How to be a Prolific Creator (And Why)

You can’t predict the success of your creations.

I make a lot of art, and I make a lot of content documenting my art process for social consumption. I’ve made loads of time lapse videos for social media, and occasionally a video will go viral, but most have an average performance. I never know what video will get the most views.

All I can do is continue to make and post content, which leads me to being a bit prolific as a creator. I have successes and I have work that is forgettable. I sell pieces right away, and some work can barely be given away. I’m never able predict what will happen with the creative effort I put forth, but I’m constantly hungry for the next viral video or the next art sale–so, I create, and write, and paint, and draw, and take photos, and make videos, and so on.

(A while ago, I read a blog post by James Clear about the “Equal Odds Rule”, shared by my photographer friend Barb Kellogg. It’s relevant to this post. It’s a quick read, so definitely check it out.)

The fact that I can’t predict my own success forces me to be prolific while creating and I think you should be too.

Why be a prolific creator?

  • You will increase your skills: The more you create, the more you will develop your style and your skills. You can’t expect to be good without creating a lot of crap first. Make as many creations as you can.
  • You will increase the odds that your work will get noticed: More creations mean more content to share with your audience.
  • You will have more inventory for potential sales: You can’t predict what your audience will buy, so give them more options to choose from.

How to be a prolific creator:

Did I convince you to create more work? Well here’s how to do it!

1. Start work often.

Get on a schedule. Let creating, writing, painting, or whatever discipline you practice become a routine. In inspired times and uninspired times. Taking the first step to begin a new creation can often be the hardest. Writers freeze up when they see a blinking cursor. Painters are paralyzed by a blank canvas. I get it, but if you can push yourself to start a doodle a day, a painting a week, or even three paintings a week, then you are one step closer to being prolific.

Put it on your calendar. Set a reminder on your phone. Do what you need to do in order to get pen to paper, or brush to canvas.

2. Withhold judgement.

It’s not your responsibility to judge the worth of your work. This will only slow you down. Plus, we can often be the worst at judging the potential success of our own creations.

I was working on a diptych a couple of months ago, and I didn’t like it at all. The colors were wrong. The design just wasn’t me. I wasn’t happy with what I saw. I didn’t think anyone would feel too excited about the duo, but I still posted a photo on social media, because I needed content. Within an hour of posting, someone reached out to me saying they loved the new work and asked if they were available for sale. I shipped both pieces two days later.

Had I listened to my judgement, I wouldn’t have put that art online. I would have missed this sale, because I would have tossed them into my ‘dud pile’ to be painted over when I ran out of new canvases. We cannot predict which of our creations will be successful, so stop judging your work and get back to creating.

3. Be efficient with your time.

Do you ever start something, work on it for a bit, then walk away when you’re fatigued or waiting for paint to dry? What do you do with your time when you walk away? Do you make a cup of tea? Scroll through social media? Get distracted with something else?

To be prolific, you need to maximize the time you have available for creating. When I’m in the studio, I start multiple pieces of art at a time. When a new paint layer on one canvas needs to dry, I pick up another canvas and start the next piece. When I have 3-4 pieces to switch between, I am able to use the dry time of one canvas to make progress on another.

If you need to take a break from your art in general and give your hands a rest, pick up another task that is related. Post a picture on social media, start a blog post, photograph finished work for your online store, etc.. Maximize the use of your time. Even if you are only working for 1 hour, don’t lose 15 minutes of that time waiting for paint to dry. It’s important to take a break, but when you give yourself 2 hours to create, I want you to utilize the entire 2 hour block of time.

4. Understand and adjust your style for speed.

All creators have their own process. Some artists spend weeks and weeks working on highly detailed works of art, and artists like me spend a week creating multiple pieces of art. I’m not asking you to rush your process, for that will definitely affect the end product, but I will ask that you find creative ways to adapt your style for speed.

If you work with large detailed art, it’s unreasonable to expect you to make multiple pieces in a week like I do. But, if you take your style and adapt it to a much smaller surface, you can create more work, faster. These pieces can be used for video content, as smaller impulse buys in your online store, or just as practice.

Continue to work on your usual creations at the pace you need to, but to be prolific, start thinking about creative ways to quickly create without losing quality. Think of it like a fun challenge.

5. Finish what you start.

Finish it. Even if you don’t like it. Even if you feel something else can be done to it. Finish the piece and move on. Take the lessons you learned to the next piece. Your definition of ‘perfect’ isn’t universal. In fact, what you see as imperfection might be exactly what your audience falls in love with.

If your work becomes too precious, and you start to stress over imperfect details, you aren’t going to finish your task. Accept when your work is good enough and move onto the next. It will never be perfect, but you can make improvements with your next piece, and your next piece, and so on.

