153: Why Meaningful Work Automatically Attracts an Audience: Interview with Mark Frauenfelder

One of the biggest challenges any creative faces is what to make and who to make it for. How do you determine if an idea is a good fit for you, or if anyone will pay attention?

153: Why Meaningful Work Automatically Attracts an Audience: Interview with Mark Frauenfelder

Being a full-time writer doesn’t necessarily equate to writing “full-time”. I don’t sit at my desk for eight hours every week day and pound away at the keyboard writing books and blog posts. There’s a bit more complexity to running a successful blog, launching books, and operating a digital business.

However, and more importantly, I’m interested in more than just writing from both a professional and personal standpoint. I enjoy speaking, drinking great coffee (not from Starbucks), reading, making guacamole, singing karaoke, playing with my kids, and travel among other things.

But I don’t write about all of these topics because that would be confusing to even the most loyal reader.

So how do you decide what to pursue when you feel bombarded by ideas and a collage of interests?

This week on The Portfolio Life, our guest is a modern day polymath, and basically created the Internet as we know it today (at least in my book). He’s been involved in magazine publishing since the 80’s, served as the Editor in Chief of Wired.com, started a podcast network, unknowingly cofounded the Maker movement, and designed a Billy Idol album cover.

Listen in as Mark Frauenfelder and I discuss the theme of his creative pursuits, why he doesn’t work on anything that doesn’t pique a personal interest, and how he came to write a how-to book on card tricks.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Mark and I discuss:

  • Starting a print ‘zine in the 80s
  • Getting recruited by Wired
  • Taking a ‘zine digital in the 90s
  • How his editor thought blogs weren’t going to be viable
  • Identifying the common thread through diverse experiences and interests
  • Avoiding being a jack-of-all-trades while embracing opportunities to explore
  • Dealing with the tension between daily life and a creative career
  • The origins of the Maker movement
  • Why some comics are unreadable
  • What artistic style he subscribes to

Quotes and takeaways

  • “Make sure you give yourself time to do deep work.” –Mark Frauenfelder
  • Pursue work that is personally meaningful to you and an audience.
  • Embrace new ideas you enjoy, but stay grounded to a common theme.

Try not to fall in love with your first idea.

Mark Frauenfelder

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Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript.

What is the theme of your creative work? How can you combine your interests to make something meaningful to others? Share in the comments.

4 thoughts on “153: Why Meaningful Work Automatically Attracts an Audience: Interview with Mark Frauenfelder

  1. Hi Jeff,

    Bingo 😉 This is what my wife and I do. We follow our passion. We pursue our love. We almost do nothing else, really. Either we outsource, or let it go in faith and surrender. But goodness does your work POP when you focus only on meaningful work.

    Mark is dead on; if your work lacks meaning, don’t even bother. Otherwise it is a job. I left behind the “devote my life to getting paper with numbers on it” over a decade ago because it sapped my soul. Sucked the life out of me. But when I sought out deeper meaning in life I built a blog. Then the search for meaning and service grew deeper. Of course I became more successful when my intent was to follow my passion and serve in the process. My readers and clients and customers found me organically, without me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. They sought me out with less work on my part. Because we were both aligned with a higher purpose that drew us together.

    Good point too; do not go gaga over your first idea. Passion must be reined in by the idea of consistency. I could write best selling eBooks on a variety of topics. I feel passionate about many things. But I am the Blogging From Paradise Guy. So I only write and promote eBooks related to blogging tips on my blog, with the sometimes inspirational piece tossed in, or digital nomad themed eBook.

    OK I did cave and write a few eBooks off topic 😉 But I never promote any of these through my blog because said topics are not consistent with my brand, my blog and my direction. I learned how passion takes you places you never imagined but in the same breath, creating from a space of passion does not allow you to try to become a master of all trades because this is physically impossible from a simultaneous space.

    If anything, you can reinvent yourself after having success in one niche or if you lost the passion for some venture. But intending to rock out more than 1 niche at the same time is impossible. Cannot do it. Work with meaning, work with purpose, follow your passion, provide service and all will come together nicely for you.

    Jeff, wonderful message here you and Mark share. Thanks for shouting it out 🙂


  2. Just listened to the podcast and really enjoyed it. Thanks for the questions and answers on the need to keep doing something new and not really enjoying sticking at something for a long time. It was a theme running through my life that worried me so much for so long, then I discovered The Enneagram and, learning about it helped me to begin to accept that this was a valid and useful way to be in the world. I’m going to relisten to the part where Mark talks about giving yourself permission to spend deeper time on doing something worthwhile. I like the sound of his spreadsheet. Also, I’ve just downloaded Vellum. Thanks Jeff.

  3. Thanks, Jeff. I’ve been blogging for almost two years and completed my first freelance piece in February. Now What? I’m restarting my craft business and plan to open an Etsy store soon. But what the heck do I do with my blog, which needs a lot of editing? I’m also writing proposals for additional freelance gigs–a three ring circus! Your timing for a podcast like this was perfect. I appreciate the deep work concept, too, because I naturally do that and had been unsure if working like that was really a good idea. Lots to think about, though, because I’ll probably have to let something go. My blog isn’t monetized at all, however, I’ve become addicted to writing a news-links series. I’ll have to sort through all this, but you definitely have given me food for thought.

  4. Jeff, apparently this is one of the most difficult things that new bloggers face (and sometimes those of us who have been doing it a while). Of course, the other obstacle is having the confidence to put your passions out in front of people and not hear that little voice telling you that no one cares 🙂

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