You want to live a life that puts your creative work at the center, engaging daily with both the lightning strikes of awesome inspiration, as well as the slow, satisfying rhythms of working on ambitious projects that will build your new relationship with the world.
Meanwhile, when you sit down to do your work, you feel stuck, spinning your wheels…and you fear that your vision is simply a fantasy.
If you know in your bones that things need to change, that you must figure out how to put your work at the core of your life—no matter what else is going on with you…
If you need to become that alternate-reality version of yourself…
You’re committed to your work. You’re ambitious.
You’ve had these amazing moments of clarity where you said to yourself, “HELL YEAH! This is it! This is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life!”
You’ve had one, or several, or dozens, of amazing ideas for a project that feel, in that moment, like the solution you’ve been looking for.
You think: This project, this one, is the one I’ve been waiting for. It’s smart, it’s aligned with my creative passions, it’s deep.
You can see how it could appeal to lots of readers/viewers/listeners, how it will bridge the gap to that super-together version of you. In short…
It’s got legs.
You’re energized by this vision of future-you, and you can’t help but share it. You tell your partner, you tell your most productive creative friend—the one who you secretly wish you were more like—who loves the idea. You shine with pride.
You work on the idea once or twice, enough to figure out that it’s a bit more complicated than you initially realized. You feel like if you had some really long, clear work sessions, you could get a handle on it.
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… you told the school board president you’d be on a committee, and when you don’t show to the first meeting, they elect you chair…
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 avoid places where you might bump into your creative friend. You just can’t face answering her questions.
Worse: in those moments alone when you could be working on your project, your brain goes all squirrelly, and you just can’t face it…and you waste your whole window.
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?
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.
All that training, those masters degrees, the workshops, the writing groups, the research, the experience, the relationship-building—you deserve for that to pay off.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
I wanted to share the joy and excitement with you that YOUR COURSE WORKS!!
The Creative Focus Workshop just hit me at the right time.
I still have the fading Post-It note on my wall beside my desk that says “Create Season One of Podcast and make it awesome, and organized, and exciting."
And although many things have changed since then, I am doing essentially that.
The podcast is called This is Our Time, and it’s a longform story that follows the journey of five women who go on the largest-ever all-female expedition to Antarctica. As a result of doing this story, I have been invited to Antarctica on the second expedition, and I leave in ten days!
Before the workshop, I felt a lot of frustration. I've always had a lot of ideas. And really early on in a project, I have great inspiration and huge momentum and I get a lot of stuff done.
And then, of course, reality sets in. You get sick, or your kids get sick, or you're overloaded with other work. And the momentum kind of dies out. And then you're left with a whole bunch of really exciting, potentially awesome projects in the same state, with nothing really finished.
Now I look back and I realize that my God, I was working so differently six months ago. There are things I do and tools I have that make every day really, really much better. And that turns into a good week, and that turns into a good six week sprint, and that eventually turns into a finished film.
What you will find out, like I did, is that you can read about this as much as you like. But not before you're actually in a workshop, doing the assignments each week, having this community around you, having Jessica to lead all of this—that's where you're going to see your life being transformed. So if you're on the fence, I would say don't think about it, just join. And you can thank me three months from now if you take my advice.
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, work, and creativity realms of your life in the way I’m about to lay out, you will actually be building the foundations of a new way of living.
You’ll have the power to…
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.
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 people who made and did 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.
I abandoned my first response about the Creative Focus Workshop, because it was sounding really over the top with how many positive changes it got rolling in my life. It was about the transformations in my home and home office…and yard, actually. It just helped me clean everything up.
Family and friends could hardly believe the changes for the better.
Knowing I could diagnose my own efficiency pitfalls, I had the confidence to ask for a salary with this super efficient home designer, thus giving me an instant full-time client base and a stable income. It's a wonderful feeling.
Before working with Jessica, I felt absolutely overwhelmed, and I had too many ideas to really get focused in on what I needed to do, and no way to consistently sort them. I felt guilty all the time, I felt like I never deserved a break.
And it felt like I was never going to be able to grow out of it.
Now, I have given myself a promotion. It's amazing how much my firm has grown and how much clarity I've gotten around what I do. I'm able to go and sell projects now that I would never have even attempted to follow up on as a result of what I have learned.
The Creative Focus Workshop Momentum System is one of the best investments I've made all year.
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.
When you have a new idea, you’ll make a call about whether and when to pursue it, and have the confidence you’re making the right decision. That’s what comes with planning and achieving milestones—our core work in the Creative Focus Workshop.
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, and the support of our great community, you’ll know how to grapple with its complexities, to break it down and make it manageable.
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.
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.
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.
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: I pace out the lessons over the course of five weeks so that we’re all working on the same thing at the same time, to foment better, deeper conversations, and to motivate faster progress on your part.
It’s got group-coaching elements: We have an active online community hosted on Slack where you and your colleagues can dive deep together and lend mutual support and ideas. I’m in there daily during the course, giving feedback and encouragement. (This element mirrors how students rely on each other and 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.