***

What do you think? Can you start creating more? Do you see value in being a prolific creator?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Why the Creative Success of Others Can Upset You

If you read last week’s post, you may have gathered that I haven’t been in my peak creative form for a little while. (Though, I can confidently report that the trend is shifting and I am getting back into my usual groove! Yay!) During my sub-optimal time, I found myself ‘muting’ every creator I follow on social media because seeing other creator’s work made my mental state even worse. Which then led me to vehemently ask Why?

And a new blog post was born.

You’re not alone.

I know I am not the only person that has scrolled through social media or looked through magazines and articles only to become upset when I see other people living awesome lives. If you’re reading this, you have probably felt the same. This is a huge problem in our ever-connected world. Though, over the last two years, I hadn’t had much of an issue with it. I was able to feel genuine excitement and happiness for everyone around me doing cool things.

Until I temporarily lost excitement for my own life.

I knew this feeling well. I had felt it before, and the only way I got out of it in the past was doing a whole bunch of internal work and self-care. If you find yourself in the same social sadness spiral I have a few reasons that could explain it. It doesn’t matter how much success you ever get in life, you will continue to resent others for their successes if you don’t figure out the real reason behind your discomfort.

Here are 4 reasons why the success of others may upset you:

1. You’re Caught in A Comparison Trap

Do you ever look at the work of an artist getting attention and think I’m so much better than them! Why do they have this success and I don’t?!

I find it helpful to compare myself to other artists when I am ready to grow, but when I feel stubborn and think what I am doing now should be good enough, then I’m more apt to get upset. Being creatively successful takes a lot of work, and sometimes we just don’t have the energy to push any harder than we have already. When this happens, take a step away and find a way to recharge. Until you do, you’re likely going to continue to resent every artist you encounter that appears to be more successful than you.

If you can’t stop yourself from scrolling, try to ask questions. Instead of saying “I should have that success!” You should ask yourself how they did it. Don’t question whether they deserve it or not. Evaluate how it happened. What actions did they do? What can you learn?

Don’t compare to establish your place in a hierarchy. Compare to learn.

2. You’re just in a rough place and need to disconnect.

Being in a rough place could mean:

  1. Going through stressful non-creative life changes.
  2. Not having confidence in your abilities or having low self-worth.
  3. Suffering through bouts of anxiety, depression, or other mental issues.
  4. Not taking care of your body (nutrition, sleep, exercise)
  5. Dealing with chronic health issues.
  6. And so on…

My junior year of college, I went through a breakup and then immediately entered into a codependent relationship that brought out the worst in me. I was depressed, I dropped out of school, I had no direction. I was seeing all of my fears become reality. I couldn’t find any sort of safety in my head–and then I would get on social media and everything got worse. I was seeing what appeared to be happy lives laid before me. Smiles. Graduations. Engagements. Success. There was one friend in particular that got to me. She was a creative person like me. She went to a school for design, then got into modeling, traveling the world, while also working on creative projects. She was(and still is!) beautiful, accomplished, successful, and seeing this ripped the flesh right off my bones. While she was living a life I dreamed about, I sat in my drab apartment, went to my 9-5 dental lab job, and cried over the fact that I still had back acne and barely made enough money to pay my bills.

Some people might look at my current presence on social media and feel the same internal agony. I get it, and I don’t fault you for that at all. Unfollow me. Mute me. Lock your social apps. That was my first step. After that, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree, saw a counselor, started going to the gym, and made a bunch of other small positive changes in my life.

It’s hard to feel joy for others when you are in these rough places.

If you are having a hard time (or if you know you often suffer from mental issues), please consider going to sessions with a therapist/counselor. There is absolutely no shame in talking to a professional. I believe that taking care of your mental health should be the same as taking care of your body.

3. You don’t find value or fulfillment in what you are doing now.

If you are the type of person that needs to find meaning in what you do, and feel depleted by a lack of fulfillment, then it’s time to find a new way to spend your energy and find the fulfillment you need.

What do you find meaningful? Can you volunteer somewhere? Can you join a community of like minded people? Can you start a new hobby, or put time into your existing passion you let collect dust? If you are making art now, but feel stagnant, can you try a new medium or style to shake things up?

After I quit working at the dental lab, I took a couple of months to recharge and during that time an opportunity to teach art classes at a senior center fell in my lap. It was something I didn’t know I needed, but I was able to find fulfillment in hearing my students tell me they find joy in practicing art. I didn’t make a bunch of money or anything, but I felt this bundle of light start to form in my heart. I also found myself gushing over every piece of art I saw. Highly skilled or incredibly rudimentary, I had nothing but positive thoughts and words for my students. (This is also why I spend a lot of time mentoring and sharing posts like this with my following. Seeing you find inspiration and courage to create fulfills me more than art sales do.)

