10 Years Of Blogging

Delhi Garden Home

On this day in 2004 I started this blog. I had blogged on and off since 2001, but October 19 2004 was the start of an uniterupped, WordPress-supported journey, across four cities, 1,892 blogposts and goodness knows how many comments, emails, tweets, shares and other interactions.

On my first blogpost I stated my intention to write about “… art, film, photography, music as well as daily life” and in my first month the topics I wrote mostly about music and golf, interspersed with articles and links about religion and current affairs.

Knowing at the start of 2014 that this anniversary was coming inspired my book, which started its life as a collection of blogposts about creativity, but quickly became something much bigger. I’ll be sharing some more information about that soon. But, for now, I wanted to share ten of the best blogposts from the last 10 years, which reflect a little of the range of topics I’ve discussed here.

I Want Less Choice And I Want It Now (2005) – on consumerism, marketing and decision-making. A lot of my earlier blogposts were shorter, like this.

It Takes Courage (2005) - asking whether, in debates about refugees, we could be a little more honest about the role of migration in the history of religion and modern societies.

11 Links For A Sunday (2006) – this isn’t a remarkable blogpost, except for the fact that this was one of the ways we used to share links in the pre-Social Media Days. Pumping links out through Twitter or Facebook is easier, but less permanent, especially since the half-life of so many tweets and shares is so short these days.

It’s Not About The A-List, Or About Hierachies (2006) When Praising Your Kids Can Be Harmful- blogging was very different in 2006 and most bloggers were not professionals or trying to monetise their work. But, the obsession with numbers and online celebrity was bubbling away.

When Praising Your Kids Can Be Harmful (2007) – I’ve shied away from writing about parenting, but looking back, some of my favourite articles (and the ones that got most noticed), were about child-raising issues. This one still fascinates me, because the current research seems to be so opposed to the way most parents I know see this issue.

What Do People Really Think Of Stay At Home Dads – Or Why Women Are Using The Playground To Kill Feminism (2008) – one of my most viewed blogposts, this article helped me land a writing gig with The South China Morning Post. I’ve also had a lot of very moving, authentic email exchanges with other fathers about this topic, all of whom agree with the theme.

Stealth Photography And Other Urban Problems (2011) – when I wrote this article, about street-photography, it got very little attention. I can remember feeling a little frustrated by that. However, in the last year and a bit, it has generated a steady flow of traffic and social media comments from fellow photographers.

7 Kinds Of People You Need In Your Creative Universe (2011) – the most read article in the history of this blog is, not surprisingly, one of the most helpful as well. I really set out to “open the kimono” with this one, revealing some of the deepest insights I have from my years of work, about how to structure our personal and professional networks.

Fuji X-Pro1 InfraRed (2012) – this blogpost generated a wild, unexpected spike in traffic. It just goes to show that a simple, actionable insight about a recently piece of technology will always attract viewers. If my goal was simply to get more readers, I’d write these kind of articles a lot more often (or exclusively).

Multi-Output With Logic Pro And EZdrummer2 (2014) – one of the most popular music articles of recent years, this simple tutorial is also a reminder than I don’t really share enough insights from my studio work on the blog. In fact, when I look back over my blogposts I really feel like I should have done a better job of sharing my music here, both the songs I’ve written and recorded and also the things I’ve learnt in the studio.

Finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the people who have read this blog. First, the haters who’ve accused me of being everything from a CIA-sponsored agitator, to an abusive parent and every derivation of a swear-word in-between (maybe I shouldn’t have deleted all the abusive comments, they would be so fun to read now). And, second, all the other more sae folks like yourself, who have made the time to read my (often misspelt) attempts at explaining various ideas, experiences and emotions over the last ten years. Here’s to the future!

Final Edit

As of today, the book is in final edit mode. I’m giving it one more critical rewrite before sending it off to my editor. For the process, I’ve written up a simple set of rules, which sum up the key parts of the final edit stage.

