Identifying the Most Important Supporter of Your Creative Career

Forget _Overnight Success_And Embrace the Long Game(1)

We’re moving towards the end of another year, and (gulp!) moving into a brand new decade. As well as pausing to reflect on the holiday season, December and January are often a time to reflect on our dreams and goals, and looking at how far we’ve come in the past twelve months.

With that in mind, I’ve been writing some posts that veer away from film publicity and social media marketing and more towards motivation and inspiration for creatives (check out my previous post about why “overnight success” is anything but), to hopefully help you get into a really great headspace for 2020. This post is no exception.

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In the past on the blog I’ve discussed the importance of creating your own “Creative Brains Trust” to help you with your career goals and creative projects. But even before the formation of your Creative Brains Trust, there’s one person who is the most important supporter of your creative career. Have you guessed who that person is yet? Flip your phone camera to the front-facing view, because it’s YOU.

Does that sound cheesy? Perhaps, but hear me out.

Supporters, mentors, fans, friends…they all come and go. You may achieve success in one area and find a flock of supporters suddenly rallying to your side; some with the purest of intentions, and some who are drawn to ‘fame by association’. Fortunes can ebb and flow. Regardless of your outside circumstances, you need to back yourself 100%. You need to back your vision and your dream when nobody else does, or will. The reason? If you don’t back your vision, it’s hard to get anyone else on board to do so as well.

Being your own best supporter also gives you the resilience to get through the tough times. It’s extremely hard to keep going when outside circumstances aren’t favourable, and that’s where backing your vision and your talent comes in. I’m going to get a bit ‘woo’ for a second: some practitioners of the art of manifestation say that in order to help your desired circumstances to manifest, you need to believe in the desired outcome, regardless of evidence to the contrary. A bit of healthy delusion? Perhaps, but it gives you more resilience when rejection emails land in your inbox, a deal falls through, or nothing seems to be moving forward.

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Does that mean you don’t listen to healthy advice from people in the know? Absolutely not. If someone is telling you that this isn’t a good avenue for you, or there’s a better option, then you listen. It means that you adjust your sails and shift course a little to accommodate more favourable winds. It doesn’t mean you give up on your dream or yourself altogether.

Another reason to be your own best supporter is because although humility is vital (and I’ve met so many incredible creatives who have a massive amount of humility), sometimes we can be our worst enemy when it comes to putting ourselves forward and showing the world what we have to offer. In the course of my career I’ve spoken with filmmakers who were reluctant to crowdfund because they felt funny about asking friends and family for money, or were reluctant to promote their work. Believe me, I completely understand! But one of the benefits of truly backing your work and what you have to offer to the world is that you will be able to pitch yourself to anyone. Imagine bumping into someone at random who could become a vital creative collaborator or help fund your work, and you have the confidence to talk freely about your work and what you bring to the table. That’s quite a good skill to have, but sometimes it can be SO difficult to put it into words.

Let me share my own experience: it was two and a half years into running Film Sprites PR, and I was a guest on a filmmaking podcast. It was a great experience, but when the hosts asked me about why filmmakers should use Film Sprites PR for their publicity, social media marketing or crowdfunding strategy and promotion, I didn’t really have an answer. I was a creative, energetic publicist who had the benefit of also being a cinephile, I’d helped filmmakers achieve their goals (including media placements internationally, growing their social media audience and raising thousands of dollars through crowdfunding), but I couldn’t articulate anything about my own abilities enthusiastically. I realised at that point that I didn’t back myself…and that was a tough realisation.

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It was, however, a huge kick up the butt. And it produced some interesting results. I got re-focused. I started to back myself. As a result, as I was backing myself, other people were backing me too. I put myself through a sort of self-belief boot camp, which then led to the writing of this post on strategies for reluctant self-promoters. This post then led me to write a similar article on how to best promote your work as a reluctant self promoter, which appeared on The Big Idea‘s website. As a result of this article, a producer at Radio New Zealand contacted me to see if I wanted to discuss the article on the RNZ (yes please!). All of that came from backing myself and being my own best supporter.

That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been dark times. I’m sure we’ve all had those dark teatimes of the soul at one point or another, right? I think it comes with the territory of being a creative: we have a huge capacity for creating good, but our brains are so nebulous that we’re also prone to going down dark rabbit holes as well. So when times are lean, things aren’t progressing or opportunities that seemed promising fall through, I just remind myself what I have to offer, why I started in the first place, and what I aim to achieve in the future.

