Stress and Productivity

Stress and Productivity

First, let’s get a show of hands (well you know, virtual hands in the comments) of who considers themselves a creative. And a second hand for who is a professional creative, meaning you do something create for a living.

I have been making my living from creativity for 9 years. I used to say that I’m a photographer, but I’m giving that title up. It never resonated, particularly. I do still mainly create images, but that won’t always be the case. Oh, I think I’ll always make photographs, but there is so much more to do that I don’t prefer the label.

For 10 years I’ve had to be very creative in how my business runs. Anyone who thinks that a career in fine art means creating whatever you want, and then sitting back as galleries sell your work for tons of money, is sorely mistaken. At least in my experience, and in the experiences I know from others.

Maybe one day.

But here’s the thing; I don’t think anything would change for me if it did.

A couple days back I finally finished two massive projects I’ve been working on. I found myself with no pressing deadlines (all self-imposed, mind you) and I didn’t know what to do with myself! I started to flounder. I started to feel useless. I started to panic.

And then my husband took my hand and said, “You have permission to do nothing”. And that changed everything.

I realized how good it felt to give myself that permission; but at almost the same instant, I realized how little I wanted that. Maybe for one afternoon, yes. I watched Beyonce’s new documentary (wow) and layed on the couch for 4 hours.

But today I was up at 5am again, ready to conquer (slay). It’s just not in me to sit back and relax. I don’t want to. You see, the thing that causes me to suffer is what causes me to succeed. I am a creative overachiever. I am highly creative, and I love to achieve more and more milestones.

That means that a career as a freelance artist hasn’t been overly difficult for me because I am an idea machine. It’s like the Alice in Wonderland quote. I think up 100 ideas before most people have had their morning coffee. It flows from me effortlessly, and I have enough confidence to make a lot of the ideas happen.

But it’s not all roses. Like I said, the thing that causes me to succeed also causes me pain. I suffer from anxiety at a level that most people don’t; I operate at a level that even stresses other people out. I work 16 hour days eagerly for weeks at a time. I pursue ideas relentlessly, despite energy/cost/likelihood of failure. If given the chance to talk business, I’ll always take it.

Thankfully I’m not an over-sharer. My friends get a little sad at times because I don’t share what I’m doing unless provoked. But there is always something going on in my head and in my life. I’m not happy unless I have a passion project.

One of the biggest questions I get asked at workshops is: How have you managed to sustain a career in fine art for nearly a decade?

The answer is extremely multi-layered. But the real answer is this: I understand how come up with and activate ideas.

It sounds simple. I understand it is anything but.

If this is something you would be interested in having a seminar about, let me know. I’d be honored to guide anyone interested through a roadmap of how to better hone ideas, how to put them into action, and how to find success via mobilized confidence.

I hope this didn’t sound too much like tooting my own horn. I am proud that I am able to do these things, but it truly does come with a down side. Learning balance has always been difficult for me. Understanding my limits is not something that computes. And sacrificing relationships is something I’ve done many times for the sake of my passion. It doesn’t bring me joy to admit that, but it is the side that no one sees.

Right now I’m on a new routine to manage stress better. Ever since having the epiphany that I operate on a different stress level to most people (ie: constant…even my “down time” is riddled with guilt about not being productive), I’ve taken measure to reduce my anxiety. We shall see!

To operate at that high stress level means that I need to be productive every second of every day. I find myself multi-tasking. Can I brush my teeth while reading my morning emails? Can I put dishes away while brainstorming my next business idea? I try to have the next 6 months strategically planned out with deadlines in my calendar and goals set. If I’m not actively or subconsciously thinking of my future, I feel distressed.

For example, I had an exhibition opening while embarking on a 14 city tour that lasted 6 weeks. It took a lot of effort to get those things settled. But even in the middle of the tour, I mapped out what my year looks like from July to December, just so that when I arrived back home in July, I could hit the ground running.

I am learning to find stillness. To be okay with not achieving something every moment of every day. But I even worry about letting that go, because it is the very thing that has allowed me success over the years. The goal is to reign it in and hone it better instead of letting it spread like a compulsion into everything I do.

I share this in an effort to be more transparent and to aid my community in any way possible. Love to all!

One thought on “Stress and Productivity

  1. Goodness, I have never been that driven. I hate stress and avoid it so much as possible, it is like a life goal of mine. LOL
    I used to get annoyed with myself if I thought I didn’t get enough done in a day, but now I have taught myself to see that if I was happy during the day then it was productive, no matter what happened.
    I hope you learn to enjoy the quiet in between moments.

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