Final Edit Rules

Punctuation, matters. Getting all the little things right, not just commas, semi-colons and full stops, but also spaces and paragraph markers will not only help readers understand the text, it will also speed up the final formatting process as well. And, yes, I’m paying attention to my en and em dashes as well!

Relentlessly style everything. What became clear as I assembled the first draft of the book was exactly how much my writing style has evolved over the last ten years. What became clear as I rewrote the whole first draft was how limited my style still was. I love crafting words and phrases, but doing it over a whole manuscript takes endurance. Cleaning up the prose while adding variation and subtelty is essential at this stage.

Snark-less. The early drafts of the book, when I was adapting the old blogposts, had a fair bit attitude about them. I was, perhaps, having an argument with myself, or with some folks who had taken issue with my ideas and approach to work in the past, or maybe it was a few too many wine-fuelled nights of writing on those cold Adelaide nights. Whatever it was, I don’t make room for snark or ranting in my life normally, so I don’t want it appearing in this book either.

Replace boasting with vulnerability. There’s always a certain amount of self-vaildation that goes into many blogposts. It’s in the nature of serialised, personal writing. But, when you start compiling blogposts and reading them like a piece of longer pice of prose, it can feel uncomfortably boastful, even arrogant. it’s something I’ve noticed a few times when bloggers try their hand at long form writing. My solution, which is more in keeping with the tone of the book, is to replace boasts with vulnerability, to reflect struggles, uncertainties and doubts more clearly, which makes more humbler and more hospitable prose.

Convert adjectives into examples. I’m far too inclined to write phrases like “solitude is a great way to feel inspired,” which is true, but also vague to the point of absolute meaninglessness. What does solitude feel like, when does it intersect with inspiration and how would someone who has never met me and only has the text i’ve written to guide them, be able to identify when the two are intersecting in their lives?

Tie the middles together. As an essayist, I’ve got a sense for crafting an argument including the way beginnings and ends tie together. But, a book raises a lot of different kinds of questions. Especially how the middle of each chapter relates to other chapters and especially, how ideas that need to pop up in more than one place connect together. I’m on the look out for ideas, phrases and arguments that feel loosely connected or have been repeated too often.

If in doubt, delete. This is my key mantra for any kind of final editing. If it’s not clear how a word, phrase, sentence or paragraph contributes to the great whole, just delete it. This seldom proves to be a mistake.

Exercising Unused Muscles

Trying to turn a stack of blog posts into a book has been a fascinating experience. The thought-processes and work practices involved in writing a 50,000 word book are so very different from those required for pushing out 700 word blogposts. It feels like using a whole different set of thinking muscles.

Of course, I was a writer a long time before I became a blogger. But, my previous published work was almost all academically inclined. This time, I am streamlining and simplifying my writing style a lot. Not dumbing-down, just simplifying.

All that said, I’m really thankful for the time to put in the hard work on this book. I’m excited by it, especially the feedback I’ve had from those who’ve read the early drafts. Next week I’ll be making some announcements about the availability of the book.

5 Of The Best From This Year’s iTunes Festival

The iTunes Festival has become an annual ritual in my home. 30 nights of great live music, pop, rock, country, jazz and classical, broadcast live from London and available (for a limited time) to stream, either via iTunes or Apple TV. Run through a home theatre system, it’s the perfect background music for autumn.

It’s hard to choose the best performances, because there are so many stars, so many great rising artists and so many different styles of music to choose from. But, here’s my picks for the most memorable shows this year (all links will open in iTunes).

5. Elbow

I’ll admit only having a passing familiarity with Elbow before watching their iTunes Festival set, which is my mistake, because this much loved UK band are purveyors of some wonderfully engaging, emotive music. This is a band that’s firing on all cylinders, from songwriting, to arrangements, to performance. Remarkable.