When you find fulfillment in what you do, the need to compare gets weaker. The need to find traditional ‘success’ (wealth and recognition) also gets weaker, and the negative reaction to seeing other people find success becomes less intense. So, what fulfills you?

4. they have what you want and it hurts to be reminded You don’t have it.

Or rather, it looks like they have what you want–but do they actually? I have to speak about the illusory aspect of social media, and even the broader media world involving TV, books, movies, ect..

There are always multiple ways to look at a story, a life, or a career. Whenever I talk about branding to my consulting clients, I encourage them to tell a story to the world, but it won’t be 100% of who they are. We can’t show that to everyone–it would be overwhelming and even detrimental to some relationships. What you see presented to you is rarely the complete truth. Always keep that in mind when you compare yourself to others. You may just be comparing yourself to fiction.

But, let’s say what you are seeing is real. Why do you want what you see? What does that “thing” mean to you? Does success mean happiness? Do more sales mean bills get paid? What do you think will happen when you get the thing you think you want? 

When I was upset looking at my former classmate’s life, I can say with 100% confidence that I still would have been miserable if I magically had the same life overnight. I didn’t actually want her life–I wanted the happiness I thought that life would bring.

The things we want are often a symbol with a deeper meaning. What is it that you actually want? What does success, beauty, money, or talent really mean to you?

Instead of trying to get the things that others have with the hope you will then get the thing you are actually craving is a trap. Instead, cut out the middle man. Skip the symbol and go straight for what you really want.

Happiness, safety, contentment, freedom, simplicity, fulfillment, love, faith.

I know. I know. Easier said than done. It’s a struggle, and I won’t lie about that, but when you fully realize what you actually seek in life, the resentment towards others for having success falls away.

More Tips to Prevent Getting Upset by the Success of Other Creators

I’m going to repeat some of the advice from above. You can do any or all of these things. Honestly, this list is for general well-being and not just how to avoid getting upset by scrolling through social media. I’m all about that self-improvement mindset.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others for the sake of defining your place in a hierarchy. Someone will always be more talented and successful than you so there is plenty of fuel to get upset if that’s what you’re looking for.
  2. Remove your triggers. Social media connects us to people we don’t know well. And social media isn’t exactly real. Spend less time on social apps.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Feeling upset often results in internalized shame for not being ‘good enough’. Stop wasting time and energy on being mean to yourself. Say nice things. Treat yourself like a best friend.
  4. Practice gratitude. We can easily lose sight of the things we already have when we are intently focused on the things we don’t have. Take time each day to write out a list of what you have that you are grateful for. Starting with the most basic. Food, shelter, clothes, etc.. Every night, I run through my gratitude list before bed.
  5. Figure out what you actually need in life. Not just want. What we want isn’t always good for us.
  6. Confide in a person you trust. Share your deep thoughts with a close friend, or a counselor.
  7. Focus on acts that recharge you.
  8. Find work that fulfills you.
  9. Move and nourish your body.

***

This topic is important to me. I have wasted a lot of time and energy wallowing in my lack of success over the years, and I robbed myself of opportunities for joy in the process. If you find yourself struggling with this, I hope this post was helpful.

Do you have any tips to add to the list? What do you do when you experience this?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

3 Reasons Your Creative Process Can Be Painful

A little emotional honesty…

I haven’t been posting as much on social media, nor have I been creating as much as I’d like. For the last few weeks, I have been going through the motions of life and making sure that I am, at the very least, taking care of high priority tasks. My focus and mental energy has gone towards a few core daily needs. Eat, sleep, move my body, and maybe respond to emails that have gone unanswered for an inappropriate amount of time.

I have shared in the past that I have struggled with depression. I even shared how I managed to come out of it after a lot of internal work. Despite all my best efforts, I’ve recently been hit with a stubborn bout of darkness. It happens, I have coping mechanisms in place, and I promise I am okay. Though, my depression isn’t the point of the post, it did inspire the topic I want to talk about.

During the last few weeks, I observed how my darkness plays with my creativity. Sometimes they are at odds. Sometimes they can productively work together. Depending on the amount of energy I have stored up, I’ve been able to work on projects for small amounts of time–but I have noticed my creative process is much harder to enter and sustain. It’s downright painful at times. So for this week’s blog post, I wanted to go over 3 reasons why your creative process can feel painful and frustrating instead of feeling like the magical, easy, creative flow we often dream of.

