On a recent cross-country trip I spent time with three creative individuals who were very intelligent, knowledgeable in their fields, had the desire to produce creative products; but had never managed to publish anything. As a writer who has produced 14 books and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, I listened closely to what they had to say.
What I heard was excuses. Outside of a general interest in human welfare, I had no personal interest in whether these guys lived or died; much less capitalized on their creative impulses. We talked for some hours, and I gave them my considered advice on how to make some quick returns on their talents and accomplish their longer-range goals. This concluded with a verbal “kick in the butt” to get some things done.
Unsolicited advise has the reputation of “costing nothing and being worth the same amount.” However well-intentioned, accurate and serviceable my advise might have been; will they act on it? The most probable result was that may remember being harangued by an old guy on the road, but little or nothing of what was said. No action on their parts is likely to be taken.
Joe, let’s call him, has a life-long project. He is now in his 40s, has degrees in social science and over the past decades has worked in homeless shelters from Miami to Alaska. He is homeless and lives the same life as his study subjects. His ultimate aim is to write a book that truly documents the “homeless experience” in America based on his personal observations.
My advise. “It is time to do it. Yes, you could always do more research, but you are running out of life. Time is the only thing of value that you have. If you have something to say to the world, it is time for you do DO IT.
“You have established useful connections. Start your own non-profit foundation to solicit funds to sponsor your book, distribute it and get it to where it is needed. You do not have to depend on grants, although these can come once you have established an organization that can accept them.
“Get somewhere stable, gather your tools and in three months write your book. Pick a topic that speaks to modern times that can reasonably be covered. There is nothing that says that all you know about a subject must be published under a single title.”
Jim and Ed, again fictional names, were hitchhiking buddies from Minneapolis. Both are in their 20s, and this trip was a considered a “last adventure” before getting down to serious work.
Jim asserted, and I have every reason to believe this is true, is a well-trained and multitalentented musician who can capably perform on a number of instruments, write music, but whose chief gift is his ability to mix components into a coherent whole. These components could be scores, instruments, performing groups, computer-generated or modified sound to produce “modern music.”
Jim had plans for putting together a concert when he returned as well as accepting an invitation to work with a performer that he greatly admired. One problem with this segment of the music industry is that many performers are users, and he said that most of those whose work he really liked were dead from drug-related stuff.
An appropriate admonishment to stay off drugs was given.
We had a long discussion of the topic, “Can music transfer content?” My position was that music can transfer feelings of mood, but if it does not have visual, print or voice support it cannot accurately transmit content. He took a more expansive view of what music could do.
My consul to him was to find out who the prominent ad agencies were in Minneapolis and put together a pitch for one of their clients that illustrated his talents and gave the agency something that they could immediately use – even if his immediate product was only a Flip video. This had the potential of providing him with some immediate income.
Ed works as a baker, but has aspirations of being a writer and, in particular, a lyricist or song writer. He said that he had a notebook full of lyrics, but had never shown them for fear that someone would steal them from him. I gave him a recipe for a low-sugar baked product that could be promoted, the suggestion that these carp in the Midwest could sponsor a multi-million dollar food industry with world-wide sales and some more directed suggestions about his songs.
I told him to collaborate with someone who could put music to them and pitch these with the objective to getting at least one of his things published this year. Jim, the guy he had been traveling with for days or weeks, agreed to provide some music. The idea of them working together to immediately produce a commercial product had apparently not occurred to them.
Copyright protection applies to song lyrics, and this can be obtained from the U.S. Copyright Office.
Will Joe, Jim or Ed do anything with the suggestions I gave them? Likely not, but one can try. One can hope. Maybe.
I have more information on selling creative content on my website www.hoveysmith.com and blog: www.hoveysmith.wordpress.com (February, 2010 in archives). I also have a video on YouTube “Selling Creative Content.” I frequently write about hunting, fishing, cooking and outdoor topics. Do not be surprized to see such content.