Advice for Creative Entrepreneurs

The best piece of advice I ever got was from my short story professor.  He told me my writing was stiff and unemotional, like I was trying to hide behind it. He was right. I was. If I wanted to connect with people, I had to write like how I spoke. With emotion.

It was this advice to essentially “be more real” that convinced me to take the leap to focus on my creative career more intensely.  I consider myself a creative entrepreneur, but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. Who does? There’s no rules in this field, and that’s the beauty of it.

To make creative entrepreneurship less daunting, I wanted to share some advice I’ve learned so far for anyone pursuing or thinking about pursuing their creative dreams seriously.

I wanted to make a cheat-cheat for what qualifies as advice versus criticism, but the difference isn’t black and white. There’s good advice and bad advice, just as there’s constructive criticism and plain old criticism. In my experience, anything that makes you see things in a new perspective is worth exploring. But if it makes you feel defensive, personally attacked, or confused, don’t listen. A lot of people don’t know what they’re talking about.

Listen to people who are familiar with you or the industry you’re in. Seek them out for advice.

As my best friend in high school said, “you wouldn’t take weight loss advice from a fat person.”

Nobody criticizes you more than yourself.

Why are artists notoriously hard on themselves? Because our success is dependent on our ability, our will, and our hearts and souls – that’s a scary, fragile thing to carry.

Learn to manage your anxiety and stress.

This is key. Do whatever you have to do, because it will never go away.

Watercolor therapy, one of my more healthy ways of coping.

Follow your ideas through.

Talk about them, record them, write them down – anything to get them out of your head into a physical form. Now you have a rough draft you can work with.

Share your content.

Even if you think it sucks or isn’t perfect.  Remember, you can’t be afraid of failing if you don’t give yourself the chance to fail.

Treat it like a job.

That is, if it isn’t your job already. Putting in the time will make you feel more disciplined and accomplished.

Be a nerd.

People appreciate someone who is passionate about something they know well. If you’re a nerd, you’ll meet other nerds who are nerdy about the same things. Now you have friends – or a network, as fancy, official people like to call it.

Disconnect yourself from your work.

In creative fields, the artist is the product, because art is the extension of the artist. I can be a terribly shy person, so I have to think of my work as separate from me. I tell myself it’s a business I just happen to be running. If I didn’t, nothing would ever get posted.

You can’t care about what people think of you personally.  

This is why making that disconnect is important. Let people say what they will about your work, but you can’t let if feel like they’re saying it about you. This is a tricky one, since our work is our art and our art is ourselves. I wish I could say I truly don’t care what people think about me, but I’ve got a lot of heavy meditating to do until I reach that level of freedom.

Recognize your accomplishments.

They may not be monetary. That’s okay. They might just be you completed a to-do list, or posted something, or overcame any of the personal dilemmas listed above. That’s an accomplishment. Recognize it.

Accept the struggle, and love it.

This whole creative hustle is one vague, agonizing process. It’s hard not knowing if all the time you put into your projects will ever be worth it. It’s hard not knowing when, how, or if you’ll ever get paid. But you have to love it because it’s you doing what you love.  Love it because it’s you being you. And if you create work that you like, chances are other people will like it too. They’ll recognize that it’s “real.”

A Must Read for any Creative Entrepreneur

Building a Successful Relationship in the Home and Beyond

When I was fourteen, I watched my parent’s go through a hostile divorce. Instead of it making me cynical towards love, it made me believe in it even more. My parent’s relationship was just a bad example to learn from. And after a couple dramatic trial runs of my own (which are a stories for another time), I found Ty.

He was just as nerdy and weird as me, so naturally we hit it off right away. Our opposite traits balanced each other out, and over time we discovered we were much more alike than previously thought. My relationship with him is the strongest thing in my life, and for that I am very grateful. I know not everyone is so fortunate. 

The first nine months of our relationship were spent apart. I was still in Alaska while he had moved to North Carolina. During this time we went to Europe. After spending a whole month with him under some very stressful situations, it was confirmed that I could handle living with this person. We worked together well. Since then, I’ve learned a lot of things about living with a significant other. I think we all understand the significance of having a happy and healthy home life, so I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far.