4. Jessie Ware

There are hints of early 90s electro-pop all through Jessie Ware’s music, but very crisp, almost effortless vocal delivery and the timbre of her song’s arrangements keep things sounding fresh and lively. This set doesn’t try to overwhelm or blow the listener away, instead there is a kind of warm invitation to a collection of very listenable songs. Perhaps the coolest of all the iTunes performances this year.

3. Ryan Adams

I’m far from the only one to say Ryan Adams is the greatest songwriter of his generation. In recent years Adams has started to move away from his Alt Country roots and his latest album, songs from which feature heavily in this performance, has more than a passing connection to 70s classic rock. Not that any of this holds Adams back. Despite some concerns about his voice, he gives us a deep, sensitive and vulnerable performance here, creating a simple, yet rich sonic world for his acutely observed lyrics.

2. Mary J. Blige

A true superstar in every way, Mary J. Blige managed to be both tough and vulnerable in this sharp, tightly arranged set. Blige’s voice is not just powerful, it manages to evoke two or more emotions at the same time as she moves through a range of her best known material. Blige manages to be fresh and old school at the same time and very stage presence is as magnetic as ever. This is electrifying, “can’t take your eyes off it” stuff.

1. Gregory Porter

It’s fair to say Gregory Porter’s rise in the jazz world has been spectacular. Releasing his first solo album at age 39, you could say Porter was a late bloomer. But, he benefits from being both a fresh face in the music scene and also an artist who has a real command and maturity to his voice. And, what a voice that is. Porter is our generation’s Nat King Cole and Marvin Gaye, rolled into one, with an effortless ability to cross from jazz to soul music and some remarkable, socially aware original compositions to showcase his range and marvellous timbre of his voice. An extraordinary artist who gives us here, a truly memorable performance.

Bonus – First Aid Kit

Every year there is at least one break out performance from a support act that really shines and hints at better things to come from that artist. In Previous years Jessie J and The Lumineers filled this slot and this year there were a few contenders, including Kiesza, Nick Mulvey, Jenny Lewis, Foy Vance, Wolf Alice and Foxes. But, it was First Aid Kit, an Alt Country duo of sisters from Sweden that really won me over. Apparently they toured Japan during the summer, while I was travelling and I can only hope they come back here soon!

Five Day Complete Photography Bundle

Regular readers will know that it’s pretty rare for me to pimp products these days. But, there is a limited time offer on now that will be of interest to fellow photographers.

Over at 5 Day Deal, there is a pretty darn impressive bundle of photo educational products, ebooks, presents, workflows, courses and software, on sale for U$89, (and 10% of that goes to charity). Purportedly, the whole thing is worth U$2000 retail, though I would take that with a grain of salt, since not all the products are ones I could honestly recommend.

But, focussing on the best products in the package, this is remarkably good value. The materials from Lindsey Adler, Jamie Ibarra, Alex Koloskov and Zack Arias in particular caught my eye, all of them are offering educational resources I’ve considered investing in before this. And, while I already own Topaz Lab’s remark plugin, getting it for free in the bundle, given it has a regular price of U$69 further proves how good a deal this is (for another perspective, check out Matt Brandon’s thoughts).

To put this in perspective, you could easily pay U$89 or more for two photo tutorial books, or 3-4 photography magazines in many stores here in Asia. So, I had no hesitation picking this up deal and if you are looking to improve your photography I’d encourage you to take a look as well. Don’t delay though, as the site is already counting down the seconds until the deal goes offline, forever.

BTW, I haven’t included any affiliate links or codes in this post. I’ve written before about my position on this. So, rest assured, there’s no kickback in this for me. I really do believe this bundle is worth investigating. After all, as I wrote in my photographic manifesto,

“Drink From Many Wells – We are blessed with so many amazing resources for learning about photography. But, it’s easy to get caught up in buying the same ideas from the same people. Drinking from one well might stave off the thirst, but it could also make us creatively one dimensional and predictable.

Be a confident individual and draw from a range of sources. Look for ideas from photographers who work in other fields and live in other countries and also explore resources from other arts, like painting, graphic design or cartooning that can give you a fresh perspective on visual communication.”

