Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Kent Sanders on Taking Breaks, the Obstacles That Hold Us Back, and Changing Our Money Mentality – Cracking Creativity Episode 70

Kent Sanders has lived a life full of creativity ever since he was young, but it never occurred to him that he could make a living from his creativity. When Kent was young, he separated his love of creativity from his love of religion. It never occurred to him that he could combine those two interests.

After working in the ministry for a few years, he decided he wanted to go back to school to teach. He wanted to challenge himself by doing something new.

While finishing up his master’s degree, a realization dawned on him. He realized he could combine his two passions for art and religion. So he became a professor at a religious college where has taught everything from technology, to art, and film.

In this episode, Kent talks about why breaks are important, some of the biggest things holding us back, and changing our mindsets about money.

Here are three things you can learn from Kent:

Breaks are Extremely Important

One of the things that plagues many workers today is our pull to always be working. Society has led us to believe that we must work all the time in order to be successful. Kent believes it’s not about the number of hours you work, but how effective you are in the hours you do work. “The more that you work, the more people tend to look on that as a good thing. Where ‘Oh, this person has worked so much. They haven’t taken a vacation in so many years, and they’re working 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and that’s such a great thing, and they’re so devoted.’ We kind of have a messed up culture, I think, in the Western world in that regard. Where we believe that the more you work, the more effective you are, and that’s not true at all. It’s not necessarily about the number of hours, it’s about how effective you are, how you are using your time, and are you focusing in on the right things?”

Instead, Kent believes we need to set healthy boundaries for for how much we work. “We kind of have to set these limits for ourselves so that we can have some healthy boundaries.”

Because when we work so many hours, we can become distracted. We tend to lose focus. Half the time we are working and half the time we aren’t. Kent believes we can prevent this by setting up times to complete different tasks. “Sometimes we operate in that space where we’re kind of working, we’re kind of not working… to me it’s much better to set a clear, delineated line. And have specific times for things. That can be a real struggle because we can work any time and anywhere. To me it requires more self-discipline and more clear boundaries that we have to set because other people are not setting them for us.”

The Biggest Thing Holding Us Back is Us

One of the false perceptions people have about creativity is that restraints are a bad thing. Many artists believe restraints hold us back from doing our best work. Kent believes restraints can be helpful in our creative work.

An example of this is how Kent uses timers when working. Instead of giving yourself unlimited amounts of time, you should set time limits for your work. “Actually if you set a timer and you only focus intently on that one thing, it’s amazing how fast you can get something done. The problem is that it requires a lot of focus and mental energy, and sometimes we don’t want to spend that mental energy because it’s hard. It’s really hard to focus on one thing for even ten minutes or a half hour. So that’s something that has been helpful to me, just placing that limit on yourself. But also, I think, other kinds of limits can be helpful too… because you’re forced to find other solutions to get something done.”

Kent also believes our resources are not holding us back. What we are missing is a tenacious spirit. “To me the issue is not do I have enough time to get something done or do I have enough money to get something done. To me the issue is, am I going to figure out a way to get it done no matter what, and that to me seems to be the single biggest key to success for almost anything. It’s not about the talents or gifts that you have. It’s not about how much money you have or how much time you have. It’s about having that really tenacious spirit where you say ‘I’m going to get this done no matter what. I’m going to find a way to make it happen.’ It may take longer than I want. It may not exactly be the way I wanted or it may not get done the exact way that I envision it, but I’m going to make it happen. And that to me is the most critical thing of all. You’re willing to kinda plow through the obstacles and figure out creative ways to get things done and just make it happen.”

We Need to Change Our Mindsets About Money

After talking to many artists, I’ve come to realize that many artists struggle with the idea of making money from their art. They believe marketing is a necessary evil instead of a tool to help progress their careers.

Kent also had these same struggles until he realized that giving doesn’t pay the bills. “I just like to give. That’s just part of who I am, but giving doesn’t pay the bills. You gotta charge for things at some point. And once I kinda got past that initial discomfort, I think my mindset began to shift a lot on just what it means to sell things and to think more in terms of business.”

This is often times the biggest obstacle artists face. So changing your mindset can make a huge difference. “Once you understand selling things isn’t bad, that selling things is actually good, then your whole mindset kinda changes because you have to support your family. You should be compensated for the work that you do. But it’s really not about you getting paid. It’s really about doing the best for the person who you’re selling to.”

