Switching Gears from “Doer” to “Learner”

I started writing my business and marketing plans for Aether Motion yesterday, at the strong recommendation of everyone who has advice to give about entrepreneurship. They’re pretty intimidating documents, asking me to envision a very specific path to take with my company. They’re forcing me to think about the value I can add to the local economy, which is a bit hard when most of my endeavors are pretty self-serving. And it’s intimidating because I’m really not sure where to specify in right now. I know the endgame, but I need to get hands on Charleston’s market before I can decide the best path to take. Is there only room for wedding videography here? Is there a huge void for DPs and commercial videographers? I’ve scouted out a few stats and looked up my competition, but only meeting the market directly will give me a good perspective of where I should focus.

I have picked a focus clientele  – small businesses and indie artists who cannot afford, or who don’t need, some of the bigger guys with 15 years Hollywood experience. It seems like the most sensible way to compete with said Big Guys. I also know that some of the more unique services I could offer include motion capture, visual effects, and animation, which no other videographers in the area can do (there are some who JUST do motion graphics and VFX, which says a lot about how schizophrenically I might be running this thing).

But here’s the issue – I don’t have my mocap equip yet, because I can’t afford it (although I’m going to try to win a Perception Neuron suit soon, so we’ll see how that goes!). I can’t offer animation and modeling yet because I don’t know enough about it. I can’t offer visual effects yet because I’m not entirely proficient in After Effects and I would need enough steady income to afford the $20/month license to After Effects.

Simply put, I have a lot to learn before I can start doing. And I have a lot to build before I can reach where I really want to be.

The more I dwelled on this – all the things I’m trying to learn, from C++ to Unreal Engine to 3DsMax and all the settings on my own DSLR camera, the more it dawned on me that this year, 2016, is not meant to be about accomplishments. I am facing constant difficulty due to my lack of experience and knowledge in the things I’m trying to achieve. I definitely don’t regret putting myself out there, as that took courage and has motivated me to actually achieve my dreams. And I can certainly work with the status quo.

But I think I may shift gears for this year, and focus less on meeting goals and more on preparing myself for them. If I make more time in my schedule for learning,  that will give me a better foundation for all that I want to do. So, with that, I’ve changed a few details about this year’s plans…

  • No endgame animation/modeling plans for 2016 aside from completing a proof of concept for my Fallout series. I may reduce this PoC to modeled stills instead of animated product. Hopefully I can merge some of this work with the “learning” aspect of my journey, and make this project my “thesis”, so to speak.
  • Eliminated Ascendents, the sequel to Paradisa, from my writing schedule. There is only one reason for that sequel to exist in novel form, and that’s if I manage to sell Paradisa. It definitely does not need to be written by this August. I will instead loosen the timeline on finishing The Shadow of Saturn, and hopefully still write my time travel book The Mothers of Invention at the end of the year. So I’ll still be writing, but slowly, to give myself more time for learning. Obviously I still need to finish the final edits on Paradisa as well.
  • Experimental work for the rest of the summer for Aether Motion. I want to film about 3 gigs a month at minimum, and hopefully have a diverse and impressive portfolio by August.
  • Backing off a little on the Indie MoCap article pipeline until I can start making my own content. Again, really hoping to win something to help with this (believe me, I will blow up your feed with me begging for votes when I do!)
  • Attend some animation/modeling classes at a nearby tech school during the fall, and maybe hit up one of their seminar-style classes on marketing, SEO, and social media. I may be able to find such resources in a free online course too, or on books through Kindle Unlimited.
  • Attend every free seminar on entrepreneurship that I can, and hook myself up with a free mentor at SCORE.
  • Read a ton, particularly nonfiction. I have two books on mocap on my shelf that are probably a good place to start.
  • Really push to get a piece of short fiction published this year, to go along with the “establishing myself and my reputation” thing that I’ll thank myself for later.

One thing I strive to be is adaptable, and unafraid of shelving things that aren’t working for me. I don’t want to get so attached to my goals that I feel disappointed in delaying or abandoning them. Truthfully, I still have the same endgame. But I’m giving myself the tools I need now to save myself a lot of headache later.