Television And The Changing Role Of The Expert

LiJiang Empty
A lot of people are saying this is a golden age for television. When you think of the quality of some of the best best shows, The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, it doesn’t feel like much of a boast really. It’s no surprise then that TV is pulling in established names, directors and actors from the movie industry, who repeatedly say that in an age of reboots, CGI Blockbusters and endless Comic Book adaptations, TV audiences seem more willing than mainstream film audiences to engage deep, challenging and complex stories.

“Television [is] this wonderfully rich place for really dynamic complex, bold, female characters. I’m very proud to be working in this medium in this moment…”
– Claire Danes

A Wise Voice Of Critical Dissent

As wonderful as television drama is right now, can the same lofty claims be made for the rest of what television offers viewers. In a recent interview with The Guardian, the BBC’s David Attenborough, best known for a long and outstanding career making nature documentaries, questions whether television is offering us the diversity and quality of programming we might expect.

“The sad thing is that you’d think that the more stations there are, the more varied the output, but the practice is the reverse – the more you get, the more similar they become. And you get genres that become the flavour of the month.”

It’s hard to disagree with Attenborogh. While this is a golden age for television drama, the same cannot be said for other genres, like comedy, news or more particularly, the focus of much of Attenborogh’s career, documentary series.

“The general view is that viewers don’t like people coming along and saying they know more about it than you do, so it’s unfashionable…”

The Changing Role Of The Expert

For a long time, especially in the UK, the template for TV documentary series was an expert’s take on a big topic. Attenborough mentions the acclaimed Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation and when I remember back to the TV documentaries that have stood out for me, especially in my younger years, shows like Cosmos with Carl Sagan, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, The Body in Question with Jonathan Miller, Robert Hughes’ The Shock of the New and of course Attenborogh’s own The Blue Planet.

While these kind of shows still get made, as Attenborogh points out, they seldom get the chance to develop into longer series, up to say 13 parts, instead being formatted into shorter, 3 or 4 part formats. What Attenborogh doesn’t mention is that a lot of the best rating documentaries today are actually hybrids, blending the aims of documentary with more of a reality TV aesthetic and dynamism, which drives shows like Deadliest Catch and MythBusters.

But, the expert is not totally gone from our screens, either on TV or online. YouTube has a whole economy of experts with strong subscriber numbers, from TEDtalks, to specialist channels for pretty much every area of human activity and expertise.

And, if one field in particular has surged in popularity over the last decade it is cooking. Audiences seem to have an almost unending appetite, so to speak, for the expert in the kitchen, showing us how to cook food!

Consider The Cookbook

Perhaps we can understand this better by considering the way cookbooks have changed. Grab any cookbook from the 80s or earlier and you will see a big difference with today’s style. Not every recipe has a matching photo and when the recipes are photographed, the images are flat, less adorned and styled and in every way, less sexy. The recipes themselves have less explanation, often assuming an understanding of both the ingredients and techniques involved. And finally, there is often a complete lack of the kind of light and personal text we find at the top and tail of each recipe, which ttys to sell us on what a fun experience cooking and eating each recipe will be.

Fascinatingly, in many parts of the world, while bookstores seem to be shrinking, both in terms of size and diversity of the books they offer, cookbooks are becoming more and more prominent. It’s not uncommon to walk into bookstores now where cookbooks take up more shelf space than literary fiction.

Has The Expert Become Our Expert?

OK, maybe you don’t really care about television, musty old documentary series, celebrity chefs or cookbooks. But, if Attenborogh is right (and I believe he is), this changing social dynamic matters for anyone whose job requires them to trade off expertise.

Which is, of course, almost everyone engaged in creative work!

The best way I can explain this changing dynamic is that audience expectations have shifted from “tell me” to “help me.” This reflects a broader shift to the more personal in everything from education to workplaces, as we expect to have more and more individual control over the way we dress, the content we consume and even the way our tools (especially software) behaves.

