Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

Case Study: How I Chose My Next Book Project

In the previous post, I outlined four questions you can use to help decide which creative projects to pursue. These questions are filters to keep you focused on the right projects. They will also help you avoid the ones that are dead ends.

In this post, I’ll walk through a case study describing how I used these questions to choose my next major creative project, which is a book. I’ll share what the book is about, where the idea came from, and how it “passed” the filters of these four questions:

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. What will help you achieve your goals?
  3. What will help other people?
  4. What is my audience asking for?

My next book: Born to Create

Born to Create is a parable that teaches the 5 Cups of Creativity. A parable is a simple story designed to teach principles, and I’m using the storytelling format to communicate these five foundational principles of creativity. I’ve previously written about the 5 Cups theory, and this post gives you a great summary.

Parable-type stories are common in the business world. Several great examples are The One-Minute Manager, The Go-Giver, and The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. They are fun to read and a great way to teach material in a simple, digestible way.

My book has gone through several iterations over the last couple of years. It started out as a non-fiction book titled The 7 Deadly Sins of an Artist, which dealt with seven negative habits that hold back creatives. Then I realized that was a terrible title. I needed to approach the subject from a positive perspective, not a negative one.

Then it morphed into The Creative Catalyst, which focused on the qualities of a successful artist. But then about a year ago, I started writing podcast show notes for Bob Burg’s Go-Giver Podcast and read his book The Go-Giver (co-authored with John David Mann). I loved the book, and that became a turning point because I realized I needed to write my book in a story format as well.

I wasn’t happy with the title The Creative Catalyst, and remembered a line I used to close out my old podcast: “You were born to create and designed to make a difference.” (I also use it in my current Born to Create podcast.) The phrase “born to create” jumped out at me as a great title.

I settled on the title Born to Create for the book for several reasons:

  • It’s catchy and memorable.
  • It communicates my overall philosophy that we are all born to create. We are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).
  • It summarized the thrust of the book’s content really well.
  • It could easily tie into other related items: podcast, Facebook community, future online course, and other items. (In fact, I launched the Facebook group and podcast as a way to set the stage for the book and create awareness of the “Born to Create” brand.)

In other words, several unrelated ideas came together, including my love of storytelling, a line from my old failed podcast, and inspiration from another book (The Go-Giver). It’s interesting that all this came together only after I planned out several versions of the book.

What is the point of my telling you all this? It’s to illustrate that at least in this case—but with many book projects in general—things can go several directions before you settle on the final concept. It’s part of the creative process.

Born to Create and the 4 questions

Earlier in the post, I mentioned four questions that can help you decide what creative projects to pursue. As I was working on the ideas for Born to Create, here is how the book idea passed each of these filters. I’ve reframed the questions to apply specifically to the book:

1. Does the book align with my passions?

I am passionate about creativity, the arts, storytelling, movies, and productivity. I am also passionate about teaching others and helping them overcome creative barriers. The book brings all of these passions together into one story.

2. Will the book help me achieve my goals?

My major goals include teaching and helping people, growing my audience, and growing my income. The book will help accomplish all of these.

3. Will the book help other people?

I hope so. The concepts in the book address several themes and issues that I have written about quite a bit, and that people have responded to well. I have “test driven” the story and key concepts of the book to a couple dozen people, and without fail, people have responded very well.

I want the book to be helpful, but I also want it to be fun to read. A lot of books on creatively are, ironically, pretty boring. I wanted to use a parable format because it’s a more enjoyable way to digest the concepts.

4. Has my audience asked for this book?

Obviously, no one has asked for this specific book. However, I know that my audience loves movies, productivity, and creativity. So I found a way to blend all of these into one concept.

Keep working at it

I hope this case study has been helpful. Part of me thinks no one will be interested in the arcane story of how I came up with the book idea.

But another part of me knows that many people are stuck at a roadblock trying to decide what to tackle next. Hopefully, my meandering thoughts have been helpful on some level.

These four questions will help you decide what projects to focus on. But then after you decide, you have to get to work. Creativity is a process, and often times a project will go through several versions before it takes its final shape.

Don’t quit. Don’t give up. The journey is worth the destination.

What is your next creative project?

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.

  • Thank you so much for writing this! Just like the recent discussion in your Facebook group. There is a lot here to think about. It’s always a treat to get a behind-the-scenes peek into someone’s creative process!

    As for #4… What if you don’t have much of, or any audience to ask? Do you just follow the other 3?

    The project I’m considering is the same topic as my most popular blog post… but that’s like 5 views / day instead of 1. 😉

    • Jessica, thanks for taking the time to share a comment. Seems to me that you’re thinking about it the right way — even though you may not have a ton of traffic on your blog, you’re taking the most popular post and capitalizing on that.

      I know analytics is important, and all that, but I also think it’s important just to get something out there and test it, and see how it goes. I was telling a friend just tonight that my last book, Artist’s Suitcase, was really just a test for me to learn the processes of self-publishing, etc. I learned a ton doing it, and learned that it resonated with some people. With anything creative, you can never be sure 100% what will connect, and what won’t.

      But if there’s a way, like asking people on Facebook, or just friends in general, for feedback before you commit a lot of time to creating something, that will give you an idea of whether it will connect.

      Keep me posted!