These questions will help determine your creative priorities and say “no” to time-wasting activities.
Being a creative person is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because your creative spirit allows you to express yourself in unique ways and receive a great deal of joy from artistic pursuits.
But having a creative spirit is also a curse because you can easily get bored with current projects when the excitement wears off and the real work begins. Before long, you have too many half-finished projects on your plate, and not much to show for it. When you’re faced with too much to do and not enough time to do it, it’s hard to figure out where to put your focus.
Instead of getting stressed about all the possible things you could be doing, take the emotion out of the equation and look at things objectively. Here are four questions that will help you determine your creative priorities and say “no” to activities that are wasting your time. When you have a clear understanding of your goals and what you want to accomplish in your creative life, it’s a lot easier to know which activities fit, and which don’t.
1. What am I truly passionate about?
I once invested a sizable amount of money into a side business I thought would give me a great return. I had friends who were making the equivalent of a full-time income within a year after joining. But a few weeks after joining the company, I realized I had made a huge mistake and the business was going to be a huge failure.
The reason? I wasn’t passionate about the company. I loved the products, but I didn’t want to be a salesman. I had only joined because I thought it would be a good way to quickly make a side income. I underestimated the time and skills it would require, and didn’t consider whether it meshed with my interests and personality. (Dumb mistake, I know. Lesson learned.)
Don’t pursue a creative project just because you think it will help you make money or give you a shortcut to success. It will only be a dead end. Spend your time on the projects that you’re passionate about.
How do you know if you’re passionate about something? If you look forward to doing it, you’re passionate about it. If you don’t look forward to it, you’re not passionate about it.
2. What will help me achieve my goals?
This is a good time to revisit your goals. What are you trying to accomplish? If you’re trying to build an audience and start a business, only focus on the things that will move you closer to the goal.
The nature of creative people is that they constantly have new ideas, and get easily bored with old ones. But you can’t get distracted by “squirrels” that aren’t going to help you achieve your goals.
3. What will help people?
You might have a great idea for a book, website, course, podcast, music, or some other type of content or artwork. But if it doesn’t meet a practical need of some kind, or provide some kind of value or enjoyment for your audience, it won’t get very far.
This is important especially if you’re trying to build an income through your creative work. Make sure your creative work brings value to people, whether it’s bringing joy and pleasure or addressing a pain or problem of some kind.
4. What are people asking for?
Do you have a blog, an email list, or followers/fans on social media? Then you have an audience. You may have already gotten feedback from people about something they would like you to do. If so, that’s a great clue to your future direction.
If not, put together a survey and ask a few questions about their interests, frustrations, and what type of products they would like to see. You might be surprised at the results.
Even if you don’t have an audience, you have a potential audience. Think about the type of person you’re trying to reach with your art or creative work. Start with a few people who fit that profile and ask them what their biggest problems are in the area of your creative work. You will likely get some great feedback that will point to potential projects that meet people’s needs.
What happens when you’re spending your time on projects or commitments that don’t meet these criteria? Think long and hard about whether you should continue to invest time, money, or energy into these projects. It’s hard to kill your darlings, but sometimes you need to make hard decisions about how to invest your time and resources.
Photo: Flickr/Marc Cooper
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