The best way to look at it is by realizing how much value your work has. When you don’t charge for your work, you devalue it. What Kent realized was that if you want customers to get real value from your work, you have to charge for it. “People just don’t tend to emotionally value things that they have not personally invested in. So really the best thing we can do for people sometimes is to charge them for what we do because then that person is going to value it more. They’ll probably be a lot more likely to follow through with what they have bought, whether it’s a book or a course or something. So I think once you get past this idea that making money from something is bad, you know, you’ve got to kinda ditch that idea and understand that making money from something can be a really good thing because when you have money, it lets you do more good in the world.”

  • about Kent
    • author of Artist Suitcase, editor at The Good Men Project
    • started off in pastoral ministry
    • was involved in church music ministry
    • didn’t know of any roles other than being a preacher
    • got heavily involved in music/arts in college
    • went back to his college and started teaching
    • created a book on Evernote for church leaders
      • loved the book making process
    • path has been a lot of twists and turns

8:00 “That’s kinda how I ended up where I am now. Basically it’s been a lot of twists and turns. Not a straight path at all, but I guess if there’s one them of my journey up to this point it’s just taking the small opportunities that I’ve had in front of me and just challenging myself a bit, and taking the next step. And before long you’re doing thing that you feel like ‘Wow, I’m really glad I did this,’ like writing a book, or getting into editing, or whatever it is. It’s been a very interesting journey. It’s been good though… I really enjoy the process.”

  • creative interests as a kid
    • was interested in a lot of stuff
    • was involved in music and musical productions
    • separated interests in art/religion early in life
    • never considered creative work as a job
    • did creative things on the side

10:28 “I hadn’t really ever considered doing any kind of creative work as a vocation because I really didn’t know that was an option.”

11:00 “I just kind of knew, I like all this art stuff but I don’t see that as a possible vocation because it seemed to me my options were limited as far as that goes.”

  • why he only considering preaching
    • only knew people who were priests
    • didn’t know being creative could be an option
    • creative fields seemed out of reach
  • going back to school to teach
    • was working full time at a church
    • felt like he did everything he could do with the ministry
    • was looking for a new challenge
    • was close to finish master’s degrees
    • wanted to work with college kids to help them grow
    • seemed like a natural path to take
  • differences before and after leaving ministry
    • church work having its own rhythm
      • personal identity tied to your role
      • almost like a 24/7 job
    • thought teaching would be similar
    • had a hard time adjusting to different rhythm
    • education cycle involves sprints and breaks
    • church work doesn’t end, it’s all year round

21:38 “I think you just kind of do whatever you do in that season of life and you appreciate the advantages that you have… but then there are also things in any job that you just sort of learn to deal with.”

  • breaks in life
    • they are vital
    • struggles with taking breaks at times
    • culture of workaholism
    • becoming less effective over the course of a day
    • making time for your art
    • The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr
      • time vs. energy management
    • still working with an industrial mindset
    • lack of work boundaries our parents/grandparents had
    • set specific times for your tasks

24:25 “The more that you work, the more people tend to look on that as a good thing. Where ‘Oh, this person has worked so much. They haven’t taken a vacation in so many years, and they’re working 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and that’s such a great thing, and they’re so devoted.’ We kind of have a messed up culture, I think, in the Western world in that regard. Where we believe that the more you work, the more effective you are, and that’s not true at all. It’s not necessarily about the number of hours, it’s about how effective you are, how you are using your time, and are you focusing in on the right things?”

30:58 “We kind of have to set these limits for ourselves so that we can have some healthy boundaries.”

31:20 “Sometimes we operate in that space where we’re kind of working, we’re kind of not working… to me it’s much better to set a clear, delineated line. And have specific times for things. That can be a real struggle because we can work any time and anywhere. To me it requires more self-discipline and more clear boundaries that we have to set because other people are not setting them for us.”

  • being present

32:41 “It goes back to the idea of multitasking and why it really doesn’t help you. I think it takes more time to get something done if you’re trying to do more than one thing at once.”

