Some days I look at my medium stats, or my WordPress stats, or the number of sign ups to Sunday Letters and all I see is tumbleweed.
“Christ, look at all the work I’m doing and not so much as a sinner turned up to read my shit today. What the fuck am I doing here”, I say to myself.
It can be very deflating.
It doesn’t matter what you’re making, if you’re online and you’re marketing your stuff, then just like me traffic is important to you.
So when it doesn’t come it can affect our thoughts and behaviour negatively.
Seeing an empty room so to speak, is tough for creative people working alone. We can get caught in our heads and begin to doubt our activities.
Is what I’m doing right? Is it wrong? Am I wasting my time with this? Have I chosen the wrong path? On it goes, the spiral of though downwards into ever darker places of self doubt, anxiety, worry and stress.
I’m not exaggerating here, I know you feel it. I’ve felt it too and I believe I’m by no means unique in this.
In a group dynamic it’s a different story.
You get to bounce ideas off colleagues and partners. Once aligned to a goal from the start, the members of the team can keep each other on track.
Here’s What I Do – Maybe It Can Work For You Too
Yeah sure there’s Facebook groups and forums but that’s hardly the same thing. In fact it’s not even close.
There is simply no substitute for the close meeting of minds coming together under a single initiative but as a solo worker that’s not possible always.
I work alone and I face the same challenges you do.
I’ve been guilty of dropping projects before they’re finished even though there was some positive movement forward. No matter though because if I spend my time beating myself up over that I get nowhere.
In fact, I regress.
So instead, this is how I choose to see it;
I was there, I made some stuff, there was some success and failure and I learned tons from it. All of that is not wasted. The experience has made me better and more skilled so I am where I am and this is what I’m making now.
I’m not immune to self criticism but I try not to allow it take hold. I have some tools that I use to keep me on track that I want to share with you.
Maybe they’ll help you too.
The Artist’s Manifesto
The Artist’s Manifesto is a short book about staying true to our art. It is a call to Artists and Creatives like you to create from the heart with passion and integrity, disregarding the need for applause and recognition. It’s available from 13th May 2017. Grab your FREE copy here.
Practice Positive Self Talk
Self talk is big.
Whether you just think it in your mind or express it outward in speech, what you think affects your behaviour. There’s simply no way you can buck the trend of your thought.
Behaviour is dictated to by the beliefs we hold about everything. From our childhood right through to today, we have been cultivated in large part by our environment and that influence has momentum.
Unless we consciously choose to think better thoughts about ourselves that momentum will always take us back to familiar actions.
It’s a tough ask but if we are to change behaviour we’ve got to change how we think about ourselves and our ability.
A Daily Practice
During the day when I’m not engaged in my work I’ll tell myself who I am. When I’m driving or making coffee I’ll talk to myself out loud or in my head.
I tell myself I’m a successful writer and I see pictures of positive outcomes in my mind. Now if you think this is a pointless exercise you’d be wrong.
Imagination and visual rehearsal are recognised mental practices in sports psychology and a tactic of world class athletes like Lizzy Yarnold in preparation for events.
“It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember. Every night going to bed I’d slide down the track in practice and I’d go through it, and visualise my dream. But I wouldn’t visualise winning, I’d visualise the process” Lizzy Yarnold, Olympic Gold Medalist.
If you’re already in a bad place then positive self talk and visualisation is likely to drag you further down.
It’s like telling a depressed person to cheer up, it just doesn’t work. The only way to move forward is to diffuse the negative thought patterns.
I do this with meditation – that’s my first step if I get uptight and anxious.
And when things are going well meditation helps keep me in the right place. When I take things for granted and don’t meditate then I invariably fall off the horse.
To start my day I’ll do the following;
- Make a cup of coffee and sit quietly in my kitchen
- Say my prayer
- Visualise positive outcomes
- Meditate for 15 to 30 mins
I primarily do this because it feels good. Stuff will happen, but I’ll do these things regardless.
Remember The Praise
My follower and subscriber numbers are not huge, but the feedback from the stuff I’ve been publishing has been very encouraging.
My writing has had a positive effect on people and that means something. Sometimes I don’t always remember that.
When I get a positive response on Twitter for example, I copy the url of the reply and paste it into Google Keep. Later if I’m feeling my work is not really making an impact and I feel like throwing in the towel I read responses like this…
Hi Larry! Just a quick msg to say that I really Loved your 'Sunday Letter'!! Amazing..! Thank you!
Have a great afternoon..! 🙂 https://t.co/XfDG5nPXdW
— Odette Delgado (@DelgadoOdette7) July 24, 2017
— BitchyBusinessBriefs (@SharonLeeZapata) May 20, 2017
This is what it’s all about.
As I’ve written many times before, the artistic process is in equal parts creation and reciprocation.
Without others having the opportunity to share in the things we’ve made there is no art. No sharing and appreciation – no art.
Even though feedback numbers might be small, they serve to fuel our inspiration and our writing so make sure to keep those moments of praise close to hand.
They’ll fuel your muse when it’s depleted.
But be careful here. Becoming dependant on the praise can drag us down and spoil what we are making. Always stay centered.
The Artist’s Manifesto
On Sunday I wrote about never giving up Vs. cutting your losses and the difference between the two. How do we know when is the right time to get out and when we should stick to the task?
It’s a tough question that can’t be easily answered. However, when it comes to purpose the answer is simple: we’ve got to keep going.
Our purpose is most important. It’s the fire inside. What you do in the expression of that purpose is less important than the purpose. However, that doing can fuel the fire nonetheless.
Maintaining positive habits is the best way for us to stick to our task when things get tough. Simple things like rising at the same time every morning, taking 15 or 20 mins to meditate, taking time to visualise, writing 1000 words and so on.
These things build momentum in the right direction and after a while, good stuff shows up. The more we practice the luckier we get (I think it was a famous golfer who said that).
It’s what we do now that counts.
Keep going no matter what. Follow the dream but be prepared to change what you’re doing if what you’re doing isn’t working. Fence sitting can be helpful but be careful it doesn’t spiral into self doubt. Self doubt is crippling.
If you find you’re already in that negative place, meditate your way out. It’s that simple.
There’s No One Rule For Everyone
If there’s one thing I’ve managed to figure out over the years of searching, it is that there is no one rule for success. We get to define it.
We get to say what that looks like for us and although other people’s success leaves clues, ours will never look the same.
Besides, things are always changing. We can’t catch it and we’re not supposed to. It’s that ever changing scene that we’re after so getting comfortable in the process is the key.
We have the ability to experience what we wish and there are things we can do now to affect those experiences. So if there are results we’re not happy with, like shity readership numbers, then we can do something about it.
But it’s gonna take time so get comfortable.