Obviously, experiencing depression can make literally every action and task feel painful, but I want to focus on three other reasons why you might be in pain while trying to push yourself to create.

1. You don’t have the energy to give.

Creating new life requires energy. Moving your muscles and having the strength to pump blood to your limbs takes energy. Creating a work of art, a poem, a book, or a song takes energy. If you are expending more energy than you are taking in, creating can feel exponentially more difficult than when you are in homeostasis.

Maybe you aren’t sleeping enough, getting enough social time with friends, feeding your love languages, or practicing other forms of self care. Or maybe your job is too taxing, or you are giving too much of your emotional energy to the people around you. Whatever the drain on your energy may be, it’s important to remember that creativity doesn’t come from nothing. When you try to push yourself to make something new when your tank is nearing empty, it’s going to be more difficult–sometimes painfully so.

You are bringing something new into the world and sometimes it’s just going to to unpleasant and painful. If you feel like your energy is running low, pay attention to the ways you are able to feel recharged. Maybe it will be as simple as eating a nutrient dense meal or taking a nap. Or maybe you need to spend weeks watching YouTube videos about nutrition and the human microbiome like me…

It’s important to know when you need to rest and fill your creative tank by focusing on the needs of your body, mind, and spirit.

2. Your emotions are Too Raw and INtense.

I know that there is a general ethos that artists and creators are tortured and depressed by nature–but it doesn’t have to be that way. From my experience, my best writing and works of art come from a place of calm after a deluge of emotions has past. When you can view your experiences from a distance, your creative process can become less painful.

I am a creative writer. Over the years, I have taken breaks from art more times than I can count, but writing has been a fairly consistent process. Through light and dark times, I write, and I’ve learned a lot from how my writing changes according to what I am experiencing in the moment.

Intense feelings can be a catalyst for creativity, but they can also make the creative process more complicated and difficult. When I am at my worst, my writing is forced, cliche, and often circles around my emotions without capturing nuance. The process isn’t enjoyable and my quality of writing suffers.

When you are experiencing something stressful or intense and channel you emotions into creativity, do not spend too much energy evaluating your creative product. Let yourself create just for the process. Use creativity as an outlet. Get the raw emotions and energy out of you and walk away. Don’t ruminate and keep yourself in that intense place.

That’s not to say there is no place for the work created in these raw places. If you can function productively in that state, then carry on. Though, if the pain of creating is too much for you, then consider finding that place of calm I mentioned.

3. You’re forcing your creativity to Make Money

In the last few weeks, I haven’t produced much art. I look at my studio and my art supplies and my feet carry me away. My chest tightens and my mind gives me the ol’ “404 Creativity Not Found Error”. Being an artist is my job. Making art to sell is one of the ways I make money. When I’m topped off with creative energy, everything is great. I can make art, update my store, do some social media posts, and hopefully get a little cash in my bank.

But, creativity is a flighty sensation. I am not creatively charged or inspired 100% of the time I’m making art. In fact, I’m lucky if I feel that way for even 10% of the time I’m working. As a full time creator, the best I can do is show up each day, make art for hours, and hope that I can at least get a few minutes of magical creative flow. That’s a day well spent.

Though what happens when it’s a dark day? What happens when I don’t have enough energy to spend 90% of my time just going through the motions? I’ll tell you what happens. I don’t make money. I don’t sell art. Then, I punish myself and my creativity for not being more productive. All of this causes layers of pain and discomfort. Making art to sell begins to feel like a million bees swarming around my head. Adrenaline surges and my feet take me to a place that is anywhere but my studio.

Creativity is not something that can be put to work easily. It’s not impossible, but when there is pressure to create, the process may hurt. When you are running low on energy or inspiration, but you have bills to pay, the pressure increases. With pressure comes creative pain. I envy anyone who can power through that pain, or even be fueled by it. Artists like me do not thrive in this pressure.

This source of pain is why I don’t encourage everyone to become a full time creator. If you know that pressure makes your creativity wither, then it’s important to give yourself a safety net. Have alternate sources of income, don’t quit your day job, or live as frugally as possible with a backup savings account.

We each have our own creative spirit, and some of us need a little more nurturing in order to coax the creations to come to life. There’s no shame in that.

***

Creativity doesn’t come easy at all times. It can flow like gushing river, or it can dry up like the container of varnish I left open in my studio. Your creative process can change with your emotions and circumstances. It can be comforting as well as painful.

Just show up the best you can. The process may be painful today, but it might feel better tomorrow or the next day. We all handle pain differently. Push your limits if you can, but always know when it’s time to rest.

Also, please don’t worry about me 🙂 Despite my darkness and creative process bringing me pain at the moment, I am here. I am writing. I am painting. I am finding the light again.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: