Turning Daily Life Into Conversations

No matter what your art or business, you have to write more than ever before.   Staying creative and productive is difficult – if we assume that creativity and content are scarce.
They’re not.   Audiences may expect volume, but they don’t expect perfection.  They want raw, honest, current, candid.   They want you.   So snap a picture, record a clip, or start a video recording while you do whatever it is you do.  Invite your audience in to a day in the life – your studio, your writing desk, your rehearsal space.   Speak with them openly, and unscripted.   Show them your process,  or a pre-release peek at your work.
Or let them follow you on your way to work, waiting in line, on the train, at the farmer’s market…on a walk, in the kitchen.   Tell them about the conversations you just had with friends, or the conversations you’ve been having in your head.
It requires courage to work without a net.   But the cool thing is…it almost doesn’t matter what your product is.   If you are prepared to let the world in, to share, to turn your daily life into your content, people will respond to that honesty.   They will come and look; and stay, and come back again.

The Routines You Run

We all run routines.

Routines are the automatic processes that, through practice and habitualization, we don’t have to think about anymore.  From chewing food to driving, routines allow us to autopilot activities so we can free up brainpower to do more important things.

But are all of your routines good routines?  It turns out that there are bad habits – and we all know which ones we have – and there are negative thought patterns too.   When the stories we tell ourselves about why we can’t, why we shouldn’t, why we don’t deserve and why we don’t belong run automatically AND with our permission, they have a severe limiting effect on the quality of our lives.

Check out the episode here.

Episode 38 – The Artist And The Day Job

To be an artist you have to struggle, right?  Having that day job will not only distract you from making your art, it will colour it with commercial impurities.  Having your mortgage payment ready at the end of the month will make you soft….the stream of nonsense continues from there.
Starve if you want to.  It doesn’t make you better.  I think the struggling young artist was an archetype created by the industry long ago.  The realities of this world are that you have bills to pay and people to take care of.  None of those things invalidate your voice, or cheapen your art.
In fact more and more, the industry of the arts doesn’t pay well.  It doesn’t value artistic works or artists themselves.  It values entertainment, buzz, and controversy, but artistry – not so much.  Until we come up with better models and undo the damage that the last 2 decades of cheapening visual arts, music, writing, and performance, people will more frequently turn to hybrid models – I work to pay my bills, I work to finance my art, but I live to create.
Does this mean your ‘real job’ starts at 5PM?  or 9PM after everyone is in bed?   Does this mean I have to get up at 7AM AND play shows until 1AM then get up and do it all again?  It might.
But I suspect that if this is the thing that you love, that you were born to do, you were probably prepared for that anyway..

Presentation to City Of Oshawa – Leadership

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“Live your Creed” – Original graffiti art by Paul Paget (http://graffitivoice.weebly.com) – I’m so honoured to have it!

Hey everybody – thank you to all of the great folks who came out tonight in the City of Oshawa and to Oshawa Culture for hosting me!  I was especially honoured by this original bit of graffiti art that one of the attendees made for me/Fuse Chamber – as soon as I get his details I’ll credit it properly and put up some links!

So many talented and passionate folks and you should all know that being able to speak to you is the job of my dreams….so thank you for allowing me to do what I do.

If you enjoyed the section on ‘routines’ and how they could be the thing holding you back (without even knowing it) then stay tuned because I just finished a podcast episode on it, and it should be posted in the next week or so.   Meanwhile, you can check out the episode on leadership qualities that I posted last week to tie in to our discussion tonight.

Download the presentation here.   For those who weren’t at the February session on Branding, you can get that presentation here as well!

More details and info soon – check back by the end of the week for a quick recap and some references…..

-Chris

The Qualities of A Leader

I think there’s a massive call for leadership in the arts.   We need leaders to champion the cause of arts funding in our communities.  We need innovators to come up with distribution models that pay the artists.  And we need bold voices creating content.

Remember that a leader is simply someone who goes first.   It doesn’t take the endowment of a title.  It doesn’t require permission.  It requires courage, humility, awareness and vision.   These are all skills that you can develop – that you must develop in order to make your voice heard.   A follower requires a leader in order to make a meaningful, valuable connection.

The question is always ‘who’.  Not everyone who creates art or works in the industry will be a leader.   Many of us hear the call, but far fewer know how to answer it.  It will require dedication to the cause, even in the most uncertain times.  It will require trial by fire; grit, resilience, and discipline.

Most people won’t find what is required – most won’t do what it takes.   Will you?

Listen to this week’s episode.

What It Takes To Be Creative

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One word.  Discipline.

Stop worrying about finding the Muse, about waiting for that perfect idea, that mythical moment of inspiration that doesn’t really exist.

The hard work of pumping out ideas for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes – start wherever you are right now and build.  Build from 50 words, 100 words.   Commit to doing it, every day, and then commit to growing it.

The only way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas.  But if you wait for the perfect idea, you are missing the daily opportunities to produce the kind of volume that fosters genius in the first place.

Look closely at your heroes.  Research what they have to say about inspiration and perspiration.  About showing up.  About grind and hustle.  About doing the work.  None of them – NONE – rely on that spark in the middle of the night.  Although it does come every once in a while, you have to fill the rest of your time making the perfect conditions for her arrival.