The first thing I learned is that you cannot treat all the time spent together as quality time. You’re living together now. There will be chores to do. Petty arguments will arise. You’ll each want your own space and time. Money will be an issue. All of these things are okay, given there is constructive, open communication.

First, don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel. Tell them right away when you’re bothered by something they do.

If you don’t, they will assume everything is okay, and keep doing whatever it is. This will only serve to build up resentment inside you, and will come out at the wrong moment. When this happens, they will be confused, wondering why you never said anything before. Remember, no matter how strong a connection, nobody is a mind-reader.

Pick your battles wisely.

There are little things Ty does that annoys me, like forgetting to close the refrigerator door, and the way he hangs up towels. I have to remind myself to let these things go – at least he hangs up his towel and doesn’t leave it on the floor. Besides, these things say more about me being controlling than it does about him just being himself. Instead, I let him know what really bothers me and why. He knows I don’t like it when he spends an excessive amount of time on his phone/computer, or when he smokes the Juul. Both these things are easily explained.

Have them help you with chores. You’re not his maid, and he’s not your butler.  Being nice is one thing, but having expectations is another.

Challenge each other. Grow together by setting goals. Be encouraging, and offer constructive criticism when needed.

Don’t take each other for granted.

I’ve taken people for granted before in the past. It’s one of my biggest regrets, since what followed was always shitty. With Ty, it’s easier not to because all I have to do is remember when we were four time zones apart. I missed him terribly all the time. If you’ve never done long distance before, there’s a trick to put your appreciation into perspective. It’s pretty morbid, but it works. Just imagine if they were to die.

Never go to bed angry. Never.

Give each other space to cool off. I like to on walks. Sometimes I’ll grit my teeth and ask him to come with me – fresh air does wonders to diffuse anger. Sending each other pictures of fond memories together is another good tactic. It helps to remind each other what’s really important.

Let go of your pride and admit when you are wrong. Don’t be above apologizing first.

The most important part of conflict resolution is to never look at it as you verses him (or her). It’s always the both of you verses the problem. By putting it into this perspective, finding a solution becomes a learning experience – not an outlet the pass blame or stimulate guilt. If you’re upset because they forgot to do something they promised they would, think about finding ways to help them remember. Make to do lists. Set reminders on your phone. Take gingko biloba.

Be open about finances!

This is the most important component for having a successful relationship. The majority of divorces are due to financial issues, and the leading cause for women staying in unhealthy/abusive relationships is financial dependence. Most couple don’t even tell each other about their financial situation until after they’re married. This is the worst mistake you can make.

Being open about finances relates directly to honesty. In my previous post, “Why I Despise Social Media,” I talked about how people flaunt false presumptions of wealth. The same concept applies for dating in a consumer society. Money often offers the illusion of love, but if that illusion crumbles, the love might as well. When I first met Ty, he was basically living out of his car. There was no illusion of wealth, because he was honest about his situation. Financial honestly implies accountability, and if there is a lack of one, there is a lack of both.

I know his debt, credit score, savings, and income, and he knows mine. We have a spreadsheet to keep track of all expenses. While money doesn’t buy happiness, it certainly buys things that make life easier. Like having the bills paid. Like eating. One of our biggest goals is to someday achieve financial freedom, but until that day comes, no transaction goes undocumented.

Relationships are a give and take, but it’s rarely 50-50. Sometimes one person will pull more weight than the other. One day it could be 60-40, the next it might be 70-30. When we went to Europe, I took care of us when his cards stopped working. I was happy to do so, because I know he’d do the same for me. The give and take extends beyond monetary value. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now if it wasn’t for Ty. I’ve been able to focus wholeheartedly on my writing, thanks to his support and belief in me. He spoils me with encouragement.

Living off of one paycheck has been a challenge. But just like with long distance, being broke together has laid another solid foundation to our relationship. They key lies in acknowledging happiness and temporary situations. All the other tricks, like communication and accountability, only work if they are sustained. 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to find someone who you click with, appreciate them and treat them well. Having a successful relationship in the home will beget positivity in other aspects of life. The more successful relationships you have, the better person you’ll become. The more better people there are in the world, the better the world will be. After all, it’s the micro that makes up the macro.

The faces that make the story: him and I.