The Creative Focus Workshop - Jessica Abel

Make the work that matters most

The secret of putting your creative work at the heart of what you do isn’t striving. It isn’t hustle. It isn’t grit and willpower and sleepless nights grinding out more words or images or pitches or…

It’s the ease and self-possession that come from aligning all the moving parts of your life into one coordinated whole that works together to get you where you want, and need, to go.

That reality is closer than you think.

Bridge the Gap

 

Hey, there. I see you.

You’re a creative worker: a writer, novelist, podcaster, filmmaker, designer, visual artist, cartoonist, journalist, academic —

Or you’re a “creative class” business owner: a coach, consultant, copywriter, web designer, app developer —

The key differentiator that sets you apart from the world is not whether or not you make a full-time income doing the work you’re known for. It’s that you’ve set out to make your life work (and your life’s work) with just your own wits and creativity.

Your career dangles the promise of the three magic ingredients for fulfilling work: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. And once you taste that, it’s not something you can walk away from and just “get a job.” It’s under your skin.

You feel like you should be happy, but as you get better at what you do, demands on your attention just get more intense. Everyone wants a piece of you.

If you’re ready to make your creative life work for you…

Read on

Overload is real (and it’s not your fault!)

You’re a creative person. By definition, that means you’ve got a big imagination. You know where you want your ideas to take you.

Whether you’re someone who has just a couple huge ideas that obsess you for years, or whether you’re constantly coming up with new, potentially awesome projects…

…You know better than anyone that the only way you will actually cause those ideas to take on flesh and bone, to become real in the world, is to focus like a laser and do the daily, weekly work to build them.

But life continues to happen.

Your boss is freaking out about a big meeting coming up, and you’re the one who has to scramble.

Your kid gets sick, and there goes the week.

Your partner is supportive, but they just don’t get that you need some alone time to focus, and keep distracting you while you’re trying to work.

The water heater goes and you’ve got to get the plumber in ASAP… your mom is coming to visit and oh my god this place is a disaster… your high school BFF is doing a benefit zine for her kid with cancer and asks you for a submission… your dog eats a brownie and it’s doggie urgent-care for him…

And when you DO steal a few minutes to sit down to your work, all those loose ends shatter your focus, and nothing happens.

As the days, weeks, months pass, and you don’t make progress, your amazing project feels increasingly out of reach, impossible. It becomes tainted, a source of shame.

Your work feels completely out of your control.

You start to ask yourself, Why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me? How is that other people seem to be producing and publishing and getting their work out there…

And then this small voice starts to say, Maybe I’m not good enough. Have I been fooling myself all along?

Am I just not cut out for this?

You know where you want to be: on the other side of this wall, making the work, completed projects under your belt, building your audience and reputation.

It’s natural to trying to address your crunch by attempting to jam more in to your already-packed life. But that’s a recipe for not reaching your potential on anything…and worse, burnout.

Burnout is the number one danger for ambitious, talented (and hard-working) creative pros like you.

It’s how you wake up five years later having given up hours, days, weeks of time with your family and friends…with nothing to show for it.

What you need to build the fully-functional creative life you crave isn’t some new “productivity hack” to cram more stuff onto your to-do list, it’s a cohesive approach that takes into account who you are, how you work, and what your life already holds.

You are an accomplished, committed, intensely creative person. Isn’t it time all that preparation starts to pay off?

You’re not asking for miracles. It’s not a question of jetting to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, or iTunes New and Notable, or retiring early on on your earnings.

You just want to be making your work, releasing it regularly, finding your audience, building your creative career…without killing yourself in the process.

At this point in your life, you’ve earned the right to walk into your workspace, know what the hell you’re doing today, and GET IT DONE.

Your life is complicated. It’s full of both life-enhancing and energy-draining relationships and commitments.

There’s a lot that’s worth celebrating.

But it’s full.

Facing the blinking cursor and feeling existential terror about your whole life direction should be replaced with launch parties and glowing reviews…

…and more importantly, the deep, calm knowledge that the work is yours to make and life is yours to direct.

How can you carve out the time and focus?

When you get clear on your real goals, make conscious decisions about where to devote your energy, and build a structure for regular creative practice around the realities of your actual life… 

You will go from feeling like you’re floundering in the deep end to swimming with the big fish.

You are the captain of this ship.

captain's hat

5 myths that trap you like a mammoth in a tar pit, and the truths that will set you free

I get it. I’ve heard all the stories, too.

The painter who works every day from 5 am to noon.

The musician who racked up 10,000 hours BEFORE he got great.

Isaac Asimov, Susan Sontag, Stephen King (Ugh! If I have to hear about Stephen King’s perfect writing life one…more…time…)

Daily morning pages, meditation, exercise…

Google “writer work habits” and prepare to get depressed.

