Your Creativity — Let No One Tell You “No”

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What can creative people do when opportunities to work are so scarce? Follow these steps, and take your project from inspiration to presentation. Make technology work for you as you enable yourself to succeed.

Chasing the Green Light

Times change but the stories remain the same. “Aspiring actor goes to L.A., but ends up waiting tables.” “Writer with manuscript for the Great American Novel seeks publisher in vain.” With the recession of 2008 dragging into its third year, the opportunities to work as a creative seem thinner than ever. Scott Timberg captured these fears eloquently in his article The creative class is a lie.

Whatever your talent, whether you’re a writer or a filmmaker or an author or a musician, I want to ask you to consider something completely different: what if you cut out the need for external approval and just go ahead and create? In other words, whoever you expect you need to ‘green light’ your project, make yourself that person.

Pitch Yourself

Most creative endeavors begin with a ‘pitch.’ If you’re your own green light, it might be tempting to skip this step, but I’d recommend against it. Instead, create your pitch just as you would to any agent, publisher or backer. Sell your project as hard as you ever have, just to yourself. Be sure to include a compelling vision, detailed plans, a budget and a schedule. Don’t let yourself off easy simply because you know the answer will be “yes.”

Consumer Technology as your Production Company

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When the first Macintosh computers came out in the 1980s, publishing changed forever. For the first time in history, almost anyone could create near-professional printing from their homes. But even though the mechanics of creating changed, there was no substitute for talent and drive. Making printing easier didn’t automatically make writing better.

Over two decades later, what Macs did for print, consumer technologies are doing for many creative media. For around two thousand US dollars, you can buy the same camera (Canon 5D Mark II) that was used to film a season finale for the critically-acclaimed TV series “House”. Software for recording and mixing music on your PC can be had for just a few hundred dollars. Even an ordinary smartphone can be used to make movies these days. How far can you push the gear you already have at your fingertips?

The Internet as your Distributor

Creating something great is one thing, but getting people to see it is quite another. Fortunately, what consumer technology has done for creation, the Internet has done for distribution. There are dozens of ways to self-publish or otherwise get exposure for your work. From on-demand printing to e-books, from Youtube to CDBaby, whether you want to sell your work or share it for free, there’s probably a channel that will do what you want.

Drive to Completion

For those hunting the elusive green light, it’s easy to imagine how great life will be once a backer is found and the ‘real’ work can begin. However, giving yourself your own green light may uncover other blocks to the creative process. With nothing external holding you back, internal fears and insecurities have a chance to surface and incite writer’s block. Procrastination and other bad habits can also rear up in your way. Still, isn’t it better to learn this on your own dime than risk losing face in front of others?

Dealing with these internal blockers can be easier if you’ve done a good job on the ‘pitch’ earlier. Giving yourself a vision, a budget, and a deadline add up to committing to a particular course of action and a timeline to completion. It may also motivate you to know that the constraints you are placing on yourself will be similar to what you’ll experience if and when you do get formal backing later.

Launch Party

So far you’ve created your own pitch, given yourself a green light to proceed, used consumer-grade technology to turn your creative vision into reality and employed the Internet to get it ‘out there.’ Now what? Is what you created any good? Will it ever make you any money? Putting yourself out through your work does take courage, but the rewards may well be worth it.

The first thing you have is the beginnings of a digital portfolio. By using the Internet, you’ve packaged your work in a way that anyone, anywhere can see what you’ve done. I certainly hope you’ve ‘signed’ your work in a way that interested parties can contact you.

Second, any time anyone asks you “what are you up to?” in casual conversation, you have the perfect opportunity to bring out a smartphone, tablet or laptop and give them your answer. There’s nothing wrong with linking to your work on your business cards, your email signature, or blog posts.

Third, you can make money! There is no telling who will see your work or what ideas for future collaboration they might have. Some artists who give away their work still make a good living. Science Fiction author Cory Doctorow has released all his writing for free, yet his fans still buy his books in print and pay premium prices for audio books of the same works.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you can derive pride and confidence in taking a project all the way from inspiration to presentation. You have an appreciation for the entire process and can speak with confidence next time you want to pitch your ideas to someone else. You’ve proven yourself a doer, not just a dreamer.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Pat Orner Oliver on .

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