Die Empty. Managing Your Creative Rhythm With Todd Henry

As authors, we have to manage the production of work, but also the care of our creative souls. There’s a quote from Charles Bukowski that has been doing the rounds on social media, “Find what you love and let it kill you,” but personally, I want a long term career and I want to have a good time along the way! In today’s interview I talk to Todd Henry, author of ‘Die Empty,’ about how we can manage our creative lives.

The podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

todd henryTodd Henry is the bestselling author of Die Empty: Unleash your best work everyday, and Accidental Creative. He’s also the founder of Accidental Creative, a business that helps creative people generate ideas.

  • Todd did a degree in marketing and then spent a few years in the music business, before working with a creative team. With long hours and high pressure, Todd started to wonder how creativity could be sustained and fostered over a long term career. He started a podcast, The Accidental Creative, to start a conversation about creativity in the marketplace. This morphed into a business, and Todd writes books as well as speaking and consulting with teams on productive creativity.
  • On ‘Die Empty’ and provocative book titles. We all have a finite amount of time and resources in this life, so we have to choose how to spend them wisely. Don’t take your best work to the grave with you. Take steps every day to spend yourself on a body of work you can be proud of. Be more intentional about how you spend your limited time and resources.
  • On the balance between giving your all and refreshing the creative well. We need rhythms in our life. It’s less about work/life balance, and more about the rhythm of being effective. There are productive phases and other times when we need to recharge and relax. I mention the sign on my wall, ‘Write to live. What is living today?’ as this is something I am very aware of. Todd mentions this ability to judge rhythm is part of being a mature creative, recognizing signs of burnout and shifting energy as necessary. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • On mapping, making and meshing. Mapping is planning and strategizing, outlining stories. Making is the shipping aspect, the actual production. Meshing is the rest of life, the living that helps us bring all our creative strands together, developing your skillset, understanding what you do, finding your voice and all the things that are less measurable. You need all of this, but the focus of many creatives is often just on making. The cult of shipping seems to be prevalent right now. As the questions: what am I really trying to achieve here? what is the why behind what I am doing?
  • How do we take a long view of our body of work when we have bills to pay this month? You will be judged by the body of work you produce so you have to decide. You need to look at four aspects: Focus. Assets. Time. Energy. You need to choose where you focus and what your overall goal is. Assets are your resources, financial, relational. Time and Energy are your finite resources that you need to decide on every week. Ask yourself – why am I doing this? What is the overall goal? Be honest about it.
  • We talk about Todd’s next book which will be around finding your voice. He finds writing very difficult but it is the best way to get his ideas out in the world. A book is portable equity, turning ideas into tangible form, helping you spread your message. We talk about the difficulty of judging the quality of our own work, and the importance of editors, and time away from the text in order for it to become unfamiliar.
  • On Todd’s entrepreneurial business. We talk about the book and the audiobook (which he read), as well as his consulting and public speaking appearances. This is a common business model for non-fiction authors, when the book is more of an introduction to ideas and then the author earns more from the ‘back end’ after the book. You have to package the idea so it is easily accessible from a lot of different angles, and then you can apply that to a broad market by slightly reframing the topic every time.
  • On podcasting for marketing, and how it helps to create a connection through the personality of voice and expression in video. We both think it is a great thing to be doing to build an audience who care for the long term as it is so authentic. Here’s my tips on how to podcast.
  • Todd is traditionally published and we have a chat about the changes in the publishing industry, how we are on the cusp of great change. There are many great things about the rise of self-publishing but Todd has some concerns around how the device owners in the music industry let the quality of the content slip, because their income was more about devices. Pricing expectations have changed, which has affected authors (like Todd) who publish through traditional publishing. Discovery is also the biggest problem for everyone.

die emptyYou can find Todd at ToddHenry.com and his podcast and blog at AccidentalCreative.com as well as on twitter @toddhenry

You can find Die Empty: Unleash your best work every day here on Amazon, as well as Todd’s other book, The Accidental Creative: How to be brilliant at a moment’s notice.

Do you have any thoughts or questions? Please do leave a comment below.