Reading all that, it’s not surprising if you think that the only way that work actually happens is with a will of iron and a handy cat-o’-nine-tails for daily self-flagellation.

Those famous creative people aren’t lying to you about what they do.

But here’s the thing: they aren’t telling you HOW they do it. I can tell you; it’s not by force of pure will.

More importantly, they’re not telling you how they started to do it, way back when they had to learn how.

The truth:

Everyone has to LEARN how to make creativity a habit.

The good news is, if you can learn to make coffee for yourself in the morning (or even to buy a coffee at Starbucks), you can learn to sit down to a creative session on a regular basis.

And with this one, we move even further from reality.

Productive creative people really do have reliable creative habits. What they don’t have is perfect lives, with vast open stretches of empty time and no other demands on their attention.

I don’t know why our society seems so intent on setting the bar impossibly high for creativity, but it makes me furious.

You’re fed the fairytale of the lone, tortured creative, gazing out the window of his (and it’s usually his) atelier, then creating vast acreages of art in a frenzy of inspiration.

You’re told that you have to starve for your art, quit your job, run from your family, live in a cabin, devote yourself to the craft, pump out book after book…or you’re not the real thing.

Social media paints a misty fantasy of contentedly filling a perfect journal with gorgeous handwriting while sitting at an artfully scarred butcher block table, in the sunshine, a cup of piping hot tea, rakishly un-arranged flowers in a chipped wine jug from Crete casting bright shadows on your healthy succulent plants.

It’s all bullshit.

Productive creative people also have crazy day jobs, aging parents, demanding BFFs, children who need them, houses that are a total disaster area, cars that need fixing, chronic illnesses…all the things.

The truth:

The people you admire, that you want to be more like? They’ve mastered the art of paying themselves first—of making time for their work whether or not everything else in their lives is ship shape.

Being productive is a matter of focus, of knowing your next step, and above all of valuing your own work as much as the work you do other people

…NOT of waiting for all the planets to align.

This one is complicated. We live in a capitalist society, where “value” is equated with money.

You might have parents, friends, even strangers telling you that creative work isn’t worth your time because you’re not making a (robust enough) living with it (yet).

“Get a real job,” they say.

And a lifetime of absorbing that message evolves into your own, personal Should Monster—cruel, relentless, and above all, nonsensical.

I should make more commercial work.

I should make difficult, intellectual work.

I should quit and get a real job.

I should run off to a cabin and devote myself to art.

I should build my own empire.

I should find a magic agent who will solve all my money issues.

The point is not whether or not you “should” be making money or making more money or not caring about the money…

…it’s that ALL of these shoulds are missing the point completely.

The truth:

It’s not that your work isn’t worth paying for, it’s that the work is a priori valuable—the value exists whether or not any money changes hands.

The work has value to you: It’s how you build the future you want for yourself. It feeds your mind and gives you energy.

It has value to your real or potential audience because it brings beauty, or humor, or ideas and insight into their lives.

It exists because it makes life better.

That may mean that people will pay for it.

It may not.

Whether or not that happens is simply irrelevant to the question of, Do you deserve to make it? Does it deserve a place in your life, honor, attention?

The answer to those questions is a resounding YES.

This one seems like it should be true (there’s that word again…). We’ve got all the tales to back it up: Isaac Newton and the apple. Archimedes and his bathwater. The Greek muses—goddesses specifically assigned the job of giving artists a touch of the ole’ genius.

What those tales don’t tell you is: Newton had been at Cambridge for six years and had developed the beginnings of calculus and a theory of optics before he was ready to put apple and earth together and come up with the law of gravitation.

In other words, we have it all backwards.

We think that inspiration is what sparks the work.

But in fact, it’s the work that sparks inspiration.

The truth:

Inspiration arises when you’re immersed in a project, and everything else in your life starts to feel connected to that project, and all of a sudden, you have a new insight that shows you how to tie many threads together, and, voilà, you’ve reached a new level.

As you commit to a project, and dig into it for weeks, months, years…your “inspirations”—those “voilà” moments—will get build on each other, and go deeper and become more complete.

But it takes living with the work. Living within the work.

So if you want to engineer inspiration, build the habit of creative work, and show up.

I know that may sound impossible (see Myth #1).

It’s not easy at first, it’s absolutely in your power.

And when you master the practice of paying yourself first with your creative work, the payoff is more than simply being able to check off your to-do list item that reads, “work on novel”…

Think about it: if all it really takes to regularly experience that incredible feeling of things clicking into place is making creative work a regular practice, it puts creating inspiration in your power, instead of waiting for magic to occur in a vacuum.

Are you noticing a pattern here? All of these myths are control mechanisms.

Our culture doesn’t trust creative people.

We’re told both we must be superheroes of self-control, living aestheticized lives of inhuman perfection, untouched by low concerns of commerce, yet simultaneously we must enjoy the effortless financial benefits commanded by genius. Inspiration comes not from the hard work of making time and showing up, but from the muse, suddenly and effortlessly. (Sounds a bit like that version of yourself you’re carrying around in your head, doesn’t it?)

On top of all that ridiculous list, you should be able to do it all by yourself.

Geniuses work solo.

You can be tortured, of course (bonus points!), but you must suffer alone.

Oh, and and if we’re not all those things, we should quit and get real work, you know, digging ditches or otherwise contributing to society.

That’s the mythology. Is it any wonder you feel you’re falling short?

You do fall short…you fall FAR short of the ridiculous, punitive, insulting myth of what it takes to be creative.

Thank goodness.

The truth:

Society wants to atomize and disempower us, to simultaneously set the bar so high, and the rewards so low, that we opt out of even trying and join the hordes punching the clock.

But you’re not having it.

As painful as it is to viscerally feel the distance between you and the myth, you’re still here, and still working.

And when committed creative people come together and help one another reject that punitive mythology…

We ALL rise together

Hear what students get out of the Creative Focus Workshop

Your work is not a “nice to have”
…it’s the path to your future

“If you’re going to spend at least some of your time on the planet doing what matters to you most, you’d better actually start doing what matters most.”

–Oliver Burkeman

The projects you dream of are not ends in and of themselves. Projects—and your ability to take control and make them happen—are vectors that you use to create your alternate-self reality.

When you use the Creative 360 to ground your decisions and actions in what you are truly committed to, when you INTEGRATE the personal, job-work, and creative work realms of your life in the way I’m about to lay out, you will build the foundations of a new way of living.

You’ll have the power to…

  • Get clear about your priorities and make smart choices.
  • Create room in every week for your creative work.
  • Turn down the volume on your inner critic, working without guilt, anxiety, and self-blame.
  • Sustain the energy you feel when starting an awesome project.
  • Value your own creative work as highly as work you do for other people.
  • Build relationships with other creative people who can support your work.
  • Pitch your work to dream outlets, clients, fans—with total confidence.
  • Take on bigger, more ambitious projects than you’d ever dared.
  • Finish that project. Choose the right next project.
  • Finish that one, too.

What it takes is not magic, not a visit from the muse, but simply your willingness to go deep and to question your assumptions about what’s possible for you.

Your commitment to the Creative 360 will change your self-conception and build a bridge to the life you imagine living.

It will prepare you to step out into a new reality.

Jessica Abel with her books, photo by Maria Teicher

Why I know this matters

I’m Jessica Abel, and I’ve been teaching artists and creative people for 20 years. What infuriates—and motivates—me the most is when I see my students—both my undergrads and students in the Creative Focus Workshop—laboring to make their amazing work while bearing the weight of expectation that our culture lays on them.

I refuse to perpetuate the myth of the lone genius that undermines our collective power.

I reject the minimization of the value of creative work that results in every other thing feeling so much more pressing and urgent…and the work never taking precedence.

I deny the infantilization of creative people that results in everyone else having the right to question our priorities and life choices.

I’ve worked with 20 years-worth of art school students, and over 350 people in the Creative Focus Workshop to help them create comics, podcasts, novels, academic publications, blogs, courses, films, businesses…

…and more importantly, to own their identities as the makers and doers all those things.

It’s for them, and with them, that I developed the Creative 360 methodology, because each person has a unique set of circumstances, and a unique way of working.

Integrating those factors with your vision is the key to a SUSTAINABLE creative practice.

Living a life as a serious, committed creative without blowing up every other thing in your life is a delicate dance. I know: I’m a full-time art school prof, and I’m a publishing cartoonist and writer. I’ve lived abroad in Mexico and France for a combined 6 years, and yes, I speak French and Spanish (badly). I’ve done a podcast and published textbooks. I’m married, I have two kids. I have a house.

In all of that, what’s most important to me is not a fat resume, it’s that I’ve made creative work the center of my professional life for more than 25 years.

It feeds me, both literally and metaphorically.

And that’s what I want for you.
jess presenting seated

INTRODUCING

The Creative Focus Workshop

The Creative Focus Workshop is the only program specifically designed for serious creative people who are ready to level up and put their real work at the core of how they live their lives.

Be confident you’re investing your time in the RIGHT idea

With every new idea, make a call about whether and when to pursue it, and have the confidence you’re making the right decision. That trust in yourself comes with planning and achieving milestones—our core work in the Creative Focus Workshop.

