11 Steps To Creative Success: The Two Year Playbook

By Seamus Anthony

Us creative types need some kind of map AKA playbook. This blog post shows you how.

Like so many creative people, I have always had the horrible problem of completing losing focus about every thirty seconds.

OK, I am exaggerating but it is a problem. I write down what I am going to do, what I am focusing on, work to that plan for a while, forget about the plan, wander around aimlessly, start feeling like a loser, get depressed, stop doing any creative work at all. Then I have a sweet coffee one morning that somehow kicks me back into gear, write a new plan that may or may not have any relationship to the old plan, get inspired and busy following the new plan and … repeat…

creative playbook

Us creative types need some kind of map AKA playbook. This blog post shows you how.

Sure, I do get some creative work done but not enough and it has everything to do with not sticking to the same plan for long enough to give it time to work.

This Sounds Like A Job For…

So, here’s where my buddy here in Melbourne, the supremely talented and successful Troy Dean steps in with his personal example and his ideas for structuring your working time.

Troy services WordPress consultants and now, via Rock Star Empires, would-be content marketing entrepreneurs, so his content, wisely, tends to be very focused around those markets and their specific needs, but looking through it all I couldn’t help but notice that there was some real gold in there that with a bit of tweaking could absolutely be applied to one’s creative endeavours, be they career aspirations or more simply, ‘creative flow’ goals.

What I did was go through a couple of worksheets, blog posts and videos of Troy’s and bend and shape his structural planning advice into a super simple “Two Year Playbook” for my own creative endeavours.

Now, like I say, I am busy mapping my own future direction, which is all very much based around my creative career output, but you could tweak this to suit a more pure creative flow type plan, rather than a career plan per se.

Why A Two Year Playbook Rocks

There is a famous saying, by whoever the hell, about how we overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in five. I totally agree, and in fact, I have often thought about how in our band back in the day we went from nothing to something quite awesome in just two years, just with a little focus and self-belief.

So when I heard Troy talking about how anything worth doing is probably going to need to be a “two year play”, it really resonated with me. It’s a long enough time frame to actually get something done, but not so long that it just feels like some distant pipe dream.

I went through his content and came up with a structure for my own Two Year Playbook. A lot of the structure comes straight out of Troy’s advice, some are my own flourishes. Now, this structure may well change over time, almost definitely will, but that’s fine as long as I am not chopping and changing all the time.

(By the way, this is my real plan. Putting it out there makes me pretty damn nervous but I think it will help you to see more than just dry theory. This is the real deal baby!)

1: GET CLARITY

Easier said than done. What I mean by clarity here are first principles like “what do you want?” and “what is it you are going to do to get what you want?”.

In my case I know my work needs to revolve around writing, music and Rebel Zen (I’ve tried to reject all three at various times and I just cannot be ok without all three of them).

So I know I want these things to ultimately combine into one project, because I hate fragmentation and the way I am doing it is to bring it all under the one banner – that of Rebel Zen. So yes, I mean my writing – fiction and non-fiction – and my music and personal development for creative people work. How I will do this is pretty clear in my mind, and I will come to that soon, but for now suffice to say I wrote it down.

2: WHAT DOES YOUR BRAND STAND FOR?

You probably don’t think of yourself of a brand – but you should. In my case I have a brand which is Rebel Zen.

What does RZ stand for? Simple: Growing from tortured artiste to creative powerhouse.

That’s a very simple way to describe something that I have put deep, deep thought into for a long, long time. It makes sense to me in regards to all the elements I mentioned above in section 1. It defines the brand, or at the least ideal of the brand. It is up to me to execute in that promise!

3. WHY DOES [YOUR BRAND] EXIST?

In my mind, there is great depth to the brand story, promise and strategy: but at the pointy end of it all…

Rebel Zen exists to inspire and help creative people to move “From Tortured Artist to Creative Powerhouse”. In a nutshell, it’s “Health, happiness & success for creative people”.

4. THE BIG IDEA (THE STRATEGY)

Here is where things get interesting, and personally for me: VERY scary to put out there because I am putting myself on the line here…

The Strategy equals: Personally exemplify the brand. Build an audience through content (music, writing, art). Take on the stage name “Rebel Zen” and personify the brand. A musician/author/artist who makes shit happen and a blog of the same name that tells the story of the journey and inspires others to find their power too.

Note: Above idea sounds crazy but actually I think it is KEY – a real talking-point IF executed.

(Or they lock me up in the loony bin … also an option ha ha)

What about you? What differentiation strategy can you come up with to set yourself apart. Ask yourself that and then allow your sub-conscious mind time to come up with some cool ideas over time. Hint: see “secret sauce” at the bottom of this page.

5. HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY?

If you don’t know what you are selling, to make actual money, then you won’t have a business.

Build up the audience and monetize. Sell: songs, books, artworks, info products, online courses, live events, coaching, creative consulting.

6. WHO IS YOUR IDEAL CLIENT?

AKA customer personas, in marketing speak. You need to know who your audience is if you want to communicate effectively. This requires deep thought and I suggest following Troy’s advice and looking at the Duct Tape Marketing method for this. I have two, based on a composite of real Rebel Zen fans.

Rebel Rick is 40 and used to play in rock bands but these days is more of a lounge room strummer. He misses rocking the rehearsal room and feels like he never quite gave it his best (because he didn’t) but now has a family and a job. However he would like to think he still has something to offer. Hey, he would like to be a full time musician with a cool job if he could but if he could just get some music out there, that he likes, that he feels good about, that would be a start. Rick is putting on a bit of weight because he doesn’t exercise, enjoys a few two many beer and pizza nights. He has an addictive personality and knows he needs to get that shit in hand, but it’s hard. And there’s so much shiny, shiny distraction…

Jenny Zenny is in her late twenties. She is working in marketing but knows she could do something better with herself if she could only figure it out. She writes songs sometimes and writes although she’s never finished anything she’s started writing. She smokes some weed and gets strung out sometimes and she is interested in meditation because she has the tendency to fall prey to some epic anxiety meltdowns. She would love to start her own online brand helping people with the struggles she is working her way through, but as yet had neither the self-belief nor the focus.

7. TOP 20 ROCKSTARS

This is straight out of Troy’s playbook. In order to build a reputation as a “rock star” in whatever scene you want to infiltrate, you need to know who the actual players are start thinking about (and acting on) how you are going to leverage their audiences and their wisdom. This may not apply if you are only interested in improving your creative output rather than developing any sort of recognition for your work.

Troy suggests giving them an influence score out of 100.

Note: I have my 20 figured out, but I don’t want to freak them out (yet!) so I have only placed one (rather obvious) example below.

Name Influence Contacts Comments
Troy Dean 80 twitter.com/troydean Content marketing, musician

AUDIENCE BUILDING STRATEGY (PLAN TO COMMAND ATTENTION)

This section now gets down to the nitty-gritty of the linchpin of this playbook: content marketing. I suppose if you didn’t want to promote your creative work per se but rather were more focused on reigniting your creativity, getting it to flow again, then this section might be a blow-by-blow list of ideas of how to achieve that instead.

8.A) FRAMING THE BIG PROBLEM

The ideal client’s big problem is that they want to be inspired AND effective as creatives but they find, again and again, that they get uninspired, lose focus, lose motivation, judge their own work harshly, feel depressed.

8.B) SOLUTION SYNOPSIS

Troy describes this as how you quickly explain what you have to offer to other bloggers, publications, public speaking event organisers, etc.

Here is my version, you write down your own.

PROBLEM: Creatives want to be inspired AND effective but repeatedly struggle with getting uninspired, losing focus, being under-motivated, judging their own work harshly, feeling depressed about all that.

SOLUTION: Rebel Zen provides inspiration and strategies to help creative types grow from “tortured artist to creative powerhouse” for increased health, happiness and success.

8.C) BUILD AUDIENCE

Nothing unheard of here – but the secret is in the execution! And note, if you don’t know how to do any of this there are SO MANY tutorials on the web!

  • Website freebies for email opt-in
  • Drive email opt-ins from Kindle books
  • Public speaking
  • Start and build a Rebel Zen Facebook page (please give it a like – it’s shiny new!)
  • Guest blogging
  • Podcast interviews
  • Creative content (must have integrity i.e. be making & promoting art myself)
  • Leverage other industry rock stars’ audiences by guest posts, getting them to retweet your content, appearing on their podcasts, etc.

By the way, it is good to know what you are NOT going to do also so you can stay focused. For example, I just don’t want to do a podcast, even though everyone is right now. So I’m just not going to. Choose your channels and develop them.

9. CONTENT STRATEGY

This is a list of ideas of WHAT content to make and how to wield it effectively. Because I work in this area, I am pretty comfortable with it all but if you have any questions, just ask as I am aware it may not all make sense to you now.

Write down your own list, feel free to steal my ideas!

Tell a compelling story – make it personal – from no self-confidence schoolboy day-dreaming rock star fantasist, to “top of the world” Reckoning days – A rotation on Triple J, Rolling Stone magazine, cover of local music rags, massive crowds at our gigs … and then back down again … cleaning toilets in Melbourne, a nobody again. Depression, drugs, alcohol, weight gain, broken heart, a violent assault, the lot. And then tell the story of persisting, improving, growing and building a life, a family and re-finding my creative mojo through perseverance and self-discipline.

