How to Start a New Project, Promote Yourself Authentically, and Make Time for Your Creativity

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ask more questions
 
Over the last two weeks, I asked you guys to share a creative challenge you’re dealing with, and boy did you come through. It was great hearing from and talking to everyone who got in touch—you are all awesome and brave.
 
So without further ado (because it’s a long one), let’s get to the advice. Here we go!

On starting a new project

“Do you have any advice for someone who is wishing to create a newsletter or a YouTube channel about stuff that their friends do? I have been collecting email addresses. But I haven’t found time to refine my newsletter to be concise yet informative. Plus, I find it difficult to stay focused on this due to being busy with my normal-people-job and my night job just to pay the bills.”
Asked by: Jelani B.

You may not realize it, Jelani, but you are already well on your way to achieving your goal. You’ve got some email addresses and an idea—which are steps one and two—so step three is to just start. Easier said than done, I know. But here’s the thing: do you have just one hour a week that you’re wasting (aka watching Netflix, playing video games, napping, scrolling through Twitter?) Instead of using that time for recreation, use it for writing or recording.
 
Starting a blog or YouTube channel can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. If you’re feeling intimidated or overwhelmed, start small. Use that hour every week for your writing, and after four weeks, you’ll have your first four emails. Boom. Done. Then reevaluate. Did that process work? Is there something you want to change? Do you want to quit? Do you want to devote more time to it?
 
You don’t have to commit to writing a flawless, three-thousand word essay every week for the rest of eternity on your first day of blogging. Take it slow. Start simply. Go from there.
 
Further reading:

“I have just started trying to journal and I am not finding it easy, both from a point of view of when to do it and what to write. I read that it is better to journal in the morning, does it really matter when it is done? I think I then use this as a reason not to journal—if I do not write in the morning, then why bother? Also, no one else will read my journal, but I still find it hard to be open and “bare all” when I write, so I tend to write about what I have done and what I am going to do rather than expressing any feelings.
 
Do you journal and if so when and what do you write about?”
Asked by: Judith W.

Judith, I don’t personally journal, but I would like to start. So we’re in the same boat. I ought to take my own advice!
 
Two things jump out from your question:
 
First, the main thing to remember is that journaling is something you do for YOU. That means your journal can be anything you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be a diary. You don’t have to write down your deepest, darkest secrets if you don’t want to. Writing about what you’re doing or your goals for the future is just (if not more) valuable. So when you journal, do it your way.
 
And that segues nicely into the second part of your question. Do you have to do it in the morning? Again, no. I have heard it’s helpful because it gets the junk cleared out of your brain before you truly start the day. However, if you miss a morning session, that’s not an excuse to just write it off until tomorrow. If you want to create a journaling habit, then doing the work is more important than the specific time you do it.
 
Further reading:

On consistency and discipline

“How are you able to discipline yourself and continue writing and producing?” Asked by: Margot E.

1) You have to carve out time specifically for your work, otherwise, you’ll never do it. You’ll wait around for motivation and make excuses about being busy or tired. The secret is to make motivation come to you! And the way to do that is to put your butt in a seat and start typing. Put an hour or two on your calendar every week and during that time, write. Only write.
 
2) Make it a habit. If you keep showing up for that same hour on that same day, you’ll start to get used to it. You’ll anticipate it and it won’t feel like as much of a struggle. You’ll sit down ready to write.
 
3) Find an accountability buddy. Give yourself a deadline and tell them about it. You’ll feel compelled to make progress for fear of letting that person down. And that fear will push you through tough times and force you to get your work done.
 
Further reading:

“I’m writing fiction, but I’m finding it really hard to stick to just one storyline. When I sit down to write, my brain will think of another ‘great’ storyline, that will go away if not used right then and there. So rather than finishing one thing, I now have tons of unfinished stories. What should I do?”Asked by: Tah L.

So here’s an idea: don’t change anything you’re doing. Instead, try adding something new to your process.
 
When a new story idea pops up, don’t avoid it. Write the idea down so you don’t forget it. Then, schedule some time at the end of the week (maybe two hours on Saturdays to start) to take one story out of the idea phase and into the writing phase and ultimately, you’ll have a finished work. It might spread out over a few Saturdays but that’s fine. Take your time. And only work on ONE STORY until it’s done. That way, no matter how many new ideas pop up, you’ve got a way to record them and a way to focus on a single storyline until it’s finished.
 
And by the way, if you come up with a new story idea during your writing time, same thing as before—write the idea down and get back to typing!
 
Further reading:

On self-promotion

“I have always shied away from self-promotion, afraid of seeming egotistical and a braggart. But now that I have to attract clients for my own business, how can I advertise myself and my events without seeming like a used car salesman? Do I just need to get over it?”Asked by: Marielle C.

The short answer: Yes, you kind of just have to get over it.
 
The long answer: self-promotion is hard. Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome. We start to feel like we’re not “good enough” or “worthy enough” to promote our goods or services, so we shy away from doing so. But if you believe in yourself and what you’re selling, then it is YOUR DUTY to put that ish out there. Stop thinking about it as “self-promotion” and start thinking about it as “connecting folks with something that will bring them specific value.” Just be upfront and honest about what you’re selling, and I promise no one will mistake you for a used car salesman.
 
Further reading:

On blogging

“I had a blog when I first started writing regularly. I abandoned it a while ago, and now just write on Medium and in my newsletter. I have a page on my site that has a collection of my best pieces, but no blog to speak of. I vacillate though as to whether I should have one. What do you think?”.Asked by: Mike S

I’ve struggled with the same question for a while now, and at this point, I’m not entirely sure why anyone needs a blog on their site. There are plenty of other platforms out there like Medium and Tumblr that make it easy share your writing and link to a newsletter sign up form. There’s some vague idea floating around out there that having your own site will bringing Google traffic from SEO, and while that may be true, I haven’t cracked the code.
 
Of course, I do like having a website in general, as it gives me a place to direct folks if they’re looking for my online work—whether that’s my blog writing, book, or podcast.
 
Further reading:

On life’s milestones


“One thing I’m working on is this thing called adulthood—I have more responsibility at work, I just bought a house, and I’m getting married. I’m not sure when the last time was that I’ve gone this long without feeling like I should be doing more… and more… and more… probably because I’m doing soooo damn much. But, less and less is creative stuff. I feel like I’m handling the lack of creativity very well though. Is that ok? Should I be doing more?”Asked by: Jason F.

Jason, I think you have a “good problem” on your hands here. It’s awesome that you’re learning to just go with it and trust that your creativity will be there when you’re ready for it (spoiler: it will). And it’s great that you’re moving on to bigger and better things in your personal life.
 
Of course work, a house, and your wedding are going to take precedence right now, but remember—all of that was likely made possible because of your earlier focus on creativity, growth, learning and self-improvement. It’s just like at a job where, if you’re good at X skill, you run up the ladder until you’re eventually promoted into management. And once you’re in management, you manage people rather than doing the work that got you to that position in the first place.
 
The busier you get in life, the less time you have for your own projects. But the fact that you have this drive, that you had a very creatively productive period, made you who you are today.
 
Take a break for now and focus on these milestones…just don’t let yourself get complacent!
 
Further reading:

 

Thanks again to all the people who put themselves out there and asked a question. I hope you found some inspiration and know the next step you ought to take on your journey. And if you didn’t ask a question this time, know that you can always reach out if you ever need help. I’m here for you!


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