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Finding a New Level of Empathy
Last year people would inquire about the Audience by Design workshop and the idea of starting a newsletter. Sometimes they claimed that they didn’t think they could find the time or bandwidth to do that.
Helping creatives develop their audience strategy was my sole focus at the time and I was so consumed by the work I was doing that I had trouble imagining there could be anything more urgent or important.
Then I accepted a full-time job as Assistant Musical Director on a musical and suddenly the thought of writing and publishing my own newsletter overwhelmed me.
Although a sizeable proportion of my week was now dedicated to the new job, the biggest problem wasn’t finding the time to write. It was that my mind was consumed by all the new things I needed to learn at work. I didn’t feel as though I had the mental capacity to come home and write anything of value.
So now I hold a new level of empathy and understanding for any client who believes they don’t have the time or bandwidth to implement a new system like Audience by Design...even though they genuinely believe that it would offer great long-term benefits.
I’m two months into my new job and I’m just now beginning to feel settled at work. I have studied, practised and trained so that I can fulfil my role as a musician and sometimes conductor of the show. I feel that I’ve just made the transition from the beginner phase of learning into skilled doing.
I look back, recognising that I haven’t shared anything with you during that time and I see a missed opportunity.
I could have practised what Austin Kleon describes as “showing your work”. By virtue of reading this post, you’re probably interested in me and/or the creative process.
While I was telling myself that I had nothing useful to share with my audience at this time, I neglected to update you about what was changing in my professional life. I was experiencing the process of establishing myself in a new role and with a new team of people. This was something I could have shared with you in (almost) real-time rather than just gathering anecdotes to share later.
What stopped me from sharing? Occasionally exhaustion, but mostly good old fashioned fear. Fear that what I had to share wasn’t expert, unique or polished enough to share with you.
Have I ever mentioned the number of notes I get from readers complaining that my posts aren’t expert, unique or polished enough?
Have I ever shared how many notes I receive praising my expert, unique and polished posts?
I was deciding whether to write a post or not based on criteria that have never been critical to the relationship I have with my audience.
The feedback I do get from readers tells me that they find my posts useful and relatable. All sorts of creatives write that they see a version of themselves in what I share, and surprisingly often I get a note that says “Thank you - this was exactly what I needed to read today.”
By worrying that I wouldn’t produce my best work, I sabotaged myself from sharing any work. I failed to share ideas that might have really benefited someone else. Perhaps you catch yourself with this self-defeating mindset from time to time.
So I’m recommitting to the practice of showing my work. When my theatre job becomes consuming I might write about that. But there’s a lot more to what I have to offer, and this is the best place I know to share those ideas, experiments and insights.
I’m also recommitting to you, my friend. Expect to see me here far more consistently, telling stories, asking questions, sharing insight and inviting conversation. My posts might not
ever always be expert, unique or polished - but I will show up nevertheless. Each time I write to you, I’ll try and address whatever seems most important and relevant to people like us who are invested in making creative work that matters.
Thanks for reading and, as always, your feedback is welcome.