Become a Writer Today

How to Find Your Creative State Even When a Project Loses Its Meaning with Sharlene Anders

June 13, 2022 Bryan Collins Season 2
Become a Writer Today
How to Find Your Creative State Even When a Project Loses Its Meaning with Sharlene Anders
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I caught up with Sharlene Anders, better known as Shallalla who is a creativity coach based in Germany.

Shallalla turns the tables during our conversation and asks me questions about my creative work and what I do when I feel like a project doesn’t have any meaning.

Like all authors, I enjoy the process of writing. But when I was writing my parenting book, I would turn on the news and be faced with grim stories about the virus, lockdowns, and other world issues.

It left me feeling depressed, isolated, and lonely because I couldn’t see anybody outside my immediate family circle due to the country being in lockdown. There were times when I wrote the book when I would say to myself, “What’s the point in writing this book about parenting when there’s so much more going on in the world? Am I just wasting my time? Shouldn’t I be doing something with more purpose or something that adds more value to everything I’m reading and listening about?”

Shallalla explained that it’s a pretty common experience that many creatives went through during the lockdown and the past few years. She offers several strategies that creatives can use when they feel like their work doesn’t have any meaning and they feel creatively blocked.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How to reframe loneliness
  • Understanding how meaning comes and goes
  • The benefits of journalling
  • Techniques for getting into a flow state
  • Dealing with money beliefs
  • Building an audience

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Sharlene: There’s just like some part inside of you that just says, “I can’t do that right now,” then actually decide, “You know what, okay, let’s at least clean the desk or call a friend,” or do whatever, like this is more on the side of self-care. Sometimes, it’s kinda like the back door into finding meaning again.

(intro)

Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: How can you get into a creative state? And what should you do if you’re working on a creative project but you suddenly feel like it doesn’t have much meaning? 

Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins. Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast. This week, I have a great interview for you. I caught up with Sharlene Anders. She’s better known as Shallalla and she’s a creativity coach who’s based in Germany. It’s quite a good interview because Sharlene turned the tables on me and asked me a few questions about my creative work and what I do when I feel like a project doesn’t have any meaning. 

One theme that came up in the interview with Shallalla was when I was working on my new book during the coronavirus lockdown. It’s called I Can’t Believe I’m a Dad and it’s quite a fun, breezy, and bouncy book to write. I really enjoyed writing it and I was able to sink right in for the most part. But then when I finished writing for the day, I turn on the news and there was a lot of grim stories about the virus, lockdowns, and everything else that was happening in the world. 

It was all very depressing, isolating, and lonely because I wasn’t really able to see anybody outside of my immediate family circle. And also there were times when I was working on the book and I say to myself, “What’s the point in writing this book about parenting when there’s so much more going on in the world? Am I just wasting my time? Shouldn’t I be doing something that has more purpose or something that added more value to everything I’m reading and listening about?” Thankfully, I did finish the book because, at the time, I’d just taken a career break and I said to myself if I can’t finish a book when I’ve taken a career break from work, then I may as well go back and work a full-time job as a copywriter and not go full time with writing. 

I was surprised when I talked to Shallalla and she explained that this is actually pretty common. It’s a pretty common experience that lots of creatives have gone through in various forms during the lockdown and during the past few years and she offers a number of different strategies that creatives can use when they feel like their work doesn’t have any meaning and also when they feel like they’re creatively blocked.

Sharlene also recommends a few books about creativity. In particular, one book that I hadn’t come across yet, which is called The Van Gogh Blues by Eric Maisel, I hope I’m not murdering his last name.

Now, if you’re looking for some books about creativity, there’s some other titles that I recommend you check out. The excellent book Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon is always a worthy read, and it actually covers some of the themes we address in this week’s interview. I always, always recommend Steven Pressfield’s excellent work for artists, everything from The War of Art to Turning Pro because it will really help you get over problems like writer’s block and The War of Art is a book that I like to read and reread every few years when I feel like I’m not making much progress or when I just don’t feel like writing.