Take control of your most ambitious, scariest projects

Wouldn’t it be great if the thought of taking on a big project didn’t overwhelm you? With powerful Creative Focus tools in hand, you’ll know how to grapple with its complexities, to break it down and make it manageable.

Prioritize creative work without blowing up the rest of your life

Do you want to set realistic goals and milestones, and hit them? When you build your system around your actual life, rather than some fantasy version of it, you can make this happen.

Become the Alternate-Reality Version of You

When you take control of your projects and your creative life, you’ll live ever closer to the secret truth about you (that you’ve been afraid to reveal to anyone)…

…that you’re a novelist, a poet, a filmmaker, a podcaster, a designer, a business owner…

…in short, YOU’RE A BOSS.

Here’s how we make the magic

I’ve got 20+ years experience as a college-level classroom teacher in narrative (including prose and comics), professional practice, and building a sustainable creative life.

When I started teaching online, back in 2012, I felt hampered by the limitations of asynchronous (i.e. not live, do-it-on your-schedule) online learning.

Now, after developing my online teaching methodology with over 350 students, I’m so pleased with the rigor and results of the Creative Focus Workshop, I’m bringing the best of my online teaching into my live undergraduate seminars.

The CFW is a custom-built hybrid of coaching program and course

It’s got online-course-like elements: Lessons that are presented in written and audio format, with worksheets. These elements are asynchronous and online—access them on your schedule, wherever you want.

It’s got in-person-seminar-like elements: Lessons are paced out over the course of a month weeks so that you’re not overwhelmed, and to motivate fast, confident progress on your part.

It’s got group- and peer-coaching elements: The Creative Focus Workshop is hosted in the heart of a vibrant, ongoing community of smart, driven creative people like you. (more about the Autonomous Creative Collective below!) In the Collective, you and your colleagues can dive deep together, lend mutual support, and share ideas and experiences. I’m in there regularly, giving feedback and encouragement. (This element mirrors how students rely on both each other as well as me in my live classroom.) We have group video meetings (that are also recorded) where you can ask questions live, and get answers tailored to your situation.

creative-360

The Creative 360

A deep-dive into your yesterday, today, and tomorrow

The Creative 360 is a series of core modules where you investigate what’s in your life now, what you’re carrying with you, and what you hope to achieve.

One of the biggest reasons people join the Creative Focus Workshop is that they have ideas…possibly a whole lot of ideas…that are driving them crazy.

Living a life where you’re NOT working on these ideas is like walking around with a hole in your heart. It hurts. But the solution for that pain is not to work on everything, it’s to choose the right thing. And in order to choose, you need to know what you’re carrying with you.

By the time you finish the Creative 360, you’ll have painted a picture of what exists, so that you can carefully guard what you love, and learn to say no to all those other things that suck away your life energy without your full permission.

Map of the Creative Focus Workshop including all lessons

Lesson 1: Creative 360: Today 

You’ll plunge into your Creative 360 as soon as you log into the course. Learn what you are actually doing with your time, and then making conscious decisions about how to change that baseline, is at the core of the CFW.

Lesson 2: Creative 360: Yesterday (Idea Debt)

Dig deep and pull together all the things you’ve told yourself you want to be doing, then figure out which come closest to building the future you want to build.

Lesson 3: Creative 360: Yesterday (Creative Conditions)

Investigate the conditions that create the most supportive environment for you to create so that you can build in the support you need for your creative practice to run smoothly.

Lesson 4: Creative 360: Yesterday (Open Loops)

Clear the decks—create the literal and mental space to get to work. You don’t need to be playing whack-a-mole with your to-do list while also trying to focus on your work!

Lesson 5: Creative 360: Tomorrow (Vision Quest)

Embrace your ambition: think big and allow yourself to imagine the life you truly want to build with your creative work. Define “success” for yourself so that you’ll know when you’re on the right track.

Lesson 6: Creative 360: Tomorrow (One Goal)

Comb through your Idea Inventory to choose the project and milestone that offers the fastest path to your personal vision of success.

The Creative 24/7/365

How you’ll focus, finish, and move on to the next project. Over and over again.

You’ll build your CFW system with a set of tactical modules that walk you step-by-step through breaking down your overwhelming (-ly awesome!) projects, and building a support system to see you through to the triumphant launch of your work into the world.

Plus: a special module designed to help you wrestle down the self-doubt that can cripple your best efforts—because when you start making real progress, that can really trigger your inner critic…but we will not let it stop you!

Instead, with the comprehensive support of your cohort in the CFW, you’ll face down that doubt and forge onward, marking tangible, concrete progress on your work, and proving to yourself and the world that you’re the real thing!

Lesson 7: The Should Monster

Triage your self-sabotage, making clear decisions about which “shoulds” belong to you (and what to do about them) and which come from somewhere/someone else…and create a written plan as an offramp for that nagging voice when it shows up.

