WEEK 49 - What’s to come in 2022 : Reflection and Life as a Creative
Week 49 - reflections on what it means to be a Creative in general and what can I focus on next year to apply myself further?
Week 49 and we’re about three (3) weeks to go before the end of the year. So to mark it out, the next few sections will be reflections dedicated to the different sections that have followed me on this newsletter journey over the entire year. This week - reflections on what it means to be a Creative in general and what can I focus on next year to apply myself further?
Reflections on Writer Life 2021
These were some of my more outstanding lessons as I went through with full-time day jobbing and full-time writing this year:
All the strategy, tactics, and life stories in the world cannot save you if you cannot align with this -
And no, this is not about “positive thinking” your way out of your problems. It’s about how to work with yourself to solve your problem at hand, while acknowledging that while pain is inevitable in life, suffering is optional.
While this admittedly-complex concept of consistent mental hygiene and how to see if you are growing / progressing is not something I am proficient at yet, what I do understand that regardless of what I do, my practices will backslide more often or become unsustainable if I did not maintain a strong, foundational mindset that will allow me to grow a sustainable creative career.
For example - Getting a rejection / ghosted by a potential publisher.
Mental Hygiene processes taught me that I can look at the above-mentioned statement a few ways, namely -
I can take it as a fact that I did not get the publishing deal I wanted but continue to process, even if I am disappointed or upset for a bit - further improving and sustaining my craft through experimentation, consultation, and deliberate practice. I know publication is inevitable as long as I persevere and am open to opportunities - I empower myself to keep going because I want to.
I can take this rejection personally and blame the publishing or local industry incessantly for their unfairness and discrimination. I can call out their “hypocrisy” of wanting to “develop talent” and “provide platforms” and scoff at current systems of working. I convince myself that being angry and railing on ALL publishers (regardless of their efforts) is the way to go - do I continue writing? Who cares? It’s all just a game anyway.
Now, which one causes more suffering? Only you would know.
While the shadows of mindset and mindset adjustment are still a little murky to navigate on my own, I do thank all the amazing folks at LITO, amongst many others, for helping to guide the way.
Scheduling - Time & Energy
Even if you have the time, you might not have the energy. As we grow, we realise that there’s an increasing need for us to give our utmost attention to more and more, especially if we’re not careful. Everyone may have the same 24 hours but not everyone goes through the 24 hours in the same way.
Just because I have some time now doesn’t mean I have the mental capacity or energy to finish up 5,000 words.
Do deadlines matter then? Yes, of course.
But does well-being matter? Yes - but no one said you can only either choose well-being or deadlines.
So what does this boil down to? Planning?
I would say in order to maintain a somewhat sustainable routine (in the unpredictability of life), I learnt that this helped:
Planning + Needs + Kindness
Plan ahead - give yourself more wiggle room so that you don’t implode when something hits you like a sudden wave.
Needs - give yourself time to rest - eat, shower, clean up, go to work, sleep. And no, whoever says “stay up or go home / sleep is for the weak” highly underestimates my significant want to “go home”.
Kindness - be kinder to yourself and pace things according to what YOU want (not what society dictates) because you know what? At the end of the day, if whatever you create exudes authenticity and speaks to its intended audience truly, following the trend timeline might not even matter.
Trends come in waves. Authenticity and honesty with yourself as a creator stays.
“We may care about our outcomes, but outcomes are essentially none of our business.”
The above-mentioned line is paraphrased from one of my life coaches, Dan from LITO. While it may sound counter-intuitive at first, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
You may write the best piece you could ever write, a story you can stand behind 100%. Regardless, you cannot control any outcome that depends on an external decision-maker.
Publisher? You cannot control their decision (even if you write EXACTLY what they want)
Reviewers? You cannot control bad reviews or reviews that totally miss the point
Readers? You cannot control people’s spending decisions (even if they like your story)
You may be able to influence how they see your work but at the end of the day, you cannot control their decisions that lead to your “desired outcomes”. And the more I look at this, the more I realise how true this is.
At the end of the day, people can do whatever they want and there’s nothing you can do about it. So if you peg your emotions and happiness entirely on external outcomes - i.e. “I will only feel good if I get 100 good reviews” - you will be in for a rather difficult time.