And, if you opt for the Momentum System (more on that below), it’s got 1:1 coaching elements. You get facetime with me, to fine tune and hone your Creative Focus to your own life.
The Jumpstart session is designed to get you completely comfortable with the various digital platforms we use: the course platform, the discussion group, and the live meeting platform. You’ll also get coaching and feedback on the first steps of your Creative 360.
The Creative 360 is four core modules where you investigate what’s in your life now, what you’re carrying with you, and what you hope to achieve.
This is the key to the Creative Focus Workshop method: nothing here is top-down, assembly line standard model. You build your sustainable creative life based on what’s in your life now that you want to keep, and what you want to build.
You’ll plunge into your Creative 360 as soon as you log into the course…no waiting for it to unlock!
We already know that what you’re doing now isn’t leading where you want to go…that’s why you’re here. But even so, you’ll be very surprised at what you don’t know about what’s going on in your daily life.
Now that you’ve started to gain a clear idea what’s in your day-to-day, you’re ready to dive deeper into your Creative 360.
One of the biggest reasons you probably joined the Creative Focus Workshop is that you have ideas…possibly a whole lot of ideas…that are driving you 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 modules 2 and 3, 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.
In module 2, you’ll…
In module 3, you’ll…
The biggest stumbling block for building creative focus into your life, and thus actually finishing your projects and getting them out into the world, is setting the right goals. When new ideas jump out and derail you, it’s because because you genuinely don’t know your ultimate objective.
That’s why, in Module 4, you’ll map out where you want your creative work to take you using the Vision Quest…and then use that information to help you double-down on the one RIGHT goal for you, right now—the one that will put you on the path to the future you envision.
In module 4, you’ll…
You’ll build your CFW system with four 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!
You’ve got your Creative 360 done! Awesome!
With all this self-investigation and research under your belt, you feel really secure in your choice of One Goal.
But if it really is 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.
That’s where Module 5: Building the Project Path comes in. In this module, you’ll learn a series of ultra useful techniques that will help you overcome feelings of being overwhelmed, and start taking action towards your goal.
In module 5, you’ll…
Staring your demons straight in the eye. Making hard decisions about what matters to you most. Saying YES, and saying no.
These are all highly-charged, emotional moments. In the middle of the CFW, we take a week-long break, with no new coursework, to reflect on and integrate what you’ve learned. Integration is the key to making your new practice an ongoing part of your life!
During Integration Week, we hold our second group coaching session, where you’ll discuss and get clarity on your Creative 360 and One Goal.
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.
Your calendar is a portrait of your functional priorities. How are you literally utilizing your time? And as dissatisfied as you may feel with this right now, you can, and you must, take control of that picture.
I know you’re busy. We all are. But this is where the pedal hits the metal.
In module 6, you’ll…
In all that’s come so far, you’ve soldiered on…but there’s a voice that’s been trying to stop you, to tear you down. Now, it’s time to face that voice, to figure out how it functions, and how to set it aside.
The Should Monster is our term for the inner critic, who nags and berates you all the time, telling you you “should” do this and “shouldn’t” do that. It’s a beast. In this module, we’ll work together to peel away that jerk’s protective layer, and expose it to the light, see if we can’t cause it to shrivel up and lose some sway over you.
In module 7, you’ll…
In module 8, we finally pull all the pieces together into a tangible system that you can rely on to support you in your creative practice moving forward.
This might feel scary—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.
In module 8, you’ll…
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.
Your review procedure is the missing link between just having some kind of system and actually using it as a tool to accelerate your creative work.
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 module.
So with the weekly reviews throughout the program AND the final module, you’ll…
In the final group coaching call of the CFW Foundation, we focus on how to lock in your gains, and set yourself on a course for continuing to improve your creative practice. Using accountability groups, the power of weekly review, and how to project forward are on the docket.
The key, the heart of the Creative Focus Workshop is the amazing students you’ll meet inside. In our Slack group and in group coaching meetings, 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.
Your inspiring colleagues, your small-group accountability team, as well as me and my team make up the resilient and empathetic group-coaching matrix that will support and reinforce you as you take the hard steps to achieve your vision.
One of the best things about the Creative Focus workshop is that these are some cool people who show up. There hasn’t been a project yet where I haven’t thought, Wow, that’s weird and wonderful, and needs to be out there.
I’ve made the rounds looking for an accountability group, and some artist groups I’ve found are like retirees doing traditional landscapes—which is not my thing. Or they’re kids who don’t know who they are or what they’re about or what they want to do yet.
In the CFW there's a level of maturity, and I like that. Everyone’s so smart and complicated, and those are my people.
WHOA. I seriously wish I had learned this a DECADE ago in high school, or at least college. I think I could have saved myself a LOT of angst, and also allowed myself to go and try to get things DONE without all of the anxiety.
I was honestly SO nervous to join this class (Am I "creative" enough to qualify for this group? Will I feel out of place? Is this a totally horrible and "selfish" thing to do?), and I am SO, SO glad that I made the leap.
I've learned skills in this class, and gained some tools that I know will serve me well for a long time. It has seriously been AMAZING.
The Creative Focus Workshop comes with 7 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.