Another good book about creativity, it’s more of a business approach but it’s still worth a read is Creativity, Inc. by former Pixar CEO Ed Catmull. It has some great insights into how creatives at Pixar collaborate on all of their different projects. I also really like The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp just because she talks about how routine is so important for creatives and how to prepare for creative projects, plus the fact that Twyla is a famous choreographer means you’re getting advice from somebody who’s not a writer about the creative process and sometimes it’s good to get advice from a different discipline.

And, of course, if you’re really interested in learning more about my insights by creativity, I actually did write a book on the whole process a good few years ago now. It’s called The Power of Creativity and the first book is available for free on Amazon so you can go ahead and download that. 

But, anyway, enough about me. Hope you enjoy this week’s interview with Sharlene. If you do, please consider leaving a short review in the iTunes Store because more reviews will help more writers and listeners find the show. Or you can simply share the show with another writer or creative.

Now let’s go over to this week’s interview with Sharlene Anders. 

(interview)

Bryan: Welcome to the show.

Sharlene: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Bryan: I wanted to talk to you today, Sharlene because you’re an expert in the topic of creativity. But before we get into creativity, I suppose the question I always ask guests is where do you come from and what do you love to write?

Sharlene: So I’m from Germany. I am originally from Düsseldorf, which is a beautiful, huge city at the Rhine. And I was stranded in a tiny, tiny town called Detmold three years ago and that has actually forced me to dive deeper into everything online and so my creativity coaching business is kind of like is completely online right now. 

So I’m sort of like basically I have two main areas, which is creativity coaching and writing. And I write fantasy, urban fantasy, so I really absolutely love it when you have our real world and then you have fantastic influences and forces in that.

Bryan: Did you find during the lockdown in the past two, three years that it was more difficult to write creative works like that or easier?

Sharlene: In the beginning, I thought it would be easier. It was like, “I’m a writer, I’m used to isolation and I long for solitude so just bring it on,” but it got to me and I actually stopped writing and focused on creativity coaching. I dove deeply into topics regarding loneliness and how to turn that into solitude because I saw a need right there. I saw artists who were either isolated like me, living alone and working from home, or being at home surrounded by people they theoretically love but since there was no escape, they actually — they felt isolated although they were surrounded by people all the time. So that became a topic that was really important for me in 2021.

Bryan: You summed it up quite nicely. I know listeners can’t see it but I write in a home office and I’ve been writing at home for a few years now and I would consider myself an introvert so I do like, you know, having quiet time to write but it’s one thing to have that quiet space but another thing to be told that you can’t leave it. 

Now, thankfully, the restrictions have all lifted and I can go about and do things that we could do before the lockdown but I definitely felt the constraint of being isolated and maybe even a little bit lonely during the lockdown. So when people came to you with issues like that or they said it was harming them with their creative work or hindering them, maybe harming is the wrong word, was there any type of advice that you were able to offer?

Sharlene: Regarding loneliness, if we look at loneliness, and I do believe that reframing is the key to a happier life, like if you reframe your loneliness and make it into solitude, and it is possible actually to do that, then things get easier. 

What I found is that a lot of these topics or these conversations turned into talking about meaning, which is a huge topic for me, and, again, as you just said, people can’t see that but on my video wall, there’s the “Meaning matters, make some,” and what I really would like to talk with you about is like what can I actually do when my life’s art or my life starts to feel meaningless? Because that’s what it boils down to, whether we’re talking about loneliness or about facing a war right now or whatever it is, it seems like, “Does it make sense to keep doing art and what do I do when my writing, when the piece I’m working on feels completely drained of meaning?” Do you know what I mean? 

Bryan: Yes, during the lockdown, I wrote a book about parenting called I Can’t Believe I’m a Dad and sometimes when I’ll be reading about the virus — it was quite a colorful book about when I unexpectedly became a dad a few years ago, but when I was writing the book and then reading what was happening in the news, I felt like there was a disconnect between what I was writing and thinking about and then what was happening in the real world. I guess the real world was quite stressful, whereas the book was quite fun to write and it was a type of escapism. 

