Live the dream:

Build your life around your creative work

You’re a serious, ambitious creative.

Whatever form your work takes—writing, film, comics, audio, design, performance, teaching, consulting, speaking—it’s the well of energy that you draw on to make your life meaningful.

You’ve got big, ambitious plans. You dream of sharing your work and building an adoring audience, of finding clients and customers who can’t live without you (and pay accordingly), and of living a life where your creativity is the nexus of your days.

…But carving out time and focus for your work in the midst of the insane demands of modern life feels well-nigh impossible.


Flip the script

It’s easy to beat yourself up for procrastination, perfectionism, avoidance…But take a moment and look at where you are.

You’re still here, and you’re still passionate about your work.

Stopping? That’s what’s truly impossible.

You know that your work forms the inflection point between the life you’re living and the life you imagine for yourself.

Finishing the work. Launching it. Building a life based on it…

Non-negotiable. And completely within your power.

Imagine finally completing your...
  • Nonfiction book that will shake your audience to the core.
  • Mural project your neighborhood needs to pull the community together and give the kids something to do all summer.
  • Design package that will delight your ideal clients and be a joy to deliver.
  • Podcast that’s going to blow the lid off something that desperately needs lid-blowing.
  • Crystal-clear, mission-driven offering that will become the inflection point for you and your clients.
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I’m Jessica Abel

I’m sick and tired of creative people being told (by their own inner critics as well as actual people!) that they don’t know what they’re doing, that they’re not cut out for this, that it’s stupid to try, and that they should just go get a real job.

Screw that garbage.

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I’ve been a professional creative for over 20 years. I’ve published nine books (both graphic novels and prose), taught art school for 20+ years, been an illustrator, an editor…it’s been a ride.

I know how hard it is to make a crazy chaotic creative life work.

And I know it’s worth it.

My passion is helping creative people take full control of their lives, and make their own decisions about what’s best for them and where to devote their energy.

In my flagship group coaching program, The Creative Focus Workshop, I put the power in your hands.

More about me

  • My books include Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life and Out on the Wire: the Storytelling secrets of the New Masters of Radio, about how Ira Glass and 35 more of the best audio producers in the world use story to keep us listening. (And for more about building narrative, check out my podcast, also called Out on the Wire…)

  • I’ve co-created two Eisner-award-nominated textbooks on comics, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, and Mastering Comics. Scott McCloud said they are, “A goldmine of essential information for every aspiring comics artist. Highly recommended.”

  • My graphic novel La Perdida was featured in hundreds of publications including the New York Times Book Review, Entertainment Weekly, Spin, and All Things Considered. It won two Harvey Awards (kind of the Golden Globes of Comics) and was Time’s Best Comic of the Year in 2006.

  • I served as co-series editor (with Matt Madden) of the Best American Comics series for six years, from 2007-2013, working with guest editors Neil Gaiman, Lynda Barry, Jeff Smith, and others.

  • In coaching and in the Creative Focus Workshop, I bring the fruits of over 25 years of higher-ed classroom and online teaching. I’ve taught at the School of Visual Arts, in the masters program at l’École européenne supérieure de l’image, in the MFA in Comics program at the California College of Arts, and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, among others, and I’m currently chair of Illustration at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

I had always had a really huge problem with defining myself as a novelist. Even with books published, even with an upcoming novel, I still had that question in the back of my head. I can't tell if I thought it was pretentious or if I just didn't think I was good enough.

And in the Creative Focus Workshop, maybe it was just the practice of saying, I’m Marianne Kirby, I'm a novelist, and get you can get my second book as soon as it comes out…that really flipped the switch for me of, I don't want to say self-respect…but, you know what?

It is. It's self-respect as a writer, and taking myself seriously, and allowing myself to take my own work seriously.

That is still—I mean months later—the biggest thing that I feel as a result. It has changed a lot about how I'm approaching my work, and how I am talking about my work to others.

Marianne Kirby,
body activist and novelist (Momentum System)

I've had the most stress-free sleep I've had in a long time.

I always believed that I needed to have these huge chunks of time set aside in order to get any work done. If I had a six-hour period set aside for comics, and other things ate up most of that time, and I'd think, Well, I can't do anything now. I only have two hours.

I've had a huge perspective shift, where if I have 15 minutes, I know I can make progress just in that 15 minutes. That's been huge, because now most of my life is made up in 30 minute chunks.

I've been able to go to bed and just know: whatever I didn't get to today, that's okay. I'll do that tomorrow. I know I will get to it.

It's been a massive change in the way that I look at my projects.

David Rhoades,
cartoonist (Momentum System)

It was just this constant cycle of I’ve got time, oh my gosh, what do I do? Then the time is up, and what’s wrong with me, why can’t I do this? Over and over again. I started to question: How is that other people seem to be producing and creating and publishing and getting their work out there? And there’s that small voice that starts to go, Maybe you’re not good enough. Maybe this is just a hobby.

You just feel defeated.

I’ve dabbled in other workshops that were supposed to help with productivity, and often I felt like I didn’t belong. They didn't really get my situation, it’s not as if I'm a CEO, or I’m managing people. I’m just trying to manage me.

So I came to the workshop out of just sheer relief. Phew! Someone gets me.

The CFW is time and money so well spent. It’s such an investment in you and your work. And creative people, and I think our culture, doesn’t value that. We need to step up and value that ourselves in order to get where we need to be.​

Melissa Eddings Mancuso,
art professor, painter (Momentum System)

Before the Creative Focus Workshop, I felt desperate. I would not produce anything without an external deadline. And even with a deadline I usually did not manage to finish anything more complex than illustrations or single-page comics or cartoons. For years I have aborted all projects of multi-page comic stories.

It’s amazing, the progress I’ve made. When I chose my One Goal, I pushed to make it the most ambitious thing I could think of. And now I’ve done it! Amazing! I feel so powerful at this moment, it is unbelievable.

Michael Wittmann,
cartoonist (Momentum System)

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.

Let’s get this art party started!

Hey, Creative Powerhouse...

There's something bigger you need to be doing that's waiting in the wings. Time to clear the space to make it happen.

Join our newsletter to get insights and learn processes that will change your life. Find the path to devote yourself to the work that will form the inflection point in your future.

Make the work that matters most!

As a thank-you for joining our community, I'll send you the What's Stopping You Checklist, a fast and powerful diagnosis tool that will help you pinpoint where and why you get stuck with your creative work, and start taking steps to get moving again!