So set a timer and go.

Check out this week’s episode here.

Practice Combat Every Day – 5 Steps to Beat Hesitation, Procrastination and Overwhelm

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You don’t have to be massively better than the competition.  You just have to be 1% better.
It’s not always about being the very best – sometimes, it’s about outlasting everyone else – being the last person to quit.
Do you feel like every day is a challenge?  Do you feel weighed down by the assault from every angle?  If the career is going well, you might have a health scare or a family problem or relationship troubles or money worries or a scratched fender or you went over on your data plan….each day is full of challenges that can wear you down.   Even if you do have clarity in your work life, everyone around you seems to be screwing things up, slowing you down, or getting in your face.   Some days it seems like too much to bear, doesn’t it?
Honestly – the work that we do seems to be the easy part.  Making your art, editing, publishing, promoting, selling….at least if its in your hands you are in control of the quality.   The hard part is lasting through all the other challenges.  I think this IS the actual grind.   This is what you have to get good at.  Because when people give you their reasons for giving up and going back to their day job, they’ll say “it was too hard”….and they’re never talking about the Making Your Art part of the job.
I love talking about grit because I think its the area we are failing at in our education and parenting efforts. If I could give all of you one gift it would be the ability to last through the noise and clutter – once you get the hang of this, you’re able to look at it and laugh at how wasteful and petty most of it is.  If you will experiment with me in the practice of being mindful – watching how challenges impact your thought process and emotional responses, giving it a label so you can understand the way you process challenges and what effect that has on your mind and body, and then choosing a new response – you can become massively powerful.
Because you’ll outlast the competition every time.

5 DIY Marketing Skills for Artists and Artrepreneurs

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It’s hard being a team of one.  But until you can afford to hire people to round out your team, you’re going to have to do all the marketing (and everything else, really) by yourself.  However, there is no reason not to get professional results   Here are five essential things that you need to do if you are producing your own marketing and content in support of your art and business.
  • Learn how to take good photographs – compose shots and use editing tools.  I use Typorama and Designbold for all of my presentation/meme/visual needs, but using stock photography makes you look….well…stock.  An original touch goes a long way and you have a camera and mini-editing suite on your smartphone.  You can be making your own one-of-a-kind stock photography library while you’re taking the bus to work.
  • Keep up with design trends – although tools like those listed above will help make sure you’re using current looks and styles, you can really make an impression if you grab a few graphic design magazines, or google top graphic design trends for the current year.   They’ll teach you how to use space, colour, contrast, text and all of the other elements that make eye-catching visuals.  All free.
  • Learn how to capture and edit audio.   A brief course on Udemy.com or free tutorials on YouTube will help you make nice sounding audio for podcasts, home-rolled audiobooks or video.  It starts with setting up your space to sound neutral, but also includes choosing and position microphones, setting levels, and editing and treating audio after it’s recorded.  If you’re looking for advanced info on making audio sound good for podcasts and voiceovers, check out my YouTube Channel here.
  • Make a habit out of creating and publishing video content – no need for expensive equipment.  Again, you have everything you need on your smartphone, tablet or laptop.  Modern audiences will excuse lo-fi methods if your content is engaging.  Don’t overdo the special effects though.  Keep it tasteful and simple.  Focus on the content.
  • Finally, learn to mimic voice across all media – advertising, journalism, scholarly articles, social media.   Make a point to read as much as you can, even if they are short articles.  How do newspapers differ from advertisements?  How do people narrow their thoughts to 280 characters in twitter?  Learn to replicate what the best of the best are doing so you can make content that will appeal to the audience you are trying to attract.

Check out the rest of the podcast here.

Branding? Marketing? Here’s How To Do It Right

I had such a wonderful opportunity to speak to some fine people in the arts and culture industries last Wednesday in Oshawa, Ontario. I love what the city is doing with their Culture Counts initiative, and the folks running the program are so passionate and talented – well done.

We were discussed branding and marketing, but rather than going down the predictable road of discussing social media techniques, we spent a good deal of time discussing the importance of vision, purpose, and service in establishing a solid brand. Marketing is an evolving craft, of course, and at this point in time, I believe people still want authentic voices and stories; innovators connecting with their tribe, and conversations with customers. Be clear on who you really are – what you represent, what you were born to do, what you strongly believe, and who you serve when you are putting your art into the world.

A consistent vision will translate to a consistent brand message. All you have to do is speak your truth, day in and day out. Show the world what you’re up to, what you’re thinking. Learning how to use social media is simple once you’ve mastered that. The fundamentals are nothing a few videos or books couldn’t teach you in a weekend.

Knowing your purpose makes everything simpler. Hard work is so hard because it rolls up to the fulfilment of your dreams. You never have to worry about contradicting yourself because what you said yesterday and what you say tomorrow flow naturally from the same source of honesty. It doesn’t matter if you repeat yourself because the fundamentals are always full of wisdom and inspiration. Work diligently on your vision and purpose, and don’t forget to think about who you can serve; how and why. This evolves naturally into your brand.

Listen to this week’s episode on branding and marketing for artrepreneurs.