But I certainly agree though with you, Sharlene, because sometimes when I was writing it, it’s like why am I writing a book about, you know, my personal experiences as a dad when all everybody can do and talk about at the time was the virus, so, yeah, sometimes, it did feel meaningless. I never found the solution to that, although I did finish the book. So what would you say to me?

Sharlene: Oh, that’s interesting. So you said you never found a solution yet you finished the book?

Bryan: I did finish the book, yeah, ’cause I was working on — I took a career break from a British software company and I said to myself if the career break doesn’t work out, I’ll have to go back to the company so the first thing I wanted to do was write this book and I said if I can’t write this book, then there’s no point in me going out on my own with this business. So I guess I became quite focused on the book and that’s why I finished it. 

But oddly enough, I didn’t write the book to help the business in any way, it was a creative project. Like the Become a Writer Today site and business is all about helping writers with courses and information and articles whereas this was just something that I wanted to write myself because it was fun. But I did finish it, but I don’t think it’s gonna — because I’m not gonna become a parenting expert or start hosting parenting seminars. Writing the book was the goal, I guess if that makes sense.

Sharlene: Super interesting. Kinda like there’s the coach that wants to dive deeper into that right now.

Bryan: Yes, we are switching things around, yeah.

Sharlene: Yeah. Okay. So maybe the best point to start is actually like to understand the meaning of nature, at least the way that I use the word, and when we talk about making meaning. I trained with Eric Maisel who is like the godfather of creativity, coaching and if anybody wants to go deeper into the topic, there’s his book, The Van Gogh Blues, that I can recommend, that I actually recommend to every living, breathing being out there. 

It’s really important work looking at depression and artists or depression in artists and what Maisel actually says, it’s, first of all, let’s demystify meaning. It is a psychological experience, just like the feeling of joy. And it has nothing to do with something that depending on what your beliefs are, a kind of deity put somewhere out there like an Easter egg for you to find, that is not what meaning really is. It is a psychological experience. It’s either something feels meaningful or it doesn’t. It comes and goes, this feeling. It’s just like joy. If you look at joy, like you can’t be joyous, happy all the time, there will be times where you are just maybe a little bit down or tired or whatever it is. 

And so to know that the feeling of meaning comes and goes is actually, I think, very helpful in itself and then — and this is I think the best part of the whole thing, it’s revocable. You can make meaning, you can create meaning. It’s possible to evoke it. So if you have a day where you actually said, okay, I’m gonna write, let’s say, two hours on my novel or on my nonfiction book, whatever it is, and then you just don’t feel it, it’s like what does it matter whether I read this book or not? So when you wrote your book, were there days when you had this feeling? 

Bryan: There were days when, yes, I’ve had that feeling. I’ve had that feeling with other writing projects as well. There was one particular book that helped me recognize that feeling and maybe work through, called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. The book is all about mindset. Sounds similar to the Van Gogh Blues, but he describes how if you’re a professional or creative with a headache, take two paracetamol and you keep on trucking. In other words, not that you write when you have a migraine, because I can’t do that, but you just have to turn up and do the work anyway.

Sharlene: Yeah, I love that. And it’s also demystifying the creative process. It’s like this typical, “I can’t write today, I am so blocked,” and it’s like, well, this is your job so deal with it. I think this is one way of looking at it. So, my first advice would really be just don’t panic, understand it’s the nature of meaning to come and go. It’s kind of like when you talk to relationship experts and they tell you that there’s, in relationships, there’s this dance between closeness and distance and between like intimacy with a person and then being a little bit more distant and when you don’t know that, you actually freak out when there is the face of distancing and you think, “Oh, my God, we’re gonna break up, this is not gonna last,” and if you understand this is like a tidal process, then it’s like, okay, this is like the phase where we are a little bit more distant and I know that there will be a really close feeling coming soon. 

And so it’s kinda like relaxing to just say, “I know that it will come back.” So what we’re dealing with is actually it’s a meaning crisis and meaning crisis are not the end of the world. It just happens. It’s like nature, basically. And, for me, as a coach, I always look at a person and I do believe that everybody has the solution to live their life in a way that they want inside of them, which may sound a little bit counterintuitive because when you go to a coach, you actually expect them — or you go to a coach because you think you can’t handle the situation or you can’t make the career or whatever it is on your own so you need outside help. 

