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Welcome back to the Creative Genius At Play podcast, I’m your host, Elena Paige, and today is Episode 2 Part 2, where we unpack all the wonderful things she said, and I give you some coaching questions or some things to ponder that might help you on your creative journey. So, I’ve got nine points here to share with you.
It was a jam-packed interview, had amazing, amazing advice from Jessica. And I’ve written down some notes, but mostly I kind of just talk out loud. So do bear with me on that. And of course, you can, if you prefer, look through the transcription on the show notes at Creative Genius at Play.com, if that’s easier than having to listen to me. So feel free to do that.
So number 1: Jessica talked about how she just sort of has this attitude of play and taking on creative endeavors and that she writes across many different genres, which is fantastic. What an amazing skill to have. And the question related to that is:
Do you prefer to stick to one particular, let’s say, genre? So you might not be a writer, you might be an illustrator or you might, make things out of plasticine.
You can be doing all sorts of different things; you don’t have to obviously be a writer for this to apply to you. Do you prefer to have one particular thing that you do? So for me, I write children’s books. As I was listening to Jessica it made me wonder, should I be writing other things as well? And it’s not a straightforward thing to answer. So in Jessica’s case, she has publishers and she sells her individual books to different publishers and therefore can kind of have this variety of things that she writes.
It’s important to think about this because this can make a really big difference to how your career pans out. Likewise if you want to be traditionally published, then it’s quite a possibility that you write across a variety of things. I’m self-published. And that doesn’t mean you can’t write across a variety of things. Absolutely, you absolutely can. And I have lots of friends who have multiple pen names. But I guess the difference is that each of your pen names is, your building almost an entire business and you can do that really successfully.
The question is, are you creating in one genre or do you like a mixture? Do you like to mix it up knowing the work that’s involved and that it might slow down the building up of your name in those various genres? So that’s the thing to think about. And it’s important to really know yourself in order to answer this question. Do you feel like you have so many multiple interests and things to say and areas where you could shine at? Or do you prefer to pick one thing and stick to it?
Now, you probably might build it faster if you pick one thing and stick to it, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t write across lots of different genres. And I know Jessica, for example, was saying that the next thing she wants to try her hand at is writing murder mysteries. There was a little part of me that went, “Oh, I’d love to write a murder mystery.”
But for me personally, I kind of like kids the best, they’re my thing. Now, having said that, in the child’s category, I write for different age group children. So probably there again, I’m diluting it a little bit, but that’s knowing my personality that I like to cover different age groups. So have a little think about that because I think she brought up a really important thing. Do you want to stick to one particular thing, or do you want to vary it across lots of different areas?
OK, number 2. Jessica talked about how she follows her inner passion and excitement, otherwise it would be very hard to finish a project. And I can also speak to this point because I have three series on the go at once. And it’s so hard to find that initial passion and excitement that I had when I first started writing them. So, you know, when I started writing one of my series, The Magicians, I was really into magicians.
And it’s been a couple of years, dare I say. I haven’t finished that series yet. And I’m finding it really hard to find that excitement and passion. But I also really want to finish that book series.
So the question is: Are you connected to your current project? And by that, I mean connected through passion and excitement and feel like it’s you wake up in the morning and it’s the thing you want to be doing. And if not, if, like me, you found that that excitement has wilted because maybe you took too long on the project like I did, then how can you reconnect to it?
So, for me, I’m getting back into meeting those characters. I’ve read the first two books in the series, like I’m the reader, not the writer, to really reconnect to the things that are happening in there. I’m watching magician stuff. I’m doing research on it, and I’m kind of just re-immersing myself and giving myself time to come back and to light that spark again because I kind of let the spark go out.
So that’s your question. Are you connected through passion and excitement to your current project? And if not, how can you reconnect to it again? Spark that back up again?
Number 3: Jessica talked about coming up with great concepts and she talked about her course that she has, which is Develop Blockbuster Ideas that Sell, and great course highly recommended. I have taken that, but I took it a long while ago. I probably need to go back and brush up on it again.
And really, it’s about coming up with high concept ideas. Right? So, a high concept idea being one that you can explain it in a minute, and you know that it’s going to be good. Like it’s really popular. It’s something that instantly makes people go, “Oh my gosh, that’s a great idea!” It’s really commercial, I suppose, covers a broad amount of the community. That’s how I see it.
The question on this one is, do you push past your initial ideas to come up with perhaps more original ideas, more innovative ones?
