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  • Writer's pictureLuca Cusolito

The Quantified Selfie (And Other Tales Of Ordinary Radness)

I have been preparing to deploy streaming content with a "shadow a creative" or "watch art at work" theme, but decided to kick it up a notch for the last year of my 30s.

I started conceptualizing this project while confronting my own ill-conceived notions about the value of my time, the value of my paid creativity, and how much time I actually have to create during my lifetime.

Pandemic, burnout, loss, and caregiving scared me quite a bit straight about time, effort, value, and impact.

I know the things I am ruminating on are not new or unusual; So many of us are trying to strike that balance between creativity and commerce. I have been working directly with creators, creative organizations, and arts and cultural programming for about 15 years in addition to living, working, and breathing my own creative practice like a small hermit with a too-big laptop.

But what is new and unusual is for me to share the process of making adjustments and improvements to my own creative strategy and infrastructure. I usually work with people directly to help them with their project/marketing/brand management or teach classes on small business marketing.

I didn't get on the overshare train of harnessing tales of personal sorrow for personal branding was all the rage in that awful Millennial Pink everything phase between 2016 - 2018.

So, some context:

I was established in 1983 in Florida's Hollywood. I traced my first dalliance with digital design to an Apple IIe in school. Home technology was just starting to hit the radar of middle-class families, and this peacefully coincided with my parents' divorce somewhere after Hurricane Andrew.

Of course, I got a computer. Then I discovered scanning so of course, I needed a flatbed printer. And the loudest color inkjet known to humans so I could print my art out. America Online discs showed up in tiny bales as my friends and I burned through our free 1000 hours.

It was 1994-ish, I was just barely in middle school, and I learned how to build my first website. I was able to share my art and writing with a larger audience, which was my primary objective after an adult told me it was too hard for kids to get published traditionally.

My transformation into a quasi-teenager yielded a skateboarding, plaid-clad tomboy that loved eyeliner and video games, and confounded my parents with talk of "riot grrrls" and the World Wide Web. I was too young for Lilith Faire (tell my armpits that, then or now, otherwise) but old enough to watch MTV Beach House.

I started learning JavaScript in 1996 and I remember programming a Magic 8-Ball with really juvenile responses in it. I reveled in writing satire, designing parody e-zines, and making clip art.

The Jerky Boys and Weird Al were exponentially cooler than the Backstreet Boys to me. All of my highly esoteric and techie interests endeared me to exactly no one in Catholic school.

Did you know that the average American works 90,000 hours in their lifetime?

That's what the data suggests. As you may be painfully aware, work/creative life has a strange, foggy delineation if any at all.

The time/effort put into our creative and/or digital life in addition to what is considered traditional work hours may produce a very different number of how many hours are actually worked in one's lifetime.

I personally track all of my time, not just for billing on specific items of work, but to keep myself focused and working towards several goals concurrently.

I know that I could just work way too many hours weekly doing all the things I am passionate about in front of this computer, and there's the sad, dull reality that we all only get so much time to create in this lifetime.

I have had to get tough about protecting my creative time and energy in this new iteration of the world. It's even forced me to develop (gasp!) boundaries.

I have long approached my creative biz life from a data-first perspective because I find it fascinating. I have researched and poured over the creative practices and productivity hacks of historical figures and current industry leaders alike to see if their routines or methods would lend themselves to my own work.

But now I’m at a stage of my life - as many are - where it's less about more and more about working with what you got. It’s time for this creative to unhustle and focus up on what is most valued.

No creative day is guaranteed, and resilience has to be worked like a muscle to stay sharp, content, and pivotable.

I'll be exploring my biometrics and quantitative data as I ease into refined routines and health habits. If you like weird data visualizations or are just want to use me as an example of how not to grind your creative self into the ground, come on down.

I'm a person in progress, just like everyone else.

