IF YOU WANT YOUR CREATIVE BUSINESS TO SUCCEED, YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT A PRIORITY.
You may be thinking “duh, that’s a no brainer”, but the reality is if we take a step back and really look, many of us AREN’T making it a priority. We still treat it like a hobby. We justify putting things off. Our human brains are great at finding justification to not focus on the right things.
I don’t want anyone to feel called out by this post. It’s 100% written from a place of personal experience and a place of wanting to help others get out of the trap that Harrison and I have both fallen into.
I know, if you’re working a “day job” to pay the bills, even if on some level you KNOW it’s not where you want to stay or what you want to do for the long term, it’s hard not to fall into traps like “but if I work more, I’ll have more money to do things with my art” (even though you’ll therefore have less time for art), or “but I feel bad saying no to this extra shift when they ask” (oh the guilt and the desire to please everyone!) or even “they want to promote me and it’s a good opportunity” (I call this one “voice of societal expectations”).
MAKING IT PERSONAL
I am speaking from first hand experience here; part of me knew I was not doing what I wanted to be focused on, but I would always justify more work, more hours, more responsibilities, and then get frustrated and angry with myself when I couldn’t find time or any brain capacity to focus on creativity and other projects. I took promotions that, in hindsight, didn’t do anything other than increase my stress level and make me crazy. It took a lot of introspection to realize that I was the one trapping myself on the hamster wheel and that if I wanted to get off, I was the one that had to do it.
Is it easy? Hell no. But my mindset did make a huge difference. When I made the conscious shift in thinking to my personal creative and business stuff as my JOB and the day job as the side gig, things started getting easier. It got easier to pass up promotion opportunities that really weren’t right for me. It got easier to say no if they called to see if I could work an extra shift. And I got a lot better at letting the BS at the day job roll off my back.
As a result, my stress level at work went down, and I was able to come home and actually work on my stuff, even if only for half an hour a day. I spent a lot of moments pausing, evaluating, and asking myself “does this advance MY goals?” And the more time went on, the more it became habit and routine.
Harrison is still working on it. It’s only been since the move that he’s really getting better at it, but he IS getting better. It is a process that involves working past a loooot of ingrained behaviors and patterns about expectations around “careers” and “real jobs” and money that society has put in our heads.
GREAT, SO HOW DO?
It’s about being selective with your cognitive load. Don’t use all your mental energy on a job that you don’t have passion for. Do your work, do it efficiently and be a good employee, but don’t stress yourself out over the small stuff and don’t become a doormat. Save that brain space so when you get home you can take a few minutes to rest and reset and then get to your REAL work.
My point here is this – every time you are faced with a decision about your priorities, take a second to stop and ask yourself “Does this support what I want to do? What is my WHY for saying yes (or no)?” If you’re just saying yes to things out of fear or guilt, it’s not helping anyone, especially not you.
THE 5 THINGS TO DO IF YOU’RE SERIOUS ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE BUSINESS
1. Stop making excuses
You have to show up and do the work. Seems simple enough, and yet we all find reasons not to. This can take the form of procrastination – it’s so easy to fall into “I’m too tired when I get home”, “I want to play with the dog”, “I need to finish binging Sabrina on Netflix!”, or the ever-popular “I’m just going to check social media real quick…”
Other excuses come in the form of over-preparing (“I need to do more research or learning first!”) or fear & doubt (“It’s not going to be good enough/as good as so-and-so, so I’m just not going to finish it”). I know it sounds awful and harsh, but what we’re really saying when we do this is that our creative work isn’t actually a priority – it doesn’t matter that much to us. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you want your art to just be a hobby. But if it’s going to be your business, you have to show up and just DO something.
2. Schedule your creative time.
Treat it like your job – even if it’s 1 hour a day right now, put it on your schedule and calendar. Make it blocked time, commit to it, and no, sorry, I can’t skip it and go out, that’s my work time. Which leads to…
3. Make sacrifices.
You have to WANT IT ENOUGH, so much that you’ll miss out on that tv special (that’s why DVRs were invented) or occasional nights with friends or parties (look, there will be other parties, and if they are truly your friends, they will understand because they will support your passion). I’m not saying have NO life, but notice if you’re using things like social time as another excuse to not do the work, and reduce it. Pick one night to go out with friends or watch a movie, just don’t do it every night. Choose to miss out on some things to take your work to the next level.
4. Establish routines and discipline.
As artists and creatives, we’re notoriously bad at these things, but we also need them more than most. In addition to scheduling your creative time, make routines about how that time works. Set one work block a week as a free-for-all create-what-you-want -for-fun block. Schedule weekly time to sit down with yourself and plan out your creative tasks for the week and make sure you’re making progress towards deadlines. Make checklists and stick to them. Put deadlines and reminders into your calendars. Use online tools for focus and tracking. Find ways to make things consistent but also fun, and reward yourself for sticking to it.
5. Stop aiming for perfect.
Is nothing you do ever “good enough”? Have you heard the saying “Perfect is the enemy of good” (or variations “perfect is the enemy of done” or “perfect is the enemy of progress”)? Nothing is ever perfect and it doesn’t have to be! If you wait till you think you have fully mastered your art, you will never stop waiting. The truth is that perfect is a myth, there is always more we can do and more we can learn. It’s more important to just do SOMETHING – your aim is “massive imperfect action”.
Focus on your art. Do the work. Take action. If you catch yourself trying to justify putting that project off, stop and ask yourself why and who you are hurting if you don’t do it? Spoiler: it’s yourself.