Right Turn Here: Why there’s no map to creative success

We can find help in making choices as creatives, but ultimately reaching our destination is up to us

Does anyone remember using a map?

Not the handy GPS app on your phone that can instantly tell you where the nearest Starbucks is, or the traffic app that guides you with calming tones toward an address.

No, I’m referring to the folded paper maps that, when unfolded entirely, covered a kitchen table and filled many a glove compartment during family road trips. If you were born after 1990, it’s possible you’ve never seen one. Suffice it to say these maps were not the easiest to manage. You had to make sense of a bunch of squiggly lines that were supposed to be roads, and then keep track of those lines as you drove. My job as a pre-teen was to sit in the passenger seat (we called this position ‘the navigator’ and it was a high honor) and read the map to my dad – as if he didn’t already know where to go.

Plenty of times during our family vacations, we looked down at the map only to realize that we were in the wrong place. It wasn’t the map’s fault, of course. It was due to our inability to understand what the map was saying.

Now, we don’t have that problem. Our modern maps talk back. We wait for the directions, then we make the decisions.

I mention maps because, while I’m grateful for the new technology that helps us avoid traffic jams and such, I believe a creative career is more like reading a paper map than following a GPS.

The Challenges of Starting a Career – Stef Silva – Ep.1

A revealing discussion with an artist starting a new chapter in her creative career

Our first episode features Allen C. Paul and Cristyle Renae talking to a new artist who represents what the God and Gigs Show is all about. Stef Silva is a singer / songwriter with a background in worship music, who recently began recording and performing in the mainstream industry. Her story brings the issues of managing a music career, wrestling with self-acceptance as an artist, and life / family balance into perspective.


  • Allen and CriStyle introduce themselves and the concept behind the show.
  • Stef shares her story of beginning a music career in the midst of a challenging family situation.
  • Allen and Stef discuss how both church ministry and mainstream performances require a level of confidence in your ability.
  • Stef discusses how keeping her family as a priority helps her to reach for her dreams as an artist.
  • Allen and CriStyle try to close the show for the first time, and it doesn’t go as planned.

Quotables from the interview 

Guest Links:


Host Links:

Theme Music: 

  • Performed by Teja Veal, from “The Hopeless Romantic EP”


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The Character Question: Should artists care?

Becoming a truly successful artist means growing more trustworthy as well

We’ve all heard of that artist.

The one who is immensely talented and gifted, but is almost impossible to work with.

Her temperament is erratic. His morals are shaky. Commitments are rarely kept.

Some might say that this lack of personal character is a symptom of their artistic gift. Somehow, they reason, their love for art makes it impossible to see the world in the same way as the rest of us.

That reasoning doesn’t explain, however, why artists that are just as talented exhibit the exact opposite qualities; grounded, helpful, reasonable and humble.

Clearly it’s not the practice of an art form that makes people behave in  a way that violates common standards of decent behavior. It’s an artist’s choices.

If that’s the case, we can then examine how an artist can develop a deeper, more trustworthy character while pursuing their creative dreams. We can do this from three standpoints: The priority of character, the principles of character, and the process of developing character.

Defining character

The word ‘character’ is taken from the Greek word “charasso”, which referred to the marking or imprint of a coin, or something cut in a certain way and given a defining quality. Artists know well the process of giving a work a defining quality. Each time we sit down to create, we choose to include qualities that will make that artwork unique. The same applies to the artist him or herself. Each day, the choices we make are imprinting marks onto our character. We cannot often alter the marks that we received in the past, but we can choose our response and our future imprints.

The Content Question: When critics attack

Here are a few tips on how faith-focused creatives can deal with controversy over their artistic choices

If you’ve created anything outside of the four walls of a church, you’ve probably heard this question.

“How can you (play, create, write) that kind of (music, art, story) if you say you believe in God?”

Or, even more pointedly, “How can you work or collaborate with artists who  _______(fill in the offending act or belief system here)?”

This question always brings out the most critical and confrontational conversations between artists and audiences, creators and congregations, performers and pastors.  There are invisible battle lines drawn as soon as the topic arises.

On one side, you have the standard-bearers, those who want faith-focused artists to have no contact or connection with anything they deem secular or ungodly.

On the other side, you have the artists, musicians and creatives who become marginalized into making art that keeps the first category happy. They champion their creative freedoms and point out the idea that their creativity cannot be contained inside temples and in front of church pews.

To each musician, creative, and artist who has dealt with this question, I want to offer three different questions to ask yourself when critics question the content of your creativity, or the quality of the people with whom you collaborate.


  1. Who am I working for?
  2. What is my audience looking for?
  3. Who am I trying to impact?

The Compensation Question: Setting rates the right way

Artists must keep the right mindset when deciding how much to charge

Many artists dread one question more than any other.

Not “So what kind of [music, art, books] do you [play, draw, write]?”

Not, “Do you know anyone famous?”

Not, “What’s your real job?”

No, the question many of us dread the most is: “How much do you charge?”

While everyone works for a living, professional musicians, artists and creatives often live for their work. Therefore, because we creatives tend to see our work as an extension of ourselves, setting a rate can become a deeply personal decision. Some wish they didn’t have to charge at all. Others hate having to haggle and negotiate with people who balk at the costs they quote. In any case, rather than waiting to be asked about your fee for a gig, service or product, it’s best to have some things already thought out in advance.

Here’s some tips on how to maintain a proper mindset while setting your rates.

What you shouldn’t think about

1. Don’t think about what you need. The first mistake most musicians and creatives make when charging fees is becoming a prisoner of the moment. You might think about the car payment that is due, the groceries that you need, or the equipment you’ve been dying to purchase. However, all of your responses at this point are now tied to a temporary situation. Instead of thinking of what your services are worth, you’re thinking of what your current financial need is. This means you will adjust your rates higher or lower, and your pricing model will never be consistent. Instead, set your rates long in advance and don’t change them simply because of a momentary financial need or desire. You’ll avoid being swayed or influenced when you are presenting your rates to a potential client.