[Just kidding. This post is basically an author’s note, so the tone will be different from our previous informational posts.]
September 6th, 2016.
I woke up like a kid on Christmas. I was excited, but I was also as nervous as I’ve ever been. It had nothing to do with a performance. Neither was I getting married, nor anticipating the birth of a child. I wasn’t starting a new job or moving to a new house or city.
I was becoming an author.
September 6th, 2016 was the official release date of my first self-published book; God and Gigs: Succeed as a Musician without Sacrificing your Faith. For nearly 5 years, the book had only existed as an idea, then as a slowly growing set of paragraphs in Microsoft Word, as I began to realize what it would take to actually finish the project. It then evolved into an ever-expanding research project, an aggravating reminder of my procrastination, a classroom which forced me to reach out to new teachers and mentors, and a mirror where I had to confront my past, my failures and my life’s journey to that point.
As I write these words, it has been nearly a year since that collection of thoughts and words became a reality in the form of a book released to the world. I can’t begin to thank all of the people who helped make this happen, but you can see a list of many of them in the Special Thanks section of this site. I will, however, take the time to again to thank my wife, Lia, who listened patiently to my rantings about lost files and production delays, and allowed me days at a time away from her to sit in coffee shops and editing sessions. I’ll also mention my chief content editor Katrina, who spent nearly a year with me turning my random thoughts into a coherent collection of ideas.
Looking back now, I see four major lessons that I’ve learned following the release of my book. Whether you’re considering becoming an author, or launching any kind of creative project, I hope this will provide some perspective on what to expect after the ink is dry, the cover is printed and your vision has been released to the world.
Lesson 1: Appreciate my relationships
I never knew just how deeply people cared for me and my work until I dared to bring my vision into reality. The support I received from both close friends, and friends I didn’t realize I had, was almost overwhelming. My experience proves that fostering authentic relationships and appreciating the people around me is the most important part of becoming an author – maybe even more important than the writing itself. Without people in my life that would be touched by the words, and whose influence on me would be reflected in the pages, the book itself would be pointless.
It’s important to note that while these relationships helped me to produce and promote my project, their impact went far beyond simply building a customer base. I realize now that the relationships I built as I wrote this book formed the foundation of my creative life. When I’m unable to produce anything new, and my creative inspiration takes a dip, the real relationships in my life don’t dry up. They don’t pack up and look for someone new to connect with. These “real-ationships” last long after the Kickstarter campaigns and go deeper than Facebook “likes”. These people share your goals, dreams and experiences. I can’t emphasize enough to my fellow artists that the people in your life are the lifeblood of your creative career. They will be the ones who will push you forward even when you feel you have nothing left to offer, because they are more interested in YOU than in what you create.
Lesson 2: Acknowledge my mistakes
In the past year, I’ve quickly learned how much I don’t know. Despite what must have been hundreds of hours of edits and re-edits, there are still errors in the book that bug me to this day. Many of the marketing and promotional drives I attempted weren’t very successful. I don’t say that for sympathy, as I’m very happy with the book we created, the community we’ve built, and the people who I have been able to reach. But it would be dishonest to say I didn’t wish that I would have reached even more people. Still, I can point to my own decisions and expectations as the culprit. Taking an honest look at my planning and saying, ‘Oops! That wasn’t a smart move’, is an important part of the process of evaluating where a creative project should go next. John Maxwell, famous leadership and productivity expert, states it this way; “Experience is not the best teacher. Evaluated experience is.”
As I look on my mistakes and missteps, I’m not frustrated at all. In fact, I’m encouraged. You can always look at your mistakes and realize that you were operating only in what you were able to understand, and you’re now able to understand even more. Your decisions going forward will be better planned, more informed, and more successful because you were willing to take a chance and make some mistakes in the past. You can look to the future of your creative projects with confidence, knowing that every mistake is an opportunity to grow and learn.
Lesson 3: Attempt new goals
Publishing my book should have felt like the end of a journey, but it was really only the beginning. In fact, the journey that began on that day was entirely different from the one I anticipated. I assumed I would jump into writing a new book, and already had notes on my next manuscript. However, it became apparent that this book was more about the community I was serving than it was about the words on the page. Building a community requires different actions than writing a book does. It meant I had to step out of my comfort zone and become the face of my business. I couldn’t rely on my books and posts alone to speak for me. I had to become more relational, open up new avenues for connection, and make sure that my members could always reach me. That meant video appearances (which I really didn’t want to do), public speaking, a new podcast, and new community events like our ConEx events.
I’m so glad that the book forced me into these new but unfamiliar areas. Through these new initiatives, wonderful new relationships have developed, amazing stories have been shared, and the entire vision of the book – improving the everyday lives of artists – has been realized in a living, dynamic way. I share this so that you, the creative artist, entrepreneur, musician, etc. will realize, after you are led to create your vision, your vision will then begin to lead you. You can’t predict all the ways you will have to change and adjust as an artist, but commit now to open yourself up to all the new goals and paths that your project will present to you. You may find your true goal was not what you thought it was, and completing your project was just the first step on a whole new journey.
Lesson 4: Accept my mission
When I began my writing process, my end goal was simple – finish the book. But as I continued, and especially as I noticed my friends and fellow artists dealing with the situations I was writing about, my motivation changed. It wasn’t enough to simply finish a project. I knew that my purpose was to help the people I cared about, and it meant I had to prioritize t in the most effective way and with the highest quality possible. My mission wasn’t to be a hugely successful author, to gain recognition, or to increase my fan base. It is a mission to save as many people as I can from the heartache that I endured through a life as an awkward artist, a wayward Christian, and a struggling creative.
Accepting that mission has been a defining moment in my life. I now know that if this book is all I complete in a lifetime of attempted accomplishments, that I’ve made an impact that can reach and help people even when I’m gone. That is both a liberating, and a sobering fact. It leads me to think – what else can I achieve to fulfill this life’s mission? What goals have I not attempted? What have I avoided saying yes to? As a creative, the mission of reaching more people and being true to my calling is a never-ending one. It may have reached a pinnacle with the completion of one project, but it only leads to the opportunity to achieve even more with the gifts that God has given me.
Applying the Lessons
Fellow creative, I hope you’ll accept the mission that you’ve been given, whatever that is. I firmly believe that God gives each one of us a unique part to play in our world, and the dreams and goals you have for your life and your art are an intricate part of the story that’s being played out in the world today. My book was my part to play, but it has only just begun. I’m now beginning to see that what I thought was a single goal was actually just a chapter in my life. I’m more committed than ever to making sure the entire story of my life has a positive impact on the world. I hope and pray these lessons will help you to do the same – and make this moment of your creative journey an even greater chapter than it already is.