Sounds bleak right? Then have goals for what? Improve and create for what?
Which brings me to the next section...
What are some of the discoveries you’ve had about yourself over the past year? If you don’t mind, you may share them in the comments!
What can I focus on in the coming year?
I have mentioned this more than a few times but because it’s such an important aspect of my practice, I do find myself needing reminders - You cannot control external outcomes.
Is it all bleak? Does nothing else matter? What can I control / do then?
NO. We give our lives meaning doing what we can do, and working with what we can control - our actions, our reactions to things that happen for us, our thoughts.
And how does this translate to action?
For me, it goes back to what I do that will lead me to my desired outcome - being happy with my process and how I go about my process.
Sure, being in book launches, livestreams, events, and podcasts all sound fun and are things I still want to do. Regardless, if what you do every day as a creative makes you happy because you’re so grateful and empowered by your process of creation, would that not make these milestones of appearances and launches that much special? Would you not then minimise the “suffering” you have to go through just pining for that one event, and prevent you from actually resenting your practice?
Question(s) to ask myself: How did my routine / ritual feel today? Do I need to make changes?
The Master has failed more times than the Amateur has even started - I got this from Stephen McCranie’s “The Art of Being an Artist” (now on WebToons!)
Improvement comes from consistent, deliberate practice AND experimentation. However, an important step before improvement is to take action - not blindly, but intentionally.
So another course of action I’ll be looking to apply is to take more action towards my goals for the year and for the long-term:
Join that mentorship programme.
Pitch to those agents.
Start that livestream.
Write that comic / chapbook / novel / podcast / game.
Work them into my processes - whether they will be part of daily routine or challenges. And most importantly, be kind and enjoy the process - I’ve always maintained that I don’t have to publish everything I create in the first round, just what I can stand behind without a doubt. And at the end of the day, it’s all about enjoying the process because the process itself can be the answer.
And if I really love the game / podcast / comic / novel I wrote, what’s stopping me from improving it?
Therefore, I’m hoping I could release more works for all of you in the coming year authentically and enthusiastically.
Question(s) to ask myself: Is this a product / story you can stand behind?
I would dare say that the above two factors are not going to work as well if I did not take presence into consideration as well. Simply put, presence can just mean two words - “Showing up”
How are you going to show up for whatever it is you need to show up for?
This is where mindset comes into play as well.
If you don’t want to be in a certain place, people can tell. What more the work in front of you? If you don’t show up the best way you can, can the work you produce be the best work you produce? Perhaps this is how “impostor syndrome” can set in as well.
And I believe this is what “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” can mean.
“Work” is work. There’s no two ways about it.
Writing a book requires you to sit in front of your writing tools and pound out the story.
Creating a podcast requires you to go into the recording studio, talk, then edit.
Making a statue requires you to carve and sculpt until you get your finished product.
When you break all of these actions down into their fundamentals, they all still require effort, time, energy, and money. Whatever action you take will require those. So how are you going to show up for your practice?
Personally, I hope to show up empowered - I want to be here and make this project happen. And with constant practice, I hope for the processes to stick and sustain, leading to better production and practice.
Question(s) to ask myself: How are you going to show up for this?
The past (or past two) years have been a roller coaster of workload, emotion, mental strain, surprises, and the works - the whole spectrum, if you will. And what I’m grateful for at the end of it is that the messiness of our external circumstances has made it necessary for us to look inward into what we want and need, not what external parties deem we “want” and “need”. Hence, the above-mentioned reflection.
Life and reality are not fair. And in the needed efforts to make the world a better place, it’s also easy to forget that anger and blame are not actionable solutions if it’s all that you do. So what can we do? How can we work towards a better place while trying to maintain sanity as we still live in current realities?
I guess that’s the gap we often try to address.
Note: There are a lot of people who are not as fortunate to afford inner work or to “slow down” - and if there’s some action anyone can take to help out, please do so. Empathise, contribute, and stay kind.
In conclusion, I am thankful that I’m fortunate enough to come out of the year with valuable lessons that can only help the future look and feel better.
And that’s it from me - see you all next week!
What would you like to focus on as you grow next year? Let me know in the comments!