Lesson 8: Building the Project Path

If you’ve chosen the right goal, it’s going to be a stretch…which means you probably don’t quite know how you’re going to get there. In lesson 8, distinguish between tasks and projects so you can avoid overwhelm. And utilize the key technique for building anxiety-free daily creative practice into your life even when (especially when) you’re working without a deadline.

Lesson 9: The Aligned Week

Now that you’ve begun to break your ambitious goals down to a doable scale, the next step is to make sure they take up actual space in your life, that is, blocks of time on your calendar. In Lesson 9, use the principle of integration to weigh your choices of how to use your time, and devote more time to your creative work.

Lesson 10: Upgrade Your (Life) Operating System

You may feel like “organization” is out of reach for you. But the core of this module is that you already use systems…they just need an upgrade. So just as we have with every other step in the CFW process, you’ll start by identifying what you already have in your life, what’s working…and what’s not. And we’ll take it from there.

Lesson 9: Review: The Key is the Trust

In the long run, having built a system around what you need is only half the battle. The other half (the other 90%, if I’m being honest) is using that system week in and week out to help you mark progress, lock in new insights, and gain on your creative goals. This is so crucial, so core to building sustainability into creative practice, that weekly review is built into the program from week one…AND a deeper dive into the whys and wherefores is the capstone lesson.

With all that, you’ll also get…

A vibrant community of fellow ambitious creatives walking the same path

At the heart of the Creative Focus Workshop is the amazing colleagues you’ll meet inside. In our community, you’ll find an incredible cohort of fellow creatives who care as much as you do about getting this right.

You’ll realize: You are not alone. You are not weird.

And when you believe you need to devote energy to building a sustainable creative life, you are not wrong.

We bond together to help one another.

Introducing the Autonomous Creative Collective

Together, we explore, experiment, and build the path to a sustainable, creativity-centered careers so that we can stop burning out with endless grinding, finish the game-changing projects that never get the love they deserve, and build our capacity for the rest and reflection that feeds our work and happiness.

We build friendships and professional relationships that will support our work and our lives.

We reject conventional productivity frameworks, and instead help each other take ownership, control, and mastery of our creative priorities and productivity based on what we truly care about and our individual circumstances.

We stand together in our power and support one another to have the courage to be vulnerable by taking major creative risks, and to know and stand by our value in the world.

We believe

Creative workers are fully capable of taking charge of their own lives and decisions, from what they will create to how they will build their careers and businesses.

Creative workers deserve respect and an equal place at the table with all other kinds of workers.

Creativity ≠ leisure. This work is the real work. It’s not for first-worlders and dilettantes. It’s for everyone.

A three-month membership to the Autonomous Creative Collective is included with the Creative Focus Workshop

And when you finish the CFW, you are eligible to join the ACC as an member, to support your developing creative process on an ongoing basis.

6 Program Bonuses

The Creative Focus Workshop comes with 6 bonus lessons, scheduled to show up in your inbox exactly when they’ll be most useful in your CFW process.

The bonuses are hands-on tools and techniques that will solve some of the most common problems you may encounter when you commit to up-level your creative life.

Defeating Distractions

The No. 1 cause of getting derailed on a regular basis? Distractions. Learn to identify your weak spots and build in defenses to help you stick to your new creative habits.

The Five Whys: Define your dilemma

Sometimes you simply can’t figure out what’s stopping you from making progress, and the Five Whys is a key technique for sniffing out root causes and tweaking outcomes.

Clearing three major obstacles that stand in the way of your success

Creative block, a need for external validation, imposter syndrome and fear of what others will think…these are the kinds of non-tangible things that will stop you in your tracks. Gain perspective and tools to fight back in this bonus lesson.

Task Management Tools Roundup

Looking for a new tool? This lesson offers both options, and a methodology for choosing what might work best for you.

Make starting easier by implementing a shut-down routine

Getting started on a creative session is the toughest part of the job. All too many people stall out there, and never get anything done. This bonus lesson offers a range of concrete methods to make getting started easier.

Development and Success Markers

These markers are an advanced technique for ensuring that you’re getting the most out of your time. When you find (and act on) the right development markers, you’ll produce results with a minimum of planning, and identifying the success markers that matter is the secret to truly feeling successful.

Creative Focus Workshop Foundation

  • 3 months of full access to the course and the Autonomous Creative Collective
  • 11 Text and audio lessons
  • Printable workbook
  • Vibrant community of fellow creatives on the same path
  • Monthly live group coaching sessions
  • Monthly live video co-working sessions to get the work done
  • Monthly discussion topics and challenges so you can continue leveling up

$450

payment plan available: $165/Month for 3 Months

The Creative Focus Guarantee

I’m utterly confident that you’ll gain traction on your big creative dream projects in the Creative Focus Workshop, but I know you’ve been struggling a long time to put your creative work front and center, where it belongs, and you’ve faced setbacks before. I want to make it as easy as humanly possible for you to say “I am SO IN.”