Expecting the world to care about us, simply because we have a lot of experience and a body of work, is going to become an increasingly risky strategy. I believe this is why so many creatives I talk to are struggling to get any traction with their blogs or on social media. Moving from “tell me” to “show me” is good. But pushing out further, to “help me,” is even better.

Not Getting There Might Be The Best Thing For Us

Passing Clouds Adelaide
This weekend, as a the latest typhoon bore down on Tokyo I’ve been re-reading my book and trying to see when I can make some changes and improvements. It’s been a very wet and windy start to start the autumn here, which is a good excuse to be locked indoors, close to my keyboard and printer.

One theme I’ve touched on a few times is the whole question of having a vision for your life. It’s actually something I’m not all that keen on. Not because dreams don’t matter. But, rather, because when we eventually encounter some modicum of success, or find a place for our work, the shape of that success is seldom quite what we expected at the start.

Writing this book has been the longest sustained stretch of writing I’ve enjoyed since I left academia over ten years ago. During these weeks I’ve fluctuated between a sense of nostalgia for those days and joy that sustained, detailing writing is not my “day job” anymore. Of course, I’ve “blogged” for the last ten years. But, in many ways, writing the book has led to reveal a lot of more of my story than I ever have before.

When I came back to full time creative work in 2004, I have a plan for what I wanted to do, a sense of what success might look like. But, ten years later, everything, from where I live to what I do, is completely outside that plan. The broad brush strokes are right, but the detail is very different.

The photo above is from Adelaide, in 2012. I stumbled on it during a break from editing today. It caught my eye because I’m so keen to get outdoors, do some walking, and enjoy the autumn, once the wet weather passes and the book is finished. But, it also reminds me that my notion of success today, involves making photos, which of course is something I never dreamt of doing ten years ago.

On Marketing

Gurgaon Advertisment 2006
Most creatives I know are squeamish about the business side of things. This makes sense. We want to be about the art more than the commerce. But, this makes us susceptible to bad advice, especially bad marketing advice and misplaced ideas about personal branding and content marketing. So many creatives are trying to be everywhere at once, obsessing about the way they present themselves through website or log design or simply trying to bolt every advertising idea out there onto their creative endeavours.

But, the best form of marketing is work. Do something amazing and people will flock to you. Then do something else amazing.

This sounds obvious. But, so many times I see fellow creatives doing good work, but it’s almost as if their interaction with the world, especially their presence on social media, hides the work. OK, so you’ve made an amazing short film, or recorded a great song, penned some riveting poetry or come back from an adventure with some breathtaking photos. Great! Can I see/heard/read your work in a format that really showcases it, without having to endure a bunch of other stuff I’m not interested in?

And, is there a way for me to pay you for the experience?

Marketing 101

All too often, we get marketing wrong, thinking it’s an exercise in simply adding – more tweets, more banner ads, more “content,” more engagement, more hard sell. But, talk to successful marketers in big companies, the ones who steward famous brands in multi-million dollar advertising campaigns and they will tell you good marketing is actually more of a subtractive process, removing excess ideas from the brand’s story, focusing not on activating every possible marketing option out there, but identifying the right ones for this brand, this product, this campaign. They don’t try to convince consumers to change their behaviour as much as they try to find the consumers whose behaviour already makes them likely to buy their products.

Marketing For Creatives

Today I’ve been looking at a set of images that I want to offer as photographic prints. It’s about three years since I last offered any prints for sale. Almost as soon as I made these images in February, I knew I wanted to offer them.

As photos they are good. But, the commercial question really isn’t are these “good” photos. In a way, it’s irrelevant if these photos garnered likes on some social media platform from fellow photographers. The question is, would anyone want to hang these in their home or in their office?

So many photographers I’ve spoken to, good savvy professional photographers, get stuck trying to make their online fans buy prints. They are always surprised when I suggest that instead, they find people who are already in the habit of buying prints (and decorating homes) and market to them instead.

