How do you know if you’re ready?

Like really ready?

Well with some things like athletic achievements (which I know exactly nothing about) you would train, increase your speed, or weights, or times or other sportsy measurements and then you’d know exactly when you were ready for the next step.

Or say you have a job. You perform over and above the expectation of the job, you’d take all training that was offered, and probably volunteer for extra projects. Eventually, you’d spot the next rung on the ladder and go after a promotion or a better job because you have increased your skills—both business and the “people” kind and you would, for the most part, know you were ready.

In each of those scenarios there are obvious markers, guideposts, or someone saying, “Yes, you’re ready to move on”.

But what if you’re on your own; forging the path of bringing your creative ideas and amazing self to the world, how do you know if you’re ready?

Well, guess what?

You don’t.

You just have to be ready enough.

You already know that stepping out of your comfort zone is hard. Not like, “Oh, I have to speak to the Joint Session of the UN with 10 minutes notice” hard. More like, “He-e-e-y? I’m been working on this idea for a while and I’d really like you to see it” hard.

Way different.

And here’s a little secret: you don’t have to be ready for everything that could happen as a result of you moving forward, because frankly, you can’t be.

It’s impossible to know all that.

But you’ve done hard stuff before so you know that with any move you will have some discomfort. And discomfort isn’t so bad. I mean, you go to the dentist occasionally, right? You use self-check-out scanners at the supermarket from time to time*. These things aren’t fun, but you have proved over and over in your life that you can do the uncomfortable, the awkward, and the “deep breaths, we’re almost through here” moments and come out better for it on the other side.

I actually think you are readier than you think you are. And so do the people around you**. I mean, haven’t you been dreaming about and reading about and talking about this thing for like, years already?

So yeah, you’re ready enough.

And you know it.

*actually the invention of the devil

**Trust me, I talked to all of them and they said you are more than ready for this thing.

Don’t forget that I am live on Facebook each Thursday at 3pm eastern time talking about how me manage this creative life (and these creative brains). The videos are also on YouTube!

How can I help you?

I spoke at my local writing association’s meeting last Saturday.

There’s nothing like 50 or 60 faces looking back at you when you step behind the lectern and hope to God Above that you don’t forget everything you were planning to say, or you know, projectile vomit.

Oh, sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t open a blog post with the phrase “projectile vomit”. Probably not good for the old SEO.

So back to my speech. I talked about how to build a strong platform for your work through bringing your best content and your best and fascinating self to the world.

Writers, like visual artists just want to know exactly how to do something. Not the making of the thing, we’re pretty good at that, but the getting it in front of your audience thing.

I mean, really, who even likes doing that? So, I talked about the process of finding your ideal (in this case) reader* and how to actually get in front of them.

But here’s the short cut version.

Find your fellow geeks.

Because if you are geeking out on something; be it a technique, a theme, subject matter or journey, there are people who want that too. And maybe you could provide a service, a visual representation or a story wrapped around your object of geeky-ness. We live in a world that seems disconnected at times but with the technology at our fingertips right now we can easily reach out to the fine folks we are aligned with who will totally dig—and celebrate—what we have to offer.

You don’t have to sell to the whole world and you certainly don’t have to “convince” anyone to buy. Because if you find it fascinating then others will too.

So, serve your fellow geeks. Figure out where they hang out. Meet them there. Join like-minded groups on-line or in person. Speak locally or write a blog that helps or entertains your people. And let them know that you not only “get them” but can help them embrace their own special selves.

Again, by serving your geeks.

 

*Just google “find my ideal reader/customer/collector” and you’ll see what I mean.

 

 

 

Alexa + Your Creative Biz = Best Friends!

People seem to have a love/hate relationship with voice technology (like Siri, Google and Alexa, Amazon’s voice streaming service). They either love the convenience of being able to get any answers they need by just talking to an inanimate object (as opposed to shouting at Uncle Howard camped out in your recliner at Christmas) or they are pretty sure The Government, Russia and Mrs Peterson from church is listening to your every request.

But even though I have some reservations and would probably refrain from a question like, “Alexa, what’s the best place to bury a body?” I wouldn’t mind asking her to reorder my favorite hair products. So I’ve jumped in!

If you have an Alexa devise and use “flash briefings” , you can add “Your Creative Biz Minute with Ronnie Walter” along with your weather reports, breaking news and tips for getting out household stains. Each week I will bring you a quick tip, a little inspiration and maybe even a nudge to keep being your adorable and talented self— all in less than two minutes.

You can sign up here and let me know how you like it!

