You’re devoted to making creative work. You build your identity around it, both personally and professionally. Which is why, when you grind to a halt, when you lose control of your ability to get the work done, when you just don’t know which path to take narratively or creatively, it’s so very painful. “I’ll never get this piece finished. I have no idea what to do next. I just can’t do this.” That feeling, the deep in the Dark Forest feeling…it’s soul-destroying. There are few things other than threats to the safety and health of our loved ones that scare us more than that.
This feeling comes over you because you’re doing what you should be doing as a creative person: you’re reaching for the stars, you’re building something big. And because it’s big, it’s just really difficult to get your head all the way around it. Being in the Dark Forest is a good sign. It means that you’re going in the right direction: growing and doing work that will take you places you’ve never been.
We all get lost in the Dark Forest. But it does not have to take you down. Getting stuck doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for this, or that you’ll never get out and make good work again. It means you’re trying to walk to Grandma’s house all alone, and you’ve gotten a bit lost.
With the right tools and structure, with the right feedback, you will get out of the Forest faster, and you’ll stay out longer. Best part: you don’t have to do it on your own.
The secret to getting your work finished is…getting your butt in the chair and doing the work day after day. I know, you were hoping I’d say something more magical. What good is butt-in-chair if every time you open your project you find yourself falling down a Facebook rabbit hole?
Here’s the magic part: The answer is not wrestling your resistant psyche to the ground with brute strength. Sure, you can do that once or twice, but it’s not an approach that works long-term. Getting the work happening is about learning and implementing a set of tools and strategies that are built around who you are as a creative person, tools that work with you, and not against you.
I learned the hard way that the idea that artists are required to work in isolation is a crock. Time and again, it wasn’t until I scheduled structured conversations with a fellow creative who understood the fundamentals of building a story that I found the right path and got out of the woods.
I am here to tell you: It’s not cheating to share your work with someone else. In fact, I’ve come to understand that it’s essential to do so if you’re to achieve the distance you need from your own thought process.
The fastest way to get back on track with your project and find the story that’s waiting to be told is to work it through with someone who can see what you’ve written and understand what you really mean—what the story wants to be.
There are two things you need to do to make your best work: you need systems that support you, that clear space for work to happen and inspiration to hit, and you need perspective on your work itself, the content, to work your way through knotty problems.
I’m not medium-agnostic. I’m a cartoonist, and proud of it. My native form of narrative, comics, combines visual narrative and prose. I’ve written three prose books and been an illustrator. Between that and the huge amount of time I’ve spent studying narrative audio, I’m more comfortable thinking of how all these forms of narrative are similar (and how they can be mixed and aligned) than how they’re different.
So yes, I’m a writer – I like words and crafting sentences as much as you do.
But what I’m really interested in is how things fit together. I’m a puzzle master; what I’m great at is looking at the deep structure of your project and identifying the missing part of your story; the one piece that fits perfectly and makes everything come together.
I know which questions to ask. I love strategic planning. Narrowing down, focusing in on what the important choices are and when they need to take place. I love to talk through complicated problems and find step-by-step solutions. To make plans, create systems, and get things in the proper order.
I’ve learned, practiced, and taught the fundamentals of compelling narrative for decades. I can give your work the one-on-one attention it needs to get you back into flow. I can be your story Sherpa. Having a guide means you can focus your energy on finding firm footholds – without worrying about taking a wrong turn, walking off a cliff, or being eaten by a (metaphorical) yeti.
But all the insight in the world into your work will do you no good if you still aren’t actually creating it: I’ve built and used a set of creative productivity tools that have allowed me to publish eight books and produce a podcast in the last ten years, on top of being a professor, an editor, and a parent. We’ll put these tools to work in your creative life, and take procrastination and anxiety out of the picture.
Together we’ll come up with a map to get you from where you are to where you want to be:
As a practicing artist, I’ve tested and taught strategies for productivity that will give you the energy and the structure to work through even huge projects without getting overwhelmed.
A focus session is a combination of a brainstorm, a trouble-shoot, and an edit. You might bring me a raw story idea, a semi-developed pitch, or you might have done a draft and need to discuss it. You may also want to work on your process, and getting your system set up. A Focus Session is a one-shot, and lasts 50 minutes.
We’ll do our best work together when we really focus, so I look at just one page of material per session.
$300. Access my scheduler directly upon payment.
The Story Matrix is a program designed to build a rock-solid structure for your longer narrative work. In three sessions, you will find the core of your story, you’ll determine exactly why your story needs to take its place in the world, and you’ll build the steps of escalation or argument that will connect powerfully to the audience.
3 sessions $850
Email me at contact @ jessicaabel.com and tell me about your project. If it’s a good fit, we can get on a phone call to figure out how I might help you make your story shine.
We will design a program around your needs. The components will be getting your creative system set up and functioning so that you’re regularly producing your work, and discussion, feedback, and guidance on your creative work in progress. Sessions will normally take place at intervals of about 2 weeks, and I will read up to 10 pages of material per session (or the audio equivalent).
3 sessions: $850
5 sessions: $1350
Email me at contact @ jessicaabel.com and let me know what you’re struggling with, and if it’s a good fit, we can get on a phone call to determine how I can help you find your motivation, hone your story, and finish your project.