When your audience thinks of you and what your work represents, who do they think of?

It does not matter if your audience is your team at work, the people who buy your art, or the people who follow your presence online.

In almost every case, these people will not be thinking of you exactly as you are in real life, with all of your internal dialogues and challenges which only you can hear.

They will not be thinking of you the same way you see yourself.

Instead, they will be thinking of you as the character who produces the work they see.

This insight became clear to me as I recently listened to a great podcast episode between Tim Ferris and one of my favourite creators, Seth Godin (who I had the pleasure of speaking with on my podcast recently here).

Tim had asked Seth about how he managed to keep up his incredible streak of publishing a blog article every day for over 8000 days, and Seth responded with an unexpected insight:

So the person who writes my blog is a character named Seth Godin. And I am the only person who has ever written my blog. I’m the only person who ever will write my blog, but when I am doing it, I am playing the character named Seth Godin. And so if it doesn’t sound like me, if it’s just me authentically being tired or annoyed, I don’t publish those because that’s not what my character would do. This is not me exposing some mystical, mythical Seth Godin to the world. It’s me portraying the character Seth Godin because it’s a service.

Finding your voice

One of the major points Seth is making here is that very few creators can build an audience of dedicated followers, or build a reputations of producing high quality work, if they are wildly inconsistent in what they produce.

You need to build up trust by consistently showing that what you produce is not only good, but consistent.

Imagine you are trying to build your credibility, along with your skills and craft, and at the same time attract an audience or gain respect at work.

If on Monday you were to publish a country music song, then on Wednesday write an article about origami, and on Saturday publish a recipe for Lemon Cheesecake, the people who would be following you for any one of those would be confused why they should continue following you.

There are artists who are known for breaking between genres, but this is usually done after they have established themselves as putting out high quality work in one field consistently, and only then moving on to something different (but usually related). And these changes usually happen gradually over years or decades. It is only in retrospect we can see them being at the top of their game in various fields, but not at the same time.

In order to build an audience of 1,000 True Fans, those fans need to have an expectation of what they will get from you. What you will put out for them.

What you produce is a service to them.

And in order to become more consistent in creating for them, sometimes it can help thinking of creating a “character version” of yourself.

This character may be the version of you who you show online in social media (because you are trying to help those following you), who sings the songs with the same passion each time (no matter what sort of day you had), who spends hundreds of hours editing your crappy first draft (because your audience deserves your best work, not the minimum effort).

Sometimes it is easier to find the voice on what you want to create if it is really specific. And having a character of yourself who is seen as specialising in that can help.

Not only that, but having a character version in public could make it easier for you to enjoy other wildly different activities in your private life, since those are not for the character and not necessarily for public consumption.

If you desperately need to speak about and create in more than one field (like being an actor as well as a singer), then you could even create different character versions of yourself for those different facets. As an example, actor and comedian Donald Glover has an alter-ego called Childish Gambino, who is a rapper. This allows fans to follow either Donald Glover for his comedy or films, or Childish Gambino for his music, as the expectations of what both will produce are understood and consistent.

Overcoming the resistance

Whatever you do, creatively or professionally, there are days where you will just not feel like doing the work.

When we are tired, annoyed, just had a fight with our partner or our favourite sports team lost.

Or even the days where we just struggle to find creative inspiration.

But often, if we are trying to put creative, innovative work out into the world, it does not benefit anyone if we tell them “today I do not feel like producing something for you“.

Creating is by its nature a generous act. You are generating something new and valuable, and if it is meant to serve other people, then we should be thinking more about them than ourselves.

Now, this does not mean that we should feel under pressure to produce just anything, rather than something good. This can be especially true in social media, where the pressure to produce huge volumes of content can lead to a lower focus on making any of that content higher quality.

In this case, your character version can be the one who is the one who consistently comes to produce work, even when you do not feel like it.

You never hear about a plumber having “plumbers block”. They come to work and produce the work, even when they do not necessarily feel like it.

Find your voice.

Then share your voice consistently.

That’s what your character would do.

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.