One of the best parts of working as a creative for as long as I have is that I’ve gotten to observe – up close – the way my successful creative peers manage their day to day lives. Beyond their obvious creative talent, there are lots of other things that these people do day in and day out in order to make themselves successful. I thought I’d list a few things that are worth adding to your daily routine if you’re serious about moving your creative practice forward.
As creatives, we spend so much time in “output” mode that it’s easy to forget that we need to feed our creativity, too. Reading great writing and reading about great ideas is just as important as the actual process of creating itself. Make sure you remember to go on “input” from time to time to stoke the fires of your own creative process.
This may sound obvious but now matter what your creative medium, it’s a good idea to do some kind of writing. A journal is a simple and easy way to make sure you’re writing at least a little each day even when you don’t have time to dig deeper into your own creative pursuits. I think of writing as a muscle and the more you work it the stronger it gets.
I know for a lot of people, networking is an uncomfortable concept. It conjures up images of schmoozing, staying up late and hanging out in bars. That’s really not what I mean. I think of networking as simply building relationships. If I’ve learned anything in my years in the creative world, it’s that relationships are what keep you moving forward and connected to the industry. Networking can mean finding new collaborators, taking the time to send a nice email to a speaker you enjoyed hearing at a conference or any one of multiple ways of reaching out and connecting – either in person or online – with people in our chosen creative arena.
4. Pitch their own projects
Most creatives, especially early on in their careers, think of representation as the answer to all their problems. After all, now they’ve got people who are going to spread the word about them and their work. While, strictly speaking, this is true, the most successful creatives I know don’t sit around hoping that their manager or agent is going to pitch their ideas or material, they’re actively doing it themselves. It’s best to think of representation as an additional means of getting the word out but, in the end, no one is going to care about your creative work as much as you do.
5. Follow up
Ready for a little more unromantic news about the day to day of successful creative people? They tend to spend a lot of time following up on emails, phone calls and other opportunities that they’ve been pursuing. There’s a myth that the more successful you are the more opportunities present themselves to you. My observation has been the exact opposite. In other words, the more work you do, the more opportunities you create. Waiting around for opportunity is not something successful people in any field tend to do.
6. Practice patience
A career in creativity is all about the long game. There is very rarely an immediate result from the effort you make. Being impatient in the creative industry is a recipe for discouragement or regrettable behavior. While we would all like an immediate payoff for our efforts, it is often years between the time an idea is hatched or a project is completed and the time it actually generates any income for the creator. That being said, the better your work ethic and the more patient you are, the more likely you are to have success and enjoy the journey along the way.
If there’s one single point that I’d like to make in this article, it’s that you shouldn’t wait until you’re a successful creative to behave like one. There’s a tendency to think that once you start doing well with your work, then you’ll start taking care of all the other stuff. I’m here to tell you that it’s by taking care of all that “other stuff” that you’ll be giving yourself the best chance of success.
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