And that’s the absolute best advice I can offer you, too. If you have to carry it around on a small card in your wallet, put it on your mirror, or use it as a mantra, then do so: remind yourself what you have to offer, why you started in the first place, and what you aim to achieve in the future. It also serves as a really good quick pitch during networking situations as well!

So, are you ready to slay 2020? I am.

 

 

Your “Creative Brains Trust”: People Who Are Invaluable in Your Career, and How to Find Them

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Remember the story of the Little Red Hen? TL;DR for you: this little lady sets out to make bread and asks the other members of the farmyard if they want to help her with the various tasks, including grinding the wheat for the flour and churning the butter to spread on the finished loaf. Every one of them declines…but when they smell the smell of the freshly baked loaf, they come running. Nobody wants to help make the bread, but they sure want to eat it.

Sometimes I feel like creative endeavors are just like the Little Red Hen story. You hear stories of people who are heralded as ‘overnight successes’, which doesn’t take into account the YEARS and sometimes decades of hard work that they have put in without praise or assistance to get to the point where people applaud their efforts. Sometimes the grind can be exhausting and a little deflating. There’s far too many people who don’t acknowledge the grind when someone is coming up in their career but will be the first to say they knew that person way back when!

That’s why it’s vitally important to surround yourself with people who are the polar opposite of those people. Every creative, entrepreneur and dreamer needs a ‘Brains Trust’: people who support you and your efforts and can assist you in various ways. I’ve found the majority of these people seem to pop up almost magically. Sometimes they will be friends, sometimes employers or ex-employers, sometimes people you least expect. I like to think of them as being like the people who give water to marathon runners; refreshing and replenishing them on their route so they can continue to success.

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Here’s the kinds of people you need in your own “Brains Trust”, regardless of whether you’re a filmmaker, entrepreneur, creative, or all three:

The Sounding Board

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The Sounding Board is the type of person who will stoically listen to you when you need to get something off your chest or test out a theory. The key to having a great person as your Sounding Board is to BE a great Sounding Board yourself. This is not a one-way relationship, nor should it be. It’s give-and-take. These are the people you can be 100% candid with, because a lot of the time you will find your Sounding Boards in your friendship circle.

The Professional Mentor

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A while back, I wrote a post about how to find mentors (and how to be a great mentoree) which outlined how to seek out a mentor, but I particularly wanted to make mention of having a professional mentor as part of your “Brains Trust”.

Footnote: When I set out to write this post, I stumbled across an interesting LinkedIn article about Little Red Hen Syndrome and dysfunctional team members. This post, thankfully, is not going to be about those types of people but it’s definitely worth a read nonetheless. These are people who are usually completely removed from your circle of friends (or who may be acquaintances) who are leaders in your field. While you can actively seek out a mentor yourself, I’ve found that along the way I have been very fortunate to have had mentors appear out of the blue. In my case, my mentors have all been incredible women in the film industry who not only believe in my work and my potential to go further, but who have also, at times, provided opportunities and connections which have been invaluable. Professional mentors are truly magical people, because they see the ability in you even when you (or other people) can’t. Chances are, they’ve had similar experiences. If you are fortunate enough to have a professional mentor or two, don’t forget to become a mentor on your journey and help others along the way.

The Connector

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Connectors are some of my favourite people. They’re the ones who have absolutely no qualms with introducing you to people they think you need to know, or suggesting that you reach out to a certain person. The Connectors in my circle have been the first to send me a link to a project or short-term gig they think I’d be a great fit for. If they don’t know something, you can be sure they know somebody who does, and they’ll very happily introduce you to that person. If they were magicians, they wouldn’t pull a rabbit out of the hat…they’d pull out a unicorn. They can also identify useful resources you should check out: books, podcasts, articles…you name it, they have a magical index of resources!

The Muses

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Every great artist had their muse. Creatives and entrepreneurs often cite people, books, speeches and other resources that have helped spur them to greatness. Tap into your muses and inspirations, both real and fictional. Chances are, you might not meet Michelle Obama, but you can read her autobiography. You can tap into the character strengths of a person you admire to help you summon courage in a moment. I’ve been known to draw on the words and music of Patti Smith and Amanda Palmer, the courage and creativity of Frida Kahlo, the genius and detail of Stanley Kubrick, and the joie de vivre of Rita Hayworth, just to name a few!

