Basically, I’ve run my entire life as an artist. Basically a big kid, and was smart enough, and played hard enough, to get away with it. I’d say I made most of my own luck, by seeking out people who could help me and knocking on enough doors that I finally got to “yes.” Of course, I’m patting myself on the back for those successes, but also taking responsibility for the asininities along the way, and ALL of my disasters.
But it was pointed out to me that I wasn’t handling money maturely (thanks, Dan Moran) and after the entire Atlanta business pointed out how vulnerable I’d let myself become, I looked back over my life and chose the minimum number of changes which, implemented early, would have avoided those problems. The answer was:
- If I’d saved 10% of what I made (and trust me, no matter how much or little you make, people have the exact same reasons for why they think they can’t do this.)
- If I’d separated my personality aspects into child/artist and adult/manager. The adult’s job is to remain alert, aware, to manage time and money, and if necessary create an alternate line of income to take pressure off the “child” part. The “child’s job is simply to play, and learn, and enjoy life.
In essence, I never had to “grow up” my adult self–I had agents, and partners, and even a bookkeeper wife to manage all that stuff. I could play, and boy did I ever. But what I have to do now is ask: “what would I have done differently, would it have worked, and how can I implement it NOW?” is the question.
AND THE QUESTION HURTS. To my “child”, any fundamental change feels like failure. “I didn’t accomplish my dreams!” Hush, little Stevie. You did fine. But Big Steve let you down, and he’s making amends. Twenty-five years ago I pitched to a roomful of evil television executives, and it felt like pimping out my “little boy”. Damaged my peace of mind, my creative flow, harshly, and it took a YEAR of daily meditation to heal the wound. But I promised that little kid that I’d never put him on the firing line again. Daddy would take care of the business, and let Little Stevie play.
Well, Daddy fell asleep again. Not in the arena of moral peril (I’ve been good about that) but just handling the “grown up” stuff. And so the best way I know to counter that is to specifically build a business, something disconnected from writing, which takes the responsibility for paying the bills OFF that little kid.
In other words, to “retire” from writing in the sense of no longer seeking to pay my bills with my novels and so forth. To write them just for “fun”, which of course will tap into deeper wells of my creativity, and lead to the best and most successful work of my life.
That’s the theory. Here’s a trick: what do you need to do to succeed?
CLEAR GOALS (outcomes)
POWERFUL CLEAR REASONS TO ACHIEVE IT (emotions, the fuel of action as well as “taking the brakes off)
TAKING A MASSIVE, TACTICALLY SOUND SERIES OF PRIORITIZED ACTIONS
Know what I want, why I want it, and take actions every day modeled on the behavior of people who have accomplished that goal. Simple, if not always “easy.”
One issue is that the building of that business requires LOTS of work that has no direct emotional payoff. And to learn them I have to associate enough emotions to them that I take pleasure in doing them–we always get best at the things that engage us completely, that put us in “flow.” But I have to be sure I don’t “steal” energy my Little Stevie needs to thrive.
What are the things I need to do?
- Identify WHAT a “business” is, in the sense of how one operates as a totality: I’ve been a creative cog in larger machines.
- Identify HOW a “businessman” thinks, as opposed to the “artist” I’ve been. Not my HALLUCINATION about how they think, but actually study successful businesspeople, create a full pattern of their thought patterns, and then compare that to my own to see the gaps.
- Identify the CRITICAL PATH of things I must learn to fill that gap, prioritized for the things that are both important and imperative.
- Identify MENTORS who can teach me as rapidly as possible how to think…differently. You know how writers think publishers are Philistines? Artists that managers are thieves? Teenagers that their teachers or parents are lame and manipulative? Employees that their bosses or the owners of companies are bastards? THAT is the child/adult split. My task is to both DEVELOP that lobe of my brain and then integrate the two halves in a way I never have, rather than having them be at war or in competition. Holy #$%%
- Find a way to do all this AND HAVE FUN IN THE PROCESS. Sorry, Little Stevie, but I do need some of your attention. I PROMISE that you’ll have time and energy to work on your own projects. Cross my heart.
There’s more, but that’s enough for this post. I’ve never been in this situation, and the challenge is exhilarating. I HAVE to think of it that way, or I’d find it exhausting and terrifying. Yeah…I guess that’s the difference between Climbing Kilimanjaro as a sacred pilgrimage, or being forced to do it with a gun at my head. The same exhaustion and effort, totally different context. Or the difference between sex and rape. Or immigration or the Middle Passage. Context is gigantically important, even separate from the raw events.
2017 is going to be one of my life’s great adventures.