And so then you go to a coach and the coach tells you everything you need is inside of you, which is, as I said, counterintuitive, but I’m really a strong believer and I do believe that you can get to all of these treasures inside of you through questions, asking yourself the right questions. So, when you are in this panic mode, like yesterday I was writing for four hours and it felt really good and I was energetic and today, it just feels completely blah, maybe you watch too much news and you think what’s the use of writing a book when there’s a war coming or whatever it is. I mean, there’s always something going on in the world. 

So, my suggestion, my invitation would be to ask yourself, “What is something that I actually can do right now taking my emotional state in account?” so it’s like, okay, there’s a part of me inside of me that just says, “I can’t, I can’t, I really can’t,” and you say, “Okay, I hear you,” it’s kinda like it’s radical acceptance, so, “I hear you, I accept you, I see that you are tired, everything feels meaningless,” whatever it is, whatever your words are around that. If you then manage to ask yourself the question, “What is the tiny thing that I can do even though I am feeling like the world is going to end and nothing makes sense? What can I do although meaning has fled the scene?” so to speak.

Bryan: So are you asking — would I be asking myself these questions in a journal and writing out the entry or is it something that I’m thinking through before I sit down to write?

Sharlene: What works best for you?

Bryan: For me, it will be journaling. You said questions, my ears perked up because I love collecting questions, not just for podcast interviews but because I like free writing. So my writing practice to warm up is to get a question like the one you just asked and write a couple hundred words in Day One, which is a journaling app, in the morning. I find that’s normally quite helpful. So that’s the practice that I use.

Sharlene: Yeah, so I love journaling as well and I really do believe that questions can take you out of whatever hole you’re in right now. And a lot of people asking, “Why? Why does this happen?” and it’s kinda like that’s the wrong question, or, actually, wrong is the wrong word, it’s like this question does not serve me. So, “What would be a question that actually serves me?” is actually a really good question to ask yourself as well. 

So, yeah, journaling, absolutely. I am a huge fan of mind mapping. So I use a mind mapping software where I just write that question or the topic in the middle and then I collect everything around it. And always sooner than later and always sooner than I thought, there’s the solution right there. So, if you haven’t tried that, that’s actually something to play around with. I’m a huge fan of playing around with things. It’s really like just try it on and see how it works for you and whether it works at all for you. 

Bryan: Yeah, I’m a big fan of mind mapping. I like mind mapping on a whiteboard because — well, I’ll use software sometimes but I sometimes find software can be a bit confining, as helpful as it is, it’s good to have something that you can just play with or pick up and touch and physically interact with —

Sharlene: Yeah. 

Bryan: — so I use a whiteboard. I also use the Oblique Strategies. I don’t know if you’re familiar with those. They’re a set of cards. They’re like creative prompts, which the musician Brian Eno came up with in the late 1960s, and you draw a card from the deck and each card has a commandment and you use that in your work in some way. Commandments are all ambiguous, things like “invert” will be one of the commandments, which means turn it upside down. So these are creative problems he created for musicians but I find they can work well for creative writing. They’re quite good too.

Sharlene: I love that. I have to look into that, yeah.

Bryan: Yeah, you can get a pack on his website for 50 euros. They’re excellent. I recommend anybody pick them up who’s doing any type of creative work.

Sharlene: I will do that. I will do that. It sounds to me like this would be actually — so, I have two strategies when it comes to how do I work even if it feels completely meaningless. So, you can either go inside the work or you can go outside of the work. And I recommend that you start inside of the work because that’s where you want to be, right? I mean, the goal is to get you working on your piece of art again so I would actually always recommend start with the direct approach, start inside of your work, which means if you’re writing a book, maybe you can do some research or you can jump around in your book and read a favorite passage where you already know I love this and just rereading it will actually help me to resuscitate some meaning. 

