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!

Happy New Year, Friends!

As much as I like to say, “Oh, I never make New Year’s Resolutions” you would never believe me, now would you? I mean all I talked about over on Instagram were cookies for the last month or so—and you know where that leads. But here, I made a few here and feel free to steal them.

I give up.

I give up.  All. The. Time.

Every time I start something new I think, “Is this working? This may never work. Maybe I should give up.”

And then I don’t. And then I work on it some more and get to a certain point and consider giving up again.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.ImHere

It’s kind of like how you feel when you attempt to grow out your bangs (or “fringe” for my non-US readers). You give up a million times and then one day you decide you will stick it out through all the phases from “more hair product “ to “odd head bands” to “I can finally tuck it behind my ears” to full on pony tail. And then of course, you look at some old pictures and realize that you really did look good in bangs/fringe and off you go to the hair stylist.

Yeah, it’s like that.

I muddle through the indecision and messy false starts and debate giving up oh, a dozen times a day. But then I sit back and try to look at things with a fresh eye and move forward.

Or right before giving up (again) I call Debi or Marianne or Abby or Niya or I take a walk with Jim and ask, “What do you think? Will this work?”

And usually (since they have all given up a couple dozen times that day too) we noodle through whatever it was that was making me think about giving up and I can move on.  There’s a difference between giving up and blindly moving forward. It’s the space in the middle that makes it work–the “oh, what if I tweak this or that or keep this and toss  that”  until you realize that you only need to give up on the bad parts–not all the parts.

That’s how creativity works. Ideas and plans don’t always move from one smooth transition to the next but through clunky processes, doubt, rethinking, and sometimes a gentle nudge from someone else. They need to bump into the status quo, push the envelope, bring something new to the table. There’s a reason there are all those clichés about creativity.

Because they are true.

So, yeah, go ahead and give up. You’re in good company.

The Rule of Thirds, Revisited

The best things come in threes. You know, like primary colors, Rock, Paper, Scissors and would a BLT be as sublime without the B, the L or the T? Lionel Ritchie had it right when he wrote the classic song “Three Times a Lady”.

And life would be truly perfect if only they packaged Twix with three sticks.

The rule of thirds in design is all about balance and harmony and there’s a writing concept (particularly in comedy and humor) called The Triple. I use them all the time to illustrate a point, give a few examples and deliver a punch line (see what I did there?).

But, say you’re an artist working toward making a living with your art. What is your trifecta for success? Just like any business the three basics you need are Product, Sales and Market. And two out of three ain’t enough, honey. I know my favorite part is the Product.  Who wouldn’t want to spend all their time drawing the cute pictures, writing the fun words, drinking coffee while chubby Disney-eque bluebirds swoop in and fly off with my designs to clients with big open checkbooks. That sounds pretty cool to me.

And you know we could all be better in the sales department. We’re always a step behind making one more email inquiry, sending a new batch of postcards to Art Directors far and near, staying ahead of Instagram posts and newsletter generation and…and…and…yeah, I get it.

So let’s review.

You can continue to build your amazing portfolio, and be diligently consistent about getting it in front of the powers that be—those people who can actually make a decision to use your art on their particular thing; a licensed product, an editorial piece in a magazine or an illustration for ads and websites.

So that leaves the final piece of the Success Pie.

RuleOfThirdsThe Market.

That thing that changes due to cultural or economic shifts or because of the basic principle of supply and demand (hmmm…anybody notice how many artists there are vying for the work you so desperately want?).

It’s the thing you can’t control.

So as not to completely bum you out that all of your efforts to make a creative career for yourself are out the window, I’ve come up with some (three actually!) ideas on how you can manage (or at least deal with) the best market for your work.

  1. Be aware of the shifts in our culture. Pay attention. Connect the dots. Do you see something bubbling up that will result in a need for a product that serves that group of people? Coloring books are a great example of that. Somebody identified the need for stress release combined with “assisted creativity” and a trend was born. (and I’d like to personally thank them for that.)
  2. Look at your own artwork—have you been ignoring a market that would actually be perfect for your look but you’ve felt like it’s not the right time—or you’re not ready to go after it? Well, guess what? It’s time. And you’re ready.
  3. Do your best work, don’t try to hit a look or a trend because it’s currently popular or because someone told you that you have to work a certain way. Be true to yourself and your work and market to people who get it—and you. It’s a niche-y world out there, kids.

So yes, continue to develop the best portfolio (products) you can, make your best efforts to reach out to decision makers (sales), and try to catch the market as it whizzes by. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.


License to Draw–How to Monetize your Art through Licensing..and more! is now available in Paperback, Kindle and the super sized Premium Edition. Click here to see which one is right for you.

Down the Rabbit Hole

rw-rabbithole-webIt was a challenging day.

You know the feeling. You have a big project to work through (or an upcoming show, or a self appointed deadline to finally finish that thing you’re working on) and you reaaaalllly need to focus on it. But a little idea sprouts in another part of your brain—the part where the brilliant ideas vie for space, trying to become the next big thing you pay attention to. I don’t know what it’s called but if you are any kind of creative type you know exactly what part of the brain to which I am referring.

So anyway, one of those ideas elbowed its way to the front and demanded that I take a brief detour from what I was supposed to be working on so I could determine whether or not this idea should live or die. I have that kind of power you know.

“Sorry, Little Idea , I gave you a chance but you did not perform–so off you go to See Ya Later Island.”

I grabbed my notebook and began my usual process of dumping everything I can think of out of my brain (relating to the idea—God knows, I can’t get rid of the good stuff—like the theme from Love Boat, the multiplication tables and how to make chicken noodle soup).