I have thoughtfully selected my initial creative projects for the year that I will be documenting. Here are a few that may resonate with you:

Cookbooks: I am publishing books this year. Nope, not for me. Not yet, at least! I usually work with clients on the promotion of a published work and this will be my first foray into book publication from start to finish on two separate projects. This is an awesome growth opportunity, and I'm lovingly white-knuckling it. I'll be sharing more of my own recipes and supporting fellow foodies on their creative journies this year as I help others with this type of content.

Creative Enabler: My baby grew up and is now 12-years-old. All things, including your business goals or the actual child(ren) you may have in your possession, will change over a decade-plus. I intend to document the process of pivoting Creative Enabler and preparing the business for investment and/or sale opportunities. If you've used the hashtag #eldermillennial within the last year and/or have to be reminded to moisturize your neck, I highly encourage you to join me in ruminating on where our creative work starts, ends, and flourishes.

PS: I've received your messages about "When's the next Creative Enabler workshop?" and am pleased to say that I will be working in collaboration with a number of very cool professionals to produce free and low-cost educational creative business development programming in the year ahead. I have a new, fun way to deliver workshops that feel one-on-one that I'm eager to build and create with.

For more informal tutelage and an inside look at building (and selling!) productized services, goods, and art in real-time, follow this project and its progress through Lucalito.

It doesn’t cost a thing to support my efforts by subscribing/following social channels and I appreciate the views.

There are a few ways I am approaching self-tracking over the next year.

I am always self-tracking, but this year I will be doing more with my personal data and sharing it with others (oh, look, market research!).

I'll be geeking out about: Self-discovery, data fetishism, data privacy, coveillance + sousveillance, and the search engine of self.

FUN STUFF if you geek out on data and metrics. NIGHTMARE STUFF if you have misgivings about how much of your private data is actually private and want those suspicions confirmed through my sacrificial data.

I am also interested in elder tech and the implication that biometrics will have on eldercare for when we childless Millennials get older and have to research and afford suitable care and accommodation for our old, fedora-adorned selves.

Short and relevant example about why personal metrics matter for Millennials or anyone who knows they have a work/life imbalance but need more proof: My interest in biometrics was first piqued when I burned through two pairs of Anne Klein Sport wedges during a particularly large art installation in 2015. I was gifted a FitBit and seeing my elevated activity level convinced me to add a mountain of quinoa to my diet and take the time away from the project that I needed to rest.

I don't want to repeat unhealthy work habits that I learned independently and in an employed capacity in any future iterations of my creative life if I can be aware and prevent it, and this is where the data dump and analysis comes in.

The Remote Work Experience Side Quest

When I first embarked on my remote work adventures, it was 2004. I was in commercial real estate. While my job could be performed predominately remotely, it wasn’t the easiest sell to not be doomed to my desk. Once I was able to work hybrid, I was hooked.

For the last five years, I have almost always worked from home, in remote public places, on-location with clients during projects, and most recently, literally wherever I want to travel or be to work.

Work from home life took center stage when the Pandemic ripped through productivity routines and work environments. All previous constraints, considerations, and work conditions are finally exposed and explored as we collectively recalibrate. And that's a good thing!

I will be traveling to remote work destinations and exploring the creative communities around them. I plan to tour live/work/play downtown districts proliferating arts, culture, and makers/creators in their small business corridors. Kinda following in a bit of a theme for me...

I have a long-term goal to invest in a mixed-use property that has an arts/cultural destination component and perhaps is zoned to offer affordable remote work options. I anticipate that this goal can be manifested in a few different ways, and I'm eager to see where this New Iteration of the World takes me.

The NFT / Community Token Side Quest

Why, yes, I will be exploring NFT/crypto community building, management, and community tokens. If you're curious about how to leverage Web3, crypto, NFT art, or just be paid with crypto, I'll be building and exploring the ethics and environmental considerations around these new technologies. I am hopeful to collaborate with a dear friend on music NFTs this year as I develop with blockchain.

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