In addition to writing magazine articles and this column, I write a lot of web content for various clients. By "a lot," I mean more than 62,000 words last week. I don't always add it up, but I was curious about my output. A bit toasty around the edges would describe my state of mind on Friday after the 10th article about teenagers and braces. When I was whining about this to a writer friend, I suddenly realized I needed to stop, regroup, and keep working. It also made me start thinking about the importance of perspective, attitude, and approach to our work. In psychotherapy lingo, it's referred to as "re-framing."
Income-Producing vs. Income Potential
Professional artists and writers who survive in this business have achieved a good balance between work that is immediately income-producing and work that may potentially sell. Both the creative person's need to make a living and to try out the new stuff can hopefully be met by these activities. But, why not shift that perspective to make it more about various points along a continuum of the creative worker's profession instead of either/or?
|As a professional fiber artist, I was responsible for unleashing 90 crocheted ponchos onto the unsuspecting buying public. It wasn't because I was in a poncho-making mood, but because stores had ordered them. So, maybe you're an artist who's made 67 intricately detailed fabric handbags or 42 butter dishes. You know what I'm talking about--production work. It's what we do. Then there's the fun stuff--one-offs, creative new designs, and custom-ordered creations. Many of us put those functions in a separate category from the other work.
That's not to say there isn't a creative element to the pieces that are made in larger quantities. Choosing a new glaze color or experimenting with variations on a theme can keep it interesting and fresh. But, admittedly, creative work that you have to do as opposed to want to do has a different feel.
Let's go back to many professional writers' equivalent to artists' production work--web content writing, copywriting, etc. I'll describe the thought process and reframing that's worked for me. Let's say I have 30 medium-length articles to write about a topic, 20 blog posts, and 15 short "tips." Here's how it might go:
But after re-framing, it might go more like this:
"65 pieces on this topic and no direction from the client? How am I going to do that and keep it interesting?"
"Aaacckkkk! 10 blog posts done and I'm out of ideas!"
"If I have to type the word 'insurance' one more time, I'm losing it."
You get the idea. Putting a more positive slant on the process can be energizing. Admittedly, it doesn't always go that way for me, but I'm working on it. It's also important to give yourself kudos when you complete a project that appeared really daunting at the outset.
"Okay, this will be challenging. No real direction from the client, so I'll be able to come up with my own original angles on these."
"Only five more blog posts to go!"
"Wow, there's a lot of good resources out there to help with researching this topic."
"But It's Not Creative"
I've heard this from a few surprising sources--other writers and artists and friends who know me well. I used to be offended. "How can she say that? I'm a writer; I'm creating all the time!" But I decided these were teachable moments and opportunities for re-framing. I explained that crafting a tightly written, engaging piece of writing, while being limited to 450 words, is a skill that not a lot of writers have. Plus, I rarely get bored and have the opportunity to become an expert on dozens of topics after writing extensively about them.
Compare this to someone observing your production work who says, "Cranking out all those earrings must get boring." Not necessarily; maybe each pair of earrings has a distinctive set of design elements that make them really unique? Can it be tiring and repetitive? Absolutely, it can.
It Pays the Bills
I love to tell those same "but it's not creative" people that my web content and copywriting pays a lot of my bills. This, in turn, frees me from immediate money worries and allows me to take time to devote to pitching article ideas, creating my own blog, and writing a book. One doesn't detract from the other. I'm choosing to re-frame it as a nice balance--I get to do what I love, and I make money doing it. What could be better?
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