Subtitle: How to thwart your self-destructive work tendencies, and why it matters. An open love letter to creative entrepreneurs everywhere.
Dear Creative Entrepreneurs,
Please, just stop treating your bodies and energy like you’re holding down a 9-5. You’re not. (I know you’ve noticed this. You’re wearing PJ pants right now, aren’t you? It’s 12:01 on a Wednesday afternoon.)
Seriously, though, this is important. You can tell, because I’m blocking it out below:
You’re operating outside of the typical paradigm, and as a result you need atypical tools to help you stay rad.
Your energy is your single greatest asset – it’s the source of your creativity, your marketing, your networking, your decision-making, your client-retention, and your actual work – as such, you have got to protect it and help it grow.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
Crazy ‘bout you
I have an acupuncture client who often says that, by definition, entrepreneurs are crazy. He doesn’t say this all judgey-like; he says it with a certain fondness and awareness… he’s an entrepreneur himself.
Because, really, he asks, “what is crazy?”
Let me be very clear – I’m not making fun of or minimizing mental illness by using the word “crazy.” There’s nothing funny about mental illness. I mean “crazy” in the way that we colloquially use it – “Wow… that’s crazy!” sometimes in rigid judgment, sometimes in whispered awe, sometimes somewhere in between.
So what is this craziness?
We may load the term up with our own value judgments, but in its essence, “crazy” is what we call someone who flies in the face of expectation and societal norms – often at repeated, substantial risk, and sometimes without being able to stop oneself.
And what is an entrepreneur? Someone who scrutinizes expectation and societal norms surrounding career and livelihood – for Pete’s sake, that is bold – and after looking at those expectations and norms declares a version of, “Yeah…. no.”
An entrepreneur who self-identifies as “creative entrepreneur” has an even further level of boldness. This person is in the service of something bigger than simple entrepreneurship; this creator is not simply interested in a personally generated economy. For this person, there’s a level of artistry, of craft – of loving the world, even.
For some people, the process of saying “yeah… no” to the “normal” life is achingly, acutely painful. It can be a protracted series of releasing all the various should’ve, could’ve, would’ve scenarios, and it can hurt.
For others, it’s an obvious given – a simple, accepted self-knowing.
Often, it’s both.
No matter what, the life you chose isn’t easy, (because I’m talking about you here.) Regardless of the simplicity of getting there, it’s not easy because it’s off the map; you’re legit exploring and trailblazing.
But you made the choice and you stick to it because you know by now that the “yeah… no” will not, cannot be ignored in silence. It must be heard and honored if you’re going to be fulfilled in this life.
So, yeah, that’s kind of “crazy.” Good for you.
You are the steward
You know that old saying, Physician, heal thyself! It’s the idea that in order to help other people be healthy, a practitioner of medicine must practice a healthy lifestyle. How else can she see clearly what’s happening with her patients? How else can he understand what health looks like, how it operates?
It doesn’t mean these people have to be in a perfect state of health, never getting so much as a runny nose. That would be insane. And impossible. It means they must meet any state of being with adaptation, so they can share that understanding with others. It means deeply and sincerely learning about healing – about pivoting back to health when that’s possible, and not when it’s not.
The same principle applies to you, dear creative entrepreneur.
If you’re going be a creative, if you’re going to create and put your creations out in the world, you must – first and foremost – create within yourself.
Without the structure of a “day job” or a “real job,” you must form your own rules, patterns, deadlines, and work habits. You must intimately know your energy, your needs, your foibles, and how to best work with those truths. You must allow your creative connection to help you create yourself.
To do this, it’s essential to acknowledge that a connection to the creative was given to you.
Some people will feel like God gave it to them. Others will feel like it was Goddess. Others will go with the Universe, the Dao, the unknown, their DNA… I am not here to delineate that for you, or judge it.
Call it Franny Nanny Girl Scout if you like. Nomenclature is irrelevant to the truth that you were given your connection to the creative.
Whatever term you choose to describe this is another term for grace. You are the steward of that connection, and what you get from it depends on how you orient yourself to it.
The more you use your creative connection, the more you access it, the more you cultivate it and tend it and understand it and are in awe of it, the better it will work for you. You will experience more creativity in your craft. You will find your “flow.” You will have a system that enfolds your creativity – a system you can trust and access to create more. Your work will be prolific.
This is a practice and though it is no joke, it can be fun.
But if you misuse the connection by benign or malicious neglect, overwork, strain, force, denial, and mistrust, you will experience the destructive results of that type of labor.
There are lots of ways to practically protect and nurture your creativity, but the most important aspect is having a playful frame of mind. I don’t mean “playful” like playing silly, dramatic, self-defeating games, but rather “playful” as it relates to true play.
True play means approaching something with curiosity and a beginner’s mind, and a gigantic dose of trust in yourself and your creative connection.
This isn’t formulaic work, because it’s about you getting to know you, and only you can do that. But here are some general guideposts that can be useful as you find your self-creation groove.
Get bodywork on the regular
Because we are physical beings, it does not matter how much you tell yourself a thing; if your body doesn’t believe it, it ain’t true.
Bodywork is an effective way to reroute your patterns, change your physiology, and release all the happy-making hormones. It can get you out of pain, into your body, and help you notice and learn your body’s cues.
Experiment and find the modality that suits you best. Some to consider are Reiki, massage (at least 60 minutes,) craniosacral, myofascial release, yoga therapy, acupuncture, private Pilates sessions.
After you find a style and practitioner of bodywork that you like, schedule yourself a monthly session of it.
Put yourself on your schedule
Schedule self-creating time. Every week. At least. This is time when you do something for yourself that feels restorative.
It’s not a time for any shoulds. It’s a time to pick a want – a constructive one, not a destructive one. Maybe you want to paint a picture, work on a craft, write a love letter to yourself, bake a batch of cookies and give half of them away… etc.
Cultivate a breath or meditation practice.
The benefits of meditation are undisputed, even by the most stringently “scientific.” It has measurable effects (in positive ways) on heart-rate, blood pressure, and stress management.
My background in meditation requires me to advise you to exercise caution with meditation – the simpler, the better (especially in the beginning.) Here’s a meditation from the tradition I was trained in; it’s about transforming the emotions. It’s a heavy-hitter.
Be wary of dramatizing “the grind” (& other stimulants)
It can be tempting to “woe is me” ourselves when we feel isolated, misunderstood, and worried.
I am not suggesting we deny these feelings. They are valid, and they need to be aired or they will stink the place up. But they need to be aired with discretion – that is to say, with trusted people.
If you feel like you need to vent, find yourself a (small) group of people to do that with, and then move on. Romanticizing the struggle, the hustle, the grind, the pain will only serve to destabilize your energy.
Remember your value
There is nothing more valuable than the discovery of creativity, and its continued care. The most stirring symbols and accomplishments of humankind are all rooted in this creative force. That is meaningful.
In short, creative entrepreneur, thank you. I love you and endlessly appreciate the beauty you are adding to the world. I hope you do, too.