I work with a lot of writers and I have taught art classes, led writing workshops, and tutored both artists and writers.
Sometimes people ask me if they should take a class or a course, either online or locally, in person. Here is my answer:
It depends what your goal is.
Yes, you should take a class, or some kind of instruction if you want to improve your work. This can be done in a myriad of ways. When I began exploring watercolours my first step was to borrow books from my local library and study what different artists recommended.
I learned early on that there are many different approaches even in this one medium. Since my goal was to increase my skill level, i.e. become more professional, I enrolled in a studio class that I continued to attend for a couple of years. In that class I learned many techniques how to use the medium to produce work that reflected my own style.
(Coincidentally, in the studio next door, another class leader taught all the students to copy the style of the instructor.)
During that same period I also decided I wanted to develop my writing skills. I followed the same pattern. First, library books, and then writing classes. Both were beneficial.
All this took place before the advent of the Internet and online courses. Now, I’m a big fan of classes online. They are easy and quick to access and you can start almost immediately after you’ve made the decision. You can generally work at your own pace without leaving home.
Among the disadvantages of courses online is that you will likely be working alone and unless you’re self-motivated, you may find that life gets in the way of finishing what you started. However, a well-done course or leaders will usually also offer follow up, a forum, or Facebook group so you stay engaged and motivated until the end.
A local class or course offers the benefit of social contact but requires you to show up at a specific time. It is fun to get together with others who share your interest and to learn as a group. The downside can be heading out on a dark and stormy night may put you off getting to the class.
So, here is my question:
If you wanted to pursue either a writing course, or an art course, which would you prefer: online or in person?
Please leave your answer as a comment below as your choice will help me to develop some programs that I have in mind. Thanks.
Our western society is a culture of striving. The prevailing attitude is that if you’re not knocking yourself out striving toward a goal, you’re wasting time and taking up space.
While I agree that it’s important to know where you want to go and what you want to do to make your life feel worthwhile, too many of us are striving at breakneck speed toward the unknown. Believe it our not, there is a word for this: coddiwomple. It means to travel purposefully toward a vague destination.
When I first read that word, I had to stop and ask myself if that’s what I’m doing. And surprisingly, the answer is, at least in some areas, yes. I’m busy working, striving, and reaching for a destination that’s kind of blurry.
How does this happen?
I believe that we’re products of our environment to such an extent that we simply flow in the direction of everyone else. (There is a reason Jesus compared us to sheep.)
But what would happen if you stopped? If we each took time to look carefully at all the “things” we are chasing, would we still want them?
To find that out, two things are necessary.
1) We must know what we truly value.
2) We must seek peace in our lives and live in that place where peace resides.
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?
In my program, The Wish Plan, which I wrote and teach, the very first exercise assists you in determining what you truly value. I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of knowing this.
It’s easy to spend precious hours, days, and years of our lives striving for something that we don’t really, in our hearts, even want. That’s not a good way to spend a life.
So, if you decide for even a day to stop striving for whatever you’re reaching for, and simply pay attention to what is right in front of you, how would that feel?
Sometimes when we stop, take a rest, and listen to our hearts, the answers come. So does the peace.
It’s hard to keep up willpower for any length of time. Yes, we can stick to a low-fat 1,000 calorie diet and go hungry for a week or two, but eventually our willpower fades. And yes, we can do exercise we hate for a while... until we run out of willpower.
But what about getting up to take the kids to school every morning, brushing our teeth or going to work every day. Those may not be our favorite things to do either, but we do them daily without the risk of running out of willpower. That’s because they have become habits. They are so ingrained in what we do and who we are that we do them without even considering skipping a day or a week. We don’t have to make a conscious decision each day to shower or drive to work. It’s just what we do – a habit.
When you start to think about it, there is an inverse relationship between habits and will power. When you first want to build a new creative habit, say, write or paint every day, it takes a lot of will power or self-discipline to get it done day in and day out. As you start to establish that habit, it becomes easier and easier to do until you don’t even have to think about it anymore. Doing your creative work is just part of your daily life.
Just being aware of this process helps us stick it out. We know we don’t always have to make such a big effort to go work out or skip the donut for breakfast. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We know eventually it will become habit to go write for fifteen or thirty minutes first thing in the morning or grab your paintbrush and add a few more strokes to your work in progress.
While we’re in that transition from willpower to habit, we can use tools to make it easier. Use a to-do list or creative planner or set a reminder to help stay on track. Find an accountability partner so the two of you can motivate each other and help bolster that willpower when it starts to fade after the first enthusiasm wears off. Compare daily word count or report in with each other every day. Even something as simple as laying out your craft materials—brushes, paints, novel research, etc.—will give you a jump start on getting at it in the morning.
Recently, the writing world is all a-flutter with the sudden (How could it be sudden?) revelation that Huffington Post apparently requires its writers to work for free. While I have no opinion on HuffPo in particular, this scenario does bring up the unpleasant truth that creative people are asked to, and agree to, work for free far too often.
Sure, I know it happens in other occupations too, but it’s particularly rampant in the arts. The contention is that because you love what you do that should be compensation enough.
But you’ll get exposure
The carrot that’s dangled in front of our noses is, “but it will be great exposure.” As a visual artist as well as a writer, I fell for that stinker many years ago, until I wised up and realized that my work was being used and the benefit to me was zero.
People gush over talent but forget that the artist or writer is not building a career on a gift that dropped from the sky onto her head. Years of training, practice, and sacrifice have gone into developing her art. Giving it away is career madness.
For creatives, who admittedly tend to be right-brained people, demanding money for art can be difficult. Part of the reason is that we all know that while people love art they don’t want to pay for it. The same folks who ask an artist or writer to work for free wouldn’t dream of asking a dentist or car mechanic to do the same.
