Work For Yourself

This quote from Seth Godin’s post, ‘Speaking up about what could be better‘ is right on point:

“Our social networks have turned us into unpaid factory workers, toiling in a giant system, one that pushes us to feel shame, to be in a hurry, to worry about nothing but the surface.”

If I asked you to upload all your photos and thoughts to this site (sethw.com), and told you I was going to use that content and activity to sell ads against it and make lots of money for myself, you’d probably walk away.

But that’s what we all do on social media. All our discussions make money for social media networks. Our event pages help pay for the health care of social media employees. Uploading vacation photos helps pay those six figure salaries.

Our time, our attention, our focus is shifted to the short term on social media, and when those sites shutter (and they will), we’ll be left with nothing.

Starting is the Easy Part

Lots of people start email newsletters.

Starting is the easy part.

Running an email newsletter, well, that’s serious work. But really it’s not.

Everyday we read, consume, have thoughts, conversations, take photos – there is never a reason to sit down at our computers and not have anything to write about.

It’s just that sitting at computer can be paralyzing.

I’m telling you – if we took half of our flippant Tweets and just threw them into a draft folder (text file, Bear, WordPress), we’d never run out of material.

The allure of tossing these ideas and pondering to Twitter is strong, I get it. You’ll get four likes, and you’ll recognize some of the faces, and maybe one or two people will reply. But four hours later that Tweet is gone, pretty much forever.

But if you put that on a blog, or in your newsletter, it has a home. It can have a life now.

The fun part? You can do both.

You can Tweet it, than flesh out your thought even more in a bigger piece. The people that don’t use Twitter (which is a lot of people), they can read it now, too. And three years from now, your blog post or newsletter has more of a chance of coming back to life that that Tweet.

Ignore the Numbers and Just Create

Great quote from artist Rob Janoff, who created the Apple logo.

“Most people, especially young people, put a lot of care and a lot of love into whatever they create, and when they get criticism it’s a crusher. I spend so much time talking about how this criticism is not about you. ‘I like you, but this piece you did has these things I don’t like, and here’s why.’”

Replace criticism with “lack of views” or “lack of likes.” Don’t let the numbers sway you. Ignore the numbers, the data, which Seth Godin calls the “lazy way to the bottom.”

“It is the lazy way to figure out what to do next. It’s obsessed with the short-term.”

Listen to Seth answer how he gauges his work without data on the Design Matters podcast here (I time-stamped it, and listened to the entire interview three times already).

If I gauged the success of Skull Toaster back in 2011 and 2012 I would have shut it down. But I stuck with it, and today, nearly seven years later (seven years in October 2018), it’s a vibrant social media channel, and email newsletter, and has a wonderful paying membership.

How does Seth Godin know what he’s doing is effective? Because people tell him. And that’s what we all need, not 100 more “followers.” Make something so good that it delights and changes people.

 

Willed from Wires is Still Alive

When I got rid of all my stuff and left NYC in 2010, the only thing I wanted to do was hang out with my friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. In between all those hang sessions were quiet times in coffee shops and bus stations. With some of that downtime I started drawing again. As you can see by the photo above (from 2012), I was drawing quite a bit.

Then someone offered to buy some of my robot drawings. I got custom orders. A few bulk orders. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I was selling drawings of robots out of my back pack.

I made a small run of a zines filled with my robot drawings. I made city-specific pieces and posted them online to help pay for bus fare, or coffee for the week. Over the years my Willed From Wires Big Cartel store sat there, doing it’s job.

It’s 2018 and I still get the occasional order for a robot drawing or two. Mostly former clients, but the occasional random order. Willed From Wires remains a hobby, very much on the side, one that I don’t push much. I last made this depressing Tweet from the @willedfromwires account in 2013.

I’m writing about all this now – in 2018 – to illustrate that everything we do creatively can still live and grow without feeding the social media beast. I can’t do several things full-time. No one can. But we can do side things that are actually on the side, and they can still flourish and grow.

The Answer Isn’t More

You’re already doing enough.

Live blogging wasn’t fast enough. Now it’s live video from your phone.

It wasn’t enough to just be on one social media network. Better be on two. Or three. Or half a dozen.

Oh, just a monthly email newsletter? Why not a weekly vlog series, too?

It’s okay to look at all these things and:

  1. Be overwhelmed
  2. Not do any of them

Growth is hard in 2018, what with media’s saturation of damn near everything. Seemingly ever channel has been over run with marketing, links, polls, videos, and branding. Click this, watch that, share this and follow these four accounts to enter our give away.

