Hold my place for the CFW! - Jessica Abel

Time to stop letting your creative projects pull you under.

Decide to take action, and bring your amazing ideas into being with the Creative Focus Workshop.

Creative Focus Workshop

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 the longer you let those ideas dog your heels without you taking control, the further from reality that vision of your future feels.

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.

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.

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.

And you know you need to make changes so that you can weave your creative work into the rest of your life.

How can you carve out the time and muster the 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.

Dive deep in the ocean of your creative work and bring up hidden treasures.

You’re not alone. So many people feel overwhelmed and out of control of their creative practice. Tell me if this rings a bell.

  • You’ve got a ton of great ideas, but you’re never sure where to focus your energy.
  • You feel overwhelmed by your daily life, and can’t seem to prioritize your creative work.
  • You say yes to too many projects—both your own and other people’s.
  • You’re a great “starter” but you’re afraid you’ll never become a “finisher.”
  • You want to get finished work into the world so you can find your audience.
  • You want to feel in charge of your creative practice.

Whether you have one big project or a hundred clamoring for your attention, in the Creative Focus Workshop, you’ll…

  • Get clear about your priorities and make smart choices.
  • Find room in your weekly schedule for your creative work.
  • Put you on course to get your work out to your adoring fans.
  • Sustain the energy you feel when thinking of how awesome your projects could be.
  • Value your own creative work as highly as work you do for other people.
  • Build a reusable structure and process that will consistently get you to the finish line.
  • Blast through your stuck-ness.
  • Focus. Finish. Move on to the next project.

Build a sustainable creative practice…and a sustainable creative life.

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 carry them into the future.

However, it’s easy to imagine backsliding into your old ways.

Make sure those amazing new habits become your regular habits with your upgrade to the Creative Focus Momentum System. 

The Creative Focus Momentum System

In the Momentum System program, you will get all the benefits of the full Creative Focus Workshop, with weekly live video meetings to answer all your questions and tailor your experience to your unique circumstances.

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 build a rock-solid tracking and accountability system for yourself, with close tracking and feedback as you implement your new practice for six more weeks.

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.

The Creative Focus Momentum System level includes:

  • A 30 minute 1:1 call with me to assess your project plan and set the right goal going forward.
  • Weekly live group calls with me and your motivated small-group Momentum System cohort to build accountability and tailor your creative practice to your unique circumstances.
  • Weekly accountability check-ins on your tracking system and progress towards your goals so that you can build that creative-practice muscle with support before you go it on your own.
  • Done-for-you accountability teams that you can continue to work with into the future, for as long as you need to.

The Creative Focus Momentum System PLUS includes:

…All of the above PLUS two 1:1 coaching calls, one at the outset of the program to set you up for success, and one at the end, to set your next goal and project plan.

How does the Momentum System work?

  • First, you’ll go through the 5-week Creative Focus Workshop with the whole cohort, and benefit from all the power of the group’s energy in pushing through your blocks and putting yourself on track to get your dream projects finished.
  • You’ll also get additional live group meetings on weeks when the CFW does not meet live, and a private Slack channel just for members of the Momentum System.
  • In the last week of the CFW, we’ll schedule a 30-minute 1:1 coaching call where we’ll set you on your path for the next six weeks.
  • Via Slack and live video face-to-face meetings, I’ll be like your creative “personal trainer,” to help you assess what you’ve achieved, and troubleshoot where your planning is running into trouble.
  • AND you’ll get a weekly live group meeting where you can ask questions and get support from me and the rest of the cohort.
  • I will put you in small accountability groups with colleagues and together you’ll train for how to carry this momentum forward indefinitely!

…and as is the case with ALL the Creative Focus materials and video recordings…everything will be available to you indefinitely.

If you join Momentum System PLUS…

You get all of the above benefits, and ALSO two individual one-hour coaching sessions!

We will 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.

When I do 1:1 coaching, normally I charge $300 and up/hour. With the Momentum System Plus, you get individual access to me for two hours for just an additional $250, total!

Slots are extremely limited, so if you want to streamline and supercharge your Creative Focus, jump in now!