I have also, for the people who write fiction, this is actually something that works for me all the time. When I have a character and I’m stuck, I actually look for a famous actor, the more famous the better, who would be a perfect fit for that role and just thinking that deeply about the character helps me a lot and I am moving inside of my work and so I am not blocked anymore. I really don’t like to stay in this blocked status quo so I really like to move out of it. And as soon as I’m thinking about the work, I’m actually not blocked anymore because they are moving pieces in my head, right? And the goal here is really to inspire yourself or actually to let yourself be inspired by your own work.

Bryan: What about going outside of the work? I understand what you’re saying that they all sound like good techniques for getting into kind of a flow state or —

Sharlene: Yeah.

Bryan: — focusing on what’s in front of you and immersing yourself in, you know, a difficult first draft. Just curious what you meant by going outside of your work, what that would involve?

Sharlene: Going outside is like the indirect approach. It would mean something like clean your desk, take a walk or a nap, cuddle your dog, cat, rabbit, whatever is around. You can look up — I don’t know how it is in English. I think the English, how you spell words and grammar and punctuation is pretty stable. In German, it is not. So, when I went to school, I actually had books in the old way of writing, how do you say that? I’m completely missing the word. How you spell words?

Bryan: Well, yeah, in English, there’s English and then there’s old English and then there’s variations of English depending on what country you’re in. So, yeah, language tends to change. It’s never static.

Sharlene: It’s never static and, in Germany, we actually had two major changes and I actually went through all of them. So, what I am actually saying is that I am not up to date like on punctuation and stuff because it changed so many times and sometimes there are books in the old way of writing and then you have books like in the middle way of writing, which they did away with because people were not accepting that. 

And so it is really a mess in here. And so, for me, it actually helps to look up a grammar issue, like, for example, is there a comma or not? I am still doing something for my craft, although I’m not working directly on my book right now. That’s what I mean with indirectly or outside of the work.

Bryan: So it sounds like you’re taking a course or learning a skill or improving some technical knowledge that’s related to your craft.

Sharlene: Yeah, taking a course would be, I think, a little bit too much, like right now, like we’re thinking about this situation where you woke up and you think, “I cannot write another word in this novel right now or in this non-fiction book because it doesn’t make sense for me to do so,” so I’m looking for short actions that you can take to keep your hand in the work. 

And as I said before, my recommendation is that you start inside of your own work, and if that is not possible, if it’s just like some part inside of you that just says, “I can’t do that right now,” then actually, to say, “You know what, okay, let’s at least clean the desk or call a friend or do whatever,” like this is more on the side of self-care. Sometimes it’s kinda like the back door into finding meaning again.

Bryan: Makes sense. That makes sense. What I like to do is the night before, if I didn’t have a good day writing, I’d leave like a prompt on my desk on a Post-It note and it will say something like, “Write 300 words about writer’s block,” if I was writing an article about writer’s block and I had — then I find that, often, that’s enough then when I sit down at the desk the next morning, that’s kind of like a prompt that my subconscious has worked on overnight and it helps me start writing a little bit faster.

Sharlene: That is a really good trick. What do you do when you see that prompt and you go, like, “I can’t do that. Not today”?

Bryan: Well, I try to think small. So, you described a four-hour writing session there, Sharlene, like that’s a really good day. If I could write for four hours, I’d be very, very happy. I can’t do that every day so sometimes I say, look, it’s enough today to write 500 words or 300 words or for 25 minutes. Normally, after 25 minutes, at least I’ve done something, but, invariably, I find if I’ve written for 25 minutes, it’s kind of like going to the gym, the next 25 minutes doesn’t feel so bad. 

Sharlene: Yeah.

Bryan: But at least get one writing session in for the day. That’s often enough to make progress in some way, whatever the project is.

Sharlene: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it is so much more — like people underestimate the power of small steps constantly.

Bryan: One question I wanted to ask you, and if it’s not something that you help your clients work, that’s okay, we can talk about something else, but when I talk to lots of people about creative work, there’s a lot of clichés and limiting beliefs around money. 

