Jessica Abel is a prolific comic book author, a writer, a cartoonist, and the chair of the illustration program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I became aware of her through her excellent blog. When I discovered she wrote a book about creative focus, I knew I wanted to learn from her.
Abel conducts workshops in creative focus, so her approach is very hands-on. The book is very hands-on, too. Each chapter has homework that applies the skills she talks about in the text, practical activities that will help you implement a different way of preparing, thinking, and working. I confess I haven’t done the exercises—yet—but I see how readers don’t fully benefit from just reading the book (you’ll just forget and work the way you always have); if you want to increase your focus (and productivity), you have to change the way you operate. The exercises enable you to implement successful creative strategies.
Growing Gills is subtitled How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life. It’s not a quick read. Transforming your creative life takes time.
The 19 chapters cover topics such as identifying passions and obstacles, idea debt, open loops, self-compassion, prioritizing, and breaking down a project into manageable tasks.
The book is divided into four parts.
In Part 1, So, What’s Stopping You, Abel identifies and defines what prevents creatives from finishing projects.
Part 2, Build your Custom-Powered Exoskeleton, covers goal-setting and creating a system to schedule your tasks and track your progress.
Part 3, Aligning your Today with your Tomorrow, helps you build a creative routine with enough flexibility that you don’t ignore your other life responsibilities.
Part 4, Falling Down & Getting Up, tells how to get going again when you get stuck.
Growing Gills is well-written by an established artist and writer, who understands the challenges of a being a creative, and has helped others overcome hurdles to productivity. It is well worth your time to read it, but do the associated activities to actually grow your own gills.
If you’ve been blogging awhile, you’ve probably had days when you feel like giving up. It takes too much time, your readership is growing too slowly, you’re not sure if your blog really stands out. You feel like your work doesn’t matter.
But you’re not a quitter, so you decide to stick it out a little longer and try a fresh approach.
Check out the following suggestions for making your blog even better than it is now, with ideas from some of the best blogs on the web.
- Repost some of your best stuff on Medium. Are you aware of Medium? It’s a gigantic blogging community, free to use (although some portions of it are for paying member only). Here’s how to use Medium to boost your own blog. And here am I on Medium. Some people do all their blogging on Medium.
- Use keywords strategically. You might need to do a little keyword research.
- Research efficiently. Know where to look for facts and figures to authenticate your posts.
- Mix it up to keep your blog fresh.
- Devise a strategy that will generate topics for you. Here’s one way to do that.
- Write killer headlines. Use words that will catch readers’ attention.
- Solve the most common blogging problems. Fine tune your concept, write exceptional content, and increase your engagement.
- Streamline your productivity. Try batching your posts.
- Create special emails for your loyal readers. Many bloggers have newsletters, but don’t let yours be like your Great Aunt Tilly’s annual Christmas letter. Instead, send them something they’ll actually be eager to read.
- Share your content on many social media platforms. Here’s how one blogger gets extra mileage from her efforts.
I’m assuming that if you’ve read this far, you’re a blogger. Did you find this article helpful? If so, please click the “like” button and share this post on your favorite social media. Do you have something to add? Please share in the comments below. Feel free to illustrate with a link to your blog.
Have you ever read something on the web that was so fascinating and well-written that you thought I know people who would love to read this? All the time, right? People forward interesting articles and pictures and videos and memes all the time through emails, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
Bloggers use this concept when they publish “round-up” articles, made up of links to online articles having to do with a specific topic. I’ve done it; I also share articles I find interesting, inspiring, or creative in my weekly Creative Juice posts.
A few months ago I discovered Flipboard, where users can compile “magazines” consisting of linked articles dealing with their favorite subjects. When you sign up for Flipboard, you can indicate your areas of interest, and related links will appear in your feed. So you can be a contributor and/or a consumer of the best content available on the web. It’s also a good way to put your own articles out there for a wider audience.
I currently have three magazines on Flipboard, on topics dear to my heart: Creativity Incubator, The Craft of Writing, and Lifelong Learner. I invite you to check them out. If they appeal to you, please follow them. I add to them every few days.
I’m sure there are other platforms besides Flipboard on which to curate content. Have you been using one we need to be aware of? Enquiring minds want to know—please share in the comments below.