Graphic novels + a book + two textbooks + a comics documentary + a podcast + full-time teaching = a lot of behind the scenes planning.

I’m cartoonist and writer Jessica Abel, and I used to be a total mess when it came to my creative practice. The year I graduated from college I drew about 16 pages of comics—this while single and working no more than 20 hours a week. Couldn’t hold down a full-time job because, you know, I had to “do my comics.”

There wasn’t even internet yet. It was clearly not an over-full schedule that stopped me from making my work. I just had no earthly idea how to take control of my random time-wasting impulses, and set myself on a reasonable path to getting work out the door.

And it’s not like I enjoyed all these empty hours. There’s nothing worse than the feeling that you really should be making your creative work, but instead, here you are, doing ______. (What did I do back then with no internet? I have no idea.)

It took many years of experimentation and painful setbacks, but I finally got to the point where friends would ask me for advice on how to take control of their creative lives.

I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the same learning process I did. The intellectual and emotional effort that goes into creative work is demanding enough without also having to struggle with taming an unreliable creative practice. After 20 or so years of developing mine, I finally feel like I’ve really got something worth teaching to others.

I’m the author of Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life, the co-author of two textbooks on comics, the graphic novels La Perdida and Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Space, and the graphic nonfiction book Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio, which was the basis of the narrative podcast I produced, also called Out on the Wire. While producing all those books (and a couple others I’ve left off the list…). I’ve taught at the undergraduate and graduate level for 15+ years (and am now the Chair of Illustration at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts). I co-edited the Best American Comics for 6 years. I’m married, I have two kids. I have a house. I moved us all to to France, and I moved us back to the USA.

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.

The Creative Focus Workshop is a 9-unit online course, spread over five weeks to allow for action and also reflection

Here’s what you’ll accomplish

Identify the ONE idea that will get you closest to your guiding vision, fastest, and then double down.

  • Find the true gems among your piles of creative plans and ideas.
  • Learn to say no to the wrong things—so that you have the bandwidth to say “hell yeah!” to your life-expanding creative dream projects
  • Hold on to your focus, even in the Dark Forest of an ambitious project, and get your work finished.

Pin down your blockages, and overcome them, so you can work faster, with less anxiety, and fully enjoy your creative sessions

  • Shut your inner critic up and take action on your creative goals
  • Implement new behavior (like regularly working on your projects!) based on crystal-clear knowledge of what’s in your life that’s stopped you in the past
  • Stare procrastination triggers in their bloodshot eyes, and figure out what hold they have over you, so you can defeat them.

Create systems to support your ongoing creative practice

  • Build a concrete plan for your time that acknowledges your reality while integrating the dream of making your work.
  • Support your creative success with systems that reflect your personal style of working
  • Develop a robust review and reflection process that will keep you on track for the long term.
  • Form lasting bonds with other motivated, fascinating creators that will help you maintain your progress long-term
  • Refine and target your creative process with my expert personal guidance in Slack and via live video meetings

Captain your ship

As you mark these accomplishments, you’ll build the 3 core competencies necessary to take full charge of your creative life. Build your skills tree and earn the Creative Focus Badges!

Creative Focus Workshop 3 core competencies skills tree: Navigator, captain, and logistician


Become a sure and steady hand on the tiller. You will identify and avoid danger spots, you’ll find fair winds, and sail fast and sure.


Build a clear sense of your larger vision, and how that guides your journey. What do you want to build, and what do you want to do away with? What are your big goals?


This is what most people think of when they think about “productivity,” and these skills are really important.

But here’s the thing: If you become a logistician without also being a navigator, you’re going to run aground.

And if you don’t put on your captain’s hat and make the big decisions about where to set course?

What’s the point of making lists at all?

You’ll notice some skills and tactics are in 2 or even 3 skill trees. They overlap, they reinforce each other. But they’re all a part of building a sustainable creative life, and this is the big goal of the Creative Focus Workshop.