  • benefits of restraints
    • Kent has a kitchen timer when he writes
    • types as much as he can in that time to get a post done
    • thinking people who are highly successful as having an easy path
      • people who found real success find a way to make things happen
      • having a tenacious hungry spirit
    • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
      • forcing yourself to look at problems in different ways to find a solution
      • based on stoicism

33:41 “Actually if you set a timer and you only focus intently on that one thing, it’s amazing how fast you can get something done. The problem is that it requires a lot of focus and mental energy, and sometimes we don’t want to spend that mental energy because it’s hard. It’s really hard to focus on one thing for even ten minutes or a half hour. So that’s something that has been helpful to me, just placing that limit on yourself. But also, I think, other kinds of limits can be helpful too… because you’re forced to find other solutions to get something done.”

34:20 “To me the issue is not do I have enough time to get something done or do I have enough money to get something done. To me the issue is, am I going to figure out a way to get it done no matter what, and that to me seems to be the single biggest key to success for almost anything. It’s not about the talents or gifts that you have. It’s not about how much money you have or how much time you have. It’s about having that really tenacious spirit where you say ‘I’m going to get this done no matter what. I’m going to find a way to make it happen.’ It may take longer than I want. It may not exactly be the way I wanted or it may not get done the exact way that I envision it, but I’m going to make it happen. And that to me is the most critical thing of all. You’re willing to kinda plow through the obstacles and figure out creative ways to get things done and just make it happen.”

37:32 “So many times we look at our lives and see things that are not ideal and situations or realities that we don’t like and seem to be a problem. Or sometimes we even look at people like that… and we tend to think, ‘Okay, that person’s a problem. If only I could remove that factor from my life…’ Many times we do think in terms of man, if only I could not have to deal with one particular problem, this one particular person, then my life would be ideal and I would be able to be more successful, or I could have the time to do this or that… but you’re exactly right, you can’t just wait for… everything to get perfect magically. You gotta create. You got to figure out a way to make it work with what you have and what you are.”

  • not waiting for the “perfect” moment
    • course for helping pastors become writers
    • Kent thought for a long time things would happen magically
    • wanted to be a writer when he was young, but he never put in the effort
    • difficulty of being a passive person vs. as active person

39:08 “I’m really big on taking the next step toward your goal. You know, if it’s something that’s going to help you get there then take that next step.”

40:12 “I think that when people see the work that’s required to do something they don’t sometimes want to follow through with it because it’s like ‘Oh, this is actually going to require time. This is going to require resources. This is going to require some effort that I’m actually going to have to put into it…’ and sometimes we shrink back when we see what’s really required for something.”

40:52 “You’re going to be waiting a long time if you want life to be perfect before you start moving toward your goals. You gotta take what you have in front of you.”

41:30 “That’s the key right there. You have to make it happen. It’s not going to happen magically.”

42:31 “Just because somebody tells you you can do something, or just because you want to do it, or because you think you deserve for something to happen, it’s not going to magically make it appear. You have to actually change things. You have to actually make it happen. You have to force it to happen.”

43:35 “You have to stop looking at your life from the outside and start being almost like the builder or the architect of your life, and just determine to make things happen.”

  • writing for himself/getting into business with his writing
    • got into blogging/building an audience 3 years ago when he started paying for courses
    • the moment he decided to get into business
      • was telling his wife about his book ideas and she was acting weird about it
      • she called him out for talking about writing a book but not actually doing it
      • it really bothered him because it felt like his wife lost faith
      • he got angry at himself and determined to get it done
      • started taking it more seriously at that moment
    • that moment was a turning point for him

48:00 “A lot of times we have these grand motivations for doing things. We want to change the world. We want to impact people and help people and those kinds of things. I think that has to be part of the equation. However, there are some times where I think it’s okay to have a little bit baser motivations in terms of, you know, I want to be able to say to my wife, ‘I got this done.’ Or I want this person to be proud of me.”

  • Does it take a moment of reflection to get people to do things?
    • when you have a change or crisis in your life, it brings your life back into focus
      • these normally don’t last that long
      • we go back to our routines after a while

50:11 “What it takes to actually get something done is just sitting and doing the work that’s required and you can’t rely on an emotional burst or some type of crisis to force you to do that, I don’t think. At least that’s not the case, that’s not how it was for me. I think it just requires plugging away and plowing through the minutia of getting something done.”

50:46 “You just have to sit down and go through it and get it done, even if you don’t feel like it, you gotta get it done.”

51:00 “Those emotional moments can be good, those crises, but I don’t think they’re enough to  actually propel us through getting things done all the time.”

