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Posts tagged "office hours"
I’ve been a librarian, a web designer, and a copywriter, but I always thought I’d be a teacher or a professor. Both my parents have masters degrees and work in education. I just never went back to grad school. It felt like a sort of failure at the time, I mean, my wife is getting her PhD, but the funny thing is that now I get to write books and give talks at colleges and I don’t have to grade papers and I don’t have any student loan debt. And I can still do office hours!
Man, that’s tough. The big thing I do is, I have my stations ready to go. I have all my papers and my markers set up on my analog desk, so I can just grab a page and start making poems when I have spare time. I have pens and index cards all over the house. I bought a new chair that doesn’t make any noise and I keep my laptop on sleep mode so I can just sit down right after I put the kid down, flip open the Macbook and bust out some emails.
But the most important thing is to not do work in short bursts. To find at least 90 minutes in a space where nobody is going to bother you. That uninterrupted time is key. Watch this John Cleese lecture — it’s seriously the best thing I’ve ever seen on the topic.
Basically, you can get over your problems with self-promotion by reframing it as sharing. And real sharing, not just spamming people with your stuff. Sharing your tips, your inspiration, your process. The people who do it really well these days are sort of working and learning in public. I thought I had it covered in chapter six of Steal Like An Artist, “Do Good Work and Share It With People”, but that’s a pretty short chapter for a big topic, so I’m writing a whole book on it. It’s a guide to self-promotion for people who hate the very idea of self-promotion. I don’t know when it’ll be out, but I gave a talk about it a few weeks ago in Austin, so keep your eye on this page, and read back through this tag for more.
Yeah! Meditation! As you can see, it’s now my #1 daily priority. My wife can tell you at the end of the day with pretty deadly accuracy whether or not I meditated.
When I started out I was totally the same way—I wanted to meditate, but I did not want any “crunchy.” No new-agey crap or whatever.
So I just sat down at the top of my stairs, set a timer for 10 minutes, and closed my eyes. Seriously. That’s it. That’s still all I do, months later! And I just try to breath deeply, let my mind go, let thoughts come and go, try to let my whole body relax.
Sometimes I have really vivid images come to me. Sometimes great ideas come to me. Sometimes nothing happens at all.
What it’s taught me is how fucking hard it is to do something every single day. Holy crap, it’s hard. Think of it this way: if you can’t train yourself to sit on your ass for 10 minutes and do nothing once a day, how the hell are you going to do anything else that requires discipline?
Anyways, I really recommend it. Just sit somewhere and set a timer and try to lose yourself and don’t look at your phone or your laptop. It’s so stupidly simple, but so great.
More on meditation here.
Just realized I didn’t actually post this during office hours…
There’s a whole section in Steal Like An Artist on this very subject. An excerpt:
[M]ost of my thinking and conversation and art-related fellowship is online. Instead of a geographical art scene, I have Twitter buddies and Google Reader.
You don’t have to live anywhere other than the place you are to start connecting with the world you want to be in. If you feel stuck somewhere, if you’re too young or too old or too broke, or if you’re somehow tied down to a place, take heart. There’s a community of people out there you can connect with.
I definitely recommend living somewhere cheap so you can get by on next to nothing and work as much as you can on your Thing.
More in the book: http://StealLikeAnArtist.com
I think generalists are becoming more and more valuable these days. Think of journalists: in the old days, you had to be able to find the story and write it. Now, as David Carr points out, you have to be comfortable doing a variety of things: shooting video, coding, running social media, etc. It’s the same for copywriters: you need to be well-versed in a variety of media.
I think the way you succeed (succeed, as in, uh, make money, I guess?) is to not market yourself as a “generalist” but as a [noun] who can [verb], [verb], [verb]. For example, my resume used to read: “I’m a writer who draws and codes.”
I really don’t know much about baseball, but I had a friend who explained to me the concept of a “five-tool player.” That’s a baseball player who can 1) hit for average 2) hit for power 3) run fast and get bases 4) throw and 5) field. Now, if you’re really fucking good at slugging home runs and you’re an awesome fielder, you can be forgiven for being slow and somewhat erratic. (I’m too stupid about baseball to give you an example.)
Cartoonists are an interesting example: a lot of cartoonists are average artists and average writers, but when it comes to telling stories with pictures and words together, they’re brilliant.
You should also read up on the “t-shaped person”:
T-shaped is just a funny name used to describe a person who has very deep skills in one area (the deep vertical stroke of the T) as well as the ability to collaborate across disciplines they’re not an expert in (that would be the horizontal stoke). Today’s most successful creatives are a sort of hybrid, capable of expert contributions in their chosen fields of art direction or copywriting, but fluent enough in other digital disciplines to collaborate effectively, occasionally even executing things on their own.
I hate the term “creative” as a noun, but whatever.