creative vision inside of you can’t be ignored.
So today I want to talk about three ways I am doubling down on my creative voice, and how you can too.
Before we begin, if there is anyone you know who would benefit from my November 10th workshop, Launch & Grow Your Email Newsletter on Substack, please consider sharing it with them Substack is completely changing how writers can connect with readers in a meaningful way, and even earn an income in the process. This workshop is updated with new strategies and examples that I have been using with my clients. Full info and registration here. Okay, onto today’s message….
Getting Clarity on Your Mission and Message is Difficult. Lean Into That Uncomfortableness.
One of the first things I do with writers I work with is help them define their Key Messages. This is the exact language that you would use in a normal conversation to talk about what you create and why, all in a manner that connects to a conversation with a real human being.
That is often different from an ‘elevator pitch.’ Why? Because an elevator pitch can exist in a unique social circumstance. The entire framing is that you are pitching your work to a potentially interested party in a short period of time.
But with Key Messages, these are conversations that fill our daily lives: seeing a neighbor on line at Starbucks; bumping into a colleague in the break room at work; talking to a friend while waiting to pick up your kids from some activity; chatting with a friend of a friend at a barbecue; messaging to your cousin via text.
I will say it: it is difficult to describe what you create and why. This is because so often it reflects on two things we have difficult relationships with:
Our own identity and how we feel that frames the value of what we create, our credentials, and how others see us.
Social dynamics and social fear. We don’t like putting ourselves out there seeking judgement because that can be uncomfortable. And when you talk to others about new things (such as your writing), or talk to new people, it can trigger those deep social fears.
Too often writers avoid talking about, apologize for, and dismiss their own work. They hide from opportunities to talk about it. And when they do, they are often vague. They miss opportunities to connect what they create in a way that truly resonates with the person they are speaking with.
Getting clarity is difficult. If you want some help, I suggest you work through my Clarity Cards exercise. It’s a free PDF that you can download here.
I’ve taken thousands of people through this exercise. The results are a simple pyramid of cards, but they can be life-changing:
I’ve been reviewing and adjusting my Clarity Cards and Key Messages, it is a process I go through again and again. As you work through the Clarity Card process, see where your writing and creative work fits into your pyramid. Then ask: do those around me know this about me?
Forget About Balance: Double Down on the Experiences You Want to Create
I feel like I always read encouragement to find “balance” between our creative work and other responsibilities. I have to be honest, I don’t believe in that for myself.
Instead, I am obsessed with creating the moments and experiences with those who matter most to me. That means showing up for my own creative vision, creating experiences with my family, as connecting with writers and creators. All of my energy goes to these places.
This makes decision making very easy, because if something doesn’t attend to my biggest priorities, it is an easy “no.” That isn’t meant to be negative, it is instead to use my very finite resources of time, energy, and attention to create experiences that truly speak to the experiences I want to create in my life. I want to show up for my writing and creative work. I want to show up for my family. I want to show up for the writers and creators who deeply inspire me.
My days are spent in a private studio:
Now, this suits me really well because I am a major introvert. I talk to writers and creators via phone, Zoom, and online. I teach, I write, and I create.
I’m serious about developing my support system for mental health, because that replenishes those finite resources that I need in order to create meaningful experiences with my family and writers. This includes a daily nap, a daily walk, hiring others to guide me (such as my personal trainer and guide instructor), and managing my calendar so there are huge blocks of time with family.
As you consider the experiences you want to create in your life around your creative work, I encourage you to identify one small daily habit that would be meaningful to you. This could be to help you create more, such as writing for 15 minutes ever day. Or it could be in how you share your work and connect with others, such as sending one email each day to a writer or creator whose work has moved you.
Not every experience attending to your creative vision needs to be big and dramatic. One small habit of creating or connecting can have a powerful impact.
Your Voice is Unique. Sharing it is a Risk. Take That Risk.
In the past few years, my younger son watched all 895 episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, twice. I’ve heard Fred Rogers’ wisdom again and again:
"There is only one like you in the whole world. There's never been anyone exactly like you before, and there will never be again... I like you just the way you are."
These words ring in my head all the time, and I have his photo hanging on the wall of my studio.
What I have been considering is how can I create and share with more intention, more frequently, and in the process, help writers even more. How can I honor and raise my own voice in the service of creating those meaningful moments I talked about earlier?
In doing this work full-time for 13 years, I have realized: while my mission hasn’t changed, how I execute on that mission is in constantly evolution. I imagine this may resonate with your own creative vision. In some ways, it may feel like a consistent and unchanging part of you. Yet, your craft grows, your work moves in new directions, your process changes as you evolve.
I will be sharing more writing, more videos, and more workshops. I will be experimenting with more collaborations, and more conversations with writers and creators. That is truly what inspires me.
I’m curious: why do you create your writing or art? What is your creative vision that drives you? Tell me in the comments.
Thank you for being here with me.
P.S. Just a reminder to check out my November 10th workshop: Launch & Grow Your Email Newsletter on Substack. Thanks.
Inspiration of the Week: In the past couple of years, I have started buying physical copies of movies I want to watch. I don’t have much interest in maintaining a “collection,” but I have found that getting choose what I want to watch, when I want to watch it, increases my enjoyment of movies. This is different from my experience with many streaming services. Working with writers, I think so much about the experience of reading and the role of books in our lives, and this extends in unique ways to movies and music as well.
Kids of the Week: Halloween! Our younger son picked out the costumes for my wife and I, and our older son coordinated his costume with one of his best friends (he was Obi-Wan and his friend was Anakin.)