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7 Questions that Shape Your Art/Work Life

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Please Write this Book: The Freelancer’s Attitude Kit

I’m working out new ways to present the freelance life to college writing students. They are interested in this independent life but not clear about all it entails. They wonder: is there more to it than sitting around in your underwear all day?


I’d like to present them with a textbook that answers these seven questions. Because these are seven questions that freelancers and other independents continually ask and occasionally even answer. These questions are useful for anyone trying to figure out the relationships between work, craft, art and employment.

  1. How do I balance art, craft and economics? Is it even possible? Because there is stuff I want to do that has no audience. There is stuff I’m less interested in that has a larger audience. And there is stuff I can do to pay the bills, which frankly doesn’t engage me much. I feel less fulfilled when I do that third category of stuff. Then again, I feel pretty fulfilled when I cash the check from that third category. Part of the answer has to do with what your time in life allows. Part of the answer has to do with the economic choices you make.
  2. Is it me or is it you? What does it mean to care for others with my work? Is it possible to use my art or craft or skill to truly look after the needs of another—or perhaps to look after the needs of an organization? One point I’ve made repeatedly to students is that while introspection is one way to sort out who you are—and our creative lore pegs introspection as the main work of writers and artists—there is another way. And that way is finding places and people to work alongside and, well, serve. Sometimes we begin to sort out who we are as we seek to help others. Sometimes our collaborator and our collaborative processes reveal more than we could ever sort when isolated at our desk or easel.WhatIsArt-04302015
  3. What unseen forces are at work? I am a copywriter who also believes that God answers prayer. I am a copywriter who is also comfortable with artists who say the universe provides. My point is that the independent person has a better perspective when convinced there is more going on than what they can muster on their own. For example: every client I called last week said “No.” But then two new calls came in from completely unexpected sources. And these calls said “Yes.” Coincidence? Faith of one kind or another plays a role in this life—especially if a spouse/children/mortgage are part of the picture.
  4. Where does my ladder lean? Aiming for the approval of your boss is not bad, just limited. Bosses change—and sometimes very quickly. Better to climb toward a larger goal. In corporate life, we climb toward this position or that responsibility. In freelance, we climb toward this kind of project or that kind of project. Freelance does not have titles and offices that automatically designate how important you are. Are you ready for that? Freelance depends on intrinsic motivation—the stuff that bubbles out from inside. In fact—it turns out—that corporate life does too. The intrinsically-motivated colleagues are far and away the happiest, because they do the work out of willingness and mission. Just like freelancers.
  5. What do I look like, an entrepreneur? In fact you do, if you are someone who sees a need and starts to figure ways to meet that need. One textbook defines entrepreneur this way:

Entrepreneurship is the process of identifying opportunities for which marketable needs exist and assuming the risk of creating an organization to satisfy them.

–Hatten, Timothy S. Small Business Management, Entrepreneurship and Beyond (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003)

There is risk with the approach: you might fail. It might take a long, long time. This approach requires turning that intrinsic motivation into an engine that chugs along every single day. That can be exhausting, especially when met with a daily chorus of “No.”

  1. What’s sharing go to do with it? Today artists and writers and crafters and tribe members find each other online. Not exclusively, but frequently. Part of the independent life has to do with finding generous ways to talk about your passion. This is not shilling for work, this is giving away good stuff. Good stuff that people can use. It turns out that clients just might find you this way as well
  2. What if people knew how weird I was? That’s right, you are strange. Really strange. But everyone is. Freelance capitalizes on weird by you doing what you do in the way you do it. Freelance is the opposite of cookie-cutter. It is niche-building with much of your weirdness intact (not all, people will run from you).

That’s the book I want to use as a text. Some books I’ve read come close.

What questions shape your work life? Tell me if you’ve read this book.