You will probably find that some people you know will have multiple attributes. I have a few friends who are Sounding Boards who are also amazing Connectors. If you find that you identify in one of these categories, why not think about helping your fellow creatives in your Brains Trust capacity? Believe me, it really is appreciated and it goes a long way.

I want to make mention of a fantastic article about dysfunctional teams and Little Red Hen Syndrome that I discovered while I was writing this post. It identifies some really toxic team members and behaviours that exist in a teamwork capacity, and is well worth a read to find out who you really DON’T want on your brains trust.

You Matter: A Call To All Creatives, Dreamers and Entrepreneurs

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When I was 10 years old, I had a teacher who decided it was a good idea to put the word “eccentric” on my personal record. I would never had found out about this, had it not been a rainy day when all of the class was inside and my personal record was open on the desk. Her bowels turned to liquid the moment I saw her after lunch and said: “I’m eccentric, am I?” I remember the blood draining from her face as she realised she had left my record open on the desk for all to see…including myself.

For years, that one comment, written in ballpoint pen, haunted me. I’d been called “weird” by my classmates…but to have an adult say it (especially one in a position of prominence in my life)…it must a)be true and b)also be a really, really bad thing. So I let it rattle around in my head for years and years, and instead of embracing the fact that being eccentric could actually be a good thing, I let it erode my confidence and my interactions with other people. As I got older, however, I discovered that being a little bit “different” in other people’s eyes is actually a good thing. I used to get bullied for being interested in computers, and now they’re commonplace, and as a result of being an early adopter of personal computing in the 1980s I was able to jump on the social media zeitgeist early as well.

Why am I telling you my personal sob story about being the “weird kid”? Because so many of us out there were the “weird kids” growing up. We were the ones who were bullied for what was deemed socially “uncool”, the things our peersĀ  (and sometimes family members) didn’t understand. Quite often, it’s the creatives, dreamers and entrepreneurs of this world who have had to endure the pain of being isolated for what they love and who they are. I love this quote from George R.R. Martin (when Tyrion is giving counsel to Jon Snow):

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

 

Whether you’re in the process of making your first film, working on a fledgling business, or trying to make your life better after tragedy, know this- you matter. Birthing anything into the world can be a lonely process, filled with doubt, regardless of the medium or purpose. There will be some friends and family who don’t understand what you’re doing. Well-meaning people will tell you “horror stories” to try and make you “see sense”. Sometimes, you will walk the path alone- it’s your path to walk, nobody else’s. There’s a reason for that, and it’s got nothing to do with your inherent worth. Remember (and I’m about to geek out on you again here) in The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda was instructing Luke, and Luke had to enter the cave by himself? Exactly. Did he end up alone at the end of the film? Nope. He was alone again *SPOILER ALERT* when Rey meets up with him at the end of Ep VII, but again there would have been a reason for him to be alone, because that was yet another point on his journey where he needed to tread the path on his own.

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Photo by Rich Lock on Unsplash

Believe in yourself and your dream. First and foremost, you need to be your own cheerleader. When others see how much you believe in what you are doing, and how passionate you are about it, that’s when you start to open doors.

The world needs you. Whether you’re writing your first novel, teaching drama to underprivileged children, or composing a score for a film, we need the creatives, entrepreneurs and dreamers of the world to help make the world less lonely, less bland. And yes, there have been times throughout my journey where I have had dark teatimes of the soul, times when it seemed easier to tap out than to continue…but if you get into a similar situation, ask yourself: if I quit today, what will tomorrow look like? In my case, I couldn’t bear to think about a tomorrow that didn’t involve working in the film industry. I just couldn’t. It was a lifelong love, and would physically hurt if I quit. Things have been tough, but I’ve taken it one day at a time and kept going.

So, why did I choose to write about this, instead of a post about social media marketing, filmmaking or publicity? Because sometimes you just need to hear that there are other people out there that have gone through the same things you have. Sometimes, you need to know that other people “get” the creative struggle. Let this be your sign that you are seen and heard…and that you matter.