My feet thrust in the air, I stared at the needle sticking out of my foot framed against a wall and the backdrop of Highway 140 from Merced to Yosemite while a woman in the next room loudly whispered about her venereal disease.

I tried to shut it out by thinking about my upcoming visit to Yosemite National Park, the history of Merced, and my creative projects. Any of them. Obscure ones. About a public domain comic book idea. About the newest iPhone app I’m working on with my publisher. About my blog.

My thoughts invariably shifted to thinking about my last few weeks at work, how long it would take to pull off these projects, and if I’d sustain a living from them afterward. Sustain. Hmmm… Reminds me of that episode of The Judge Hatchett Show I worked on as a video editor where she sustained a motion…

I snap to and remember what my acupuncturist said. “Quiet down your mind, Carlen.” And backed that sentiment up by sticking another needle between my eyes. I looked up at the needle, of what I could see of it, and sighed. Quiet. My. Mind.

It was my very first foray into acupuncture, and despite my foot needle hurting more than I anticipated when she stuck it in (and hearing someone whispering about venereal diseases), I felt calm. Centered. And the restlessness I tend to feel was slipping away. It was powerful.

It was powerful to take control of my own mind and realize the tsunami of thoughts that pound into my psyche on a regular basis is doing me nothing but polluting my own creativity. Think about it. We don’t expect to feel so hot if we consume nothing but chocolate chip cookies, Cheetos, beer, Oreos, Splenda laced coffees, and Big Macs. Yet we think we can get away with consuming thoughts about:

  • Job anxieties over an Excel spreadsheet formula we miscalculated.
  • Being angry with our spouse for not realizing that we’re angry.
  • Crap we see on the news reported by someone who has succumbed to “news anchor accent”.
  • Things our parents said once 20 years ago that we are going to therapy for.
  • Getting annoyed over a Tweet from someone we don’t even know.
  • Wondering why we’re not thin enough.
  • Looking up celebrities who are fat to make ourselves feel better.
  • Spending all day reading inconsequential updates on Facebook.

Now imagine those things getting filtered into your creativity. Pretty gross, right? Our thoughts are the nourishment for our creativity. And we’re not going to produce anything of substance reading trashy magazines and getting sucked into an old franchise of The Real Housewives. Just like we won’t feel or look very good eating nothing but Blue Marble ice cream. No matter how creative and fun their adorable flavors are.

So think about something that’s useful. And valuable. And nourishing. I’m glad I’m here in Merced and took a little while before setting out for Yosemite and that I have my face and other body parts properly taken care of here. Tomorrow, I’ll go biking around the area and try to get in shape for my hiking adventure that’s waiting. Merced, after all, is a true bike city!

Now imagine if something so wholesome could engulf your thoughts on marketing.

Remember, it’s supposed to be nourishing. So think about who you are and who you want to be. A good friend? Someone who stands out? Kind-hearted? Someone your fans genuinely like? Interesting?

Let your mind quiet down and focus on that sole intention. Be someone to your fans you want to be to your friends. Answer emails like a real person. Not a stiff autobot. Talk to fans like real people. Make them feel special. Get to know their dreams. And their fears. Learn to embrace their challenges as your own.

Because if you want to solve their problems by offering them a service they’ll pay for, then you need to know their dreams and challenges. And maybe it’s simply, “Own and appreciate local art.” or “Find a social media strategist to help me with my comedy writing career.” or “Have fantastic yet tasty meals delivered to my house so I can spend time with my family.

Whatever it is, it is most assuredly not, “Pay that creative person to just be creative! Doing whatever. I can’t remember. But just because she deserves it!” Don’t forget to give people a reason to see your creative focus. To quiet their own minds when they look at your work. So they know exactly what you stand for. But let me quiet down. I better focus on biking Merced County tomorrow and then checking out Yosemite Nation Park. I’m so excited about hiking around the park!

Imagine saying in your artist statement, “I’m a fine artist creating mixed media farmhouses haunted by 1950’s housewives. It’s nothing like The Real Housewives!”

Can you imagine telling someone that? Can you imagine how specific and memorable that is? How they’ll never have to weed through the layers of Cheetos clogging up your psyche with orange dust. They’ll know exactly what you’ve created. And want to know your story of why. You know how important I think our stories are. But what we create is just as important. Someone should see what you create and want to know your story.

They should hear your story and want to know what you create. And with that focus and story comes opportunity. Opportunity to expound and give them more. To diversify. Imagine having the quirkiest art imaginable about farmhouses. And people love it. So you also give tours of farmhouses. And also collect interviews and write an ebook on hauntings.

Suddenly you’ve diversified your income potential. Who would buy it? An extremely specific group of people who like a combination of quirky, kitschy, creativity that revolves around a bent toward supernatural and antiquated nostalgia. They exist. And when they find you, they’re going to have never seen anything like your work. So they’re going to want a business card or EPK with slides of your artwork, bio, maybe a little video of how you work, and photo.

They’re going to know exactly who you are. And how to get more of your completely unique art. But only if you quiet down your mind and focus. Otherwise, they’re going to get the years of gunk you’ve let accumulate in your mind. No one cares about The Real Housewives. (I’m going to pretend that’s true). No one cares about your junk drawer in your mind.

No one wants to shake hands with your creativity when it’s coated in fluorescent Cheetos dust.

They care about what makes you unique and interesting and your ability to hone all of that into your craft. They don’t care about weeding through the same junk they’re letting rattle around in their own internal attics. When I feel my mind wander, I think about the needle in my foot.

It reminds me I can take complete and total control of my own mind. I have the power. And it’s up to me and me alone to evoke that power. And it reminds me I can be strong and vulnerable at the same time. I can trust in someone else to stick a needle in my foot, and later walk away centered and at peace. That sometimes all I need is time to stop and reflect and nourish my mind.

So where will you stick your needle? And what will you find when you quiet your mind? 

I’m glad I’ll be leaving Merced behind soon and get on my trip to Yosemite. That’ll quiet my mind. I can’t wait!