The Curse of Curiosity

I was at a party over the holidays and one of my neighbors asked me what I was doing these days. And since I have my elevator speech down, I said, “Besides my illustration work, I also coach artists to help them make more money with their art.”

“How do you coach artists? Isn’t that kind of hard?” he asked as he took a big scoop of my super fabulous Pimento Cheese.

I knew what he was thinking. You know, “all artists are crazy, how can you possibly work with them and anyway, aren’t artists supposed to starve?” Or maybe he was just thinking how awesome that pimento cheese is.  I know I was.

I explained that artists aren’t any different than the rest of the population (I left out that I find us far more interesting, but whatever…), but I told him that although what may look like crazy or off-beat to “the civilians” around us is what we are blessed/cursed with. Or what I would call “hyper curiosity”.

I know you know what I’m talking about.

Hey…what if I…?

But if I do that, will I be able to do that?

Hmmm. That’s interesting. I should research that.

But what about this other thing?

Is that right for me?

Ooh…did you see this thing? That looks so cool!

Wait, what was I working on?

One idea leads to the next, and the next and the next and pretty soon you’ve headed down another rabbit hole, changed your mind and you can’t even remember where all this started.

Not that it’s ever happened to me…

But here’s the thing—that’s how we figure out the good stuff. That’s how we’re built; to see the possibilities, to try new things, to make the old ideas new.

But we’re also built to feed our bodies and have shelter from the weather and the nastier creatures we share with this earth. We must figure out when to stop asking all the questions and start crafting our ideas to reflect what’s happening culturally, helping people express their emotions and figuring out what the heck the market wants—while staying true to our purpose and values.

Now, that’s the hard part.

Ronnie talks…

Tara Roskell is a delightful artist and a darn good interviewer. Don’t just listen to my podcast, listen to all the other creative folks she’s been speaking with as well! Listen here.

IdeamedicPodcast

And if you haven’t been reading Annie Troe’s blog then take yourself over there right now, missy! Great content and even legal stuff. Click here!

 

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How does your brain work?

Despite my constant defense that artists are not crazy (well, no crazier than the rest of the population), I do think our minds work slightly differently than, say, a software engineer, research librarian or the restaurant server who remembers everyone’s order without writing anything down. If Wally Waffle had required me to commit the entire menu to memory, I may not have made it through that second year of art school.

Over the years I’ve managed to accept that multiple tracks of information, ideas and every embarrassing moment of my life are all running at full speed and I’ve even devised a few methods to stop at the right station in order to get something (anything) done. So what do you do to corral the ideas, quiet the chatter and forgive yourself for that thing you said? Personally I am pouring all of it into drawing cartoons, writing and teaching what I know so I can blessedly sleep, knowing that it will all be waiting for me in the morning.

HonorYourBrainPS. My new Skillshare class, “How to make Money with Art Licensing” is now live. Use this link to get 2 months free–just think what you could learn in just two months!

When Bad Things Happen to Good Artists

RonnieInCup-WEBIf you know anything about me, you know I’m pretty positive. I try to be upbeat in the worst of situations, in fact sometimes I feel like I am cursed with a sunny disposition.

And I know how much we want to put a rainbow and Skittles® face on how super uber fabulous drawing pictures for a living is. And it is.

Mostly.

I have been in the illustration biz almost longer than I have not been. I have had products that stayed on the market for years generating good royalties in some of the biggest retailers in America. At any given moment I have projects cooking, my work is under consideration somewhere and the royalty fairies are working their magic.

I have managed to not have a ”job job” despite the cultural bias that says that artists can’t be successful and we’re all a bunch of flakes. OK, maybe the second part of that can be true in some cases, but I’m not naming names. Although I could.

And of course, getting paid via royalties can involve wild swings from “I’m rich!” to “I’m broke!” over the course of any given year (or week). And truth be told, I have managed to make enough money to not worry every night about whether or not I will be eating cat food when I’m 82. I mean, I even went on vacation that one time!

So far, so good.

But what do you do if, for instance, in spite of your best efforts you never ever get that client or project you want? Or things were going along swimmingly, and then all of a sudden pulling together your next mortgage payment, or student loan–or grocery money—becomes tricky at best, or maybe scary beyond what you have previously known in your life?

What if a project that showed so much promise and consumed months of your work and talent tanked at retail? Like really tanked—even though all kinds of pretty smart, experienced people gave it the green light every step of the way?

What if you were having conversations with someone about a juicy awesome project and you shared your whole bloody hopes, dreams and unique plans with them, and five minutes after they passed on it (with you) you see that they have implemented your hopes, dreams and unique plans with someone else?

