I was recently talking to a young photographer-filmmaker, and he was telling me that he planned to teach media classes to high schoolers at the same time as he was building his own career in media. I thought what a wonderful way to give back.
People tend to think of giving back as something unselfish they can do with their free time - something that will serve others. It's true that giving back requires thinking of others, and it's best done without expecting anything in return.
However, the secret about giving back is that it can also be a powerful booster for your creativity-based career. While I think it's important not to be entirely motivated by what you can personally gain from giving back, I do think there's nothing wrong with being partially motivated by what you will gain from giving back.
Here are three ways to give back, along with how they can help your creativity-based career:
Whether you're volunteering or teaching for pay, something about the act of sharing your craft and art with others can help cement your own understanding of it, and even help you make breakthroughs in your art. Hint: Teach before you feel ready.
2. Write thank you notes.
Expressing gratitude to those you've helped you learn to be a better artist, or to those who've helped your career doesn't just make people feel good. It also serves to keep you and your art in the mind of people who may be able to help you by giving referrals or connections.
3. Give your art away.
This has to be done strategically, so that the perceived value of your art doesn't decrease, but occasionally doing things for free can really serve a person or organization who needs what you have to give. And the bonus is that when you give something away for free, people feel indebted to you in a positive way; they want to help you and your career in any way they can. I always sell more books than usual after I give a bunch of books away, presumably because people who got it for free recommend my book to their friends, who then pay for it.
Bonus: Another way you can give back is by commenting on blogs like this one. Can you think of a way to give back that I didn't list? Comment below for the benefit of all the readers. Thank you!