It’s often really easy to list a whole bunch of stuff that you might include in your concept, whatever your creative concept is or your creative area is. But I remember hearing, it might have been – I don’t think it was Disney, might have been Pixar possibly. In any case, whoever gave me the advice, it was that they make their creators list a whole bunch of stuff and then they wipe off the first 20 because they won’t be very original. In fact, what we’re really doing, our brain is doing, is rehashing things we’ve seen and heard and found elsewhere.
And I know that’s absolutely valid and fine to do, but do we push that past our initial idea making? Because, you know, a great idea, particularly when it’s really original and innovative, isn’t that easy to get to. Yeah, look, sometimes they do come when you’re having a shower or sitting on the toilet. This is true. But other times we have to clear our other ideas out first. Now, I don’t always do this.
Most certainly not. In fact, in my book, The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane, they have hearts in there, well the fairies have hearts that you can pull out of their body. And I think I’m pretty sure that I was walking through the lounge room on the way to my writing den and my daughter was watching Once Upon a Time and that happens in there. So not very original, I kind of nicked it from that.
And look, it works. It really does. I think it does. But what could I have come up with if I had really taken that and then just pushed it and pushed it and pushed it? So really important question, I think, for all creative people: Do you push past your initial ideas to come up with more original ones? So that’s number three.
Okay number 4. Your style and voice and how to find it. Jessica gave some fantastic advice.
She said, you know, lots of trial and error and practice, practice, practice. She was talking about writing, of course, she said, write what you want to write and let your voice come through. So I imagine, you know, again, for any creative, it’s about making the things that you’re drawn to and allowing yourself, your true self to begin expressing itself. A little bit, actually, as I think about it, kind of similar to the ideas question.
You know, number three, it’s that sense of do you need to sort of clear out, like practice other people’s styles and experiment and imitate and do all that, but also allow your own originality to come through, your own way of creating. And, for me, it might be that somebody else likes it, but I don’t like it. So I always come back to, “Do I like that?” I’ve got to like it. In other words, it’s got to pass my creative choices.
So, unless, of course, I imagine if you were making for a client, it has to cover their choices. But for me it has to have me in it. It reminds me one time that I had a cover, which I didn’t draw. Somebody else illustrated for my Evie Everyday Witch books. And it was the first cover and the artist had drawn it in pastel colors. And then I gave it to my actual cover designer, who added the font on it, the typography, and they made it really bright and I put it on Facebook and said to my friends, “Which one do you like better? The more pastel one or the really bright one?” Keeping in mind that I wasn’t the one that had actually created it, but it was still speaking to the style of my books. And it was pretty much 99 percent of people said, “Oh, my gosh, the crazy bright one, because that’s who you are and that’s how your books are written.” That was eye opening for me. I was like, “So I’m not pastelish?”
So even there, some sense of style was coming through that matched in an illustration that goes on my front cover.
So the question is: How can you shift your attitude from one of finding your voice or style to instead unveiling it or revealing it? Because it’s there all along, right? It’s there the whole time.
And all these other things are kind of covering it up. It’s like that time where I couldn’t see the front cover, but everybody else could see it about me. Right? It’s that same sort of thing.
Also do you practice enough? Because it won’t come out unless you practice. You’ve got to make those choices. Every time you go to draw, or knit, or write, you’re making certain choices, certain choices in writing about what happens or what words you use, in art what brushes, how to actually use that brush, where you place things, what colors? All of these choices come through from practice.
And each of those choices leads you closer to finding, well, not finding, but to revealing your true voice or style. And also another question there. Do you have an attitude of trial and error? Do you let yourself experiment and make mistakes? Yeah, I definitely walked through the lounge room and stole the heart idea from Once Upon a Time series, and that was my experimentation, if I could go back, would I do it differently?
Maybe, but that’s where I was at, at that time. And it led me one step closer to showing me the things that I like. So you really got to let yourself experiment and be free and stuff up and make ugly stuff, write awful stuff. Knit terrible scarves, you know the whole bit. Right? Got to let yourself do it in order to find your style.
Number 5: Jessica Brody talked about the difference between drafting versus revising and editing.
So drafting really playful, and it’s just for you. And revising. I love the way she said it’s serious now. It’s for the audience. You have to think about the audience now. So do you differentiate between these two phases and adopt a different attitude in each phase? So when you’re drafting, you need to let yourself be free and experiment and fail and stuff up and not like what you did yesterday and start it again today. Maybe you need to do multiple thumbnails if you’re drawing.
And sketching. I mean, I’ve heard of people that don’t sketch. They just try to draw the perfect thing straight off. So this distinction. Right? How can you build those really clear two sides of the same coin into your creative practice? And you need a different attitude in each phase. Like we said, you’re really playful in the first one, and you need to keep that inner critic out of it.
