Sunday, November 09, 2014

Creativity and the 9 to 5 Blues

Or it could also be the other way around. I actually wrote a song called “The 5 to 9 Blues” about working part-time when I was in retail back in the 80s. Anyone who has ever worked an evening shift at a lazy mall department store on a night when no one is out shopping can relate. It’s boooooring.

But actually in these times, we can find the downtime we need to be creating. I once heard someone say unloading trucks or doing some other menial work allows your mind the freedom to wander on its own. I have to agree. I remember getting many creative ideas while I was forced to fold blue jeans, or stock a shelf of toys, or stand and stare at the clock hoping magically it would be quitting time.

And because I had to stay there, and do the task before me (or make one up), invariably I’d start humming a tune, thinking up a story plot, or planning some creative project I would work on when I got home.

“Labor gives birth to ideas.” - Jim Rohn

The distraction of “boring work” (especially the dull, repetitive kind) is sometimes just what you need for your mind to wonder and stumble upon a new idea, melody, or vision. Now if you are replacing a heart valve or developing an Ebola vaccine, then maybe you should pay more attention to what you are doing.

Sometimes a full day of cubicle work can be broken up for creative thinking. An old work mate of mine used to take what he and I called “A Well-Deserved Break” and talk about our music pursuits. Dreams, ideas, gear, artists and pieces we liked. This was a valuable time of vision casting, planning, and thinking.

Being a list maker, I also used my work time to take short breaks from whatever I was doing to make lists of ideas I had for projects, both personal and for clients I was working for in my off hours. I still make lists, except now they are with me wherever I go using Evernote (a great tool for creatives with lots of ideas).

Good Work, Bad Work

“Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.” - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

A good day gig is a blessing. If you don’t mind, or (gasp!) maybe you actually like your day job even though you don’t get to pursue your true creative calling, it’s okay. This is the best of both worlds. You can be happy while the money you're making supports your artistic habits!

When people come to me and say they want to pursue their creative talents and get their art out there, I ask them what they do now work-wise and if they like it. I'm always happy to hear that they like their job just fine. That means they can begin to take steps towards their artistic goals and not have to put the burden of supporting themselves and their families on their art. That's a recipe for trouble early in a creative life.

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody…” - Drew Carey

For those of you who dread going to work every day, and feel it’s an incredible waste of your life when you should be going about your artistic life’s work, then it’s a different story. Unless you are doing menial tasks that help you daydream about and plan your creative life, a draining job where you hate the work and the people is not conducive to creativity.

If you are early in your creative development, you may want to find a job that better suits your artistic pursuits. It might be a good idea to find something related to your intended creative career. If you paint, maybe working for a graphic design company, or even an art supply store might be a good side job. If you want to write worship music, what about working for a small church heading up their music? You could even try out some songs from time to time. Or maybe working at a music store.

If you are in a job you hate, you'll only make everyone unhappy, starting with yourself. It's good sense to look for something else if you feel this way (although please find a job first before you quit!)

Editor’s Note: I want to make it clear that I am not saying quit your job tomorrow. I will take no responsibility for you becoming a destitute painter or street musician, and want no spouses calling to tell us your house in now in foreclosure because of our stupid article!

Finding and working the right job to support your creative habit is a necessary evil. It doesn't have to be evil all the time, and it can actually be a boon to your creative pursuits, even in the most boring times. Finding the right job to go along with your creativity, or a decent job you like that allows you the freedom and time to think about your art can be one of the great blessings God can give you.

“Dreaming in public is an important part of our job description, as science writers, but there are bad dreams as well as good dreams. We're dreamers, you see, but we're also realists, of a sort.” - William Gibson

Have a great week!

EC
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Eric Copeland is an author, producer, composer, and was also at one time a pretty decent folder of blue jeans from 5 to 9 at the mall. Now he helps creatives just like you find their potential for what God has for them to do artistically. For more information, read the pages in the menu above. To find out more, or ask any questions, email us at forthecreativesoul@gmail.com

Monday, October 13, 2014

Money v$ Creativity

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?Matthew 6:26

“Dogs have no money. Isn't that amazing? They’re broke their entire lives. But they get through. You know why dogs have no money? No Pockets.” – Jerry Seinfeld

Ah, the eternal struggle.

You want to do something amazing with the talents you have. You even know the ways you can go about it, ways that will certainly give God glory, and fulfill His plan for you. But, when you think about what it might take financially to get your art out there, it terrifies you and sometimes even plunges you into the depths of despair.

Whether you plan to make money someday singing, writing, painting, etc., OR you currently make (or try to make) a living that way, money is the issue that keeps punching us right in the face.

When we have money, it’s not a bad life. We’re pursuing our dreams and feeling like we are smack dab in the middle of God’s plan. It’s a beautiful day.

