YEAR FIVE: A LITTLE PIECE OF CREATIVE ADVICE

March 9, 2017

Earlier in the week I said on top of some goals and number stuff I was going to be so bold as to dispense a small bit of advice on a topic I get asked about often. Many people when starting a blog want advice on monetizing. Which is an important question and the question I asked and wanted answered too. But as obnoxious as it is the short answer is that making money from a blog always has to be preceded by some level of high traffic. “High” traffic is relative. And “making money” is relative. But yep, it always comes back to first producing quality, interesting content.

Which leads to the little piece of advice that shapes how I operate so I wanted to pass along for people who would love to earn money as a creative.

Be okay with being bad for a while. 

YEAR FIVE copy

Let’s say you want be a graphic designer. Design interests you, which means you notice when design is bad and have an eye for what looks good. So you start producing your own designs. At first they are probably okay sometimes but mostly bad because you might lack access to good software, are unaware of some techniques, and because you simply have not yet practiced much. So what you are able to produce does not yet meet your mental awareness of what is good.

(So similarly, going with this example, if I were interviewing someone to be a graphic designer one of my most important questions for them would be show me some examples of what you think are bad design. Because when someone is good at something, they have opinions about it. So if a designer cannot list for me their pet peeves in design then I would feel they do not have much of an “eye” and probably cannot be very great themselves.)

Read this whole quote from Ira Glass on this: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

It is stupid, but I cannot not tear up when I read that quote because it resonates so hard. My food photography was utterly horrific at the beginning, but I knew in my head what looked good and I wanted to be that good so I practiced many hours almost everyday. And now I have a published cookbook with photography of food that I feel holds its own at the professional level.

I have experienced different progress of this in so many categories – photography, blog voice, home decor, and graphic design. And there are all the applications for so many people too – writing, art, public speaking, like a million other things where it is so pervasive it is almost hard to list. I still feel this way when I want to try new features on my blog (making videos – eek!). The polished part of me wants to not do anything new publicly until I know I am good at it, but for creative stuff that is rarely fully an option.

I am not one to often offer advice, but this piece of it changed how I think of any creative endeavor I do and I think it is so refreshing for other creatives in the early grind on a new pursuit. Be bad for a bit, but plod through and if you want to you might become as good as that work of others you first admired.

You can find all my previous blog birthday posts here.

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