You’ve got to lock them away. When I give talks at schools for kids, I have this image with this lady in a cage and I’ll often say, “You need to put your little inner critic in jail.” I know it’s so cruel of me to put her in jail, but I do. And just ignore them while you’re in that playful stage and then you can bring them back in when you’re revising. That’s the actual space where you can almost put on a different hat and think of your work through very different eyes.
I do want to say here there’s a caveat. Don’t over revise! I’ve heard this is a thing. I personally don’t do it. I don’t think, at least I hope I don’t do it. I tend to be a three quarters, good is good enough. Throw it out there. But they are extreme perfectionists out there that revise their voice right out of that thing. So you over revise it and over fix it. And now you’ve lost that, that unique quirkiness that is you, that’s in there.
So do beware of that.
Number 6, productivity. She had some really tough, tough things here, like do not take your phone out until after you’ve done your creating. Oh, God, let me tell you, I’ve struggled with this one, struggled. I have had times where I’ve managed to pull it off. So for me, I’ve really struggled for this one. And the reason being that I’ve got children in school. So my mind says, “What if something’s happened and I don’t have the phone?”
So personally, for me, I haven’t found that it’s worked for me to close the phone and only do my important creating stuff in the morning. Sorry, Jessica I failed. I might give it a go again at another time, but I’m actually kind of a bit the opposite. It’s almost like I’ve got to know what else is happening first, to put my mind at ease. I’ve got to go check my email and go, “Okay, there’s no emergencies. I’m aware of that thing. I’ll deal with that later this afternoon. And now that I know that everything’s fine in the world, I can sit down and write.”
That’s just me. So, I encourage you, what works for you? How do you minimize or eradicate distractions? Maybe you need to do one of those questionnaires about learning about you as a person. There’s the Enneagram, for example. And there’s some great places that you can do that online.
There’s the Myers Briggs test. I just did another version of it a few days ago called Personality Perfect.com. It’s pretty simple version of it, but the results were really accurate. When I read that, I thought, wowsers. So, you know, it did say that I was easily distracted. But I do need to kind of know what my distractions are to get rid of them. Otherwise my brain kind of hunts for them. That’s just me.
So have a little think, experiment even. Try doing it at one time of the day, like writing or creating at one time of the day. Try in the morning. Try without looking at the phone, like Jessica says, maybe that’s perfect for you and see what way actually works best. So it’s going to need a little bit of trial and error.
The other thing is, she said she has blocks of her day for certain activities, so she always writes between eight to twelve in the morning.
And again, that really works well for her. So how do you structure your day? Does it work really well for you to have a big three-hour chunk of time to do that? So, again, that doesn’t really work for me. I tried that, but I get bored very easily. And, you know, the concept of sitting down to do something for three hours, like literally makes the part of my brain that gets bored very quickly, cringe.
I work best in kind of that pomodoro, sort of 30 minute chunks. I’ll put on Brain.fm, which is an amazing app. You should go and check it out. Brain.fm. And I set it for 30 minutes and my brain says, “You know what, I’m going to do this for 30 minutes. That’s easy.” And I’ll pump out a thousand words in that 30 minutes, no problem. And even if I just did one lot of 30 minutes a day, that’s a thousand words.
I think that’s pretty good. So, you know, just got to experiment and find what works for you in terms of productivity. Try those things that Jessica said, and do some of those self-assessment tests and decide perhaps how to best structure your day so that it suits your personality.
Number 7, with the lawnmower noise in the background, that’s OK. So number seven, story structure and technique. OK, so remembering we’re talking about story, but, you know, technique applies to every area of creativity.
There is always going to be techniques that we have to learn. And Jessica talked about, breaking down other people’s books. And when she does that, or when she did that to write Save the Cat Writes a Book. When she did that, that actually made her a better writer because her brain understood the structure differently by watching other people, by reading what other people had done.
And even if it wasn’t right, like she said, maybe she got it completely wrong when she broke down other people’s structure. But essentially the very act of forcing yourself to think about structure when it isn’t just your structure, but somebody else’s, made her a better writer. So for me, learning how to draw, it’s really helpful, watching somebody else’s process, watching them draw, following them, following along with them as they draw. We can’t really do that for writing, but it’s amazing that you can do that for lots of other particularly visual creative practices.
And this just helps you see technique in action and having a technique because there are some creative people, I get it, you don’t want any technique at all, but it’s often that same advice that’s given, which is, you’ve got to know the rules before you break them. So do you know the rules? Do you have some level of technique in your creative specialty that then you can either follow or break? That’s the question.
OK, number 8, we’re almost to the end.