Or (deep breaths, kids) you found yourself in the middle of a (gulp) really expensive lawsuit?

Well, there! How’s that sunny demeanor working out now? And just so you know, over the course of my career every one of those things has happened to me at least once. Thankfully, not all in one year but spread over lots of years of drawing pictures for a living.

Ask anyone who has a business doing anything. The guy who owns the tire store. Your hair stylist. Heck, even your gynecologist (because who doesn’t like a bit of small talk during your exam?). They will tell you this: business is fraught with risk. And rewards. That’s why many of the wealthiest people in the world are business owners. They have weathered any number of hardships and slip-ups and bone-headed moves and still managed to stay focused on the big picture. Of course, many businesses do not make it. That does not make them horrible people or losers or any kind of “less-than”. But most of them will tell you, it’s not how many times you fall; it’s how many times you get up that makes the difference. And knowing when enough is truly enough helps too.

Each time I was tripped up I chose to get up. To brush myself off. To absorb the hurt and maybe the anger. To make it right when I could. And forgive myself when I couldn’t.

And then I go find something funny or surround myself with the people who love me and still think I am adorable and hilarious.

And then I draw a picture. Or maybe two or three.

Buh-Bye Barriers!

©Ronnie Walter
©Ronnie Walter

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about barriers to success. I’ve talked to lots of artists over the years that put up roadblocks for themselves and for any number of reasons they actually block their own potential.

Bummer.

Often its things like;

“Well my family never encourages me.”

or

“I have no time.”

Or

“Did you see Game of Thrones last week?”

Sometimes these are real obstacles and you have to decide whether or not you can get around them. Or find some creative way to climb over.

Things like:

You have no talent. Yes, I said it. Maybe, just maybe you don’t have what it takes to do what you are dreaming about doing. But all is not lost—you can fine tune your dream, you know. More training, or a mentor or you can practice practice practice –or realize that this really isn’t your thing and you can try something else until you find the thing that you do have the talent for. Own it and move on. It’s OK.

Maybe you are basically lazy. Yes, I said that too. And I’m not talking depression or other real issues here. I mean when you convince yourself that watching 11 hours of TV over the weekend (while eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch right from the box) is “relaxation” and “staying abreast of popular culture so I understand trends”. And I haven’t met an artist yet that doesn’t procrastinate sometimes.  Maybe you’re mulling over options and just aren’t ready to make a commitment to where you’re going on an idea. Yeah, let’s go with that. But procrastination means you are at least moving forward in your head, if not physically. But if you do find yourself in that position–sheesh, at least have a sketchbook next to you!

You have an educational deficit. We hear tons of stories about artists that are self-taught; they had no idea they were capable of this kind of genius and then one day they picked up a paintbrush and poof! a lucrative art career was born! Well, sure, that can happen! But a really good drawing class, or a teacher/mentor who really understands color theory or composition or proven business principles can usually move you forward faster than you can on your own. Unless you are that latent genius unicorn we’ve all been looking for. Do the fundamental work.

You have minimal emotional support. A biggie for sure. If the people in your immediate world do not understand what you are doing or why you would ever want to pursue something creative, I hate to tell you this– but you need to find additional people. Your current people may not support it since it’s not part of their world view or they might not see your vision or commitment yet. Maybe they will come around later, but in the meantime (either online or in real life) find some people that grasp the creative process and all the weirdness that comes with it. You can move forward without your people’s full support and then one day you’ll overhear them tell the neighbor “you know she decided she was going to be an artist—and you should see the most amazing work she’s doing!”

You have an organizational problem. Become a list maker. As my Aunt Marie would say, “immediately, if not sooner.” The only way you are going to see progress is to see all the steps ahead of you—and checking them off as you go. If you are not a list-maker try it for two weeks and get back to me with your results. This is how you go from the “I really want to do this” whine to “Wow! Look how far I’ve come!” happy dance. Make a date with yourself once a week. Sunday night. Wednesday morning. Don’t care when. Write your list for the week. Reward yourself. Wine. Doughnuts. Private jet. Don’t care. And don’t worry about complicating it with long term goals, short term goals, visualizations and affirmations (unless you want to, I’m not the boss of you—I just act like it). Just a simple list of the things you can do this week to move you closer to success. Tiny baby steps.

Forward.

 

Catch me over on Instagram where I am currently working on #100 Days of Advice–as of today I am on Day 65–that’s a lot of fun and heartfelt advice!