Who, What, When, Where, Why & How -- Thoughts for Creatives

Though we rarely see each other in person, my friend, Courtney DeFeo is a true source of encouragement, inspiration, and brass tax practical advice. (Thank you, technology!)

So, when she posted a blog for folks who want to create, write or speak but don’t necessarily know how or where to start, I was intrigued. Courtney has an uncanny way of engaging readers right where they are and lighting the way toward possible next steps.

And, in true Courtney fashion, she never aims the spotlight only on herself. She invites others in to collaborate with her so we can spur one another on in this crazy, creative, writing adventure. 

 Meeting "the Courtneys" (not to be confused with the Heathers) at She Speaks 

Meeting "the Courtneys" (not to be confused with the Heathers) at She Speaks 

As I thought about what I might say to someone just starting out on this journey, I realized the advice that came to me is exactly what I need to hear right now because I’ve fallen into a bit of a dry spell with my writing. Isn’t that how life so often works??

These are the reminders I need these days — and just maybe, they will speak to you too.

1. WHO — TO WHOM and FOR WHOM? 

TO WHOM? When you envision your potential audience of readers (or folks who might buy your product), who are they? Are they young, old? Male, female? Churched, Unchurched? You get the idea. Having a vision of WHO you’re writing to is critical. When you imagine a person with a face and a name and a family and dinner to make, you personalize your writing to a greater degree. This way, you begin to anticipate the thoughts or questions your readers might have and hopefully create a more holistic offering.

FOR whom? If I write for the masses, hoping to garner a multitude of comments and praise (because NONE of the comments would be negative, right??) I will forever and always be disappointed. However, if I write for myself and the God I love, I manage to keep an eternal, Kingdom-oriented perspective rather than a worldly, temporary one. In the end, whether I have one reader (thanks, Dad) or 5,000, it doesn’t really matter because I know that God is pleased with my offering and that gives me an inner peace no person could match. Of course, I don’t want to write into a vacuum. I love it when folks read what I write and engage in some way, but whether they do, or whether they don’t does not define me or my self-worth. (I have to CONSTANTLY remind myselF of this truth.)

2. WHAT — WHAT will you create? If you are a writer or speaker, your medium can take on a myriad of forms. Do you want to write a blog or a Facebook post? Do you want to write a bible study or a book? Do you want to speak at your local church or on Facebook live? Chances are, you’ll be attracted to multiple mediums, but the best part about living in today’s technological age is that you have access to so many ways of creating. Some are easier than others. Anyone of us can hop on Facebook and get some words out to the world (for better or for worse — smile), but if you want to speak at your local church or write a book, you probably need to start making some connections. In that case, Courtney’s two posts on this are gold!

3. WHEN —  WHEN will you create? Most of us have a time of day when we’re most productive. I generally turn into a pumpkin after 3:00 p.m. (probably because my kids are getting home from school...) so I try to get any writing in before then. I’m especially prolific first thing in the morning, like before 10:00 a.m. Admittedly, I have a pretty tight window! If I have any intention of writing on a given day or starting a bigger project, I have to BLOCK OUT time in my calendar to write or prepare for a speaking engagement or it WILL NOT HAPPEN. Because life. As a 9 on the Enneagram, I can find any number of ways to distract myself from the task at hand. I mean, just LOOK at the baseboards. They’re disgusting. Also, I need to call the piano tuner even though no one is currently playing the dusty instrument. And, I can’t forget to record This Is Us. That reminds me, Twitter is blowing up about crock pots, did I unplug mine? Oooh, my neighbor just texted she wants to go for a walk. You get the idea. #squirrel

4. WHERE —WHERE will you create? Do you have a space in your home or a local coffee shop that inspires ideas and creativity? I personally like to plop right down at my sticky kitchen table with the dogs snoring beside me. And that’s about it. If even one other person is at home and tra-la-la-ing in my ear, it is impossible for me to string two words together so I have to vacate the premises. Maybe some people are good at working in chaos, but not me. Which leads me back to WHEN…With kids at home, summers and school vacations are major down times for writing if I don’t plan ahead and find a quiet place to write. Otherwise, I forfeit the time and head to the pool, knowing this season with kids under foot is shorter than I realize and time will return when I have space to write.

5. WHY — WHY will you create? This one is the twin sister to FOR/TO whom…What does creating, writing, designing do for your soul that nothing else can? Sometimes it’s easy for me to dismiss writing at all because it’s not really my “job.” It’s a hobby. And hobbies can always take a back seat to daily chores and responsibilities. But this hobby (like most, I would imagine) feeds my spirit and gives me perspective on life I can’t find anywhere else. Writing helps me organize thoughts that otherwise might get tossed in the trash or stuffed deep inside because I don’t have time or energy to deal with them. Writing helps me tap into my true self and discover what God may be trying to tell me. And perhaps this message might bless someone else too. For me, writing is like exercise for my brain, it definitely gets the endorphins going. Your WHY must be very clear so you can see the value in the WHAT.

6. HOW — HOW will you create? This is the nuts and bolts part of creating. Let’s take writing a book for example. It is 100% possible for every human on the planet to publish a book. (Again, for better or for worse!) But not every human will garner a nice advance from a publishing company to do so. So, that leaves us with how…If you’re hoping to get a book contract, like Courtney mentioned, you can go to a writer’s conference such as She Speaks or any number of others and meet with editors and agents on the spot. They may not buy what you’re selling, but you can meet with them nevertheless. (You can read about my crazy experience here…) Or, you can self publish. And the self publishing world is a vast one! You can go as independent and quick as Amazon’s Create Space or work with a more traditional and comprehensive company like I ended up doing with Xulon Press. Talking about the process of self-publishing is probably a whole other post, but if anyone wants to connect with me and ask questions, I’m happy to do so! There are also, a number of blogs you can follow that will help with self-publishing questions. Goins Writer is a good one. 

Once you do a little self reflection and journal through some of these foundational pieces, the last and final bit of advice is to —- JUST DO IT!

Create. Write. Dream. Speak. 

You will be exhilarated and doubtful, you will be bold and you will shrink back. You will have moments of brilliance and you will make mistakes.

This is the life of the creative.

It is beautiful and messy. And that is precisely why we do it because we wouldn’t want to live life any other way.

 @WIP girls at Donald Miller's Storyline conference in chicago. This one is great for those who want to tell (and live) a better story!

@WIP girls at Donald Miller's Storyline conference in chicago. This one is great for those who want to tell (and live) a better story!

 Having a rockin' good time at jeff goins' tribe writers conference in Nashville, TN. Honey I shrunk the bloggers. ;)

Having a rockin' good time at jeff goins' tribe writers conference in Nashville, TN. Honey I shrunk the bloggers. ;)

Christina’s Take: 

I love hearing this download from you about your creative process...

I have found that the most compelling reading comes from the most genuine voices. But finding that voice and expressing it with authenticity is the ultimate mystery! 

...and I’m so glad you finally noticed your filthy baseboards.