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Updated: Feb 25, 2019

In this 5-part series (released over five weeks) I will be sharing what I believe are some of the most important qualities in being an effective artist. I will then invite you to participate in an exercise related to each post and offer you some thoughtful questions (and maybe even some resources) to help you on your way. Let's get started!


I know, I know, this one feels so obvious that it almost seems like a non-tip, but just stay with me!

As obvious as this tip probably sounds, it’s worth pointing out that, as a writer, I struggle with this one almost every time I sit down to write. It can be tough for me to take what is happening inside of me and shape it into a cogent thought for others, let alone myself. Ask me to do that on a schedule and I really start to panic.

Sometimes I find that the biggest obstacle I face is the obstacle of expression.

Unfortunately, having a moment of insight or clarity about an important idea is nothing at all if it cannot be shared to the benefit of its intended audience.

I would argue that far too many of us get comfortable (or scared) with where we are and stop growing or refining ourselves. Maybe we’re cocky, thinking we are too good for improvements.

Heaven forbid.

For me, I would traditionally avoid learning because I was never very good at learning. So every time I came back to it, I would just feel my learning disabilities resurface and then I would feel the shame and run the other way. I had to get over that shit.

Whether painting, singing, writing, or practicing some other kind of art form, you need to be able to effectively express what it is that you wish to communicate. This skill is especially helpful for you, the artist, as it can help you to connect differentiated parts of yourself and bring forth a richer, deeper body of work. 

It can be difficult to bring some ideas out into the harsh light of day, so I encourage my friends to practice doing so in little ways. Don’t wait for a “real" assignment. Get used to the feeling of expression now. The practice may help with the fear as well.

“Good and bad ideas both come from the same fountain of speculation and experiment.” - Shaun Tan


For this exercise, I want you to IDENTIFY, EXPRESS, MEASURE and REFINE something that you wish to communicate. 


Over time, this practice will help you to explore the limits of your abilities and give you valuable insights into how to make real improvements in the first-round effectiveness of your communication.


DO NOT beat up on yourself if your output isn’t what you wish it was. The purpose of this exercise is to give you something to work with. To get you moving. More importantly, this exercise gives you a tool that has the power to improve your life in a myriad of ways, far beyond the reaches of your artistic endeavors.

Here are some steps to try:

  • TARGET a thought or feeling that you wish to express.

  • MAKE NOTES about how you might communicate it.

  • DETERMINE your desired result. How do you want your message to be received?

  • COMMUNICATE the idea in three, unique ways.

  • SHARE your three attempts with people who will offer helpful feedback.

  • GAUGE the response. Was it what you were going for? What worked well, what didn’t, and were any new ideas born or uncovered?

  • "WASH. RINSE. REPEAT." Keep trying this until you begin to find rhythms and approaches that work well for you!


1 - What did you learn? Are you better at communicating than you thought? Is your technique in need of a little work?

2 - When doing the exercise, did you stumble into any new ideas, approaches, thoughts, or feelings that caught your attention? How might you be able to roll this new information into another pass?

3 - How adventurous were you in your different expressions? Did you try anything that was completely outside of your comfort zone or did you feel compelled to stick with what you know? Feel free to share any insights you may have stumbled upon.



From documentary filmmaking to acting, photography to novel writing, cooking to singing, tennis to conservation, Masterclass really is an incredible offering of some of many industries' best talent, offering real insight into their processes and approaches. And for a very reasonable fee, you can access ALL OF IT. In fact, if you use the link that I give you here, you can get 3 MONTHS FREE. 

** Full disclosure: Apparently, Masterclass gives me a little bit of free access for every person who signs up through the link I have provided, though I can assure you, it’s pretty darn wonderful stuff and worth it, even if you decide to say “no thanks” to the promotional offer and just head straight through the front door of their website for the full-price offer. Otherwise, you're welcome. ** 

To visit, take a look, click here or on the logo above.


Khan Academy logo

As easy as it may be for those of you with well-functioning brains to navigate the world, for folks like me, learning (really, remembering) has always proven to be a challenge. As it turns out, I have forgotten (or never fully understood) so many fundamental things from grade school that the need for a refresher is sometimes necessary. In times like these, I have been known to hop on over to the incredible resources at the Khan Academy.

With easy-to-follow lessons and a price tag that's impossible to beat (it's 100% FREE), there truly is no excuse for not knowing something that you feel compelled to know, whether you're in need of a refresher or want to learn something for the very first time. Click the logo above or click here to get started.


The YouTube logo

Whether you want to create incredible art, help folks learn to play Rocket League better, or just want to see how other creators are creating, YouTube remains a (mostly) free platform with incredible reach, depth, and versatility.

If you've been going through life thinking that YouTube is only about cat fails and sketch comedy, them I'm afraid you haven't even begun to tap into all that is available to you there. Check it out and see what you can come up with that fits your interest level.



Do you have any other suggestions for exercises, questions, or resources? If so, please share in the comments!

And here are the links to the other parts of this series (as they become available):

TIP 3:

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