A lot of creatives are reluctant to monetize their work or they feel like it’s debasing in some way to sell their art or to sell their work. And even writers, when I was a journalist, you often get invited to work for free for name recognition. I don’t believe any of this is a good idea and I think it holds writers back from investing in their craft, but is that something you’ve encountered in your work or with the clients that you’ve helped?

Sharlene: Every single day. This is my daily bread and it is actually something where I can go on a rant easily, or five or six rants.

Bryan: Please do, I love hearing about people’s take on it.

Sharlene: So I primarily work with musicians, with singers, and it blows my mind, not in a good way, how, if you look at a rock band, right? You look at a rock band, there are four or five people that are working so hard to live their dream, to make money with their art. And, at the same time, they have to act as if they don’t care. As soon as it looks like you care about money as a band, you’re a sellout. And so you have this — you literally break your mind into two pieces, into the piece, “I really want to make money with my art and I deserve it and we’re working so hard,” and on the other hand, “Ooh, it mustn’t look like I actually want money.” I mean, we know so much about how our brain works. If you look at these two forces, and they are so strong, and peer pressure, especially in the music industry in the rock business, is so, so high and the thing you want to avoid at all costs is to be called a sellout. 

And it actually breaks my heart because these people are fighting themselves all the time with writers, what I see. It is really hard because there is this notion, “I am only a writer or an author if I am published if I make money,” and yet we work so much without money. So we actually fight writers fight against this. “Am I really a writer? What am I doing here? What is this?” I’m just jumping through the topics through the different rants right here. I honestly 100 per cent believe that creative people, that artists are meant to do business. I love the term of art-preneurship. When I hear people like, “Oh, he, she, they are an artist, they don’t care about money or they can’t handle money,” it’s like the trope of the starving artist. If there is anybody equipped to handle business and to come up with brilliant business ideas and to come from a serving, loving, and giving point of business, it is artists. And I really do believe that 100 percent and I will shout it from every rooftop that I can. And I also do believe that we, as artists, there is an obligation built into our work to show it to the world, to market it. It’s kind of like — this get spiritual really fast, but why are we giving these ideas? How did you get the idea to write the book that you wrote?

Bryan: So I had spent a couple of years journaling and I had captured like a lot of stories about parenting and I didn’t know what to do with them and I decided that I wanted to do something with them. What would be the best format for that? And I didn’t want to set up like a parenting blog or create parenting courses so I thought maybe a book will be a good project so I started writing a couple of articles and then the articles slowly turned into a book. 

But I also read other books within the niche or niche and I found that they were all quite prescriptive for dads, whereas I wanted to write something that kind of got more the emotional journey that new dads go through rather than straight up medical parenting advice. So I wanted to try and write something that was a bit different to what was out there.

Sharlene: So what I’m hearing is actually there is a lot of value in your book that other books do not offer. They may bring value in another way but your book offers a kind of unique value that you haven’t encountered anywhere else, correct?

Bryan: Yeah, I suppose the value is that I’m writing stories from my point of view as an Irish dad, three kids and had my first son when I was 24, so no other parenting book can have that because it’s my story. So I’ve used parenting stories that dads could relate to and that’s how I approached differentiating this book from other books.

Sharlene: And for me, that is actually where the obligation begins. It’s like you have this book now, you already wrote it, and I congratulate you on that. You have it and it’s like your obligation to bring it to the people who need this kind of information because what is out there does not cover their needs. So I feel really there is an obligation within the piece of work and it’s an obligation that goes to the artist. I really do believe that marketing your art, your product needs to be thought of as a part of the art so the art does not stop when the book is finished, recorded an album.

The art really keeps on going. It’s a process and the process of marketing it, finding an audience, building an audience for it is definitely part of it. So, what I do with my clients is with a lot of them, it is really straightforward audience building, which is kind of like a paradigm shift because we’re so used to think if I build it, they will come. I love the movie, 100 percent, like Field of Dreams is — but it is so damaging for artists. If you think, oh, I just have to write the perfect book, make the perfect web series, make the perfect album, whatever it is, and, automatically, somehow, the audience will just come because they will recognize how great my piece of art is, and that doesn’t work or it works in like tiny, tiny, tiny, not even 1 percent of the art. 

