A few years ago, I found myself searching for a job.
After years as a journalist, it turned out I couldn’t afford to be a journalist because of the student loans I racked up trying to become a journalist…life is kind of a dick sometimes.
I bounced around a few different industries. I worked in ad sales, I worked as an account manager, I worked for a digital agency. I hated all of it.
While pouring over the web trying to find a career path I’d actually enjoy, my girlfriend (now my wife) said “You just need a job where you can make shit…you love making shit.”
My wife makes better choices for me than I do, so I decided to commit to this theory.
I started working as a small business marketing consultant (which I probably had no business doing), wrote a book (which I definitely had no business doing), blogged daily, painted constantly, and worked construction to augment the meager income that all of those activities provided. I’d never been happier. My days were consumed with creation of one kind or another. I went to bed every night exhausted and happy.
Eventually, I’d been doing these things long enough that I wanted to leverage my experience into something full-time, and I wound up at my current company, writing and creating marketing content for a better paycheck.
Over the years I’ve been with this company, I’ve learned a lot about the inner-workings of a start-up, and of a growth-stage marketing organization. Along with that growth, my focus has shifted in several areas. I manage people, projects, work-flows, and spend more time in meetings than I’d like.
But I’ve also found myself getting caught up in office politics, and the “business of business.” I spent a lot of time over the last year “trying to level up”…which is silly.
It seemed like the natural thing to do. That’s what the other business-minded people I work with were doing. And some of that is a good thing. When I was in my mid-20s, I was pure creative energy. Painting, writing, making music, making videos, doing comedy. This is all great stuff, but there are like seven people in the world who’ve made careers by being purely creative. The rest of us have to find ways to augment our creativity with a little savvy.
I still want to “level up” and get to that Director level, get to that VP level, etc. I’m as competitive as the next guy. But not at the cost of my creative edge. One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that when I have a particularly “businessy” week, where I’m in meetings, trainings, and 1-on-1s, I find myself having trouble shifting gears back into a creative state.
This is natural. Your creative side and your analytical side don’t activate in the same situations. When you’re focused heavily on analytical activities, you’re not working your creative side and it goes dormant.
So how do you keep yourself sane while trying to manage these two very different goals?
Just make shit. Carve out time every day to write, or to design, or to scribble doodles in a notebook. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but if you’re a creative person, you get your energy from creating. You need to leave room for creating. This will force you to be more creative in your work, as well. And no one was ever held back by their ability to produce stuff.
Currently, I’m hiding out in a stairwell, just to get some peace for a minute. I spent my morning coordinating a calendar, sending emails, and giving a training. I needed to reset my brain.
If you’re a creative type, try to do the same. Leave time for you to be you. No one feels less satisfied by doing what they’re called to do. Make some shit today.