Live The Dream (and blog about it) – my upcoming China trip, etc.

Triangle Technique: Social/SEO >> blog. Blog >> email list. Emails>>website.

Weekly Blog post (and email, social, influencers). Week in, week out.

Content Ideas: 101 Ways To Grow From Tortured Artiste to Creative Powerhouse

  • Create a Two Year Success Playbook (hey! that’s this post!)
  • Get fit & Healthy for increased positive emotions and energy
  • Meditate regularly for increased creative inspiration
  • Set a creative work schedule and stick to it
  • Hold yourself accountable to a 3rd party
  • Be unreasonable
  • Feel the Self-loathing and do it anyway
  • Go Deep within to heal the wounded artist-child
  • Make a two year plan and relax (marathon not a sprint)
  • Finish one project
  • Sell one thing
  • (write rest of list) ha ha I will do this next!

10. PLAN TO MAKE MONEY

I need to include this in my playbook because, as a creative soul, I often TOTALLY FORGET TO THINK ABOUT MONEY! Believe me, it is NOT what motivates me, but it is, obviously, essential to any creative career.

So do the same, write it down, what is your plan to make money (if that is your goal)?

  • Build an audience through content, live performance and speaking
  • create info products – books etc
  • create video courses (complete RSE training)
  • offer creativity coaching
  • tie in with creative marketing consulting (build portfolio website of my creative projects including corporate gigs: Tesselaars, Florist competition, TV theme songwriting)
  • Live events
  • ASK AUDIENCE WHAT THEY WANT TO BUY
  • Position and charge appropriately (as Troy says, very correctly, your customers NEED you to be profitable, otherwise you cannot serve them effectively.)

11. TAKE ACTION

OK – phew! So now you have a plan. Maybe it is not a perfect plan, not a perfect structure, you certainly couldn’t go to a bank and expect to get a loan with it, but it is a plan of sorts and it does cover some very basic and essential items. So now what?

There’s nothing left for it but to take action. My favourite blog post ever about taking action, which has inspired me for years, is this one here. Please ignore the “online marketing” angle if this does not apply to you and focus on the core advice:

  1. Take Action: get a notebook, a diary, a scrap of paper, whatever and write a list of things that need to get done next, actions that it makes the most sense to do TODAY to get one step closer to your goal. I would also add that it makes sense to schedule out what you are loosely planning to achieve over the weeks and months ahead. This is not the same as this playbook by the way, this is a good old fashioned To Do List. Don’t over-think it – just bang ’em out and start now.
  2. Have a Plan – see this whole blog post above!
  3. The Secret Sauce – if you can deeply and metaphysically grok this following point, then I truly believe that you are well on your way to enjoying a wonderful, fruitful life as a creative person: The secret sauce is YOU my friend – Go.

Hi, I’m Seamus Anthony. I am an author and musician from Australia. I also love to meditate, help people get creative, keep fit n’ healthy, read (a lot) and chillax with friends and family. Go get your free E-book by me: “Taming The Monkey Mind”.

7 comments Write a comment

  1. Seamus, bless you and your endeavors my friend. Thank you for trusting, being strong in your vulnerability, and sharing your plan. Thank you for giving back, so that all of us lost and teetering artists can be inspired to keep at it with persistence and practice, and ultimately be brave enough to finish our projects and let everyone in on the wonder we felt which moved us to begin.

    • Thank you and may I say – so beautifully put Brandon, almost sounds like a prayer “[Bless us Oh Lord] so that all of us lost and teetering artists can be inspired to keep at it with persistence and practice, and ultimately be brave enough to finish our projects and let everyone in on the wonder we felt which moved us to begin.”

      Wonderful, mind if I riff off that?

  2. LOVE this post! Smiling out loud as I read it, even laughed out loud at one point. So many points hit home — you really nailed the nature of the creative soul’s inner turmoil. Really like how you broke down the steps into an action plan, rather than spouting fluffy “follow your dreams” type platitudes. When you’ve been thinking about doing this sort of creative/risky work for quite some time (entrepreneurship, music, etc.) — hearing quotes like “nothing is impossible” are more frustrating than inspiring. Yes! A lot of things are impossible, actually! This blog post is a great starting point for approaching our dreams in a practical way. Thank you Seamus! 😀

  3. Seamus, this is AWESOME. You’ve totally nailed how so many of us are – I have been working at this “quit my day job, freedom-business thing” for five years. It’s been a paralysis by analysis kind of thing. I’m on the right path with a plan finally in place thanks to folks like Troy Dean and Kim Doyal, and thanks to like-minded entrepreneurs/creatives like you. Keep up the great work and you’re going to find true success.

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