I decided that yes, indeed it was an idea worth pursuing, so I began a little more research to see if:

a. Someone had already written exactly what my thesis was.

and

b. Has anyone used my oh-so clever-title yet?

This led me away from my notebook and onto The Internet which as we know is the kiss of death for progress, creativity and time management. But I was willing to take the risk so I could put my monkey mind to rest–at least in regard to this idea.

Of course someone else was using my  title—not for what I want to use it for, but for another product all together that I became completely enamored with; therefore spending the next 15 minutes on their website which led me to compare prices on Amazon on a product I hadn’t heard about or thought I needed 16 minutes earlier.

This makes me insane, right?

Or just a run-of-the-mill creative thinker.

Let’s go with that.

So I ordered the life-changing product and resumed my research, determining that:

a. No one has written what I want to write in exactly the same way that I want to.

and

b. No one is using my title for what I want to use it for.

So even though I took a little trip around Internet-ville and bought something I clearly needed (uh-huh, we’re going with that too), I eventually found my answers, with only a brief detour.

And since this particular rabbit hole did not include a rest stop at Zappos, Pinterest or Facebook I’m putting it in the win column.

It’s the small victories that count, right?

 

…aaaaand the new edition of License to Draw-How to Monetize Your Art through Licensing…and more! is ready for you! You can choose a Paperback, Kindle OR the spiffy new Premium Edition! Click here for all the details.

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Let’s call it a plan, shall we?

I am deep into planning for 2017.

It sounds like such a corporate-y thing to do, but I usually spend a few moments around this time to have a  look at my goals and objectives for the coming year. I evaluate the state of the market, what are the most expeditious paths to actually bringing in income and what passion projects to move forward.

But this year I am going a bit deeper. Getting help.  Having meaningful conversations. Working through a few processes that will help me negotiate where the real crossroads are between my time, talents and passions. It has been frustrating and illuminating at the same time, just like any process of gaining clarity and peace.

I also know that old saying about “the best laid plans of mice and men…”  when it comes to standing up and declaring, “This! This is exactly what I am going to be doing in the next twelve months!” Serendipity happens, new opportunities raise their hands in your direction and compelling ideas creep in and wrestle your previous ideas for space and time. I get that.

But the basics of what I do best, the cream that rises to the surface need to stand guard for the moments when I drift too far away or agree to things that are less “Well, maybe…” and more “Oh, Hell, yes!” .

I often use a “hub and spoke” graphic to illustrate concepts and you might want to use this one to help you see through the clutter and indecision as you plan the next chunk of time in your life. Feel free to [media-downloader media_id=”1119″ texts=”download it here”] and let me know if it was useful to you!

 

hubspokegraphic-web

And as I head into 2017 I know a few things; no matter what happens in the US Presidential election, it will be blessedly over and we can regroup and move on. (whew!) And I will have a pretty clear picture of how to move my creative interests forward, how to expand my business to include more outward focused activities and will continue to develop cool alliances with cool people while remaining fluid when it comes to opportunities that I don’t know about yet!

That’s doable, right?

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These Girls…

I was out of the studio for a whole week, last week. It was a long planned trip with my four best friends to celebrate a year of (pretty big) birthdays and our 46 years of friendship. I packed clothes, gifts, and a ton of art supplies–and big plans to use them.  We envisioned lazy afternoons on the deck overlooking Lake Michigan, trolling around charming towns, enjoying good food and the occasional glass of wine. We did all of those things—and so much more.

I am grateful and blessed to have these four strong, unique and hilarious women in my life. Over the years we’ve witnessed marriages, sparkly sunsets on Sanibel Island, great hilarity in Texas, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island; we’ve celebrated new life and held each others hands through the complicated, the sad and the sometimes wretched heartache that is all part of living on this earth.

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We rented a house big enough to hold us AND our giant personalities and embarked on a week that we wanted to be rejuvenating, relaxing and restorative. We split up the cooking duties, Claire led us through a communal art project, and we celebrated each birthday on a separate day of the week—or as we said, “Hey! It’s my fake birthday”! Debi personalized journals for each of us with her popular font, Cantoni, and in them we wrote letters to the “birthday girl” with funny memories, things we admire and love about that person and encouragement to follow their path to peace and fulfillment. Then we would read the letters out loud at our nightly camp fires. Yes, it was blissful. Yes, I am so grateful for each of them. And yes, we are planning our next trip.

Oh, in case you were wondering—of COURSE we got on each others nerves now and then! I mean, really; five women, forty six years, one house—and did I mention the big personalities? But here’s the thing. We get it. A long time ago we accepted that if we expect the others to be patient with our weirdo tendencies then we need to show a little tolerance to theirs. So we’re a little more tender, a little less judgmental and can usually craft a response that either cracks everybody up or figure it’s a good time head out and clean up the kitchen.

I loved watching my friends enjoying a quiet swim by themselves, or seeing two heads bowed together as they talked about something profound or maybe something silly. But the best times were when we were all together—breaking bread (and brownies) around the dining room table looking like the world’s oddest quintuplets, sprawled on couches in the living room, squished into the car heading out on an adventure or crisscrossing the kitchen as one chopped, one cooked, one cleaned up and a few either entertained or just got in the way.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah Ronnie, that’s a sweet little story—but how does it apply to me?”

Well, besides your family (who come with their own joys and irritations) the friends who’ve known you the longest are probably the ones who care the most about you. So gather your friends. Call them up. Reach out. Make it work.

And remember this quote from Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home”.

Well, I couldn’t pick better people to walk this journey next to me.

 

PS. The art supplies stayed in the suitcase.