Thus the Creative Focus Guarantee.

Take a full 7 days to start your deep dive into your creative work.

If after five days you haven’t identified ways to work smarter, felt a jolt of energy in your creative practice, and uncovered layers of useful truths about yourself and your ambitions…

… Then I’ll absolutely want you to have your money back. You can get a full refund for the CFW.

Burning questions your fellow creators asked before saying yes to the Creative Focus Workshop

I hear you. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t already been concerned with getting your work done, and that means it probably feels like you’ve tried everything (and when nothing seems to work, that you’re a lost cause).

Weirdly, your long journey into night is a GOOD thing. Because it means you’re very familiar with where you hit your biggest stumbling blocks. And if you’re going to build your customized approach gaining focus and getting your work done, that’s exactly what you need to know.

Your post-CFW method will be different in a key way from every other productivity and time-management “hack” you’ve come across because it will be based specifically on YOU: what your real life contains already, the kind of work you actually do, and the WAY you work best. Your personal system will jettison unneeded complexity, and support you specifically where you need support.

That one phase where you always fall off the wagon? That is where we’ll get to work, and make a system that functions for you.

No! That’s what this program is all about. The key concept of the Creative Focus Workshop is conscious decision.

Deciding is how you finish, deciding is how you make your work shine, deciding is how you develop a creative practice that works.

Deciding is how you become alternate-reality you.

Not deciding means you never know which thing to settle on when you’re confronted with a sliver of free time. Which is how you end up on Facebook or Netflix binging.

So our job together in the Creative Focus Workshop is to first become conscious (of what’s on your list… and what’s in your life…) and then to decide.

We’re going to pick something. It will be the right thing (for now). And then? We’ll get it happening.

If you think that “perfectionism” is a permanent feature of your personality, you are not alone. It’s probably the No.1 thing that stops people from getting their work into the world.

But perfectionism is not a personality trait. It’s fear. Fear of what other people will say once you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to say: I’m proud of this. This matters to me.  

By telling yourself that you need to learn more and practice more, and get everything all lined up just so before you put your work into the world, you’re trying to future-proof yourself against criticism and failure.

But on the other hand, you know, at a conscious level at least, that the only way to progress with your creative work, the only way to become the creator you want to be… is to focus. Finish. And move on to the next project.

The way out of this trap is to avoid contemplating your big goal.

Day-to-day, your focus should be on ONLY the next 5 feet of sidewalk in front of you.

But how? Well, you don’t need a personality transplant.

This is completely achievable, and is a big part of the the CFW.

In the Workshop, we take the giant ball of wax that is your ambitious, future-building project and break it down into smaller, more manageable wax-balls (AKA sub-projects), and then we break these down even further into specific action steps. Which is where your focus lies on a daily basis.

Daily, focused action is how you build something bigger than you knew you were capable of.

Yes, I did. And, full disclosure: many topics in the CFW are covered in Growing Gills. You CAN learn how to get your projects done on your own, if you’re a self-starter and can really stick to a program by yourself.

But you probably recognize there’s a big difference between reading a physics textbook, and learning physics from a professor, with classmates, lab sessions, feedback on your problem sets, and study sessions built in.

This is NOT a self-taught e-course where you get a bunch of videos dumped on you and you’re left to figure it out!

The CFW is a group coaching program that’s as close to a intensive in-person seminar experience as I can design, given that it happens online and with students from all over the world.

What the CFW offers that’s unique and valuable is that it’s planned, guided, paced, and you move through the program with a committed cohort of ambitious creators who offer community, accountability, and feedback.

And this is important: STAKES.

If you put this on your calendar and join a group that’s actively working together, you’re not likely to sit idly by and do nothing.

If you pay for this, you’re not likely to let the opportunity pass.

Students who have been trying to do this stuff on their own for years (and who knew all the big productivity books chapter and verse—I’ve even taught a fair number of professional project managers!), and who were consistently failing to make it work…have started the CFW and almost immediately started making their work regularly.

There’s so much research behind this. We simply don’t value things that we get for free like we do when we pay for them. We just don’t do things that are difficult (especially emotionally difficult) when left on our own.

The most important concept I teach is using conscious decisions to take control over your creative life.

You will make decisions and take action on them when you can get validation and support on those decisions.

You will make decisions and take action when you’ve set up stakes for yourself that make it feel necessary to do the hard thing.