Image and dumb sketch credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

September 30, 2015 at 10:13 am

Copywriting Tips for English Majors #8: Work Past Your First Thought

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Instant believability is a must + clowns are not a message

This ad is like a DVD scratch that hits at the climax of Inception: all plot and story get stuck and there is no movement forward.


Copyranter offers a mini-lesson in copywriting from this ad from Kazakhstan. Too many times we go with our first gut idea without knowing how the pieces fit. When the pieces do not precisely fit the message is lost.

Check out Copyranter’s list of questions/thoughts about the ad.


Via copyranter

Written by kirkistan

September 23, 2013 at 5:00 am

What Grid Are You Using Today?

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Everyone uses a grid to sift the events and inputs of any given day. Your grid is your life experience that informs how you hear and see everything: all that you’ve read. How you’ve experienced life. The dark and bright sides of life you’ve experienced. Nerd or jock. Pretty or not: all of this speaks to how you hear conversation and how you interpret actions. Even your intentions and dreams are part of the grid.

Over at MultiCultClassics, the bloggist(s) sees ads and news through a grid of inequality. Copyranter uses a polarizing screen to force communication events into best or worst categories, with little in between. At church on Sunday the teacher reads an ancient text through a doctrine developed centuries later, invariably forcing the ancient author to say what the author never meant.  Werner Herzog reads Curious George showing one species making a buffoon of another (what, you thought Curious George was a kid’s story?).

But there is no escaping our grid. We’ve always been a subjective species. Always will be. The best we can do is identify the baggage we carry that holds us to our interpretations. And it’s best if we can be honest with each other about where we are coming from when we read this text, or interpret that comment.

Honesty about how we understand things makes for good conversation.


Written by kirkistan

March 27, 2012 at 5:00 am

Copyranter’s Dad is Dying

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Copyranter, my favorite, consistently profane and truth-speaking advertising blogger, today wrote about his father dying of cancer. “Asshole commenters” have been lining up to sympathize and pray and weep. All great responses.

or does prayer have much deeper capacity?

Prayer is like wishing, right?

Mention “prayer” and people mostly nod in agreement—what is there to disagree with? My colleague’s husband fell down a set of stairs and broke his neck. Her email from intensive care told the full story. People responded—as they will—with kind wishes and promises of prayer, among other things.  Later she updated all concerned with the good news that he would fully recover, and went on to thank people for their positive energy, prayers and good wishes. Her update-—it seems to me—caught the primary understanding of prayer for most people, monotheists of most stripe and Christians included. Prayer, positive energy, good wishes, wishing on a star—all sort of the same thing. There is mystery in the words spoken in silence and the desire and the pain and the faith. Maybe something happens when someone prays. Maybe not. Prayer is hard to characterize.

Probe with a few questions—even among staunch believers and practiced pray-ers—and the mystery only deepens. “Prayer works,” someone might say. And they point to a prayer they prayed and then some related action that occurred. Did their prayer work? Possibly. Is there power in prayer? Maybe. And maybe not like we think. Certainly God has power—complete, entire power over all that is and ever was. And certainly God is under no obligation to fill our order, answer our requests, or even hear us—unless as He obligates himself.

We ask things of God from all sorts of motives with all sorts of expectations. The truth is we know very little about what happens when we pray. But we know prayer is the example and model the Bible holds to out for interacting with God. What does the Bible say about the connection between prayer and action?

Bible people were always talking with God. The list of praying people is extensive and includes those who were face to face with God (Adam and Eve, Moses), sometimes hand to hand (Jacob), as well as those who sat through years of silence in their prayer (Abraham, Hannah), and everyone in between. We typically think of prayer as a solitary, passive activity of last-resort. And yet the Bible routinely shows action following people praying. And not just small stuff, but game-changing action. Action that shifts a story to an entirely different place.

I’m trying to learn more about prayer. And I’m praying for Copyranter and his dad and his family.


Image credit: stopping off place via this isn’t happiness

Written by kirkistan

March 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm

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