How to lean in to creativity.

I’m three weeks into working for myself (i.e. CEO of my life), and I have already learned so much about how to succeed on this chosen path.

When I announced (on this blog) that I was going to start working for myself, I also mentioned that 9-5 jobs have always been difficult for me. For most, when the job isn’t right or fulfilling anymore, they look for a new job. And yes, I’ve done that, too.

In fact, I started to do it this time. Because that’s the path we take, right? We need steady paychecks, health insurance, and PTO days. We need to work with teams, collaborate, and get promotions.

But the truth is, when I started looking for other full-time jobs, I knew it wasn’t going to work. Yes, some of the jobs sounded like great opportunities – but it was going to be the same job I’ve always had, just a different costume.

Since 2007, I’ve mastered the art of the side-hustle. During my first day job, I worked 8-5 as an editor and was bartending on the side, including Wednesday nights and weekends. I’d work until 3 am on Thursday mornings and get up at 6 for my office job. On Fridays, I’d get off work at 5, take a nap, and clock in at the bar at 9 pm. I slept all day on Sundays.

Over the years, I’ve edited more than 60 manuscripts, written more than 500 published articles, been an English tutor, and created and taught my Blogging courses. One of the reasons my side-hustle mastery was crafted was because I’ve always lived paycheck-to-paycheck – barely making enough on salary to pay my bills.

Most years though, my side gigs provided enough cash for me to enjoy meals out, shop a little, and travel. The other reason I sought outside jobs, though, was to keep my wheels turning. I have never wanted to be someone who sat at a desk with the life sucked out of me. I need more than a day job could offer.

In 2018, I started getting more work without really trying. I was getting emails and calls with work nearly falling in my lap.

I’m big on signs, and I’m very much into listening when the universe is trying to deliver a message. So, during the summer, when I was editing manuscripts on Saturdays instead of laying by the pool, I started wondering if this could sustain me full-time.

So, here I am. And while right now, working for myself means letting go of some of the luxuries that come with a 9-5 job, I know I can get there. After all, I already have health insurance. I already get to collaborate with my clients and their teams. Plus, I’m gaining freedom to do what I want, work with clients and businesses that align with my values, and I get to work from the comfort of Casa de Blanche!

So, instead of looking for full-time jobs, I reached out to several people I know who work for themselves and asked them for their advice.

I intend to share all of their advice and some of my own throughout the year, but I wanted to start with this piece of advice given to me by Sara, from the blog, Glitter and Grace :

Lean in to the voice calling you into more creative things.

Because I started this journey without so much as money for January’s bills, there was (and still is) a large part of me that feels as if I need to spend 18 hours a day applying to contract jobs and getting clients.

But, there’s also so many creative projects I’ve neglected to begin or finish because I’ve been hustling for 11 years.

So, yeah, sometimes I’m working on new jewelry for my Etsy shop when I used to be on a company call. I’ve taken a two-hour lunch break to read a book for pleasure when I once worked through it entirely. And I’ve spent hours working on blog content that won’t contribute to any of my bills.

But that’s the whole thing about stepping out on your own – I call all the shots. I have always believed that experiences outside of the office – travel, reading, cooking, creating – are just as important, if not more, than those in the office, in shaping your career.

If I’m going to do this, I’m going all in.

As much as it sounds easy to just do whatever you want and/or be more creative, the workings of society have ingrained so much into the way we live. It’s going to take time for me to find my own groove that satisfies the needs of my clients and mine, too – but I know we’ll get there together.

There’s a few things I’ve found to help me “lean in” as I get adjusted:

1. Create space for immersion.

Now THIS is the part I LOVE about being a creative – I get joy out of spending hours editing images or finding the perfect font for a graphic. On Friday night, I worked on my Reader’s Guide for “Hindsight: & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me” for five hours – from 8pm until 1am. I was trying to get the graphics just right and get the PayPal coding to work. I knew it was likely no one would buy it – meaning no one would even see the work I put in.

But I reveled in the fact that I even had the time, energy, and focus to bring a thought to fruition. And now I know how to make a PayPal wall. So far, my mom has been my only sale (making me $1.63 richer). But that’s the thing about being creative: it isn’t about other people, fame, fortune, or even recognition. It’s the process.

2. Don’t make decisions just to escape the uncertainty.

There have been times already when I’ve considered bartending, picking up a part-time retail job, or even doing something like Instacart – just to have some feeling of money security.

But I soon realized that even those efforts would be the result of me doubting myself. I was letting fear take over. Anyone who’s worked in the service industry or in retail knows that part-time work does not equal part-time fatigue. And that type of pattern was not going to allow me to truly dictate my life. It certainly wasn’t going to serve my clients either.

Instead, I’m putting 100% of my faith into myself and all of my trust into the universe that has served me well so far.

3. Let go of your idea of perfection.

Truthfully, I don’t think I know what that “perfect picture” is for me, so that’s easy to let go of. But, I’ve already caught myself trying to calculate the hours I’m at my desk or forcing myself to wakeup at 6:30, even if I was up until 12:30 the night before… all for what? Instead of perfection, I’m going for fulfillment. I’ll work until I feel satisfied, I’ll sleep until I feel rested, and I’ll lean into creativity until I feel immersed in it.

Leaning into creativity may not seem traditionally productive, but it will make me a better creator for my clients, friend during my off-hours, colleague to my fellow entrepreneurs, teacher to my blogging students, and a better, more fulfilled CEO of my life.

Want to talk more about this? Or about anything? I’m starting a weekly Instagram LIVE every Tuesday, starting today at 2pm CST. Join me @Orangejulius7 and let’s talk, about whatever you want! Hope to see you there!

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