So step back. Look at what you’re doing already that does work. If you only have two online sales a month it doesn’t mean you’re not hustling enough. It means you have two opportunities to absolutely delight someone. Focus on how you can do that while not running yourself into the ground

Do Your Thing

There isn’t one true way to win this internet thing.

You can hustle and post 902,832 things a day, and live stream, and do all the conferences.

Or you can keep a simple email list, and set up at local flea markets.

Neither are right or wrong, and you don’t have to be in one camp or the next. You, your brand, whatever you do or whatever you make – it doesn’t have to align with something that’s already in existence.

I used to fight this with Skull Toaster – metal is supposed to be aggressive! In your face! Extreme! But ummm..

I didn’t get the memo, I guess.

Now, doing your own thing doesn’t always mean riches and speaking gigs and book deals. But over time you attract the people who’ve been seeking you out. You didn’t know who they were, and they don’t even know who you are, or what you do. That’s why you just keep showing up, doing the work. Because there are amazing people out there, with amazing potential. All destined to make the world a better place.

And sometimes that person is yourself, and being surrounded by other like-minded people pushes you to keep making, and creating. So keep doing your work.

 

We’ll Be Fine Without Social Media

This blog post is basically my Twitter replies to my friend Jocelyn’s Tweet above.

If the “fix” is something to replace this bloated social media websites that employ 2039482 people, I don’t think we can do that. But if we seek focused, sustainable, and healthy sites and events, I think we’ll be fine.

I don’t believe the answer is a daily newsletter with links to cool things that our creative friends are doing because it’d be so easy to lose track, then we’re not even opening the email, and it’s just one more thing we archive / delete. I also don’t believe it’s private Slack channels where it’s like a run-away group text, where you leave for an hour and then there’s 234,902,984 new messages.

Because we can’t do the “real life” thing if we’re scrolling through an app for hours a day. That’s not “keeping up” or “staying informed,” that’s taking time away from our creative pursuits! And emailing friends! Calling people. Have coffee with friends.

What we need is hyper-focused print. Video channels. Occasional email newsletters. Gatherings. Retreats. Live streamed conferences for accessibility and budgets (* see also ‘The End of the Conference Era‘).

And any creative media endeavor that’s “hey, this is about ART!” or “MUSIC!” is too broad. No one is lacking for “we interview creative people” podcasts.

Give me magazines and zines devoted to noise rock, pottery, or band posters. These would be small operations, quarterly, sustainable – the exact opposite of Instagram, or any social media outlet. Online things updated multiple times per hour ain’t doing anyone any favors (as well as using unpaid labor for all that attention). It’s time to slow the heck down.

“Aim for the edges,” as Seth Godin says (back in 2015).

“And that’s the secret to thriving on the edges: Build something that people will look for, something that people will talk about, something we would miss if it were gone.

Not for everyone.”

The more it’s for “everybody,” the more it’s for nobody.

Kickstarter is a Grand Ending

Seth Godin started a podcast called Akimbo and I’ve listened to his first episode at least three times now. I’ve been reading his books since the early 2000s, and watching his videos. He’s got a podcast now? Boom. Subscribed.

“In order to have a Kickstarter to succeed, you need to begin with a following. You need to begin with people who trust you. A Kickstarter is the end of a multi-month or multi-year effort to earn trust and attention. It’s not a Grand Opening, it’s a Grand Ending.”

Listen to Seth talking about Kickstarter right here.

I got hired for something like that years ago.

Someone put together an entire movie, and needed like $10,000 to really launch it or something. Did they already have a Twitter following of people passionate about the subject of the film? Nope. Did they have a Facebook group where they chatted with people, shared behind the scenes footage, and listened to people’s tales?

Nah.

They made social media accounts AFTER it was done, not before. They wanted to get the word out to a bunch of people they didn’t even know, so they’d give money to a person they never heard of (until they needed money).

Valuable to Whom?

Erin Bartram’s post, ‘The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind‘ hit me square between my vision orbs.

“But your work is so valuable,” people say.  “It would be a shame not to find a way to publish it.”

Valuable to whom? To whom would the value of my labor accrue? And not to be too petty, but if it were so valuable, then why wouldn’t anyone pay me a stable living wage to do it?”

If it’s so valuable (or, “if I’m so smart”) then why can’t I pay rent with the knowledge/ wisdom/experience? If I had a week’s salary every time I asked this question after failing to land yet another job, well, I’d be pretty well off.

For each automated rejection email in my inbox, or every time I don’t even get an interview, or I’m told “oh, we’re not hiring for that position anymore” (after being told the company wants to fly me to their office for a few days), well… I just double down on my personal projects (like Skull Toaster) and go for a run.