The work isn’t just clicking the camera shutter, or choosing the right develop setting in Lightroom. It’s also figuring out how to turn photos into a unique and worthwhile prints, something creates a great visual experience on paper, in a frame, on a wall. And, it involves figuring out how to charge for the work and ship it anywhere in the world, in a safe, timely fashion.

Cash Registers And Professionalism

In 2011 I gave a talk on creativity and social media to packed room of PR, Marketing and Advertising professionals. At one point I made the comment that many professional creatives act like amateurs online, because they don’t have a cash-register on their site, which means a way for visitors to pay. It really wasn’t a comment about making every social media interaction into a commercial one, so much as a call to arms, for creatives to not apologise for doing the work they love in a serious and sustainable way.

As I often say; if your creative work is worth doing, then it’s worth figuring our a way to sustain and support the work, long term, for the rest of your life. This involves figuring out the financial side of things, putting up a cash-register when it is appropriate. The irony, of course, is I’ve been as guilty as anyone of not consistently doing this.

I’m really tired of visiting fellow creative’s sites that don’t have cash registers on them. But, even more than that, I’m tired of not following my own advice.

Understanding Our Legacy

What will our legacy be? It’s a question Victoria Cheng, a Singapore based writer, was pondering in a recent blogpost, What’s your end game? Victoria was reflecting on career goals, finding our passions and understanding legacies. I’d like to explore a little more what the word legacy might mean for us.

Often, when we talk about legacy, we describe things we make, that we hope might live on after us. Businesses, works of art, giant stone statues that face out in to the Pacific Ocean, whatever it is, the focus tends to be on things, which will somehow act as monuments to our talent, success, effort, or just the sheer fact that for a few, fleeting moments, we walked the face of this earth.

Another Way To Understand Legacy

Of course, another way many understand legacy is not just in terms of things, but people. This sense of legacy is focussed on the generation, or generations that will follow us; how successful will they be, how well will they live and how helpful will the systems we have built be for them?

Pyschologists have a term for this kind of focus on legacy – Generativity – which literally means creativity across generations. Drawing from the work of Erik Erikson in the 1950s, generativity is a way of understanding the drive many have, as they get older, to try and make the world a better place specifically by investing in other people, particularly younger people.

Staring a family is, for many, the most obvious example of generativity. Parents naturally invest a lot in their children’s future and since ancient times, family has been seen as a vehicle for carrying on our legacy, keeping the family name and traditions alive. But, teaching, writing, mentoring and even starting charities and NGOs can also be ways to engage in generativity-styled legacy-building.

The Connection Between Legacy And Freedom

Sometimes generativity is used in a slightly different way (by scientists and philosophers) to describe the ability to create new and original content. It’s much like the stage where we learn to work without depending on teachers or supervision, to stand on our own two creative feet, so to speak. I believe the two meanings of generativity are connected. Once we start to rise above the system that nurtured us, once we start to really understand how it works, we become concerned for its health and for what it does to those who follow us.

Generativity, as a way to develop a legacy, is really built on hope and trust. Hope that the world can become a better place and trust that the goals of making a better place can be carried out by other people, who might even be better and more talented than we are. It’s a game for those who cherish the value of life and have seen enough of it to understand the good amazing, talented people can do, when given the freedom to reach their potential.

Moving On From The Second Draft

Second drafts are always bloated. It’s been the same experience for years now. Notes are always lean. The first draft is messy and around 60-70% of the target length. Then the second draft always balloons out as ideas are nuanced, developed and expanded (here’s something on my writing process from last month).

If I were to publish my book in its current state, it would be over 300 pages, having grown from a 29,127 word first draft to a 60,624 word second draft! From here, the final draft is all about tightening things up and I expect the manuscript will shrink by at least 10% before it goes to the printers.