And if you start with the audience, if you start building the audience, and we have now the possibility to invite people, to say, you know what, I am writing this book and I set my alarm half an hour earlier so that I can be at my desk and write for at least 25 minutes per day, and I invite you to join me in this process. And so let’s say you go live on Instagram every day, just be, “I need a coffee but I have to write this right now,” you will attract people during this process, and you keep them updated on every step that you take and, in the end, when it’s done and it’s like, “Okay, here’s the product now,” do you believe that there are people who followed you for a year or maybe half a year or whatever that actually are interested in having that book in their hand and to feel a kind of ownership because they were there for you the whole way? Does that make sense?

Bryan: It does. The way I’d summarized it is if a creative documents their journey in some way, so it could be on Instagram like you were saying there, Sharlene, or it could be updates in an email newsletter or perhaps articles on a website, and if they also consider that it’s all material so any of the issues you have with your book or struggling to find a book cover or something you learned about the craft of writing, that that’s material that you can talk about when you’re getting ready to launch your book or getting ready to publish it and people love that. It’s kind of like a behind the scenes that you would get if you buy a film. 

Sharlene: Yeah, 100 percent, yeah, and actually I said Instagram, I’m actually not huge on social media. I firmly believe in the power of an email list because when you have an email list, it belongs to you. Instagram can go away any moment. I mean, we see it with Facebook now that they changed again the algorithm and even paid advertisement doesn’t work as good as it is supposed to or as it worked two weeks ago. The only way to really have something that is yours is an email list. So that is actually what I do with my clients, what I do for my clients. We come up with strategies to build an audience.

Bryan: Does your email list work for the clients who are musicians and singers?

Sharlene: Yeah.

Bryan: Interesting. Interesting. Well, I get how it would work for writers ’cause you’re sending updates like we just described, but what does a musician send on their newsletter?

Sharlene: What you can always do is invite them to listen to something so that would actually be like a hybrid, if you upload something, let’s say on YouTube, but you always have it in your newsletter and then of course linked to it. Doesn’t have to be YouTube, it can be SoundCloud or whatever it is. I work with vocal coaches and they show different techniques. For example, so there’s a pure value in their newsletter. 

You receive a ton of value. And there is also — one of my clients where we’re like working on launching everything, and so we’re putting everything together and she has a ton of recordings from her voice lessons and people are super interested in progress, right? So these videos where you have like vocal transformation, “This is me one year ago and this is me now.”

Bryan: Before and after.

Sharlene: So she has a ton of material and we’re just trying to organize all of that right now and figuring out the best strategy. Entering this trio for the first time which is actually what she’s doing right now as we’re talking, and I was just like document it. Just have your phone in your hand and document everything and let the sound guy explain to you how the sound board works. 

All of this, like allow people into the process and this is kind of like also a shift because art seemed on artists, it was so mystified, now we’re actually reversing it and really inviting people to look at, “This is my process, this is how I work.”

Bryan: Yeah, and the same for writers, you can take photographs of your manuscripts or drafts. If you’re recording an audiobook, you could take a photograph of the studio where you’re recording it. That’s like —

Sharlene: Word count.

Bryan: Word count as well.

Sharlene: Yeah.

Bryan: There’s loads more I can ask you, Sharlene, but we’re out of time. Where can people learn more about you or your work?

Sharlene: So, my home page is iamshallalla.com. If you’re curious as to what it looks like, what I do, there is my YouTube channel, that’s just Shallalla. I have creative coach reaction videos there where I look at Lady Gaga and Ronnie Radke and Mark Tremonti, people like that, so when they talk in interviews about their creative process, I look at that. And I am working towards an event called Murky Muses that looks at the dark side of creativity. I don’t have a date for that yet, it’s gonna be June or even July but I think it’s gonna be really amazing.

Bryan: Please keep in touch and let me know when it’s live but it’s very nice to talk to you today.

Sharlene: Thank you very much for having me. This was a blast and I could go on for hours.

(outro)

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