Well, Jessica has so many things she was doing, so she has amazing courses that she teaches and making courses, teaching what you know, is incredibly creative. It is in my book. And I know we often don’t think of teachers as creative, at least I don’t, not the teachers at school, but it’s in fact, a very creative practice for them to get information off the page and into your brain in a way that you can learn it. So she mentioned that there are two reasons why people are scared to make a course, the first one being Expert Syndrome and the second one being Imposter Syndrome.
So with expert syndrome, people don’t realize that they know what they know, they actually think it’s so kind of, well, nothing special because they do it all the time that it doesn’t occur to them that other people would like to learn that from them. And then the second one, impostor syndrome, is that people think they don’t know enough. Who am I to teach that?
I don’t know enough about that topic. My take on it isn’t an experts take on it. How could I possibly teach that? Right? But if you can break down something that you know, into actionable steps, then it’s worthwhile teaching. So what do you know how to do that other people struggle with? That they might need the information for? I often have this conversation with myself about self publishing. To me, it’s sort of like a no brainer now I go to the steps and it seems almost kind of obvious, really obvious.
And then the other part of my brain says, “Yeah but if you didn’t know something, it’s out there for free somewhere anyway, isn’t it?” Or another part of my brain says, “Well, someone else is teaching that and their version will be way, way better than mine.” In fact, even in terms of making this podcast, it was like there are heaps of other creative podcasts, do we really need another one? Who cares about me talking about creativity again, really?
Or interviewing more people? Who’s going to listen to that? Who cares? Right? And this stops us.
So what do you know that you could share and maybe consider going out and making a course about it? And there’s such fantastic platforms. Don’t know if you’ve checked out Skillshare.com, but Skillshare is brilliant. And what I really love about it is that it’s project based. So you can, for example, rather than doing a course on how to cook Mexican and you think, whoa, you know, and you buy it and then you never end up doing it because cooking Mexican is a really big thing.
There’s a lot of Mexican meals. You might jump on Skillshare and there’s a course on, how to make tacos and then there’s one on, you know, how to make enchiladas. So it’s fantastic for bite sized amounts of learning. And you’d be surprised. (Skillshare is not paying me to say this, by the way, and they’re not a sponsor of the show.) But I do love Skillshare because I’m on there all the time learning myself.
And who knows, maybe I’ll put out my first course on Skillshare eventually. I’m probably more if I had to pick I’m more imposter syndrome. So which one do you fall into?Do you feel a bit more expert syndrome than imposter syndrome? And what can you do to move out of that? You know, for me, I probably just have to do one and one person has to say, “Wow, that was really useful information.”
And then it might make me go, “Oh, OK. Maybe, maybe I do know something. Maybe my take on things is, OK.”
Number 9, lucky last. Community.
Do you belong to a community of like-minded creatives? Jessica started her community based around her courses, so that’s a fantastic thing. If you’re not part of a community, maybe you could start a community and create one and be the mentor, the leader in that community, the person that fosters that community. I mean, what is involved in it? I don’t know. It’s a tricky one. You know, one time I was part of an online communication group where on Facebook where we would actually practice different communication skills.
And I started commenting and giving feedback on every person’s video. And there was, I don’t know, maybe 200 videos every two weeks because everyone had to do a video every two weeks or you got kicked out of the community. How’s that for tough love? Well, most people did the video and I would sit there and give feedback to every single member in that community. And it wasn’t my community. I didn’t start it. But somehow people started looking to me as a mentor, somewhat, I think, kind of almost a bit of a coach in this community.
And it happened completely by accident. But in doing that, I felt that I was really part of this community. I felt really part of it. So if you do belong to a community of like-minded creatives, ask yourself, how much do you contribute? Are you in there getting involved? I’m in a lot of author Facebook groups and I was very involved in lots of them, but lately I’m not so much I feel as though I’ve lost my community a little bit.
I don’t know why. I don’t feel that I kind of want to go in there and help anymore, which sounds awful. But that happens too. So sometimes if you grow out of a particular community, just be mindful that I think community is still a really important part and we need that as humans. So where can you find a community, a new community that you do gel with? And if not, as I said, maybe start your own community.
Well, that is the end of episode 2.2, those nine points I hope you found it incredibly helpful. And if not, thank you for listening anyway. But don’t forget, you’ve got to ask the questions in order to take the action and do take the action, because otherwise there’s no point for asking the questions. What can you now do differently or better or in a way that’s more mindful or in a way that’s more connected to who you truly are through having asked yourself these questions?
And thank you again to Jessica Brody for those fabulous answers that created the content for this show. I’ll see you on the next interview. Thank you so much for tuning in to the show.