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 through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Todd 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.
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.