Posts Tagged ‘do the work’


So last night I was watching Shark Tank on CNBC. After it ended there was this show called American Greed. The first episode was kind of interesting, but the second episode was about a rap promoter who it turns out was defrauding artists and investors alike to prop up his own lavish lifestyle. The guy was beyond a doubt immoral and unethical, but I don’t want to talk about him. I want to talk about the artists who allowed themselves to be victimized by him and more than that, I want to talk about us.

The promoter in question basically promised he could make anyone a star. The thing is, he can’t. There are only so many people who are the right combination of talented/lucky/blessed/driven enough to become “stars.” If everyone could do it, most everyone would. This guy was promising these people something they should have known was not possible. Here’s the thing, in the arts, there is no easy way and there is no substitute for a little thing called doing the work.

I used to watch American Idol with great interest, but there was always something that bothered me. Did that show produce some bankable stars? Yes absolutely, but it sure felt like skipping a lot of steps. What happened to slogging it out in the little venues, paying your dues and learning to be a performer? These shows seemed to circumvent the process, but they did something that was equally alarming. They seem to have convinced a whole generation that this path is the only way, waiting to be discovered and put on TV. No can I tell you there are a lot of ways to be an artist, that don’t involve making the cut on a TV show and it all comes down to what I preach here. You make the work you love to make and find the people who love it. You get up every day and you do the work. If it doesn’t pay the bills, you find something that does while you keep doing the work. There is no easy way, there is no magic bullet, and be very skeptical of anyone who tells you there is.

I remember the early days of MTV when bands were jettisoning talented people because they didn’t look good on camera. Ask yourself, how far would have Bob Dylan gotten on The Voice? I’m guessing not very far, but he made the music he loved and found a world full of people who loved it. I know one young lady who has auditioned for The Voice a couple of times, She didn’t get through. She is talented beyond belief and if I had the connections, I would sign her in a New York minute. The thing is she doesn’t need me and she doesn’t need The Voice. She’s gotten herself a gig singing in a working band and she is out there night after night singing her heart out and paying her dues. She will get there and she will appreciate it when she does, because she has done the work.

When it all comes down to it, no matter what kind of artist you are, there is no substitute for doing the work.

There is no easy way. Don’t wait to be picked. Hone your craft. Put your work out there. Find your tribe. Do the work!

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We dread them so much… deadlines. We feel the pressure, we get anxious. They make us feel under the gun. We hate them, and we shouldn’t, deadlines are our friends. I was thinking about it this morning on my prayer walk. I was at a retreat for pastors who are new to their churches over the weekend and we were all asked the question, “What has been the biggest adjustment in your transition?” For me that answer was easy. I’ve been a pastor before, dealt with people before, none of that stuff is really new. No, for me the thing that is really new is this is the first time in my life that ministry has been my main source of income and the only thing I have to work on. Before this, ministry had to be fit in around the edges of my other job, now it is my “job.”

I was contemplating this answer this morning as I walked and started to think about the deadlines in my former life and how I don’t have them now. When I was editing a magazine, there were times of immense pressure around the release of the magazine. Over all I liked the job, but if I’m being honest, I don’t miss those days even a little bit. I started to think I don’t have deadlines anymore but then it hit me, I really do. Every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. is a deadline, so are special services and speaking engagements. I have to be done and ready to go by the time I step up to the pulpit. It’s the same, but it doesn’t feel that way. What’s changed? I now look forward the deadline. You should too. Deadlines are your friend.

Think about it. How often do you as a creative, endlessly tweak something trying to reach some self-imposed perfection? How often do you put things off because you’re stuck? How often do you procrastinate or struggle with creative block? Deadlines help with all those things. The deadline is the time when the dream must become reality. It’s the time when you take what you’re creating and bring it to it’s intended purpose: to be shared with the world. It forces you to do the work. It forces you to stop staring at the blank page or screen or whatever and to start the project. It forces you to stop thinking about what you don’t have and starting to work with what you do, while also securing the resources and help that you need. Deadlines make us work. Without deadlines we probably would never get anything done. So keep your deadlines and if there is no deadline on a project, you’d be wise to set one.

Remember the whole purpose of creating is to share our creations with the world. Set a deadline, get it done and ship it.

Deadlines are our friends!