The 3 Directions of Your Creative Effort

You can read this article on Medium and Narrative too.


Like any creative, especially still unpopular (note that I used “still”…), organizing your work is challenging.

Time is never enough, and we need to prioritize where to put our efforts.

I’ll use the example of writing.

When you read posts, you don’t write. When you write, you don’t promote. When you promote, you don’t read books. When you read books, you earn nothing.

To earn a living, or to live your dream.

Compromises, which often drag us into unfertile ground.

What usually happens is that we overprioritize, or underprioritize one factor of the equation, while – we all know – we have to push hard on all the line. Someone writes daily, but struggle to get a few thousand followers. Someone gets followers, but nothing is attached to that number. Someone has all the numbers, but their content is poor.

Creating without promoting means invisibility. Promoting without growing doesn’t have a future. Growth without creation is sterile.

Fail on one front and you’ll go nowhere. But failing is easy.

You need some balance in your effort. An effective balance. A practical balance. You need at the same time focus and integration of your efforts.

That’s why I decided to solve some unproductive confusion by grouping my creative activities in three areas, or, we could say, directions of my effort.

Input

You spend a lot of time navigating and reading. But.

Do you do this for learning, getting new connections, being seen by others, get ideas?

Maybe you spend a lot of time reading but you don’t actually learn what you should learn for your goals. Or maybe you learn, but you don’t connect. You may be in the reading thing for a reason and end up feeding another one. Reading may bring many benefits – learning, staying updated, connecting, … –, and there is nothing wrong to get more benefits from it, but you’re not aware of what you’re doing, maybe one of those needed factors is neglected. And you can bet that only the easiest part will prevail.

You need a clear destination and to be intentional in the type of effort.

Don’t mess up. If you need to learn – and you have to find room for it – don’t decide what to read because of any other reason. Learning time is only for learning by receiving. Do not limit it to your preferred community, just because you have connections there and you can promote yourself there. Search for the best source for what you need to know and learn. Take a class. Experience without practical reason. Just with the goal of learning. Accidentally or not, other benefits can be attached to it, but the main purpose should be learning.

We could call this line of effort the incoming direction. Your main purpose is to receive.

And you don’t need to see this line in a limited manner. Meditation can be in this line too. Mindfulness, growth, thinking without producing, and so on. All part of the input line. Growth by receiving.

Production

That’s the core business of any creative. To create.

Sometimes you think to be productive when you’re learning or connecting or promoting. But you’re not adding value. You’re not building a portfolio. You’re not giving anyone a reason to see and appreciate the result of your efforts.

When you create, it’s about giving. It’s about taking something out of your mind, your heart, your soul, your life, and putting it into a form that makes sense to you and can enrich the life of somebody.

You need a big slot for this. You don’t create, you’re not a creative. Period.

You must not mix this part with anything else. Especially, don’t mix your content with your promotion, with pleasing someone. If you mix, do it intentionally, and be aware that you’ll pay a toll, especially with you identity.

Of course, you will grow also by creating. But this is the line of growth by doing, not by receiving.

It’s okay to be aware of the consequences of what you create, of your needs, of the needs and the psychology of your possible audience. But the moment they take on your creation, you lose integrity and you’ll build a fake creative identity.

Promotion

Last but not least, any creative needs visibility. It’s not just about survival or glory. Exposing your creation is a requirement of your growth, and the natural destination of your creation.

You can use other terms. Call it marketing, networking, advertising, sowing… What matter is that you need to directly or indirectly connect your creations (and possibly you, nowadays) with an audience, or to create the possibilities for this connection.

For example, when you comment on a post that you read but you wouldn’t have read just for your learning, you’re doing promotion. Maybe learning and promotion merges in that post but be aware that, globally, you need both of them, so you shouldn’t pretend that this alone counts as learning. You still need intentional learning.

On the contrary, if you take a class, don’t pretend that this is networking. That is also networking. But you will still need promotion. You can’t escape promotion.

The three together

By mixing things up, it’s too easy to neglect one aspect of your creative activity. Of course, we need to integrate the three lines of effort, but when they are unintentionally mixed you’ll be driven to the one or the two more congenial to you.

Maybe you already connect a lot, but maybe you neglect connections meant for the business side of your activity. Instead, when you focus on connecting, it’s easier to know what you are doing and what you should do to get results. You’re more effective in business connections and less selfish in connections which are there for different reasons.

Try relisting your activities in the three lines of effort. For what is possible, set different times for them. Maybe even places.

You’ll see that it will unleash unexpected potential and focused energy. Learning, production, and promotion will always get only part of your time, but now they will each get the whole you, and they can all be substantial enough to contribute to the others.

Distinguish intentionally, and you’ll get an intentional whole.

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