(Read through to the bottom to enter a giveaway for a free portfolio review!)
I have tried and failed to put this idea into words for years. YEARS. But I finally feel like I understand it well enough to talk about. So, let’s talk. Please. Talk this out with me.
I am a Creative Professional. I say it this way because, depending on the day, I fall into different roles: Photographer, Writer, Speaker, Educator, Philanthropist.
Depending on the day I might spend my hours writing emails and proposals, out in the forest taking pictures, writing blog posts (such as this very one!) and more.
It may surprise some people to learn that photography was not my first professional creative outlet; first, I was a filmmaker. Not a successful one, and not one who produced anything, but nonetheless, that was my goal. I worked for a couple of production companies and I have a degree from college that says “Filmmaking” on it.
When I began photography, I remember feeling a SENSE OF GUILT all the time. Every time I blew off hours that I could have spent furthering my career in film, I was instead gallivanting around taking pictures. It wasn’t until I started earning money from photography that I changed how I thought about it. The guilt went away because a photo shoot could equal a paycheck.
This is not to say that I was motivated by money – quite the opposite. Nothing stopped me from creating no matter if I was going to do it for free my whole life. What did change, however, was significant. I started to equate photography with money, and therefore I didn’t feel guilty about spending my time doing it.
Fast forward to now, 9 years after I started photography, and I’m pursuing writing. I had a book published years ago called Inspiration in Photography, and because it was published widely (and it was about photography), I didn’t feel guilty about writing it. It felt like proper work.
This piece of writing is different. It is an entire career shift.
[not leaving photography behind at all though!]
I’m writing a novel, and it takes hundreds upon hundreds of hours. I need to commit to the process, surrender to it. But, every time I started writing, or researching, or spending any significant amount of time on it, an old voice came back to haunt me:
it would say,
“you could be spending your time creating an image, or writing emails, or sending proposals.
This book stuff is ridiculous.
You’re wasting time.“
The real heart of what my alter ego was telling me is this: If you choose to spend your time doing something else, you’ll see a faster return on your investment. If you focus on what you already know works, you’ll gain more business, more money, more relationships, and more prestige.
I have always known what an absurd notion that is, but NONETHELESS, it doesn’t stop me from thinking it.
I’m just being honest here, because if I’m not, you might have a vision in your head of me pleasurably writing a novel
(obviously in which I’m wearing a sundress and wide-brimmed hat scribbling away in an old notebook in the French Riviera…)
(P.S. That’s not reality. I live in Arizona and it’s awesome but not French Riviera awesome. And I can’t write a novel with a pen because my brain moves too fast. And also, my hands would ache. Plus, I get cold easily. Back to the point…)
in an idealistic setting when that is not the case.
Everyday is a struggle to sit down and write. This is partially because writing is not just “sitting down and writing”. It is months of research, of brainstorming by staring at white walls, of saying ideas out loud and realizing they don’t make sense, of self-doubt and fear and anxiety. And sometimes, I write words down that make sense. About one in every thousand. And then I feel okay again.
The biggest obstacle I face in writing this book is the simple idea that I might be wasting my time.
How do we know?
For me it is simple and yet entirely difficult: Are you doing something you love? If the answer is yes, it is not a waste of time.
But let’s think beyond passion and focus on probability.
Does this endeavor have a high, medium, or low probability of being sustainable. Sometimes, thinking about big picture ways that we use our time, we need to be practical. If I thought there was an extremely low chance of writing ever being a sustainable way of me spending my time, I wouldn’t dedicate massive amounts of time to it, like I am. However, I am imbued with the most absurd sense of confidence I’ve ever known. So, I believe it will pay off. Therefore, I invest a lot of time into it because I truly believe that one day I will be a writer.
(And, in spending a lot of time on it, I increase the chances of it being a success.)
All of this to ask – do you get it?
Have you ever had this problem?
I’ve been suffering from Wasted Time Syndrome for 9 years.
Sometimes being a creative professional can feel like being pulled in too many directions. I have so many passions that I can’t possibly dedicate all my time to a single one of them. So, I shift my time between them, trying to remind myself that what is a passion now might be my career later, so it is worth pursuing.
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Leave a comment on here about this topic,
and I’m going to pick a winner at random
to receive a free written portfolio review!