The dark side of a creative business

Note: This is an old post from when I had a writing business on a full-time basis. Now I balance my writing work with a full-time job outside my home ... and it really isn't any easier.    :) 

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Sometimes—infrequently—I have a daydream I’m a bit embarrassed about. Having run my own writing business for the past seven years, this daydream feels like a dirty little secret.

But here it is:

Sometimes I dream of having a 9-5 job. I picture the gobs of money funneling into my company-matched 401K, the paid time off, the vacations where—when I’m away—I have no need to wake up panicked at 3:30 a.m., wondering if I emailed a response to XX. Or if, in fact, I’d actually finished that project for XX, or had just run through it so many times in my mind that it feels finished. I fantasize about leaving work at work: closing my computer down for the day, shutting my office door and being f-r-e-e.

And though I love my career 95 percent of the time, there are days like yesterday where I wonder what the heck am I doing? Where so many ideas are swirling around in my poor, overloaded brain that it feels ready to combust. Times like yesterday where I feel a tight, clenching knot in my gut thinking, if I had anything left in my creative well, I could work through these feelings by writing or painting. But the well, after a long day, was dry. So instead I seethed my way through an episode of Murdoch Mysteries, reading a business book during commercial breaks and wondering if I should be less worried about worrying about work.

Creativity has so many benefits. But it has its dark side, too. Feeling overwhelmed is common for creatives. Lack of belief in yourself, in your art—whether writing or painting or making music or woodworking—can cause significant stress over time on both your body and spirit. Taking a break is one way to handle the dark side. If it’s a more serious issue, medication and/or therapy may help. Sometimes though, it takes a little time out of one’s head to mend the frayed wires.

After an overloaded day and a stressful (self-induced for the most part) morning, I finally saw and felt a glimmer of hope while talking to another entrepreneur. We sat and chatted about the work/life balance, feeling frazzled and the guilt mongers that hound us (our own, personalized versions). Then we shared ideas to help each other over cups of steaming coffee in paper cups.

That short session with someone who “gets it,” was more meaningful to me than a hundred therapy sessions. Because this entrepreneur is also creative. And she understands my language.

What does your creative dark side look like? Overwhelm? Fear that you’re a hack? Competitiveness or coveting someone else’s work or creations or life? How do you deal with these feelings and thoughts successfully?


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