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6 thoughts on “Switching Gears from “Doer” to “Learner”

  1. “But I think I may shift gears for this year, and focus less on meeting goals and more on preparing myself for them. If I make more time in my schedule for learning, that will give me a better foundation for all that I want to do.”

    Definitely agree with you here. I realized this year that I should be spending more time improving instead of focusing on attaining some end goal. We’re still at the early stages of our creative careers, so it makes sense to prioritize learning. Since the outcome is so hard to predict, we should aim to control what we can control, such as our education before we get to goal X. Full steam ahead!

    • I do think for people like us, who’ve been given this “go and do great things!” mantra our entire lives, it’s so easy to be impatient 3-5 years out of college. Like, those are YEARS! We’re mid-twenties now! Why are we not ruling the world? It’s not a sense of entitlement, like a lot of Boomers or Gen Xers assume, but more a sense of disappointment in ourselves that we haven’t achieved this impossible level of success. We feel like we’re wasting time or doing something wrong. And then when you see similarly aged people living these impossibly glamorous and creative lives (like I saw a few people in my own town doing yesterday, and cue anxiety attack), it further drives home this sense of “falling behind.” Especially when you’re kind of introverted and weird and can’t just slip into the cliques which would give you a huge signal boost.

      So it’s hard to step back and admit that we still need to learn and grow meat on our bones. And heck, our entire twenties could just be learning, and prepping, and building up who we are creatively. I tend to live by the principle that I’m making my 20s hell so that the rest of my life can be easy, and maybe that’s no different for my creative side. And it’s hard to feel like “oh, I’m just 24, this is still so early” when I’ve been writing for 20 YEARS at this point. I’ve been writing scripts and planning films for 15 years. I remember being 10 and having a friend who owned a bookstore ask, “when are we going to see your book on my shelves?” or being 12 and having a friend who ran a film festival ask, “when are you finally going to get that movie made?” Obviously I was a child and they were only half serious, but when I think about those questions coming at me 10 or even 15 years ago, and still not having a book on the shelf or a movie to screen, it kind of….gives me a complex, ha.

      • Yeah, exactly. That’s why I stopped keeping tabs on the similarly aged authors who have found massive success. I would read their work, but I’d try to separate myself from them and what worked for them, and force myself not to compare, even though it’s human nature.

        In a way, the people who encouraged us when we were young end up doing us a disservice because they built up too much of an expectation (which leads to more pressure, and then inevitably, more fear) and possibly too much reliance on external motivation. I was thinking about how I seemed to love writing/drawing comics way more when I was 7-12, before teachers saw any of my work, because I was making things just for myself. It never seems to go wrong if that was the case.

        Just need to find a balance between making things because you want to vs. financial rewards and other external motivations.

  2. Oh I feel for you… I’m 28, so I think you’re already doing amazing being at the point where you are in life :) Learning is one of the most amazing parts of being a creative person! And sadly I’m only really beginning to understand that now… I’ve tried to push my writing, setting word count goals and editing deadlines, but it takes the fun out of it. When i give myself some time to just sit and be free… make character sketches, research different aspects to include in future novels, explore different art forms… those are the times when my muse seems to perk up, reminding me why I love being creative.

    For example, I’ve always considered myself an artist, but since high school, I really haven’t taken the opportunity to sit back and practice or try to learn new techniques. My husband someday wants to attempt designing his own comic and has been watching YouTube videos and Twitch to get drawing advice from other artists out there, so I watched with him. It was amazing! I never realized how much I was missing and since then have started practicing figure drawing with online “classes”, started my art journal, etc… There’s always someone out there who knows more on a subject than you do, so take advantage and enjoy learning from them :)

    And something you might want to check out if you haven’t already… In Chicago every year there is a Comic and Entertainment Expo- C2E2. I would highly recommend attending similar events in your area. They offer booths to meet publishers, meet artists and designers (and celebrities), and best of all are the seminars and break out sessions. We sat through multiple sessions on marketing for authors/designers/film makers, how-to guides for creative programs, first time publishing advice… It was ridiculous how insightful it was and I’d highly recommend it!

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