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.
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.
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.
Looking for a new tool? This lesson offers both options, and a methodology for choosing what might work best for you.
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.
Supportive relationships with other creatives comes with the Creative Focus Workshop—it’s baked in. But there will be times when you need to create this again for yourself, and this bonus will give you a structure and approach to make creating an accountability team easy.
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.
Within days of the start of Creative Focus Workshop, you’re likely to find yourself behaving—at least some of the time—in a way you almost don’t recognize.
Confidently saying YES…and saying NO…to projects
Seeing where you’re about to get off track, and then pulling back from the brink BEFORE it happens!
Butt…ACTUALLY…in…chair! Working without anxiety!
These are huge changes. And you can ensure those amazing new habits become your regular habits with your upgrade to the Creative Focus Momentum System.
The Momentum System is six additional weeks of support designed to double down on the principle of the weekly review, reinforce your hard-won gains from the Creative Focus Workshop, and use intensive group and individual coaching to truly support you as you embrace your ambition, and step into a new self-conception as a creative person.
The entire Creative Focus Workshop is included in the Momentum system—all 9 modules, all the worksheets, all the bonuses, the engaged cohort of creatives, the video meetings.
When the CFW course work draws to a close, I will follow it up with SIX WEEKS of support to lock in your hard-won gains.
You’ll dive deep into your ambitions and plans with me 1:1—the Momentum System offers the most affordable way to work with me directly.
AND you’ll be grouped in private accountability teams with the most motivated, engaged students in the Creative Focus Workshop. Momentum System students are SERIOUS about making their creative lives work.
…All of the above PLUS two 1:1 coaching calls.
We meet right at the beginning of the CFW to set you up for success, and then have a final meeting at the end of the program to set your next goals and put you on the road to having the creative practice, and producing the work, you dream of.
The weekly group coaching and accountability program would be valued at a minimum of $800—if I offered it separately (which I never have).
I do 1:1 coaching at over $350 an hour.
That puts the value of the Momentum System at $1250, and the Momentum System Plus at $1950.
All of which means: This offer is by far the most affordable way to get comprehensive support from me…
… with the crucial bonus of being grouped with the most motivated and committed of your peers in your private accountability channel.
Slots are extremely limited, so if you want to streamline and supercharge your Creative Focus, jump in now!
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.
I'm honestly completely gobsmacked to find I can get stuff done!!
Process? Ha! Before the Creative Focus Workshop, I would come up with drafts, but not get much further (unless for paid commissions, in which case they would get done because there was a deadline).
It's still hard to understand exactly how it all worked, but I knew I really really wanted to get my book done. I realized it was actually possible, and the deadline was set.
These Idea Debt objects just sat on the shelf, for years, collecting dust. Until—I guess it’s just a change of mindset—believing it’s possible. Just deciding. Yes, I will actually do it.
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 10 days to work through the Creative 360—the first four modules of the Creative Focus Workshop—with the support and feedback of the cohort—and from me.
If after completing your Creative 360, 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, as well as for the Momentum System and any unused coaching.
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.
You get ONGOING access to the course materials and Slack group after the course is over, as well as access to any updates I make to the material, for free.
(For instance, I just totally revised the structure of the course, and added several new lessons and worksheets. All alumni just got that for free.)
The only reason I don’t say “forever” is that forever means much longer than I’m willing to predict. But as long as Slack is a thing, and as long as I’m hosted on Doki, you’ll have access. And if there’s ever a reason that hosting situation would be interrupted, you’ll have six months warning to download and archive the material for yourself.
I also offer alumni-only events at least a couple times a year, and alumni frequently get early and/or discounted access to new events I put together.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s actually in the course:
Plus, if you opt for the Momentum System
Here’s what that looks like on our Creative Focus Map…
You’ve probably heard this before: we radically overestimate what we can achieve in a day, and underestimate what we can achieve in a year.
The number one factor in success in your creative endeavors is not a burst of energy all at once, it’s consistent action over a long period of time.
That’s why CFW students who are holding down multiple jobs, or who stay home to care for toddlers, or who struggle with major disabilities, are still able to use whatever small amounts of time they do have available to chip away at major projects…and get them done.
When I offered a precursor to the Momentum System back in early 2016, I had no idea how powerful it would be. But several of my most spectacularly successful early students came out of that small cohort of 20 people. And now that I’ve been offering it again for a year, the pattern is repeating itself.
Longer-term coaching, individualized support and feedback, and a committed cohort add up to a supercharged creative practice.
Now, I want to give that power to you, and help you build a momentum machine that will keep you in consistent action over the long haul, and see you complete project after project.
That means you’ll have weekly group coaching with me for 11 weeks, where you’ll get answers to all your questions and can customize your CFW system to your life. You also get an individual meeting with me to set the RIGHT goal for you, right now (with the Momentum System).
…And with Momentum System Plus, you get three individual meetings.
As importantly, you also will be put with a small-group accountability team who are all as committed as you are to their creative practice, and you’ll carry that team with you into the future.
Yes! I want you to feel safe jumping into the course. If, within 10 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…:)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.