…and here’s how you’ll literally go about doing all that amazing stuff

  • You’ll get nine audio lessons + written transcripts
  • Worksheets to walk you through each section
  • Bonus exercises and resources
  • A full week for integration and reflection on the huge changes you’re making, in the middle of the course
  • An accountability and discussion community (of some of the most amazing, motivated, and supportive creative people I’ve ever met) on Slack
  • Feedback from me on your burning questions and big ideas
  • …And 3 live group video meetings to implement and refine your creative project plans.

The Creative Focus Workshop is available on all devices.

The Creative Focus Workshop is a supportive, motivating environment with straightforward direction and step-by-step actions.

Yes! This is an online class, and can be completely asynchronous (meaning, you do it on your schedule). (The one exception to complete asynchrony is the live video meetings, but all are recorded and available when you can’t make it live.)

BUT this is no Lynda.com. You’re not trying to figure out how to implement from a book, you’re not watching YouTube videos to try to cobble this together on your own.

You have access to my individual feedback, and the massive power of your fellow students’ wisdom and support make these difficult changes in your creative life.

Our community really is our superpower in the Creative Focus Workshop: there’s nothing like knowing you’re not alone, having a cheering section to help you capture your own internal motivation, and benefiting of the experience of other committed creative people like yourself to make your biggest ambitions feel within your grasp.

CFW alum John Lauer put it this way:

“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.

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.

Everyone’s so smart and complicated, and those are my people.”

When you develop a clear, easy to use new framework for your creative practice that’s built on the solid foundation of who you really are as a creative person and the unique challenges of creating on demand, you’ll find it ever easier to return to your worktable and actually produce that ambitious creative project you’ve been dreaming of.

Get clarity and focus on your work and build a sustainable, reliable, robust creative practice

The Creative Focus Workshop is not currently enrolling students. To be notified next time we open the doors…

Let’s get real. You wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t in pretty severe pain.

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.” If any of that gave you a start of recognition, first of all, let me just say that, clearly, you are not alone. This is a real thing and there’s nothing wrong with you if you feel this way. Second of all…

Feeling like that sucks.

Not only that, but walking around feeling those feelings day in and day out is crippling your ability to enjoy your life and function as you want to in all the other areas that are important to you.

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, on my website. If you are the DIY type, those resources are there for you.

But if you have not been able to pull together a system on your own that really works to get your creative projects done, I hope you’ll consider joining me and this incredible community of fellow artists, writers, and creatives to build a new approach and put an end to 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 working on your own.

This workshop is not for the faint-of-heart. 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 are saying that your work truly matters to you. And that admission is the first step towards putting things right.

Nervous? Don’t be.

I’m really busy. How long with this take?

It depends on what you want out of it. Even if you have no luxury of time to devote to this, you can get very good results simply following instructions. You can listen to each lesson on the go in under 10 minutes, or read it even faster. You can do a simple pass on most lessons in 20 minutes. There are a couple of them that will take up to an hour to do.

In fact, there’s a absolute minimum you can do in about 15-30 minutes a week.

You will also have ongoing access to the course materials, so if you find yourself running into schedule problems, you can come back to use, reuse, and go deeper with them for as long as you like.

You may, however, find yourself wanting to take longer over some of these concepts. Investigating your creative practice at a deep level, coming to an understanding of who you are as a creative person and what you want to achieve, and then building a rock-solid creative practice that takes all that into account is a life-long process.

In this course, I’ll give you the tools you need to implement that process. How deep you want to go with it is up to you.

No, really, I’m just super busy.

I know. We all are, and that’s part of the problem. If you don’t have all the parts of your life running smoothly, you’ll feel overwhelmed and just busy all the time.

The tools in this course will help you gain clarity on what you should be focusing on when, in all areas of your life, and will assist you to clear space for what you really want to be doing with your time. It may not be as much time as you’d like. But if you’re not running your life efficiently in general, there’s extra time in there, time you can recover for your creative work.

You’ve got to free up a bit of time in the short term, but I can then help you free up more time in the long term.

Wait, didn't you publish a book about this? Why should I join a course when I can read the book?

Yes, I did. And almost everything I teach in the CFW is in the book. But then, almost everything I teach in the CFW is also adapted from other things I’ve read and learned elsewhere. You CAN learn this, and implement on your own if you’re a self-starter and can stick to a program on your own.

