Creative marketing on the crappy days

Carnaval Weert 2009

Iris was King Shrewd’s herald, and she blew the fanfare trumpet.

She wouldn’t settle for any random toot-toot, though. No, Iris’s fanfares stopped all conversation every time the king entered. (As a good fanfare should, of course.)

Iris joyfully created the king’s theme and delivered it with repeated and varied motifs. (Many many years later, a composer named Aaron Copland heard some of them and wrote Fanfare for the Common Man. It would have given the king hiccups of rage if he’d known his majestic greeting had been transposed into an ode to ordinary citizens, but luckily the king had died many years earlier from eating a renegade pear.)

For many years, Iris blasted her amazing fanfares with all of her energy and breath and innovation.

But then Iris had the flu. And she had a raging row with her boyfriend about money. Iris felt run-down, put-upon and wrung-out. Even picking up the fanfare trumpet felt like too much work. And as for blowing back the coronets with a joyous blast? Forget it.

Exhausted and anxious, Iris paced in the quiet spot behind the tapestries. (The court’s backstage area.) She wanted to do a magnificent job. She wanted to produce her usual creative and innovative amazingness. Mentally, she rehearsed… and all she could think of was a big fat raspberry. She was going to let the court down. She was going to let her king down. She was…

“What’s the matter, Iris?” said King Shrewd, with a kindly look on his face.

“Oh, your Majesty,” she wailed, “I don’t think I can produce a wonderful fanfare for you today. I’ve been trying to create something great, and it’s not working.”

“I see. Well, can you do a decent fanfare? Something from the standard book?”

“I… suppose so. But it won’t be as good as my usual work.”

“Well, we can’t be amazing every day. Remember when I invaded Ruritania? That was embarassing.”

Iris smiled weakly. “I’ll do my best, sire.”

“Good lass.”

Accordingly, Iris walked out and blew Standard Fanfare #7.

The next day, she blew Standard Fanfare #15, with a small elaboration of the final flourish.

The day after, she delivered a muted but engaging version of her standard theme.

And after that, Iris was back to her normal improvisational best. (At least until she sprained her ankle and her mum found a suspicious lump.)

The moral of the story

Generally, you know you’re doing your best work when it just flows out of you with no feeling of effort. Most times it will be easy-peasy to get that work done.

But most times is not every single day.

When you do machine work – putting blue widgets into boxes or processing insurance forms – you can get through on those days when you really aren’t feeling it. You won’t be as efficient, but Tab A will get into Slot B nonetheless.

When you do creative work, the occasional off day (or off week) is hella alarming. It’s hard to do creative work with no feeling of flow, and hard to apply ourselves to creating work we know won’t be our best. It’s so very tempting to say, “Ah, fuck it. It won’t be any good anyway, why should I even bother? I should just eat this peach ice-cream instead, recuperate, and come back at it tomorrow.”

It’s a dilemma. Do you show up uninspired and do your best today, accepting that the end result might be workmanlike and maybe unworthy… or do you do no work at all, letting your mojo return naturally but getting nothing done (and maybe letting The Resistance in through the back door)?

In regards to creative work around marketing, this is even more tricksy. There is nothing less energising and exciting than someone saying, “Hurrah. I have a thing for sale. You should check it out. It’s amazing.” It’s very tempting to pack it all in and leave the marketing for another day.

But… to be effective, marketing has to keep showing up. If you save it only for the days when you’re feeling tippy-top, then it won’t get done often. So it won’t be effective. And you’ll have yet another reason to say, “Eh, marketing sucks. I won’t bother with it.”

So there’s a strong reason to answer your emails, promote your work, talk in the forum, put up new flyers, chat on Twitter, write a newsletter, post an update… whether or not the mojo is flowing as you’d want it to.

Only you can choose.

What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comments!

If you want a weekly reminder of your amazingness, with encouragement to keep marketing even on the crappy days, then sign up for Mo’Cash, Mo’Joy today.

Creative Commons License photo credit: FaceMePLS

16 thoughts on “Creative marketing on the crappy days

  1. OMG YOU ARE READING MY MIND HERE.

    I am a bit tired out and confused and a teeny bit disheartened, so, no I’m not writing the stuff I said I would. Personally there is a bit of an energy management issue and I suspect I am pissing some of my energy away by reading too much of other people’s stuff. And getting jealous all the time which is very very annoying.

    1. The mind I am reading is actually my own. 🙂

      It’s hard, there’s no two ways around it. I didn’t even mention the complications from when you slog though nonetheless and find that the effort has tapped your already-low reasources even further, leaving you with even less for tomorrow.

      Argh.

    2. Yes! I need to start recognizing that tipping point when reading other people’s stuff stops being inspiring and starts making me feel like I’m never, ever going to write anything as good as that so why bother.

  2. In my ideal world (I love to visit that place!), I’d have a stockpile of necessities (blog posts, funny tweets, engaging FB discussion prompts) just for these times. That way I could have packed away awesomeness available at the ready even when I wasn’t feeling so awesome. At this point I’m just trying my best to be consistent, which isn’t always a friend to insightful, engaging content. But I keep at it and dream about my ideal world. I feel like the more I show up, the closer I get to it.

  3. I really like Christy’s strategy. I’ve been doing that myself (stockpiling necessities). That way when you need to recuperate or re-energize, you can take some time to do so.

    Consistency is very, very important. Especially when you have readers or followers who look forward to your content.

    I also like the fact, Christy, that you stock up on tweets and FB discussion prompts. Consistency is important there also. I’m working on that right now. I’m not so good with that, yet. (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.) 😉

    I think, however, that the tension between the need for rest and the need for consistency is a tension that we’ll never completely put to rest and perhaps we shouldn’t. Perhaps it’s that tension and learning to balance in the midst of it that keeps propelling us forward. I’m not sure, but maybe there might be some truth there.

  4. This is such great advice. I feel like you’re writing directly to me. Last night, I struggled for 3 hours to put together my newsletter while feeling utterly uninspired, and the whole time I debated whether it’s better to just get something out there (as is dictated by my marketing schedule) or to call it off for this week. I pushed through, and I’m really glad I did.

  5. “hella alarming” says it just right 🙂

    I like to think of showing up and doing “workmanlike” work even if you don’t really feel it as being a professional.

    1. Yes, with a side order of but. 🙂

      I’d be very wary if I’d put myself in a situation that produced only workmanlike for longer than a few days. Our audience deserves better, and so do we.

      1. You are right – I wouldn’t want to have to do it for any length of time either. Excellent clarification!

  6. I’m of the opinion (well, I mean, i’m not real attached to it, but I find it useful) that when things feel hard, more push is not the answer. So to get me out of the “omg, I’m not doing my best work! I’m a complete failure and I might as well just find a hole to hide in” I’m pretend I’m playing. Whatever i was doing, it’s the wrong approach. So I’m gonna try something else, because whatever it is can’t be MORE wrong, right? So then it becomes like an adventure. Or like a snow day.

    I’m still resting, sort of. I’m working, too, but not in a way that feels hard. which fools the evil overlords in my brain. Luckily, evil overlords are easily fooled

  7. Mindreading. Mindreading. Catherine, I like you more and more. As soon as I get my homepage copy written, I am so doing your 30-minute free checkup.

    I sometimes find that if I decide to write a workmanlike blog post, for instance, that gets me started and then the mojo comes back. Hoping for that tomorrow!

    1. I can’t wait! So many smiling faces!

      Yeah, I find that doing an okay job (unless I am TOTALLY tapped out) is the best way to keep on track to be amazing tomorrow.

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