It’s 3:30 am, I’m in Las Vegas.
Having spent the day microwaving my brain in the summer Nevada heat, I opted out of hitting the clubs with friends and instead I’m once again here on my computer, headphones stuffed in my brain, percolating. These thought processes only seem to hit me late at night or when I’m elbows deep in a mentoring session and I forget to make my own notes on the shit that comes out of my mouth. One day I’ll remember…
The last few months have been amazing, but extremely challenging. Having found myself perpetually on the edge of burn out I put the brakes on my usual routine (if to say I even have one) and examined things with brutal clarity. It’s a hard thing to look at yourself honestly. It’s like standing naked in front of your mirror, facing away, taking a deep breath out, and letting your tummy get all floppy and then looking at yourself. It’s awkward and uncomfortable to see the flaws that you have all exposed because many of us like to focus on the good and hope the bad will go away like some shitty TV advertisement.
When that burn out hit like a sloppy dish rag to the face suddenly all motivation, creativity, inspiration and drive drained out of my body and I was nothing more than an overcooked batch of discount pasta noodles left on the counter too long, drying in the summer heat. Then the stress hit after that. If I don’t make the images and the artwork totally fucking rad, then the happy client list gets angry and then suddenly that eating thing I like to do could start to get a little more difficult. It’s a shit cycle and I know more than a few artists and photographers who have hit, or are currently in that downward spiral. My trenchmates, I feel you.
There are ways to beat this. It’s by taking the time to remember who your most important client is. The clients who feed you are super important. The clients who refer you, tell their business partners, friends, family, about your skills are irreplaceable. You need them. However, the client who is even more important than that is just one person.
Take a deep breath, exhale, and look in the mirror.
I hear this all the time “Oh I wish I had time for personal work!” or “I wish I had time to do project x but I’m too stuck up on deadlines and a billion other things”.
Let me be very honest with you. We all have the same 24 hours in a day (unless you’ve figured out time travel). We have the same days every month and year. Life happens to ALL OF US, self employed or not. However, you have to make time for you. You are just as important as that several thousand dollar client. If you don’t look after you, you will fail. I promise you that. Maybe not now, and likely not in the way you expect, but it’ll happen eventually.
Schedule YOU days, or half days. At least once a month. Take a morning and edit personal work. Take part of a day and do some online courses. Take a hike, read a book, go people watch and drink coffee. Draw up plans for your personal conceptual shoot that you want to do for your next months personal day. Plan ahead and plan to succeed. Book those days as if they are a million dollar client that you would never change anything for. That day is your dream client. That day is your ultimate day to look after the things that feed your soul.
Since I’ve started forcing personal creative time in my life again, I find that I actually enjoy my career more again. If I have a client and they want a day that I have booked for a me day, I tell them that day is taken. It’s like switching my phone to airplane mode while I fly. Doesn’t matter what the fuck happens while I’m in the air, for those hours I am unavailable and nothing will change that. I used to feel guilty, but I don’t anymore. Simply to feel the happiness in my fingers while I edit something new that I created purely for personal expression is priceless. I don’t even care if the image that comes out is any good. What matters is that my soul is getting what it needs.
I’ve even recently started tinkering on the piano and writing shitty little fictional stories that I’ll likely never ever share with anyone but my own eyes. It helps me think of things in a different way and lets my creative muse know that I’m here, I’m present, and I’m listening. Waiting patiently for her to come along and drop some inspiration in a way that I hadn’t considered before.
Remember to take the time to schedule yourself, your number one client, and let your creativity help you fall back in love over and over again.