What the course offers that’s unique and valuable is planning, structure, pacing, community, accountability, and feedback.

Also, it raises the stakes. If you pay for this, you’re not likely to let it slide by. 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) and were consistently failing to make it work…have come in and started making their work regularly.

With your investment of time and attention (and yes, money), things will change for you.
There’s so much psychology behind this. We simply don’t value things that we get for free like we do when we pay for them. The exchange of value is a critical piece of the equation; in fact, it may well be the critical piece of the equation.

Leveling up happens when we take action, not when we understand ideas. Action happens when there is structure and expectation, support and community. That’s what you get in the Creative Focus Workshop.

But I want you to feel safe jumping into the course. If, after a week, you don’t feel that it’s valuable to you, I’ll happily refund you.

I don’t feel confident in my work. I’m not sure it’s worth all this.

If you’re lying in bed thinking about your creative work, if you’re making notes on your project between meetings at your job, if you’re feeling out of place and unhappy with how you spend your time now, then your work is “worth all this.” Whether or not the creative work you’re thinking about is (or becomes) your career is not the point…yet. You’ve got to actually make the work—and finish the work—to know what it means to you.

If you’re spending lots of time being miserable because you just don’t know the answer to that question, then find out.

My creative work is not my job—how can I justify this cost?

There are two ways to look at this. First, if you want it to become your job, you’d better get good at producing work regularly and with as little pain as possible.

Second, all the tools you’ll master? They’re just as capable of fixing other parts of your life, such as your paid work, home life, relationships…if you have any goals (creative or not) these tools can help you meet those goals.

My creative work IS my job. I'm a pro...isn't taking a workshop like this admitting I'm not cut out for it?

One alum struggled with feeling, “You know who DOESN’T take Creative Focus Workshops? Effing Creative Professionals, that’s who. Loser.”

But I struggle with Creative Focus. So does just about every creative pro I’ve ever met.

The fact is, building a life where your job is to show up every day and pour your heart into brand-new creations, pulled just from your own ingenuity, is enormously difficult and high-pressure.

Many professional creatives have been students in the CFW, and I’m deeply proud that what we do there has improved their quality of life and ability to do their work quickly and at a deep level.

Am I "creative" enough? Will I feel out of place?

There is no bar to clear here. I’ve framed this workshop as about “creative work” because that’s a big bucket that contains many self-generated projects we decide to focus on that do not necessarily map to anything utilitarian.

This kind of project can trigger us to feel “selfish” or “childish” since the impulse to pursue it comes entirely from our own volition.

There are lots of not-strictly-“creative” projects that fit this profile, and will benefit from the same kind of planning. For example, things like learning to speak a foreign language, or to master chess, or to build a business.

No one in the CFW community creativity-shames anyone else. We all are like one another in the ways that we struggle to achieve goals, and we can all learn from one another.

Am I too young/too old?


Get your creative life started on the right foot. If you’re in art school or university, you know full well that you get no training there for how to manage your time and be productive. And as soon as you graduate, you’re completely on your own with this, without even the occasional project due date. It’s essential that you learn the tools to self-regulate so that you can produce the work you dream of if you hope to make this your career.

Mature creatives:

Hey, you’ll be in very good company. Over 75% of those in the Creative Focus Workshop are over 30, and over 50% are over 40.

My theory? It takes time and maturity to realize what’s truly important. It takes grit to show up and be vulnerable, to make the hard decisions that will integrate your creative work into  your complicated adult life. That may mean you’re the most qualified student possible.

We can all feel regret about what we didn’t manage to master as youngsters, but wouldn’t you rather get it right now than wait another minute?

You’ve got battle scars, you’ve been burned, but what’s the upside of continuing to struggle at this alone?

Are the course materials available after the course is finished?

YES. You can return and redo and listen and absorb your course materials as long as the course platform (Doki) is a thing.

You can continue to use the group for support and connection with your fellow students as long as Slack is a thing.

Which means, for a very very long time.

When are the live meetings? Will they be recorded?

