045: The Jump from exploration mode to exploitation mode as a creative.
Heaven and Hell
☕️ Today’s newsletter is late because I took a long nap, that’s one of my goals this year not to be late but to take more naps. I’d love to hear about some of your goals, or even your big one this year, leave a comment or reply to this email :)
In issue 41 I mentioned this idea of Exploration vs Exploitation.
Today I’m going to unpack those two creative modes, and for paid subscribers, I’ll talk about how to switch to exploitation mode if that’s where you would rather be. The context is applying your creative energy to making things for the market.
Before we get into it, I want to say that I really love and appreciate art and business classes and see them as a vehicle to develop a career. On the flip side, they are just as fun, maybe even more fun as a hobby.
This is the default Creative mode. Kids have it and for many adult artist, this mode is exactly what they love about art. Maybe it’s the freedom and the feeling of newness that drives such pleasure.
The payoff of exploration is discovery.
We love the discovery of new materials and techniques, we watch video after video that makes us feel smarter and feels like we’re growing our art prowess. It feels like we’re working toward a goal.
But sometimes the truth is that exploring is the goal. That sense of discovery. And the joy of applying our consciousness to shape raw material into something only we could do is the reward.
If you do it often enough some well-meaning soul will come around and tell you,
“wow you’re amazing, you should put this up for sale somewhere”
And you should tell them;
“shut up, this is my hobby and I’m doing it purely for the pleasure it brings me and the people I give the art to and that’s priceless”
If you do this you will go on to live a very pleasurable explorative art-filled life!
But that’s not enough for you, is it? You follow so many people on Instagram who actually make things and put them out in the world and sell them!
That’s where you want to go with your art! And so you go deeper into exploration. You explore markets for your art.
Ooh I could make something and sell it at an art fair, or self-publish a comic zine and sell it at a comic convention, or I’ll open an online shop. So many possibilities. More classes and research. I’m going to exploit my talent!
Nope you’re still exploring. Only now you’re exploring business models and markets.
It doesn’t work and you try something else, the class doesn’t work, the algorithm doesn’t work for you. Ai is making it hard for you. “You need to find your ‘STYLE’.” Maybe you’ll go back to exploring different art classes.
Now You’re thinking wait a minute, someone else is making a living just doing this or that. I want to do that. Or something like it. I want to exploit my creative energy rather than use it as fuel for discovery. What does that look like?
You need to commit to things.
You need goals. And by goals I mean projects. Things you will complete in 2 weeks, 2 years, and 10 years. And you need to keep working towards all those time frames every single day, so those goals need to feed into each other.
for example, “I’ll make a page of comics in 2 weeks”, and in two years I’ll turn that into a book, and in 10 years I’ll have 5 of the thing.
You’ll need to decide on who you want to serve. That’s right you’re not doing it for you, you’re doing it for the customer. You’re editing down the best of you to the 10 or 15% that the customer might be interested in. And you’re delivering greater and greater concentrations of that.
You are learning everything you can about the segment of the market you’re in until you’ve mastered it. You’re betting your limited life on the thing that makes the most sense to you. Choosing to go deep and not broad. Going narrower and narrower until you become a category of 1.
Commitment to customers, and getting better and better at serving them is the main goal. and Exploration becomes a side quest that works in service of the main quest.
There is a huge chasm between the two modes.
Some good news, a lengthy exploration mode is useful in informing the exploitation mode. The bad news is a clear decision and lifestyle change will need to be made, and you could fail as you try to cross that chasm. Which is why most people stay at the edge.
I’m going to talk to paid subscribers. I’m going to tell them the process that needs to happen in their heads to go from explorer to exploiter. And next week I’ll tell them about how to navigate toward their creative goals.
If you want to work it out for yourself consider the difference between the what the explorer and exploiter are thinking, and how you might want to tweak your own thinking.
And if you want to subscribe why not try it for a year? I write it for both Exploiters and Explorers.
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