The other issue is that silence about money in artistic fields leaves us all at a disadvantage because we don’t know how to value our work. It takes work, time, and gumption to become intelligent in these areas and to learn how to market your own work.
Small pond, many fish
With the advent of print on demand and digital publishing, the market has been flooded with written materials that in days gone by wouldn’t have made it onto a shelf. I’m a huge fan of indie publishing but a result I’ve noticed from this influx is price competition between authors. It’s no secret that when you compete on price the winners are the buying public, not the people who produce the product and sell it. But if you keep giving the milk away, no one is going to want to pay for it.
Don’t worry; I don’t need to eat
When others consume the creative person’s work without paying, it directly affects the economy of a family. My kids aren’t going to be happy when I try to feed them “exposure” for dinner. My mortgage company won’t accept “I did it for free because I love it” in payment either.
Just stop it
So what’s a writer, artist, or musician to do? Here are some suggestions:
This isn’t just about Huffington Post exploiting writers, it’s about all creatives giving our work away for free so we can be more than the plain girl/guy at the prom “hoping someone will like me.” I learned years ago as a visual artist that benefitting someone else and hoping for “exposure” was worthless and always resulted in a net loss in time, energy, and money for me.
If all creatives stopped “giving the milk away” and stopped competing with each other on price, we would all benefit. So value your work, your skills, your talent, your hours. Charge more, demand more, and laugh when someone suggests that you do it for free.
Value is measured in money. Value yourself.
People ooh and aah over talent, but the artist, writer, or musician is not building a career on talent. Years of training, practice, and sacrifice have gone into developing their art. Giving it away is career suicide.
Do visions of the sleazy used car salesman in a gaudy plaid jacket and polyester pants leap to mind when you think of marketing?
Most creatives dream of quitting the day job and going full-time. Oh, and making boatloads of money. Rather than toil away in obscurity, clinging to fragments of that far-off dream, perhaps it’s time to:
This little watercolour is one that I painted from a photograph I took when I lived in the South of France several years ago.
As you know, I am a writer and an artist. I also love to travel and am interested in people, how they live, what they love, and what makes them choose what they do in life. One day soon, I will share how I came to live at a beautiful estate in Provence.
Creative people are everywhere, sometimes disguised as something else, like news reporters, builders, drivers, teachers, office workers, or doctors. Many have relegated their dreams and heart's desires to "someday" while "never finding the time" now to do the things they really want to.
My friend, Harry, was like that. He decided that he would wait until he retired to do some travelling, yet soon after he stopped working at his job, he fell ill. The disease cleared up temporarily but then he was no longer eligible for travel health insurance and didn't want to risk getting sick again in a foreign country. Before long, the disease returned and within a year he passed away, never having fulfilled his travel dreams. From his sick bed, he admitted that he had made a mistake by postponing living until later. It turned out to be too late.
I am in the process of launching a new program to help you make sure than nothing like what happened to Harry happens to you. It's called The Wish Plan. If you would like to hear more about it, please subscribe to my newsletter on the home page and I will let you know. Don't worry, you can unsubscribe any time, no questions asked.
Isn't it time you started going places? Yes, me too.
This is the first time I have take part in a blog hop so it is a new fun experience for me. Suzanne Lieurance, author of the new book, The Morning Nudge, has invited me to take part in the 4×4 Blog Hop. Thank-you for inviting me, Suzanne.
1. What am I working on?
Right now, I’m working on a few different projects. One is the third novel in my Jill Moss Adventures series. I like to have the plot and main theme figured out before I get started on the writing so I have a world map on the wall in my hallway that is covered in sticky notes with ideas for what I want to include in this story. My novels feature complex plots with lots of action and adventure so there is a lot of thought that goes into creating the story. I also write about deeper spiritual issues that most of us face or have questions about and weave those concepts into the story.
At the same time, I’m working on creating a book of daily inspirations, including creating the artwork for each page.
As well, I am working with my business colleague, Suzanne Lieurance, on a fun project called 50 Fabulous Food Tips, Recipes, and Ideas for Easy Entertaining, a lovely illustrated book of great ideas to simplify life.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
With regard to my novels, I write inspirational action adventure. This difference between my writing and others in similar genres is that both genders love my books and my writing. It is highly visual (not surprising from a visual artist) and has lots of action but also includes some humour, a little romance, and fascinating research into archaeological and Biblical history.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Mainly because I want to read these things and no one else was writing with the combination of a lot of high action, interesting plots, and a Christian worldview. Think of a woman who loves God but who is a character similar to Indiana Jones – she’s up for going anywhere.
I write for my other non-fiction projects because these are also areas of interest for me. As an artist as well as a writer, illustrated books that make life easier and more pleasant always appeal to me. It’s just a natural fit for me to create them and since I have my own publishing service, it’s also easy for me to publish them. (See www.summerbaypress.com)
4. How does my writing process work?
As a visual person, I have to see things to keep them moving forward. My husband bought me the world map to use to work out my plots for the Jill Moss Adventures books. I often have to do quite a bit of research and have a friend who volunteers to act as my research helper, which saves me a lot of time. Once I have the basic story idea in my mind, I start writing. I love the process of typing and having characters and worlds appear on the page. I don’t write everyday but once I’m into the story I write fast and go back and fix things later.
With my other projects, I try to concentrate on one at a time but I usually end up working on several at once, moving each one forward bit by bit.
Build your creative business at Just Imagine School.
My novel, Picking up the Pieces, recently won 1st Place in the Inspirational Romantic Suspense Category at Chanticleer Media and Publishing book awards. Here I am showing off my Blue Ribbon on awards night.
Where I share creative ideas, uplifting thoughts, and spread sweetness to help us all make life pretty.