Well, I’m sorry that’s it’s been a while since I have posted.  Just like so many other New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve found that sometimes things get in the way. The funny thing was that I was better at it before the New Year than now!

One of the reasons that has kept me away from writing has been that I’ve done three workshops in the past two and a half weeks, and there was a lot of preparation and writing that went into those events.  One was the New Year, New Goals workshop that I did at Easton Mountain for their New Year’s Spiritual Retreat for Gay Men. It was a wonderful mini-week, with lots of great workshops, meditations, and conversations.

Then, I was the guest presenter for the January Teleconference for the Alumni Career Services Network, which is a group of career professionals that work in colleges and universities around the country with alumni.  As you probably know, more and more people are going back to their alma maters to get career help. My presentation was on Career Development in the Creative and Non-Business Fields, as many career professionals are used to working with people in standard business fields (e.g. engineering, accounting, etc.) and might not have as many people coming into their offices  who are looking for help in being a film producer, novelist, minister, or performer. I tried to give some tips on how to approach this conversation.

One of the main concepts that I talk about is that career development in an arts/freelance field has a different approach.  The analogy that I give is that developing in a career is like filling up a bucket.  The more successful you get, the higher the fill line in the bucket.  The way that bucket is filled is very different though in the different fields.

  • In a standard “business” career, it’s like filling the bucket with liquid.  If you get a full-time job as an accountant, it’s like you’ve put a scoop of liquid into the bucket, and it covers the entire bottom layer, just like you spend all your time at that job every working day.  When you get a promotion, it’s like you put another scoop in, and the liquid is at a higher level.  Sometimes you can add a little more liquid by getting an advanced degree or certification, but for the most part it’s the different promotions that fill up the bucket.
  • In an arts/freelance career, it’s like filling the bucket up with marbles.  As most careers of this type are project-based, you don’t have just one job to do, but many.  For example, if you were a writer, you’d have a marble for every article that you got published, writing class you’ve taught, journal you helped edit, etc.)  You might have bigger or smaller marble depending up the status of the magazine you were published in.  The big message here is that you can’t move to the next level until you’ve got enough marbles to fill up the bottom level. Only then will you get a chance at working at a higher level.  The story of the “overnight sensation” who has been working in the industry for 10 years is a care in point.

This analogy is especially important for artists, as many of them think that there is no rhyme or reason to why some people are successful and others aren’t.  It’s a tough thing to hear that you have to put the grunt work just like the people in guilds did many years ago.  While you might have somewhat that magically finds your feature-length screenplay and wants to spend $30 million dollars developing it, you might have a better chance at getting a 10 minute short produced, and then if it gets into a film festival and wins an award, you’ve got something to show for it.  Many, many successes will add up more easily that just trying to get that one big smash hit.

I’m a big proponent of setting goals and taking incremental steps toward them.  Knowing what steps will lead you toward you goals is sometimes the first step.

How many marbles are in your bucket?

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