  • creative habits vs. inspiration
    • doesn’t feel inspired most of the time, feels rushed
    • “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” – William Faulkner and others
    • not relying on inspiration
    • the pain worth achieving your goals
    • pain shapes character and brings deeper joy

52:07 “I just kind of operate by the philosophy that when you sit down to do the work, you almost always get inspired.”

52:45 “You can’t rely on your emotions to pull you through much of anything because our emotions are usually gonna take us to a place that, if we just follow them naturally, they’re going to take us to a place where we’re not working hard, and we’re avoiding things that are challenging, and we just want to be comfortable. That’s kinda where our emotions tend to take us.”

  • Kent’s book: The Artist’s Suitcase: 26 Essentials for the Creative Journey
    • takes every letter of the alphabet and talks about a word associated with it
    • ex: A for attitude, F for failure, K for key, etc.
    • quick guide for people who do creative work
    • designed to have short chapters
    • free audio book, PDF, and workbook
  • idea behind the book
    • started off as a course – intro to the arts
      • talked about various types of art
      • looked at them from philosophical perspective
      • last few weeks – ways to develop creativity
        • stop being observers
      • kids loved book he created
      • turned it into a book
    • based on things people asked him about
    • addressing questions about the creative process
  • making money from your work as an artist
    • used to struggle with it
    • shifting mentality from giving standpoint
    • ministry doesn’t sell things
    • had to change to a business mindset
    • people not valuing things that are free
      • charging people changes people’s perceptions of value
      • people are more likely to follow through
    • doesn’t mind selling or giving things away

1:00:00 “I just like to give. That’s just part of who I am, but giving doesn’t pay the bills. You gotta charge for things at some point. And once I kinda got past that initial discomfort, I think my mindset began to shift a lot on just what it means to sell things and to think more in terms of business.”

1:00:28 “Once you understand selling things isn’t bad, that selling things is actually good, then your whole mindset kinda changes because you have to support your family. You should be compensated for the work that you do. But it’s really not about you getting paid. It’s really about doing the best for the person who you’re selling to.”

1:01:04 “People just don’t tend to emotionally value things that they have not personally invested in. So really the best thing we can do for people sometimes is to charge them for what we do because then that person is going to value it more. They’ll probably be a lot more likely to follow through with what they have bought, whether it’s a book or a course or something. So I think once you get past this idea that making money from something is bad, you know, you’ve got to kinda ditch that idea and understand that making money from something can be a really good thing because when you have money, it lets you do more good in the world.”

1:02:37 “Sometimes we’re actually hurting people by making something available for free because then they’re not investing themselves into the process.”

  • Kent’s plans for the future
    • parable book of someone who has lost their creative mojo and wants to get it back
      • tell principles of creativity through the book
      • likes short books that people will actually read
    • writing a novel and online course
  • favorite quote
    • “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Zigler
    • if you want something, you have to give before you get
    • The Go-Giver by Bob Burg
      • people only buy from others if you know, like, and trust someone
    • giving mentality establishes a good relationship with others
  • morning routine
    • he and a friend text each other at 6am to make sure the other is awake
      • accountability to help with the process
    • bible, praryer time, journaling, etc.
  • books, podcasts, documentaries
  • creative people
    • son – gifted artist and fun sense of humor
      • writing book about surviving middle school
    • Leonardo da Vinci – inquisitive mind that followed many disciples and constant learning
  • definition of creativity
    • serve people with purpose and passion

1:14:11 “I think creativity is way simpler than what we make it. Many times we think of creative people as people who paint, or draw, or do music, or write, or things we associate with “creative vocations” or creative jobs. I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think any type of work is creative work by the nature of what it is because all that creativity means is just creating something. It’s the ability to create or have the mindset of creating something.”

1:14:46 “I would say creativity is doing what you were born to do which means finding out what your life’s purpose is, what you’re good at, what you love doing, and doing that thing… It’s just bringing to the world a gift based on who you are and what your talents are and what you’re excited about.”

  • challenge
    • look at your schedule and find things you can eliminate from it
    • stop overcomitting and take control of your life

KentSanders.net

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1 Comment

  1. Kevin, thanks so much for the opportunity to be on your show! I appreciate the time and care you put into this post, with links and resources, etc. You are doing a great job with the show and helping many people.

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