I've driven approximately 500 hours for my dayjob commute over the past year as I mention frequently. You can imagine that I'm always on the lookout for new podcasts to enjoy as a way to trick myself into enjoying a task I abhor (sitting in traffic) into something fun for myself. I was so happy to discover Creative Pep Talk by Andy J. Miller a few months ago. One episode in, I could tell that Andy's podcast is special. He cares so much about helping others, and I'd go so far to call what he does a vocation. You can't help but feel "all the feels" when you listen to his enthusiasm, and I was literally brought to tears during his 100th episode listening to all of the people's lives he's impacted around the world. So thank you so much for sharing with us today, and for all you do Andy. Equally important -- thank you to your lovely wife Sophie and your family who support you in this mission! We truly appreciate it!
Hi Andy! We're so happy to have you sharing with us today. Would you tell us briefly about yourself for those who are not familiar with you?
Howdy everybody! Name is Andy J. Miller, some people call me Dr. Pizza but that’s another story ;). I’m a full time Illustrator, Podcaster, Speaker, Content Strategist & Pizza Eater (no one actually pays me to eat pizza… yet... but they say dress for the job you want, not the job you have, so…) I’m probably best known as the creator of the Creative Pep Talk Podcast, although some might remember me from my Indie Rock Coloring Book from back in ’09. My illustration clients include folks like Nickelodeon, Converse, Oreo and The Boston Globe.
I’m also a father of 3 beautiful babies and husband to a Brit from Northern England. I live and work in Columbus, OH and I love long baths, just sitting there ‘thinking’, watching Fraggle Rock with my kids* and listening to Boyz II Men.
*my kids don’t actually like Fraggle Rock but they’ll take what they can get when it comes to TV time.
I discovered your podcast through your interview with Lisa Congdon and immediately subscribed. My favorite thing about Creative Pep Talk is your enthusiasm for sharing what you've learned, and your empathy to help others not feel alone. Will you tell us how the spark of an idea to start a podcast turned into what it has become? Why is the podcast and helping others so important to you?
I grew the podcast the same way I do anything: sweat and creativity on a shoestring or non existent budget. I like to come up with ideas that cost no money or real risk, then see if they can prove themselves and pay for themselves purely on the back of my ideas.
Back in 2010 I started listening to business and marketing podcasts. I instantly knew the creative world needed this info, but it took me 4 years to figure out how to make it palatable to the creative audience.
In 2014 I started recording little podcast episodes on my iPhone. No $ investment, just time and creativity. It grew slowly. The numbers weren’t fantastic (6 months into it, like 500 listens an episode), but the anecdotal feedback and immensely enthusiastic response from the listeners I did have, was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, so I kept going. I.e. the quality of the response made up for the lack of quantity of listeners.
Since then, I’ve slowly continued my obsessive process of tweaking the format. Little by little, adding interviews, getting better and better at how I prepare and craft the monologues and we’ve grown to 6-10k listens per episode and around 50k total listens a month.
I care so much about helping creative people thrive. I have a few reasons:
1. I struggled super super hard early in my career, which gave me lots of compassion.
2. My mom is a creative person that has struggled her whole life and it’s caused a lot of fallout in every area of her life.
3. I feel spiritually called to the work. Back in 09, before I had any success of my own, I had a sort of vision to move back to the USA (I was in the UK at the time) and help creative people in their careers. Weird I know. SO it’s all a bit cosmic to me!
You've interviewed so many amazing artists and illustrators. Can you tell us three common threads you've seen emerge from interviewing so many people?
A. Plot Twist - Biggest common thread. In your creative journey, you spend the first leg, 5-10 years learning how to ‘talk’ AKA learning the surface level craft of what you think you want to do. You ‘get good’ as famous illustrator CF Payne would say. The entire time you’re learning how to talk, you think you know what you want to say. However by the time you’re actually ready to ‘say’ something, you’re world takes a crazy turn. I see this ALL the time. Like me learning to be a visual communicator all through my 20s only to find out I make a bigger splash as a verbal communicator with words rather than pictures! People like Lisa Congdon who spends early years as a teacher, only to find that she uses this voice to go on to teach and connect with creatives through her blog instead. I call it your plot twist, I wrote an article on Design Sponge about it.
B. Personal Brand Strategy - The greats may play it casual cool about their careers on the surface, but most of the people on top did not get their by accident. Most of the folks I talk to are brilliant at marketing themselves, but do it in a very pure and human way. I get that the idea of ‘personal brand’ gets pretty icky pretty quickly, BUT the truth is, it’s a term that very accurately describes what’s working for the people on top. I’d say maybe more than anything, this is why they are where they are.
C. Passion - In the book Freakonomics, they say that finding what you love gives you this unfair advantage over the competition: to you the work is play. So the practice, the hustle, the sacrifice that’s necessary to be great, doesn’t often feel like practice, hustle and sacrifice. All of the folks at the top of their game are kind of obsessed with what they do. They watch less TV, they are less social, they prioritize these things. They rest on a schedule, they spend time only with those most important to them, and otherwise they make tons and tons of stuff. This is why it’s so so so important to continue to dig, for years even, until you find what lights you up in a supernatural way.
If you could tell our Carve Out Time for Art community one reason why they should check out your podcast, what would that be?
This is the motivational podcast that will make you feel hopeful about your creative endeavors AND give you the tools to use that hope to ACT. I am totally unashamed of the ‘pep talk’ idea. I want you to leave each episode feeling insanely enthusiastic about your art career, but not blindly. This is not empty motivation. I want you to feel hopeful because I encouraged you AND gave you REAL tools you need to succeed. I want to motivate you not to just make you feel good, but because when you have hope, you are more likely to ACT! If you don’t think you stand a chance, you won’t put in the time. CPT's purpose is to make you confident that your efforts will pay off, and this confidence translates to intentional investment in your future.