Your investment of time and attention (and, yes, money) is what will change things for you.

Oh, honey. That’s your Should Monster talking.

YES I’m sure.

I have no idea what your work consists of (yet). I have no idea what it would take to build an audience for it, to make a living with it, or to use it as a springboard for your next step as a professional (though it probably can help you do all those things).

But to make the work? To make it a part of your life? More importantly, to make it a part of your identity?

Yes, you have it in you.

Yes, you deserve it.

Yes, it will make your life better when you own your desire to make this work and when you put the process of making the work at the core of who you are and what you do.

I believe that with all my heart: Taking control of your choices, of your time, of your ability to make what you dream of? It will change everything for you.

You know, the funny thing about self-generated creative work is that the issues we confront when trying to devote time to it are the same, no matter what the nature of the work actually is.

When I help an illustrator who wants to create a children’s book fit that speculative and future-focused work into her current life full of client work, it works exactly the same way as when I help a consultant who wants to make time to write and record a DIY course to offer her audience, but struggles to make time for it alongside her busy onsite training schedule.

The professional podcast producer who wants to launch his own show faces the same struggles as the full-time parent trying to finish her dissertation.

In all of these cases, as in your case, life is already full, with work, relationships, and caretaking. But the ambition to do more, to be more, drives the need to make fundamental change in how you’re living.

And when these students take control of their time and actually make the new work they’ve dreamt of, they will build new identities:

The illustrator will become a children’s book author.

The consultant will become CEO of her small firm.

The producer will become the host and creator of a show.

The mom and student will become a doctor.

… and admitting to yourself and to the world that you deeply desire that transformation?  That you’re willing to go for it? It opens you up to all kinds of risks. It’s terrifying.

That’s the hard part. That’s step one.

Taking that step has nothing to do with what your work is, specifically.

It has everything to do with having the courage to make hard changes, and to allow me and the rest of your cohort to help and support you as you do so.

I get it. Busy is just the default state of a functioning adult at this point, and so much more so if you’re ALSO trying to fit work on ambitious, future-building projects into the intense demands of your everyday life.

The short answer is: The amount of time you devote to redesigning your creative practice will be extremely variable depending on your schedule flexibility—and what you want to get out of this program.

Even if you have no luxury of time to devote to this, you can get very good results in about 90 minutes to 2 hours a week.

And, if that’s just too crazy, there’s an absolute minimum-viable level you can do in about 30 minutes a week, while still getting extremely solid results.

Both the course materials and your access to your feedback/accountability group on Slack are available to you whenever you want, indefinitely. You can go through the lessons as slowly as you need to.

But here’s the thing: You’re here because your creative projects are intensely important to you, yet you manage to focus on just about everything BUT those projects. They’re simply not getting done.

Turning this situation around will take time and attention.

So, at a guess, I’d say ideally you’d commit four to six hours a week for the five weeks of the program, and probably two to three during the Momentum System.

That’s only an impossible conundrum if you let it be. You know this situation is unsustainable.

I promise on my end to spare you from fluff and reams of useless “information” — which means in turn that every minute you devote to designing and implementing your new creative practice will have an exponential payoff.

So, yeah, you’ve got to free up a bit of time in the short term, but I can then help you free up more time—time you can devote to your work—in the long term.

It’s entirely online! You don’t need to come visit me in Philadelphia or anything. Online and on your schedule, that’s my motto.

  • The lessons are delivered via a clear, well-designed website, where you’ll find the lesson in text and audio form, along with handy checklists to make sure you’re getting everything done.
  • You’ll be sent emails that encourage you to follow a schedule for the lessons that will get you finished in a month, but you absolutely do not have to do the work on the day they arrive. You can wait days, weeks, even months. The materials and support/accountability community will remain available to you for three months (and if you decide to extend your membership to the Autonomous Creative Collective, indefinitely).
  • The community is hosted on Mighty Networks, a robust membership platform that’s available in a browser and as a phone app. You can read and post there day or night.
  • The only elements of the course that have any time-based aspect are the live group video calls. If you’ve got schedule conflicts for these times, you will be able to submit questions ahead of time, and they will be recorded and available on replay.

The Creative Focus Workshop is designed to last a “semester”—three months. This is so that you’ll have a deadline and the motivation to finish. There’s nothing useful about a course that sits and collects dust forever.

That said, the Autonomous Creative Collective is a robust, ongoing support and accountability community. You have full access to the ACC during the CFW “semester”, but once that period expires, you’ll have the opportunity to remain a member for $30 a month, for as long as you like.

