Start To Make Your Creativity Pay

Copyright © 2003 by Angela Booth

** Note: while this article is primarily addressed to writers, it applies to you if you're doing anything creative.

Can you make a living as a writer, artist, designer or other creative soul? Yes, you can, if you learn a few tricks.

The most important trick is to learn to think of yourself as TWO people. The first is the creative person who writes, paints, photographs or designs, without a care for anything except the creative work itself. The second person is a sharp-eyed, clear-thinking marketer.

In many creatives, the sharp-eyed marketer is in embryonic form. Fear not. You can nurture your inner marketer.

Here's how to start to make your creativity pay:

=> 1. Start small: downplay your creativity

Your ultimate goal may be a book on the New York Times bestseller list, or your own show in a major gallery, but start small and build your confidence.

While you're doing that, downplay your creativity at home and among your friends. Why? Any number of reasons. The chief one is that your creative endeavors are as important to you as a new baby is to the proud parents. While you're a taking the first hesitant steps of your creative career, you're sensitive. You're likely to get badly blocked if someone whose opinion you value says the wrong thing to you. This doesn't mean that you're completely unsocial. Get a writing or painting pal, take a course, or join a group. But among your nearest and dearest and closest friends, silence pays off.

Starting small means small sales, not working for free. There are times you may choose to give your work away, but in the beginning of your career you need the validation that only money can give you. So write fillers for magazines (fillers are small articles, of 200 words or less), advertisements for your local bank, or copy for greeting cards. Write a short story or two, and submit them for publication.

Anything you write, that you get paid for, will boost your confidence. When you're confident enough to disregard ill-informed opinion, you can share your aspirations freely.

=> 2. Be passionate, not desperate

Your passion and love for your work will sustain you through your career, and your entire life. However, don't take this passion for granted. If you don't nurture it, it will fade.

Whenever you feel depressed, ask yourself whether you still enjoy writing. Sometimes the answer will be a loud "no". Perhaps your writing isn't going as well as you hoped it would, or you've had some drama in your life, or you've been rejected. At these times, remind yourself that you love what you do, and ask yourself what you would enjoy writing today. Then do that. Work on rebuilding your love for your writing first, before you concern yourself about anything else.

If success comes slowly (or hasn't arrived yet), don't become desperate. Be patient. Selling your creativity takes time. If you can sense desperation taking hold, remind yourself that you're writing because you love to write.

Writers (and other creatives) may become desperate because of others' expectations. "Have you sold that book you were working on?" "Have you sold a painting?" This pressure is why you play your cards close to your chest. (See "downplay your creativity", above.)

=> 3. Market your work

When should you start to market your work? Immediately. As soon as you've written something that you feel is publishable, send it out.

This is where you tuck your creative self away, and haul your inner marketer out of the closet. Divorce yourself from your work as much as you can. Grit your teeth, and flail yourself with a whip if necessary, but send your work out. Then forget it. Your first marketing efforts may be torture. That's OK. You don't have to enjoy marketing, you just have to do it.

Starting small is important for writers, because you can send out a short story or a filler article without writing a query letter. For a new writer, query letters can be dangerous. Here's why: some writers never get beyond a query letter. Ask any editor. These writers write lots of query letters, get good at it, and then one day an editor calls their bluff and sends them a contract. At this, the query writer panics. Not only doesn't she write the article, she gives up writing for several years. Then she starts again. Writing query letters.

The good news is that once you've got into the habit of writing and sending your work out, you can stop worrying. Sooner or later you'll get a check. (Sooner, we hope.)

The big benefit of marketing is that after a while it stops being a trauma. It starts to become fun. Your inner marketer is all grown up. Then the only problem you have is getting organized so that you keep track of what you sent where.

If you follow the three strategies above, you will make your creativity pay, and sooner than you think is possible.

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