The live meetings for the CFW are October 22 at noon PST/3 pm EST, November 6 at noon PST/3pm EST and November 19 at noon PST/3 pm EST. Don’t worry if you’re in a different tim zone! I’ve set up a calendar that you’ll be invited to that will translate the time zones for you.

For the Momentum System, meetings are on Mondays at noon PST/3 PM EST except for the very last meeting, which will be at the same time on Tuesday January 16.

Individual coaching meetings will be arranged 1:1 on your schedule.

And YES! All meetings will be recorded! You’ll also be able to pre-load questions into the CrowdCast interface so that I can get to your questions even if you can’t attend.

The Creative Focus Workshop is not currently enrolling students. To be notified next time we open the doors…

What will you do in the Creative Focus Workshop?

A step-by-step breakdown of how we do what we do.

Week 1: Setting Goals

The biggest stumbling block for building creative focus in your life, and thus actually finishing your projects and getting them out into the world, is setting the right goals. We’ll spend the first two modules sorting through your Idea Debt, clarifying your commitments, and choosing your focus.

Lesson 1: Set One Goal. Address your Idea Debt, learn how to prioritize and choose, and pick a single creative goal for your next 6-9 week sprint.

Lesson 2: Open Loops. Examine your surroundings and various half-abandoned systems to identify and capture the commitments you’ve (sometimes unconsciously) made to yourself and others.

Week 2: The Creative Marathon

In week two, we figure out how to set your specific conditions for success. We look at how you work best, and what has stood in your way, and then we systematize the approach that works for you, so you can replicate it on demand. We also look at how your own demons of perfectionism and self-doubt undermine you—and how to fight back.

Lesson 3: Creative Marathon. Look back at your creative history and identify your conditions for success.

Lesson 4: Creative Practice is Self-Care. What are you telling yourself when you try to create? How can you fight back against the ways you’re undermining yourself?

Lesson 5: Your Ideal Week, Next Week. Given the real world we live in, how can you maximize your creative time?

Week 3: Integration

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.

Our mid-point group video meeting happens this week.

Week 4: Building your trusted system

In week three we will take what we’ve learned about your true goals and your personal creative rhythm and we will put that together into a system that will support you as you move forward on your creative work every day (or week or month) from now on. What’s important about the system is not the particular platform, but that you use it, so that you come to trust it. Trusting your system, knowing it will be there for you, knowing that you don’t have to depend on pure willpower to force creative work to happen, is how you create space for inspiration and flow to arrive.

Lesson 6: Asking Questions. Discover the best way to break down your big goals into doable chunks by asking questions to get a complete grasp on how you’ll build the path to success.

Lesson 7: Choose Your Tool. Given what you’ve learned about yourself in Week 2, what tracking tool will work best for you?

Week 5: Tracking and the road ahead

Finally, there’s the question of how this system will continue to work for you in the future. In week four, we develop robust tracking and review processes that will keep you moving forward. We also revisit your vision for the future, now that you have some inkling of what you’re capable of, and set a path that will allow you to arrive at the destination you dream of.

Lesson 8: Next Actions. Take your subgoals and break them down to daily and weekly steps, so that you’re no longer overwhelmed by the entirety of what you want to achieve.

Lesson 9: The Key is the Trust. 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.

…And here is when you’ll do it.

The Creative Focus Workshop is guided and structured. You won’t be left on your own to figure out what to do when. Lessons drop on specific days, accountability is programmed in, and the video meetings (with alerts a few minutes ahead!) are already in the calendar so you can plan around them.

Dates: March 17 – April 22, 2018

The Creative Focus Momentum System

If you opt for the Momentum System, your Creative Focus experience will be extended for 6 weeks. There will be weekly accountability email check-ins and office hours meetings, as well as 1:1 goal setting meetings!

Dates: April 23, 2018 – June 1, 2018

Go from overwhelmed, anxious, and stuck, to consistent, clear, and in control of your creative life.

Dive deep and SWIM.

The Creative Focus Workshop is not currently enrolling students. To be notified next time we open the doors…

Jessica Abel has her eye on you. The Creative Focus Workshop.

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


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