…And included with that membership is access to the Creative Focus Workshop, including any additional trainings we add, as well as all future updates.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s actually in the course:

  • 3 months of full access to the course and the Autonomous Creative Collective
  • 11 Text and audio lessons
  • Printable workbook
  • Vibrant community of fellow creatives on the same path
  • Monthly live group coaching sessions
  • Monthly live video co-working sessions to get the work done
  • Monthly discussion topics and challenges so you can continue leveling up

Here’s what that looks like on our Creative Focus Map…

Yes! I want you to feel safe jumping into the course. If, within 7 days of the program start date, you don’t feel that it’s valuable to you, I’ll happily refund you.

More questions? Email me. I’ll be happy to give an honest answer to whatever you’re wondering. I love me some questions…:)

Creative Focus Workshop Foundation

  • 3 months of full access to the course and the Autonomous Creative Collective
  • 11 Text and audio lessons
  • Printable workbook
  • Vibrant community of fellow creatives on the same path
  • Monthly live group coaching sessions
  • Monthly live video co-working sessions to get the work done
  • Monthly discussion topics and challenges so you can continue leveling up

$450

payment plan available: $165/Month for 3 Months

Still not sure?

You’re ready to take control of your creative life and make your dream project a reality if…

You’re willing to put in some work. Not a crazy amount of work, mind you, but introspection and analysis, trying new things, an interest in listening to how other people would approach your issues, all are excellent signs that you’re poised to get a lot out of this.

In fact you know you’ve got the capacity to put in the work. You already spend 30 minutes to a few hours several times a week in your workspace, facing the blank paper/screen… even if the results you’re getting are highly unsatisfactory.

You doubt yourself, your ability to get your work done, your readiness to step into a new identity as a full-fledged creator. Why? Because that means you have powerful ambitions that scare the pants off you…but that you simply can’t set aside, as much as that might make you feel more comfortable, because they’re core to your identity.

You’re sick of “hacks” and “tips” and ready to focus on the big picture: getting to the next level with your work and your creative life. You’re primed to truly get to the bottom of what’s stopping you once and for all, so you can stop sweating the small stuff move on to a new phase.

You’re excited to identify the ideal project for you to finish right now, and to dive in headfirst, no longer paralyzed by indecision and perfectionism.

You feel confident knowing that you can jump into the CFW for 10 days with no risk. You don’t have to be 100% sure. Let’s just give this a try and see what happens. If it’s not right for you, just hit “undo” and we’ll go on as if nothing ever happened.

Creative Focus Workshop Foundation

  • 3 months of full access to the course and the Autonomous Creative Collective
  • 11 Text and audio lessons
  • Printable workbook
  • Vibrant community of fellow creatives on the same path
  • Monthly live group coaching sessions
  • Monthly live video co-working sessions to get the work done
  • Monthly discussion topics and challenges so you can continue leveling up

$450

payment plan available: $165/Month for 3 Months

Time to close the gap

Let’s get real. Gazing across the void at alternate-reality you, over there doing the work you want to be doing, living the life you want to live…it sucks.

And you know what? Focusing on what you’re not doing? It actually stops you from closing the gap.

It’s time to stop dreaming and wondering and worrying…
And start acting

You act your way into a new kind of thinking, you can’t think your way into a new way of acting.

Nothing in this course is rocket science. I’m not some kind of creative productivity genius who pulled this stuff out of the clear blue sky. You can find all the elements we use in the course in some form in my book Growing Gills or, hell, in my blog. If you’re the DIY type, those resources are there for you.

But if you have not been able to change the paradigm of your creative life on your own, I hope you’ll consider joining me and this incredible community of fellow artists, writers, and creatives to build a new approach and banish that black cloud that haunts your creative ambitions.

Guidance, clarity, simplicity, community, accountability

This is what you get in the Creative Focus Workshop that you don’t get when you’re trying to make things work on your own.

This program is not for the faint-of-heart.

People write to me every day, expressing absolute anguish about their inability to get traction on, and to actually finish, their creative work. “Desperate” is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Also, “shame spiral” and “scattered” and “stonewalled” and “helpless” and “guilty” and “defeated.”

It takes true courage to dive into your creative process and face those fears and that pain. It takes time and energy to work through the process of creating a plan to move forward.

But when you make that commitment, you put your work is at the core of who you are.

And then as you take the actions that the kind of person who puts their work at the core of their life would take… your outside will finally match your inside.

You will BE that person.

yin-yang

Creative Focus Workshop Foundation

  • 3 months of full access to the course and the Autonomous Creative Collective
  • 11 Text and audio lessons
  • Printable workbook
  • Vibrant community of fellow creatives on the same path
  • Monthly live group coaching sessions
  • Monthly live video co-working sessions to get the work done
  • Monthly discussion topics and challenges so you can continue leveling up

$450

payment plan available: $165/Month for 3 Months

I’m lacing up my butt-kicking boots just for you.