My final draft mantra is “if in doubt, delete.” In trying to make the ideas easier to understand, the answer sometimes lies in substituting words and phrases, but more often than not, the solution is just cutting words out all together. Occasionally, more drastic surgery is required as whole sentences and paragraphs are collapsed into each other to produce leaner and more coherent prose.

I’ve shared samples of book cover ideas with my mailing list (you can sign up here) and today I settled on the final design. Despite feeling a little weary, the whole process is coming along well and I’m really looking forward to sharing more details about the book later this month!


TIPS – How To Understand Your Creative Skills

Lets talk about TIPS. No, not those short pithy bits of advice you get in magazine and blog articles, but TIPS, the acronymn developed by youth coaches at the Ajax football club in the Netherlands, to describe the skills required of promising young footballers (soccer players). My feeling is TIPS might helps us define our creative skill set in refreshingly clear ways.

What Is TIPS?

Technique – is a way of understanding talent, not just the individual skills a player should have, in relation to their age. Also, the way the player implements the skills, especially in the choices a player makes about which skill to use (e.g., low pass or lob pass, place a shot or strike it hard).

Intelligence – isn’t the player’s IQ, but their situational awareness, their sense of what is going around them and the ability to gauge what will happen. It’s a player’s ability to read the game, identify patterns in the play and adjust their role and instructions to the way the competition is evolving.

Personality – has to do with the player’s emotional state. Are they well suited to playing the game professionally? Can they cope with the pressure? And, most importantly, are they able to express themselves on the field creatively in a way that changes the game?

Speed – players need to be able to execute at speed, often making decisions in fractions of a second and using their skills while moving quickly on the field. Many can play the game well, but their ability starts to unravel as the tempo of play increases and professionals are often trying to execute complex skills and making positional decisions while they and the ball are moving at top speed.

Applying TIPS As 4 Steps For Creative Work

Although TIPS was developed specifically for football coaching and scouting, there’s something here we can apply to creative work, especially when it comes to understanding the transition either into a new activity, or when we are thinking about how to “go pro.” Below are four questions, based off the TIPS idea, you could ask yourself, to clarify your own self-understanding.

Technique – What Skills Should I Employ? Not that long ago, practical learning was difficult and expensive. But, in the internet age, almost any skill is only a YouTube video, or online course away. The challenge is shifting, from being able to acquire skills to figuring out which ones you need and when to implement them. Just because you can lay a killer fat bass line on this track, or apply HDR to that image doesn’t mean you should. Technique is no longer about being able to do something, but about being able to choose the right moment to use the right skill.

Intelligence – What Game Am I Playing? While impressing fellow musicians might feel good, your real goal as a musician is to connect meaningfully with music listeners. It might be cool and validating to get lots of likes on that photographic forum, but that probably won’t help you get clients or buyers for your photos. And, whatever creative work you do, if you are reading this, then you are in a landscape that is changing and evolving as digital platforms rise and fall in popularity. Intelligence is about understanding your creative work, what market that exists for it and your place in that market.

Personality – Who Am I In This Game? Do you really want to be a pro? There’s nothing wrong with doing your creative work as a side to a full time day job and for many people this is a better way to go. In either case, is the way you present yourself and your work really reflecting your personality in a deep and meaningful way? How is the creative field you work in different, simply because you are present in it? Personality is about putting in the effort required to make the way we share (and sell) our work as distinctive and original as we are.

Speed – How Fast Should I Execute? Like every creative professional I’ve spoken to, when I got back into music and when I started doing photography, I had no idea what to charge clients. Sometimes, it can be really hard to get a read on how much to charge. What helped me was to put aside the charging question and figure out how fast the pros work. How many minutes of music per day do arrangers or composers create? How long does a photographer take to plan, set up, do and edit a photoshoot. Interestingly pros are sometimes reticent to answer the how much they charge question (especially over the internet) but happy to tell you how long tasks take. Speed is about figuring out how fast you need to work and based on how much you need per day to sustain yourself, where you should set your minimum price point for clients and fans.