CraftNov 27, 2023
At the end of the day, it’s what we actually do. Professional creators in any field must contend with a dizzying array of support tasks. But the care and effort we bring to our craft is what sets us apart.
So much of our time is spent on peripheral work, it can feel like telling people about what we do is the main goal. Especially if you are a digital content creator: keyword research and scheduling software and engagement analysis all take time.
This work on infrastructure is critical if you want your work to be more than a hobby. Unless people know you exist and that they should hear/read/see what you do, there is no audience to serve. But I’m seeing an increasing number of great social media hooks and effective landing pages that lead to…nothing.
There is, as they say, no there there.
The Cult of Personality
I understand the popularity of this unfortunate phenomenon. There is no shortage of influencers (and those who hope to be influential) who offer to let you “cut and paste.” They have THE method! It’s SO easy to be a rich and famous Internet celebrity. In less than 5 minutes per day, you will have millions of followers and thousands of sales.
TOTALLY PASSIVE INCOME. GUARANTEED FREEDOM.
And look - AI! With one (secret and valuable) prompt, AI will write the next Great American Novel for you and no one will even know!
Or care. Because people quickly tire of regurgitated drivel.
Even in this world of technological wonders untold, one maxim remains true: A free lunch is worth exactly what you paid for it.
But, but… It’s hard to actually master a craft! That takes time and effort and a risk of failure, and…
It will be SO much easier to just steal other mediocre content, throw up a killer “irresistible” funnel and retire.
Besides, who has time to actually develop expertise with all that marketing copywriting to do?
OK. Enough with the sarcasm.
It does take time to learn how to find the ideal niche that you can serve. And then you have to reach them with effective advertising, paid or organic. And manage the website and the email provider and the contact list. And yes, you (or someone on your team, if you are that lucky) has to be more than proficient at copywriting.
There are many people who claim to be the best at teaching you all that stuff. And it is critically important stuff, no doubt. (I have spent years and many thousands of dollars finding out who really knows - and can teach this side of the business. Contact me and I will give you my recommendation.)
But that’s not what I do.
The reason I don’t teach that is because I’m not an expert in Internet marketing for digital creators. My niche, my avatar (to use the currently trendy term) is not people who want to learn to market their valuable content.
My audience is people who want to create valuable content.
And if creation is more to you than just a smash-and-grab shot at lotsa money, that means you have to actually be an expert at something. And more than that, to stand out from the noise, you have to be authentic and original.
Let me be the one to reintroduce this timeless fact: there is no shortcut to excellence.
You must really be the thing you say you are.
You have to find out what lights you up. What is so compelling that you will spend years of your life in concentrated study and practice to be among the best at what you do? Because if you’re not excellent at what you do, why would anyone pay you to do it?
But that’s not enough.
There are hordes of technically proficient guitar players, for example. They have spent many hours learning how to play notes very rapidly in predetermined patterns. That technical proficiency is to be admired, and is impressive (if you’re another guitar player).
But fast doesn’t equal musical. At some point, you have to take all that technique and mold it into something memorable. Something that moves people.
Because people pay us to give them something they can’t get on their own.
Read that again. We have to be good enough that we meet the needs of our audience - the people we hope will support us as professional creators. For music, that something is an emotional experience - release, comfort, inspiration, courage, hope.
And that’s still not enough.
Let’s say you have taken the first two of these three necessary-and-sufficient steps. You have found something that genuinely inspires you, and have put in the time to become technically proficient at it.
There is one last step. The most difficult and time-consuming of all, and the one that must be present to truly shine in your chosen profession.
Let’s finish with our guitar player example.
If guitar playing is your thing, the thing that enables you to move people and meet their needs - and get paid to do it - there is one last step.
There is a reason that Roy Clark and Glen Campbell and Steve Morse and Orianthi and Steve Vai and Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins and Jimi Hendrix (and Herman Li, Tom Quayle, et al.) have (or had) sustainable careers.
They went beyond enthusiasm and practice; each found a unique voice on the instrument. In just a few notes, you know when you are listening to B. B. King or Jimmy Page or George Harrison or Dimebag Darrell or Allan Holdsworth or Guthrie Govan.
“Santana who?” Said no one ever - at least not for the last 57 years or so.
This takes way more than the fabled “10,000 hours,” friends.
Director Robert Snyder asked Pablo Casals - revered master of the ‘cello for decades - why he continued to practice four or five hours a day. The 80 year-old Casals answered, “Because I think I am making progress.”
You must develop an original voice in your chosen field. More than interest and repetition, authenticity requires that what you create is a part of your personality, the irrepressible outpouring of your soul.
This why we all need to get to work. This is true mastery.
This is craft.
I am a creator (musician, writer, live-streamer and podcaster), entrepreneur, counselor and professor. To learn more about how to use these concepts or to inquire about working with me, you can contact me through my website, the comments section on my Substack or Medium accounts or The Authentic Life Blog page. If you have found value in this article, consider following my Instagram and Twitter (now called X) accounts. To support this community, you can even Buy Me A Coffee or donate through my Patreon account. Subscribe to my River of Creation podcast - The Podcast for Creators, and my associated YouTube channel, coming in 2024, wherever you download your podcasts.
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