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The Writing Life: Voices of Experience
Bonnie Boots : Creative Work Isn't Found — It's Made

Creative Work Isn't Found — It's Made

By Bonnie Boots

I could tell at a glace my waitress was a frustrated creative soul. She had intelligence, wit and personality plus. Her funny observations, whispered in a low voice as she served lunch, had my friend and I laughing out loud, yet the look on our server's face was one of pure discontent. Her shift ended just as our meal did, so I invited her to join us. "What is it you LOVE to do?" I asked.

"Sing!" she exclaimed. "I'm good at it, too. I sing a couple nights a week at a nightclub, just for tips, and people really like me! I'd love to make a living at it, but I never see any jobs for singers in the want ads. In fact, I've decided to give up and get a real estate license. If I can't do what I love, I may as well do something that makes more money than this."

She looked derisively around the dining room. In her expression, I saw myself at her age, young, talented, enthusiastic, and with absolutely no idea how to make a living from my creative gifts. Now, a lifetime later, as a successful writer and designer, I know the ropes of making your own way as a creative professional. In a few minutes, I easily sketched out an action plan that could successfully take my new friend from waitress to paid vocalist. But there's a roadblock.

One thing stands in the way of this gifted singer realizing her dream: her concept of herself. She thinks of herself as an employee, thinks of singing as a job she'd like to get. To alter her life, she'll need to alter her outlook. She must begin thinking of herself as a self-employed businessperson, think of her singing as a service she sells. With that new perspective, she'll be empowered to call on nightclubs and restaurants, wedding and party planners and offer her services as a unique entertainer.

I've worked with creative professionals for decades. I've interviewed successful authors, artists, sculptors, actors, designers, contemporary craftspeople and every sort of creative personality. One thing they all had in common was an understanding that they were self-employed business people. As such, it was their responsibility to do all the things a business owner does: define what their product is, determine who might buy the product, plan a marketing program to get the attention of potential buyers and plan finances to carry the business until it shows a profit.

If you've been trapping yourself in dead-end jobs that don't use your creative abilities, you can begin breaking free by making a change in your reading habits. Buy fewer books on writing or painting or dancing, and pick up a book on the basics of running your own business. Don't shy away from information on branding, marketing and business planning. It all applies to you.

"Running your own business" doesn't mean you have to put on a suit and carry a briefcase. In fact, being self-employed can be a highly creative activity. As in any creative activity, you'll make something unique, not a novel or a painting or a song, but satisfying work for yourself. •

© 2005 Bonnie Boots

Bonnie BootsBonnie Boots is an award-winning writer and designer who says all writers should show off their talent by wearing their Write Side Out! More »

Updated 1/5/14