 

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Comments

  1. Cliff Gibson says

    As a one-time Bukowski fan and fanatic (still a fan, but not a fanatic), I find the quote, out of context, misrepresents what writing meant for Bukowski. He also said,

    “Writing keeps you alive because it eases the monsters in the brain by moving them to paper. The listing of horrors seems regenerative, and often comes out in the writing as a form of joy or humor. The typewriter often sings soothing songs to the sadness in the heart. It’s wondrous.” [Interview by Jay Dougherty]

    and:

    ‘Writing keeps you from slitting your throat.’ [that one in scare quotes because it's from memory. I have it on tape and will have to dig for it to make sure I've gotten it right.]

  2. says

    I really appreciate your comments about the person who wrote 22 books in however many months. I have a career I love but also fiction ideas that I think are very valid, and I’m glad you’re offering a realistic opinion on the notion that people can’t sustain the amount of publishing that readers want in a year. At least not with any degree of quality.

    Previewing your books on my Kobo reader now. Great podcast!

  3. says

    From where I sit, I’ll take quality over quantity. There have been some outstanding books published in my lifetime by authors who never published another one. Whether that’s because they had no more to say, didn’t have the time or the interest to push themselves through the process of writing and editing a book again, or for some other reason – the lack of a follow-up does nothing to take away from the book they did publish.

    My choice is to write fiction when I have something to say. Fiction offers much more opportunity to share ideas of real importance, and so that’s my preference. Non-fiction pays more of the bills for me, but fiction is where my heart lives. So I write as often as I can, produce the best story I can, and spend not one minute beating myself up for not producing more pages, more titles, or more sales. That’s not my problem. I just have a story to tell. As long as I stick with that single mission, I’m okay. At least I feel okay. And that’s enough for me.

  4. Cliff says

    Natalie,

    Thanks for the link to that interview, which I enjoyed reading. I got my quote from a different interview. I received a cassette and raw transcript of the interview from someone involved with the project. The interviewer was Japanese and writing for a publication in Japan, but I’m afraid I don’t have her name or the publication she wrote for. The interview took place at the time Bukowski was working on *Pulp*, so not long before he passed away.

    On this tape he says:

    “Writing means not to be famous, not to be rich. Writing means getting the stuff out so you don’t cut your throat while you are shaving in the morning, or jump off the bridge or lay down on the railroad tracks. Writing saves your goddamn ass, that’s what it does. It’s nothing to do with frame or immortality. It just has to do with your own survival. ”

    And in answer to whether he likes writing he says:

    “I don’t know if I ‘d say I like it. It’s not painful. Once I start writing, I’m in a different world, like, I ‘ll be at the computer writing something and Linda will the open the door and walk in and say something; you know what I will do? I will scream. I’ll go, “Hah!” because I’m in completely different place. I ‘m not in that room, I’m gone. So it’s a very strange thing. But you know, many writers say, “Oh, it’s painful to write.” To me, it’s not painful; it’s painful not to write. It’s the easiest thing. It’s everything.”

  5. says

    Thanks Joanna and Todd that was a very interesting podcast and thanks for the pointer that podcasts are making a come-back.

    I was also pleased to hear Todd’s remarks and the comments about quality – I was beginning to feel that it was going down the plughole.

    However, young Todd, much as I agree with everything you said and your very helpful ideas, as someone who is over seventy, I can assure you that I want to die ‘full’. Full of ideas, full of plots and full of characters. Keep up the good work, both of you.

  6. says

    What a great blog and discussion. Dying empty or full for me is also about living empty or full! My new book calls to me every day to write and I never feel that ‘I’ am writing it. ‘The book’ writes itself. Only once did I get stuck and that’s when I started thinking about what I was writing!
    However, working with people specializing in Process Psychology and learning how to ‘market’ my already published book amongst the general busyness of life means that often I do not find the time to write. So as you say, focus, assets, time and energy are the key and also not marginalizing my love for writing and paying attention to my creative flow and rhythms.

  7. says

    Hi Jo
    Great podcast, thanks. I found Todd very inspiring and very clear about his concepts.
    I also loved his definition, or reasoning behind his book title. That alone was worth the whole podcast!
    I thought his points about finding different ways into your offering, so ways of repackaging or finding a different slant on what you do very interesting as well. As authors it’s easy to go down certain routes, often because they work, but in a marketplace filled with excellent ‘how to write’ blogs and ‘marketing’ blogs and so on, finding those unique angles and how they can benefit others could have a real impact on us as entrepreneurs (Just had to check the spelling of that. Not sure that’s a good sign :)
    So, lots of food for thought, thanks
    Mike

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