“The jack-of-all-trades seldom is good at any. Concentrate all of your efforts on one definite chief aim.” – Napoleon Hill
Almost all of us creatives face the same problem: we are creative in more than one area. We like to write songs, or perform, or paint, or pen novels, or develop web sites, or produce music or video works, or [insert your creative thing here].
The problem comes when we equally love a few or ALL of our passions. Maybe you just feel like writing today, or just playing the piano/guitar, or painting something, or creating a video. They are all fun! And isn’t that the point of our talents anyway, to have fun using them?
But then our “right mind” says, you can’t waste your time being a jack of all trades, you need to pick one and become a master of it. You even hear this from teachers, or so-called “professionals” (like me).
So how do you choose which one to work the hardest on? Which needs to take a back seat? And which one needs to be completely stricken from the creative ledger!
You’re going to like the answer!
The short answer is you can still do all of them, but we need to break them down by how people react to them, how they bring in support to keep them going, and which ones might just be complimentary to what you are doing.
The Thing That People React To
“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.” – Dwight L. Moody
There’s a reason we started doing what we do. It’s the artistic thing we naturally did that people seemed to be interested in. We may stray from it, but it always comes back in the reaction we get from people when we do it.
Sometimes I forget that I started all this music stuff because I loved composing. I’ve written music for both for vocals and instrumentals for 40 years exactly this year. It’s always been the thing that has been my bedrock, the talent that no matter who heard it people were extremely positive about (well other than a handful of publishers or contest judges that is). Just a few weeks ago I had to play something for a class I’m taking, so I played a piano piece I’ve been developing the last few years. After I played the teacher asked who wrote it, both the teacher and other student in the room seemed surprised that I was the composer. The next class the student even came up and asked me if I had it recorded or had other material he could have.
It never fails to be the one talent I have that gets a positive reaction and always has been.
As you apply this to yourself, think about that creative thing that people seem to marvel that you do. It’s probably pretty easy to know what it is. That talent is likely what you should always focus on, but there is a caveat to this…
The Thing that Can Make You a Living
“To work to make the lives of others better is the most rewarding work of all.” – John Walters
After writing songs for years and making recordings of them, it became clear that an emerging talent of mine in my 20s and 30s was recording other music artists and songwriters. Then adding in other talents I had in computers, graphic design, video shooting and editing, and knowledge of Internet and programming, I could help artists with just about everything a record label could.
In short, being a full-service music consulting, studio production, and marketing company has been what has supported me for the last 20 years. Yes, composing and my other music skills as a keyboard player and programmer have been part of this, but the talent that has fed me is my ability to work for others making their creative dreams come true.
You may find this true for you as well. I’ve known music artists who support themselves as teachers or church music directors. I’ve known painters who pay their bills by graphic design work. Many would say being a music teacher, worship leader, or graphic designer is a pretty creative life, and it provides a living for you and your family.
So, there may be a creative talent you have that must be top notch to provide income for all the other things you like to do. This takes time to build, and dedication to make you someone who others will pay for this service.
Complimentary Creative Skills
“I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career.” – Liam Neeson, Taken
This is where all those other things come in. A Worship Arts Director does a lot more than just worship leading. They might need to use their songwriting, singing, playing, video, web, and other skills each and every day to make services come off without a hitch. A teacher may need writing, artistic, and other creative skills to lead a class effectively. Sometimes the real trick is having the knowledge about all these things just to make sure you bring in the right people to do them.
As a producer, I need all the skills I have learned to help music artists in every phase of their careers. I’ve been designing web sites for 20 years. I sometimes do graphic design for the CD art of some projects. Many lower cost video projects I edit and even shoot sometimes. It’s here where all these skills come out and are needed.
“Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.” – John Carmack
I like to tell people, I’m a jack of all trades, but master of three. I have focused most on composing/writing because it’s just who I am, and producing because it provides my living. But because I have worked as a video editor, a web developer, a graphic designer, and a consultant for hundreds of clients corporate, commercial, and independent for 20 years, I have some mastery in all these.
So, while I urge you to pick something to master in for 20 years, you should feed all those other talents that come along. Be careful to keep your focus on the thing that people react to, and maybe that thing can even be what supports you. Remember that another talent you have may actually be the one that provides income, and that’s okay. And don’t be afraid to develop the complimentary talents you have as well.
Have a great week!
Eric Copeland does many things, as you just read. He works daily as a consultant, producer, composer, and many more things and works for folks helping them realize their creative dreams. If you’d like help figuring out your creative path, contact us here!