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Screw Marketing. Choose Art. It's the Safer Long-term Play.
- Michael Thompson
“Don’t spend a second of your time marketing your work. Focus solely on learning how to write so well that other people feel inclined to share it.”
When I began writing, I was given this piece of advice.
At the time, I was juggling my own coaching clients, a communication consultancy with a small team, and a two-year-old. My friends' advice was the exact permission I needed. Spending my days on social media was not how I wanted to use the little free time I had each day.
And it worked.
Over time, more and more people began sharing my work.
After my wife and I had our second child, however, time became even more scarce. Two kids have a way of feeling a lot like ten. I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do. My hands were already full. I’m a big believer that our words are one of the few things each of us owns in this world and they shouldn’t be rushed to make a buck so I kept my head down and every second I wasn’t with my kids, I was writing.
At times, choosing this route stressed me out.
Trends come and go. Different writers come in and out of favor. My combined views over the last six months on this platform are less than what they were in one month a year ago. It’s not a good feeling to write on eggshells. Neither is it a good feeling to feel like you’re losing your touch.
“Should I publish more?” I asked myself time and time again this past year.
“Should I join in on the numbers game?”
“Should I spraypaint my words all over the internet?”
I get nauseous just thinking about that. It’s not a race I want to compete in. I’m not a fan of treating our writing like spaghetti and throwing pieces up on the wall to see what sticks.
My favorite writers and people don’t do that.
My favorite writers and people choose their messages with care.
In the second half of this year, after learning first-hand what it’s like to scrape the bottom of the barrel, this strategy finally paid off.
The first offer came in June.
I was offered a position to teach leadership and communication skills to MBA students despite not having an advanced degree myself.
The second offer came in July.
I got asked to help write a book with a seriously accomplished man who helps brick-and-mortar businesses thrive in the digital age by designing spaces that bring people together and encourage pro-social behavior.
The third offer came in August.
I officially signed a contract to write my own book about how shy people can quietly make the right kind of noise.
The backgrounds and experiences of the people reaching out were all different but the one thing they all had in common was their message —
“We’ve been keeping an eye on you. We’d like to explore ways to work together.”
As if this wasn’t enough of a sign that the slow route is the right route, the last sixty days the offers have come flooding in.
Between being offered solid guarantees to write regularly for mainstream publications, receiving an offer to jump in on a project with the former managing director of my favorite design firm, and already signing a contract to help write a book for a leader in the social impact and innovation space, my calendar for 2022 and beyond is already full.
A touch over six months ago I was an online writer dreaming of working on projects that had real-world impact.
By focusing solely on writing, for the first time in my career, I’ll kick off the year with the exact people in the exact spaces I want to spend the rest of my career operating in.
A lot of people today are talking about personal branding with the hopes of being an influencer. If this route doesn’t interest you, yet you still want your work and words to matter, opt-out and make a commitment to write the exact messages you want to see in the world.
If it helps you sleep at night, pick one other platform in addition to your primary one to share your work. But other than that, close the blinds and be patient.
It’s the job of marketers to find what works and do it until it stops working. It’s the job of artists, however, to make stuff that makes marketing obsolete.
As we head deeper into 2022, choose art.
Focus on creating things marketers can’t kill.
Who knows, it could be you’ve already created the work that kickstarts your career and all you need to do is soldier on until the world catches on.