Click Here to Read Part One – Last week, we started some discussions around how being an author works when you’re an authentic human being. Creative people exist on a spectrum of thinking and doing, feeling and memory. Sometimes our art feels like one big “Does anyone else feel …” post on the Internet. We’re looking for other people to go ‘yeah, me too.’ Getting there requires some kind of Survival Guide, so I started writing one.
Let’s remember though – this is a SURVIVAL GUIDE. I’ll still have the same problems when I finish this blog post and so will you. The goal is to survive the mental and emotional stress of finding your voice and audience, so that you will thrive. Hopefully, you understand that art is PART of a complete balanced wellness plan. All that said, let’s now get to the specifics. So here we go with:
Survival Guide for Creative People – Part Two
In a practical survival situation, you want to orient yourself to your territory. Land navigation, survival techniques, they start with knowing where you are, how you are, and what your situation is. Within creativity, every situation is unique, so you need to orient yourself to your circumstances and learn to do it in a short period of time. We built from this Urban Navigation page to make the following suggestions:
1. Interacting with others online? Watch how others do it first.
This goes for Twitter, Reddit, AbsoluteWrite, or elsewhere. Each online community has their own cultural norms – some rules are more formal than others. Learn by lurking. Participate in small ways, before posting big topics. Here are some additional tips from Disciple Media that I thought will be relevant for you:
- Ask yourself: What are you attempting to accomplish?
- Ask yourself: How do you want to be perceived by digital communities?
- Base your voice on the areas you have authority to speak about.
- Write about what you know and what you care about.
- Understand your audience and find topics that matter to them.
2. The Jungle is Neutral – the Natives are Not
Taking a page from F. Spencer Chapman’s book about jungle warfare, it is true that the overall landscape of publishing can be likened to a jungle that is not particularly concerned with your welfare. Surviving? Thriving? Wounded? Dying? Just another day in the jungle. Those who make the jungle their home have different priorities.
You’ll learn as you go along that creative community members are there for their own reasons. Some like to help, some like to hurt, and some like to watch. The most successful creative people? They’re helpful, provided you don’t expect them to handhold you through the process. Others will gladly help you along to a point, and then pull out the ’emotional knives.’ Oh, you didn’t polish your manuscript for six years? You aren’t a writer yet. Oh, you didn’t go to Guilliard or Yale? You aren’t a performer yet. Oh, you didn’t attend the Cooper Union? Thanks, but this isn’t amateur night.
It’s sad to watch, but some creative community members are only there to act as self-appointed gatekeepers. They may be smart about it, couching their poison to sound like constructive feedback: “Look, I think you suck but maybe I’m wrong. Get back to me after you become a movie star.” In the end, it’s all about telling you: You aren’t good enough. Give up now. Come back later.
It’s all crap.
I’m a private person, but I do talk to some people and those people are best-selling authors. NYT Top Ten. Movie deals. Bought-a-house-with-my-royalties. In my conversations with those best-selling authors, they’ve never hesitated to speak openly about the challenges of being a professional storytelling. But here’s the thing: not one of them (and these people are publishing titans, you know their names but because I’m me, I won’t use them) have ever made me feel like I wasn’t one of them.
I’ll never treat you that way, either. The main thing to remember when you perceive the knives coming out is this: run like the wind.
There’s no online forum where you can argue your way to success. Further, if that community is willing to argue rather than help, there’s no value for you in being there. There’s value to them – new meat to chew on – but not for you. You aren’t part of the group; you’re prey, and you just found a new circle of predators. A gazelle gains nothing by fighting with a jackal.
So there you have it, Part II of the Survival Guide for Creative People. I’m pausing this for now, but we’ll pick up the discussion later. Meantime, feel free to hit me with any questions, comments, or feedback on Twitter or Reddit.