When money is tight, and bills are threatening, suddenly this whole creative thing looks like the stupidest idea anyone ever had. What a terrible day.

The real answer is that money comes and goes, and the hard truth is we have to ride these waves of joy and despair to sail on. But that’s not always so easy is it?

What Will You Do?

“Do what you love and the money will follow.” – Marsha Sinetar

This is kind of true. This quote should really read “Do what you love and the money COULD follow.” Yes, following your desire to create can certainly lead to some income. But it can sometimes take quite a while.

Sometimes the best way to get your artistic career started is to make sure you have another career to pay the bills. This is what I did for many years before making the jump out of a comfy job and into the entrepreneurial frying pan.

“Making money is a hobby that will complement any other hobbies you have, beautifully.” –  Scott Alexander

As a matter of fact, I tell many artistic folks with artistic career goals that they may even want to hang on to that real world job. Not everyone is made to be an entrepreneur. The hours are not just long, they never end. And your boss is only as good as you are (literally.)

The real answer lies in you. You will be the one who makes the decision, in flush times and in extremely tight times, to keep on; to keep working at your craft; to keep offering your services and getting your creations out there. That doesn't take money as much as it does effort.

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” – Ayn Rand

Getting Money for Your Art

“For I can raise no money by vile means.” – William Shakespeare

I’m sure he meant Kickstarter. Or coffeehouse gigs. Or weddings.

Now hopefully, if you are reading this, you are pretty committed to your craft. This means, whether you ever make a dime doing what you do artistically, you’d do it (because you can’t not do it!) But it would be nice if there was some kind of return on investment after spending hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of hours practicing your craft.

For musicians this means gigs. For artists this means shows. For photographers this means shoots. Everyone has a way to make money with their talent. Whatever vile means that is for you, we know it must be done if we expect to get paid for it. If we are creative service providers, then we have to work daily (and nightly) with our talents for our clients.

Lately, with the far-reaching ubiquitous Internet touching everyone in the world, there have been new ways to get financial support for your art. Filmmakers, inventors, authors, musicians, and more have started to reach out to fans and potential fans to fund their projects. The Internet also provides ways to sell our work and services online to potentially billions.

As nice as all that is, art has been seriously devalued because of this ubiquitousness (maybe not a word, but fun to say three times fast!) So while our world stage has increased, the value of our art has plummeted.

Despite the gloom and doom, that doesn't mean you should not put every single product and service up online that you can. Little trickles turn into streams, and those streams turn into dinner. Checks arrive in the mail, or payments into your account, and a little smile appears on your face.

Your art should be in every nook and cranny of the Internet and for sale. Be it by eBay, CDBaby, Etsy, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon, Kindle, iBooks, iTunes, or whatever.

You can also sell your services in graphic design, music creation, dance routines, web site building, songwriting, copy editing, and more with easy to create sites. Sites like Craigslist, Fiver, Etsy, Patreon, eBay, and more let you get started now offering services from your computer.

“Where there is money there is no art.” – William Blake

Sorry Bill, I disagree. The art comes before the money, and any artist can create without it. Although, finding money certainly doesn't hurt the art, and you can do it if you keep at it. Trust me I know.

Have a great week!

EC
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Eric Copeland is the president of Creative Soul, a company that helps artists find their creative path, and get out there and hike it. For more information, click here to read through this site. Also visit CreativeSoulOnline.com for more information on our music services specifically to artists and songwriters.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Escape Creative Limbo

“Time marks us while we are marking time.” - Theodore Roethke

Ever feel like you’re stuck? You know you WANT to either begin, or get more into that creative thing you want to do, but for whatever reason you just can’t.

It could be a number of issues that seem to be keeping you from getting out of limbo, so let’s diagnose the issues here.

Problem: You’re Sick of What You Do

Ever just get tired of what you play, or draw, or write? It just feels like the same old stuff and while it has always worked, it is just more of the same old same old. You want to do something fresh, but you just can’t seem to make it come out.

The Answer: Abandon the familiar. If you paint with oils, try watercolor. If you write primarily Christian worship songs, try a secular love song. If you write nonfiction, try your hand at fiction.

When I feel like I am writing songs that all sound the same, I try writing them without playing the keyboard or piano. If you can, switch instruments or don’t use one at all to do something different. Find a new computer program that lets you be expressive in a new way. Or if you primarily work alone, find another creative person to work with or share ideas.

Switching from your regular palette of colors, sounds, and techniques could be the way to break out of the doldrums.

Problem: You Feel Like You've Reached a Ceiling

Maybe you've gone as far as you can go doing something and it’s time to break through to the next level. You feel like you are marking time doing the same thing over and over. Even if you had bigger ideas, you just can’t get them done where you are.

