Some days are rough. Nothing you actually follow through on works out the way you planned. It just seems like you're in way over your head with the opportunity you're trying to embrace. You jumped into creative entrepreneurship because of passion and drive and talent, but some days, it's hard to remember you have any of that.
None of your leads panned out. Your clients aren't on the same page about their project. You hit a block and can’t find the creativity you need. Anxiety has overtaken depression as the number one condition people in America seek therapy for. I'm sure if the study was done, it would be pretty high up there for creative entrepreneurs.
One of my favorite creative entrepreneurs once listed out the trajectory of his emotions on a weekly basis. It would range from "I love what I'm doing", to "I have no idea what I'm doing", to "ok, I think I got this", to "I'm a huge fraud and I'm gonna fail", to "actually, I'm pretty awesome at this and things will be alright."
Isn't that the truth?
When it gets hard to create, it can be a special type of discouraging. We got into creative entrepreneurship because we love to create. When it just isn’t working, we doubt a core part of ourselves. So what do you do you are questioning everything?
First, breathe. Breathing is absolutely essential to wellness. Sometimes, all it takes to recenter ourselves is to take a moment, close our eyes, breathe deep and exhale well. Seriously, it’s magical.
Studies show that when we are feeling angry, anxious, or stressed, our breathing is very likely short and shallow. As we’ve talked about before on the blog, those feelings above also come with addictive chemical reactions in the body as well. An influx of adrenaline and cortisol make the negative thoughts we’re experiencing take hold even deeper. Before we know it, a bad day is worse because we didn’t have the awareness to take control of the situation early.
Here’s a quick checklist:
You’ve centered yourself and created some space, so how do you feel? If you still are unsettled or something is still pressing on you, it might be another factor to consider.
Is it something you’re not doing right? Something someone said? Be honest with yourself, so that you can be honest about what you do next.
That might mean have a tough conversation. That can be scary sure, but in my experience, honesty has always produced relief. Whether that’s for yourself or someone else, centering yourself and breathing will allow you to approach things more honestly.
If it’s a "you" thing, continue to think about it. Maybe your approach, routine or technique need some honest evaluation. Maybe something has gotten stale and it’s time to try a fresh approach. The most important part is that you don't let thinking be all you do about it.
Let your honesty prompt action or a pathway to action. This keeps you from falling back into a vicious cycle of your thoughts and honesty prompting anxiety. Planning and reflecting should bring relief, not more panic.
If thinking doesn't take care of it, you might need to put it down on paper (or screen). Writing doesn’t have to be for anyone else. You don’t need to write something that is objectively good or profound. Just write.
Because of social media, so many of the ways that we “process” our own troubles have become something to glorify. There is power in being honest and vulnerable with followers. We might say something that is eye-opening. We might empower people to be more honest with themselves.
You also don’t have to do that. You can write, just for you.
There’s also another trick I’ve found can be really helpful. It’s the art of the unsent letter.
Abraham Lincoln is one of the most notorious peacemakers in history. Slow to anger and with an abundance of patience, his ability to remain calm in some of the most crushing circumstances is the stuff of legend. How did he do it?
One trick that Lincoln employed regularly, was to write what he called a “hot letter.”
Essentially, he would write a letter filled with all of the scathing things he wanted to say to someone. There is a famous situation, in which a general of Lincoln’s failed to obey direct orders, that if followed, would have ended the Civil War years earlier. This blunder was catastrophic and would warrant a volcanic response. Rather than put his anger on display for all, in effect undermining the confidence and authority of his own leaders, Lincoln would write his own personal letter. He would put everything he could possibly want to say, no matter how vicious (though by our standards, the letters were still very respectful) and then burn it. Throw it away.
I’ve done this for myself far more often than I have for anyone else. Don’t let untrue thoughts about yourself linger. Interrogate them and destroy them. Putting false thoughts down onto paper may help expose them for exactly that: false.
After all of this, it’s time to get back to creating. Maybe your struggle has been work related?
A design. A website. A proof. A blog.
Create again, but not for anyone else. Go out and grab a win.
Create to create. Step into your own style and worth and just let that inform what you do. Often, the best work is created for no one but the creator. It comes from a place of needing to remind our own selves of our inherent creativity.
Creativity focuses us. When we’re creating so much for work, we forget that we’re creating! It’s work. It’s a demand. It’s a deadline. It’s a necessity.
Get back to why you decided to create in the first place. Because you love it.
Creative entrepreneurship is tricky because it blurs the lines between our passions and our business. When it gets hard, it can be so discouraging. It’s this thing we’re supposed to be good at no matter what.
When we feel stuck in this place, things aren’t hopeless. We have ways to help remind us of what's true: that we’re creative entrepreneurs for a reason.
Hards days are just that; only days. Don’t let them define you.