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How Alexis polyworks: Boosting personal & creative output

How Alexis polyworks: Boosting personal & creative output

Alexis Gay is the self-identified Type-A comedian and host of Non-Technical, the podcast where she interviews leaders in tech, business, media, and beyond about everything but their resumés.

Before diving headfirst into polyworking, she led creator partnerships and biz ops at Patreon. For the first installment of this two-part series, we sat down with Alexis to jam on:

  1. Balancing personal vs. financial priorities in your art
  2. Holding yourself to routines to boost creative output
  3. Making joy the endgame of all of her work

What Are You Polyworking On?

All of my work falls under the same umbrella goal: putting as much joy out into the world as possible. The main ways I try to do this include:

  • Comedy — I write jokes and make comedy videos for Twitter. I also do standup comedy.
  • Podcasting — I create and host weekly episodes for my podcast called Non-Technical.

Then I also run the entire business side of the show. Let’s call it my LLC. It takes up plenty of time — possibly even more than any of the full-time jobs I’ve had.

I’m coordinating my sponsorship deals, reviewing my own contracts, and always investing in the infrastructure of my business, my accounting, and all of that good stuff.

Dividing Time Between These Roles

One thing I’m currently figuring out is how to enable my own creative freedom.

Because in order to do “whatever I want,” like telling jokes on stage or posting a video without worrying about the metrics, I need to make sure I’m earning a sustainable income elsewhere.

You need to strike the right ratio of time devoted to both the business and the creativity of the work. Right now, I’m prioritizing Non-Technical, which, in addition to recording, also involves:

  • Seeking out the right guests
  • Researching any potential sponsors
  • Negotiating and executing those deals
  • Editing and producing the actual episodes
  • Managing audio engineering and operational contractors

It takes up a lot of my day to day, but that makes sense, since it’s what I’d consider my most sustainable, consistent content project and income stream at the same time.

How Do You Polywork?

This might be unusual, but I love creative constraints and self-imposed deadlines. I currently feel like I'm not creating as much as I want to, so how can I optimize my time better?

One thing that’s helped me in this is focusing on output over outcome.

For instance, I announced the start of Non-Technical before I left Patreon in December of 2020. I told my 60,000 Twitter followers at the time, “Look out for new episodes on Wednesdays,” so that became my new rule that I had to follow.

It was a promise to myself and to the Internet. I’ve uploaded almost every Wednesday straight for over 70 episodes and taken four weeks off in that time. Having that accountability framework has been essential to keeping me diligent.

Work Around Your Creative Blockers

I’m also at a point where I’m trying to reintroduce this type of discipline into making my videos.

Since quarantine restrictions have relaxed, my daily priorities have shifted. It's been harder than usual to force myself to honor that same consistent output calendar.

But, whenever I’m struggling with a creative routine, I find it helpful to say, “Here’s the date and time this needs to go out. Let’s reverse engineer what I need to do in order to make it happen.”

Do Your Projects Feed Into One Another?

The answer is, very simply, yes. They all interweave in a sense.

Whether it’s standup, scripting videos, writing tweets — they all serve the goal of making more art, becoming funnier, thinking sharper, and just generally getting better at creating.

There’s also the more obvious link of how Non-Technical feeds into and keeps me connected to my background in the tech and business spaces.

The difference now is that I get to show up in this world in the way I want to. That is — I don’t always want to talk business insights or market directions or the state of venture anymore.

I want to get on the Internet and do something different, so writing my jokes and posting my videos create a space in tech where I’m happy and fulfilled.

Why Do You Polywork?

As I mentioned, my ultimate goal is just to put as much joy out into the world as possible. It’s what I try to do with all the work I create.

Yes, I'm aware that makes me sound like a Pollyanna, but it's true. Making people laugh is my favorite thing in the world; I want to do it for as long as possible.

At the same time, I know it’s a craft where I need to constantly be improving — becoming more exciting, more observant, and more entertaining all the time.

Because of that, I’m often thinking of things in terms of, “Will this make me funnier?” That leads to me trying to get as many turns at bat as possible, whether that’s through videos or podcasting or standup or written content, so I can learn from every new attempt.