As a Creative, you probably get more than your fair share of solicitation for your skills. Due to the nature of the creative mind, many of us have worked at or with non-profits and want to give back, but, as business people, Creatives also have to balance what is best for themselves and their brand. On one hand, saying no is hard. On the other, creative time is valuable and the number of requests can get overwhelming. How can you give back without killing your creative spirit?
Give it your all
It's easy to think about donating a piece that hasn't sold at your last several shows, but if nobody has bought it, ask yourself if it’s truly the best representation of your skills. Neither your ego nor your client list will get a boost if your donation fails to garner attention. Make sure you give away your best work. Attend the event, if possible, so you can talk to interested bidders. Ask the non-profit for contact information for people who bid on your work so you can do a one-time follow up with those interested in your work.
Be strategic about your donations
Decide how much you are going to give away this year and then plan out your donations based on your schedule and target audience. Is spring your busy season? Save your energy. Donate in the fall when your schedule is lighter or split your donations between specific events throughout the year. Ask fundraisers usual attendance numbers and demographics. Be honest with them about who your work appeals to. This helps your donations reach the right audience for future sales and gives you a solid business reason to graciously decline if you must.
If you don't have the time or resources to donate, consider joining up with a few other creatives. Contribute a short story to a charity book, a song to a relief-aid compilation, or small pieces of art that can be combined to form one unique piece. Collaboration often has a positive impact on an artist. Use the donation request as an excuse to work with friends, swap ideas, and push beyond your usual boundaries.
Work on the Sidelines
If you're not willing or able to make an outright donation of your work, make philanthropy an integral part of creative process. Buy materials from fair trade or environmentally conscious suppliers. Use recycled or reclaimed materials if possible. Send your stories to publishers that support women's rights or LGBTQ representation. Make films that skew away from stereotypes to present real, usually unseen relationships. Consider the companies you support. Every bit counts.
The thought of giving back shouldn't crush your creativity. Think carefully about your donations, work with others or out of the limelight, but make sure to share your very best. Creativity and philanthropy don't have to be mutually exclusive, and, if you approach your donation the right way, both your business and your work can benefit.
As you may have noticed, sometimes it happens that life takes over my ability to post as frequently as I'd like. However, being busy means that when I do get a chance to post, I've got lots of updates for everyone.
So here's what I've been up to -
Two short stories went out in February and the beginning of March, one dark erotic short story and one succinct, almost flash-fiction length fairy-tale. I hope to post soon that they were accepted, but even if they aren't, I'm excited about how both turned out and feel they are a good representation of my current abilities as an author.
Last October, my story People who live in Glass Sanitoriums was published in HAUNT, a collection of nine tales about haunted dwellings. This was the second anthology put together by a writer collaborative group I work with. The experience has gone so well the last two times that we're working on a third anthology called Summer Fair to be published later this year. Everyone involved has been asked to brainstorm on what could happen during summer festivals. The ideas that have been tossed back and forth make me very excited about how this project will turn out. Bonus, Aleisha Knight Evans, who designed the stunning covers for the previous two anthologies, has agreed to come back and work with us on this collaboration. More info as that develops.
I've been working quite a bit with SinCyr Publishing. Because of my recent proofreading, I can without a doubt recommend their recent romantic urban fantasy A Nose for Trouble by Jill Webb. It's a quick read with a healthy dose of mystery and unexpectedly fun characters. In November, CM Peters and I co-edited Working It, a collection of sexy stories from the workplace. We're planning on collaborating on another project for SinCyr late this year, this time a romantic anthology around a bookish theme. The pitch has been accepted and we're working out details. The open call should go up next month.
I continue to plod away at my novel in progress and am looking at a few other writing projects for the year that I'll keep under wraps for now. No conventions so far this year, although I did help sponsor the Writers On the River event happening in July because it helps support Thistle Farms and the Center for Prevention of Abuse. We'll see if there's time later this year.
And finally, a shameless plug for another project of mine. For anyone interested, I've started a website called Creativity Blender where I'm exploring the idea of creativity, what it is, and what helps creative people be more creative. It's a very new project and one I'm working on in my limited spare time, so be patient, but I will be trying to write blog posts and link to creative articles and projects I find. Check it out if you have time.
Bob Ross tells us that “We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents,” and that “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you're willing to practice, you can do.”
All respect to the PBS master, my "happy little accidents" tend to look like Rorschach inkblots. I am not a painter. I know this. There is a disconnect between my brain and my hand once a paintbrush is in my fingers and I'm unwilling to put in the hours to become better because I'm more interested in pursuing other creative interests. But I find inspiration in paintings and painters. Both have crept into my writing, often in unusual and unexpected ways.
I'm a firm believer that creativity is something you practice, that inspiration may come unexpectedly, but that you have to practice being creative for that inspiration to become something worthwhile. Turns out, science has backed this up. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, linked musical improvisation (i.e. a creative task) with increased brain activity compared to rote playback or other less creative tasks, suggesting that creativity is a distinct mental state. The study concluded that "Our findings further imply that creativity can be nurtured through training, and illustrate that immersion in the creative state has high cultural and economic value because it yields higher quality products.”
Would Bob's "happy little accidents" have looked more like my blobs than birds if he hadn't put in the time and effort to hone his craft? I think so. Still, I advocate that a steady diet of unusual-to-you encounters is just as vital as training. Along with your practice, spend an evening attending that wine (or whine) and paint workshop, read a book, or listen to a live band. Make sure it's something you think you'll enjoy. It doesn't have to be expensive or difficult, just something you don't always do for yourself. Call it fuel for creativity.
In her book The Artist's Way, Julie Cameron calls them "Artist Dates." Along with the daily pages she promotes for creatives, Cameron says that the purpose of "Artist Dates" is to ensure creative outflow. They're a play date with yourself, a way to replenish the creative well you pull from to...well, create. Hours to years after your brain processes that date experience, it can pop up as dance move, a short story, or part of a lesson you are sharing with other creators.
So creatives, take some inspiration this week to train your creativity. Do a little hard work, then reward yourself with something new to stimulate your brain. Tell me about your training, unusual experience, or what you're creating in the comments below.
Have a great week, Creatives.
Harley Easton is a Renaissance woman dabbling in everything life offers. She's worked at a theme park, found expert witnesses, been a guest lecturer at a national museum, and worked with medical students. Putting experience and insanity to good use, she's become an author specializing in erotic, romantic, and speculative fiction.