The Answer: You need a broader canvas. This suggests a change is needed to your location, your contemporaries, your audience, or all of the above. At some point, we all have to move to the logical next big area where we can bloom. Some may indeed do well “where they are planted”, but if this is you, then you likely aren't in limbo are you?

I have moved on to larger creative canvases before, and while one of those was Nashville for much of what we do for Christian artists, what you need might not be necessarily a “music center”, or “art town”, or “publishing town”. It could just be where your art and work will be better accepted, or where you can find the people you need to break into the next stratosphere of your work.

Problem: You Don’t See the Clear Road Ahead Like You Used To

It used to be so easy right? The Big Creative Dream was obvious. You heard so clearly what you were supposed to do, and you went for it. You actually found success and have enjoyed it. But now you long for that feeling again. You want the next Big Dream. Where is it?

The Answer: Go to God and Find the Next Big Dream. He’s got it waiting for you, as He always has. He’s likely just been waiting for you to ask for it, or look for it. This may take some study, some time, and a lot of really fearless dreaming.

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a really scary thing. If you want to really see what God can do, tell Him you’ll do whatever He asks and watch the floodgates open. Good luck with that!

The key sometimes to finding your next Big Dream is to both ask for it and look hard for it, rather than waiting for it to knock on your door.

Problem: There’s Unfinished Things Blocking the Things You Want Do

We all have the projects we’re working on but look past them to the projects we really want to get to. This used to be a real problem for me. I would start a dozen creative projects and never finish any of them. Of course, now that I have clients tapping their feet behind me, I have learned to be better at it.

I don’t know about you, but I have 5 albums and at least 4 books of my own waiting for me to finish the ones I’m close to finishing now. Oh, the humanity!

The Answer: Get to work. At some point, without a gun to your head, you’re going to have to get off the pot and get the current project done. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

We have to be disciplined to finish the projects we have up on the racks and then get it out so we can move on to more fun things! Whatever will help you get it done, do it. Then you can finally move forward with the next masterpiece.

Problem: You Need Better Help and New Mentors

Well, this is likely the answer to all the problems above.

The (Final?) Answer: A good creative team or mentor can help you find a new way to do things. They can suggest new sounds, colors, themes, techniques, and other things you hadn't thought of. They can help you break through to new levels and find a larger following and canvas. They can assess where you are to help you see a new bigger picture. And, probably most importantly, they can help you complete the current projects that have just been sitting there.

Now, go solve your problems and have a creative week!

EC
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Eric Copeland is a composer, creative consultant and author of For the Creative Soul, a unique brand dedicated to the encouragement and growth of creative Christians around the world. For more information or if you need help with any of the problems above, check out the tabs at the top of the page.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How, and Why, to Be More Creative

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” 
Erich Fromm

Every day, every week, we go about our lives as Christians. We go out into the world, speak from the pulpit, sing behind our guitar, play in a band, write blogs, and/or paint canvases. Or we dream about doing that, and doing it with wild abandon for God. But often, we instead just do much less because it’s easier that way.

Why follow that creative urge, especially in the church? Why not just fall in line with everything the way we have always done it? Isn't that much less risky and still getting the job done?

Well, sure, it is easier. But it’s not what God wanted from us. He wanted us to be creative.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why Quitting Isn’t an Option

"There's only one thing that can guarantee our failure, and that's if we quit. - Craig Breedlove

So, you've decided that since nothing is happening with your music, art, or talents that you should just hang it up. Go do something else. Maybe this creative thing is just not for you.

No one is knocking at your door or the phone isn't ringing with requests for what you do. Nothing has really happened as you have tried to get out there. Sales, showings, or opportunities are low, or nonexistent.

So, you've come to the logical conclusion that God is trying to tell you to quit doing this.

Really? Is that how you think God works? Is that how He worked in the Bible?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

If For No One Else

Very often, you will strain your everlovin’ mind to think who needs to see or hear your stuff. Who needs to benefit from your talent? Why did God put you here in the first place if not to bless others with what you can do?

Then there are others days, maybe like today, where you feel no one is listening and even if they did, what you do wouldn't affect them one bit.

Now, this will NOT be a blog post about how you always have an audience of One, and God smiles at every song, painting, or photo you produce. (He does by the way, but this will not be about that.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What Are You Going to Do About It?

I remember a few times through my life, facing physical challenges on the playground or later a professional challenge, and being presented with this very question. What was I going to do to prove what believed in?

This past week was the Easter weekend. On Sunday, you saw everyone online proclaim what we Christians hold as the very tenet of our faith: He is Risen!

So I ask you, Creative person reading this, what are you going to do about it?

About the Author

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Eric Copeland is an author, producer, keyboardist, songwriter, and president of Creative Soul Companies. What is Creative Soul? Our main goals are to inform, encourage, and assist Christian creative folks in ministry, no matter where they are in their journey. Thanks for reading! Find out more about us at http://www.CreativeSoulOnline.com